Yesterday I read a blog post which reminded me of a conversation I recently had with a friend.
I am a new mom and this friend of mine asked me if I’d like an app to meet other moms (I also live far from my family and childhood friends). I didn’t have to think it twice, my answer was ‘no’. The reason why is simple: I am an introvert. I know there are websites and groups for new moms to meet, ask for advice, share experiences, etc. I find these great for others, but not for me. Let me just say socializing is not my best skill. ‘What if those moms where smart women working in tech, like you?’ — he then asked. I’m not going to deny it, it definitely sounded more appealing, but introversion isn’t easy to get over, if you know what I mean.
One thing I hadn’t considered at the time is the market not being big enough. And this is the reason why Jean Hsu’s writing motivated me to publish this blog post. To share my experience as a mom in tech.
Thanks for sharing
I work for a ~50 people company, I’m a product manager and I was lucky enough to be able to share this whole pregnancy thing with a friend and coworker— she’s a software engineer — who had her baby a few weeks before I had mine.
I was able to realize early in my pregnancy that I was not alone.
Others have said it before me: being a women in tech is rare, but being a mom in tech is even more rare. My company didn’t even have a parental leave policy — because they had never needed it before — but they do have one now.
When my partner and I decided we wanted to become parents we also discussed the fact that it could potentially (negatively) affect our careers. Both of our careers. He was worried he wouldn’t be able to work for startups anymore — or even start another one himself— due to lack of time. I was worried pregnancies and taking time off could result in me being out of the market sooner than expected.
We both love our jobs so we came up with a plan which has been working really well for us till the date: to always help and support each other. We believe applying this to our parenting and work relationship is essential to really enjoy the first and be successful in the latter.
It’s hard to focus on work when you’re feeling like sh**… but I did it anyway.
Overall, I had a pretty good pregnancy after the first trimester but I had nausea during the first few weeks. I can confirm that morning sickness is a lie and that it should be called all-day-sickness instead. I didn’t feel weak or sleepy, but nausea made it hard to focus on work some times.
Coffee made me sick. It made me so sick I would bring mandarines to work with me every day so I had something to smell instead of the (perceived) strong coffee odor. Type, smell mandarine peel. Type, smell mandarine peel. And so on.
After the first trimester I actually felt very energetic and was super productive at work — and at home, preparing everything for the arrival of our daughter — during the rest of my pregnancy.
The last couple of weeks were challenging, though. Reason number one being putting up so much weight is insane and you easily get tired. Very tired. Walking two blocks feels the equivalent of swimming 10k.
Reason number two is that on week 36 the doctor confirmed some bad news and we were told I had to be induced two weeks early. We did our best not to freak out but hence another reason to lose focus. Luckily, everything went well in the end.
Sometimes I feel like I have to choose between being a bad mom or being a bad professional. My baby is 8 weeks old and I haven’t gotten back to work yet. I’m 98% recovered and feel like everything is under control at home. We’re not sleep deprived or anything and we have lined up a nanny for when I go back to work. I could go back tomorrow, but I’ve chosen to spend eight more weeks exclusively bonding with my baby. This is a very personal decision and it doesn’t make me a better mom or a worst professional. Sometimes, though, it does make me feel bad in regards to my career.
Whatever you decide, my advice is to make a decision for yourself based on you and your baby. A couple of my friends went back to their jobs part time after their first child. I chose not to, when I go back to work I want to be able to get used to the new situation and face its challenges as soon as possible. Another reason is that, even it being temporary, it would be difficult for me to go back and only do ‘half of the work I was doing’. Whatever you choose, it’ll be the right decision.
I am a very organized person, I have two .txt files which I use all the time — I’ve tried many task apps but none really worked for me — one for work and one personal. Everyday I make notes about things I want to achieve or I don’t want to forget about and have the habit of checking them regularly. I am a bit disperse but I also have a big need of feeling productive. The first few days after I gave birth this was a challenge, you just don’t have time to do anything else but feeding your baby and trying to get some rest in between feedings. If you’re a bit like me, you’ll feel the pressure. It doesn’t really go away, but it gets better. In my case, seeing the progress we were making with breastfeeding was my best and biggest motivation. Early enough I was back to being a ‘normal person’ with relatively big chunks of sleep and time to take care of basic life stuff.
Another thing that was important to me to be able to feel ‘normal’ again, was recovering my social life. Most of my close friends don’t have kids. Now, we’re ‘the couple with the baby’, the one not joining that plan or not going to that party. I do have coworkers with older children, but most of them are younger and with no plans of having kids any time soon. For the most part, people assume you’re not going to do anything with them now, but the truth is we do plenty of things with our friends and coworkers and with our little one, and we couldn’t be happier about it.
Back to work
The thing it worries me the most about going back to work is pumping. I’m looking forward to take on new projects and work on fun stuff, but the fact that I have to pump milk three times a day is killing me. Not just because you feel like a cow, you can’t just go and do your work, and did I mention it’s three times a day?! But also because you need to find the right space. Sight. My company is in one of the Soma Central co-working spaces in San Francisco which just doesn’t have a mother’s room. So my company and I are being creative about it and trying to figure out something which is comfortable enough.
And although I’m not back to work yet, I completely agree with this tweet from @sm. If you think about it startups can totally benefit from this energy and skills. You wear multiple hats, you’re effective, you have to be able to prioritize well and you never waste any time. You also learn to be more patient — one of the many gifts my daughter has given me so far — and to learn by doing.
Working and having a job that you love is awesome. Being a mom is awesome — every one tells you that but you don’t really know until you become one. So… I am really looking forward to combine these two and becoming a mom in tech :-)