Whew, the youngest is napping, the other 2 at school, load of laundry running - I can take 5 mins to write some thoughts on this topic before I crash into my own nap! <-- mom life!
I mentioned in my first comment that I have so many thoughts on this topic. Thank you for writing! It often feels like being a mom in tech is an even smaller minority, because given the few women who start tech careers, a percent drop off around this stage of life. Balancing parenting & a high-demand job is so difficult.
The challenges we face I think are pretty unique to us. Even with engaged & well-meaning partners, there is definitely still a stigma against men who prioritize family over career. Even in small doses like you mentioned taking a day off to care for sick kids, cover for a sick partner, take a kid to the dentist, etc. It's a stigma that harms both men & their exhausted partners.
My husband is a teacher - paid well here in Canada, but combined with the extracurriculars he is responsible but not paid for, he works 50+ hours per week & brings a lot home for the evenings & weekends. Impromptu teacher meeting after school?? He is expected to drop everything & attend.
I think often moms get put into that primary-parent role, where if dad is gone all day, or several days it's just understood that we will single-parent for that time, no big deal. But if I leave to a meetup for a few hours, it's a panic that he'll be alone with the kids - despite the fact he's good at it. I would loooove to attend a dev conference, but it would be out of town for a couple days. Who would watch the kids when he's at work? My parents? Either way I'd be putting someone out. But if he's gone for a few days it's a no brainer because I'm the 'primary parent' anyway.
I hear male hosts on podcasts I listen to talking about flying off to speak at or attend multi-day conferences, despite that they have children. I wonder if they realize how blessed they are with that freedom? I was asked to speak at a conference next year, but I have to decline, mainly due to childcare reasons. It's heartbreaking to be honest.
The challenges begin right away. I experienced pregnancy-induced lack of focus for a while after giving birth. I was terrified that this would be permenant. Luckily it was not & I'm back to mental full capacity now, but it was scary. Exhaustion is a big part of it. Most of the moms I know are the light-sleepers who wake up at every cough or whimper from their kids' rooms. Are their partners deep sleepers in part because they know that their wife has it covered?? I think so.
An uninterrupted night's sleep is a rare gem. Around 5 years old kids' imaginations start turning shadows into monsters & cartoon villians suddenly seem possible. My kids have sleep-regressed due to fears of the dark from age 5-7 approximately. We now sleep with the hall & bathroom lights on - not helpful for the adults.
I share your frustration that late night coding or time for side projects or open source contributions are a pipe dream for many of us. By evening I'm mentally if not physically exhausted. Being on high-alert as you care for children is so draining. This is valuable professional development or fun coding time that is much harder for us. I try to schedule it a few days a week... but's so so hard. Much of my learning is via podcasts & recorded talks & screen casts as I do chores.
When I try to fit in coding during the day, I often have a kid in my lap or literally sitting on my shoulders! I should record a coding session one day - it's absurd. But it's another challege that primary-parents face. My kids will walk right past my husband chilling on the couch, seek me out in my home office, to ask me for help. Phone/video conferences are stressful for this reason - and for the high likelihood of screaming, crying, shouting, fighting or talk of bathroom activities or penises (3 sons, lucky me 🙄) in the background. 🤣
As fullfilled as I am as a mother & as proud as I am that I put my career mostly on hold to stay home with my kids & freelance only very part time - it has been a double-edged sword. If I was a RPG character... my motherhood & emotional power bars are maxed out to bursting. But my intellectual & professional power levels have dropped to the bottom & crashed though the floor. I'm playing catchup to modernize skills that are outdated & I am frankly bored-silly. Being a SAHM (Stay At Home Mom) has benefitted my husband & kids & been fullfilling on many levels, but hot damn is it boring as hell. I'm a very smart woman & have not been challenged mentally in years.
My youngest starts school next Sept & I'm counting the days. (Let me tell you, that jump from 2 to 3 kids is rough indeed.) I have been prepping my husband & kids that I will not still being doing all the laundry & other chores & that it is MY turn to go full throttle on my career. It's been a journey as a SAHM but I'm capital-D Done with it. My husband is amazing & 100% supportive, but he's understandably fearful of what additional workload will fall on his already exhausted shoulders, and what it will mean for our adult R&R time & family evenings & weekends; time I've kept very free by doing chores during weekdays. I don't know how dual income families manage it. This will be a huge transition for us.
So yeah, this was my own brain dump of dev-mom thoughts. The single biggest thing companies & our colleagues can do is flex time. Don't worry, we will get our work done & we value our jobs - especially those flexible family friendly jobs - more than we can express. Colleagues - don't roll your eyes when a parent co-worker ducks out early or arrives a bit late - school bus & daycare schedules are set in stone & we always make up our missed time or negotiated fewer hours. And make sure dads get equal access to - and are explicitly told they can use it guilt-free - that flex & work from home time. It is soooo valuable & reduces turnover & burnout & enables women to stay in tech.
Love this comment and I feel you on a lot of these points ❤️ I don't think I could handle being a full time SAHM! It's might sound a bit terrible... as much as I love my daughter I feel like being able to work and be productive and solve problems and just not be on mom duty all the time is a huge boost for my happiness levels.
Agreed. If I didn't have my freelance & OSS work I'd be totally insane by now. LOL
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