Writing code, unit testing, then feeding your baby: Unless you’ve seen it firsthand, it might be difficult to imagine juggling both motherhood and software development. If you don’t have relatable role models who have done it before, you might be wondering if it’s possible to take on both roles (and come out in one piece). The answer is: Yes! While it’s not easy, finding a balance between your career and children is done by many determined women around the world.
At Educative, we’ve had the honor to speak with many women who have found space in their life for both motherhood and coding. Whether you’re a mom who wants to break into tech or a developer who doesn't want to give up on her career, we hope you’ll enjoy this piece inspired by the experiences of mothers who code.
Today we’ll cover six tips on finding your balance as a mother and software engineer.
- 6 tips: Finding your balance as a mother and software engineer
- Wrapping up and next steps
Once you’re a mother and a developer, your daily responsibilities have doubled (if not tripled). But, despite the changes in your life, there are still only 24 hours in a day. By recognizing your limits, you can set boundaries and delegate tasks as appropriate.
Setting boundaries is a skill that many are still trying to master. We don't mean that you should talk to your infant about boundaries! But you can experiment with setting boundaries in some areas of your life as a mother. For instance, you can limit the hours for which you're "on call" for caregivers of your child. You may also need to set new boundaries with work. For instance, if you've been open to overtime in the past, you may need to set a hard boundary on your hours now that you have a child. As Dawn Parzych put it during one of our Educative Sessions, “Know your limits, and say no when you need to.”
Delegating is an important skill that applies not only to leadership but motherhood as well. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, whether it involves household chores, shopping, and childcare. Leveraging your support system – be they friends, family, or hired professionals – will help free your bandwidth to get some focused work done.
Helping develop a human life is undoubtedly different from developing an application. And yet, motherhood and software development stand to share a lot in common. Both roles call for late nights, constant learning, and surprises that require your immediate attention. Far from being polar opposites, your two identities of mother and software engineer can find synergy with each other. Try to be curious about how you can transfer knowledge from one sphere to the next.
During our talk with her on Educative Sessions, Dawn Parzych highlighted the synergies she found between DevOps and parenting. She reflected that they're both a continual learning process.
“It’s all about iterating, seeing what works, what doesn’t work.” – Dawn Parzych, Developer Advocate (Hear her full story on our episode of Educative Sessions, "What DevOps and Parenting Have in Common")
Be specific about your needs with your manager so that they can better support you. When you feel concerned about your workload, be open with them. By helping your manager better understand your experience, needs, and roadblocks, they’ll be better able to advocate for you in this new phase of your life.
“Once you start speaking up, you realize that people are really supportive.” -- Anjana Shankar, Sr Distributed Systems Developer (Hear her full story on our episode of Educative Sessions, "A Tech Mom's Struggle During the Pandemic")
Here are some accommodations you can ask for:
- Flexible work hours
- Remote work options
- Breastfeeding breaks and facilities
If you’re having a difficult time coming to understandings with your manager, you might want to consider joining the great developer job search of 2022 in the interest of a work environment that better supports the needs of working mothers.
You may not have the time to tackle all the things you want to do. Compromising your expectations can be difficult, especially if you’re a high performer. But remember that your life circumstances have changed drastically. In this new reality, there will always be something left on your to-do list at the end of the day, so you should adjust your expectations accordingly.
“Look for the small wins and celebrate them.” – Dawn Parzych, Developer Advocate (Hear her full story on our episode of Educative Sessions, "What DevOps and Parenting Have in Common")
So, how would you have time to celebrate wins when this might be the most sleep-deprived era of your life? Your celebration might be as simple (and crucial) as taking five minutes for a simple self-care activity. If you get good at identifying the small wins, this means you should’ve earned a little bit of time for self-care each day.
Examine any feelings of guilt that are weighing you down and ask yourself if they're necessary. Chances are, you may be holding yourself to unrealistic expectations. Guilt follows many working mothers around. When you're with your child, you may feel guilty about being away from your work. Conversely, you may feel guilty about being away from your child when you're at work.
Many women find themselves in the habit of apologizing, and working mothers are no exception. When reflecting on how she handled the moments when her child interrupted her video meetings, Anjana Shankar said, “I realized that being apologetic was adding to my guilt.” By learning to fully accept that the circumstances of her life had changed, she was able to stop her habit and release the unnecessary guilt.
“You don’t have to set unrealistic expectations for yourself. Accept that sometimes you have bad days, sometimes you have good days.” – Anjana Shankar, Sr Distributed Systems Developer (Hear her full story on our episode of Educative Sessions)
If there’s anything we’ve learned from our conversations with women in Educative Sessions, it’s that persistence is the key to responding to failure. When challenges present themselves along the way, keep your focus on the dream that got you started in the first place.
Navira Abbasi is now the director of the coding bootcamp she initially failed. Despite her failure and wounded pride, Navira returned for a second attempt. This time, she modified her strategy based on lessons she learned from her first time around. Having been asked to be the director, her persistence and hard work didn't go unrecognized.
Chinenye Ikpa, a Software Developer at Decagon, pursued her coding dreams when she was already a mother of four. As a mother, her family and society expected her to stay home or work in a less demanding industry. But Chinenye refused to sacrifice her career ambitions. She’s now a developer who treats challenges as opportunities to be a role model for her children:
“I teach them that they should… practice once a week, never give up, that we go for gold. When I'm down, I think of those things that I repeat to them, and we repeat to ourselves daily. I get up, and I show them how it’s done.” – Chinenye Ikpa, Software Developer (Hear her full story on our episode of Educative Sessions, "It’s Never Too Late! A Mother’s Pursuit of Code")
As with motherhood, keeping up as a software engineer requires constant learning. A child’s needs may change just as quickly as in-demand tech stacks. While it’s surely not easy, we celebrate the women who have claimed their space as both mothers and software engineers. If the journey seems daunting, just know that you’re not alone in walking this path.
To hear how other mothers have rocked their tech careers, check out our Mothers Who Code series on Educative Sessions. You’ll hear stories from other women who have blazed their own paths as mothers and software engineers. While we hope you find these stories inspiring, we look forward to seeing what you make of your unique journey as a mother in tech.
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How do you find balance as a mother and software engineer. What concerns do you have if you haven't yet lived both roles? Let us know in the comments below!