I haven’t written - or programmed - anything since last October…yikes. When was the last time you went that long without touching your keyboard? 😬

In fact, today is the first day since my last post (again, last October) that I’ve even sat down in my home office to do more than vaccum dust bunnies. It’s wild, you know? I used to sit at this desk every day, from 7:30am through 4pm, like clockwork, like a truly driven, hardworking maniac. The thought of the routine and life I used to lead seems absolutely exhausting now. Toddlers will do that to you.

But! In this new year, rather than spin out on my time away from my IDE, I think I’ll cut myself some slack (thanks, therapy!). Last year was a weird one for me (one of several in a row, actually). It included multiple health scares, a role reversal between my husband and me (with my complete support he started a new career and is the primary sole earner in our home, a new reality for us both), consequently wrapping my head around the realities of being the primary caregiver, role-reduction of our main babysitter, and more items that I’ll write about some other time. I’m grateful we have any money earners in our home, to be sure - but my life has changed so drastically in the last year, I had to (and continue to) grapple with some self-identity questions:

  • If I’m not a programmer, who am I?
  • Do I even like programming anymore?
  • Can I make time to be a programmer, now that I’m also a full-time parent?
  • Do I still have the skills to be a programmer?

None of these were fun to think about for awhile, and they profoundly stressed me the hell out.

So what did you do, Mary?

At first I just ignored the questions. I didn’t have the bandwidth to do much more than tread water anyway, so instead of descending into a downward spiral, I decided to just table the thoughts until I was ready to deal with them (again, thanks therapy!). At the time I was still finding opportunities to write and program, so some of the earlier questions about liking programming were an assumed positive.

But then my husband started his new job and a couple months later our main babysitter had at best half the capacity she used to. Suddenly I found my time scales tipped violently towards home and childcare and I found myself struggling to keep up the pace I had before. I - and moms in general, I understand - are pretty hard on ourselves, and as a prior full-time working woman, I was frustrated to find myself incapable of sitting at my computer and getting anything accomplished. For awhile I beat myself up about it, telling myself I wasn’t trying hard enough. It turns out, though, that childcare is a full time job, y’all. And it’s pretty ridiculous of us to assume any caretaker can - and should - be able to do both at the same pace as they did when they only had one responsibility.1

Please, remind all working or former-working and caregiving friends and loved ones that parenting is a full time job and should be treated as such. Seriously, stop expecting that you should be able to do both at full capacity, it’s an absolutely outrageous expectation and we’re killing ourselves trying to reach it. /soapbox

jeebus help us

After a month and half of floundering, I finally had 2 realizations:

  1. The babysitter wasn’t coming back
  2. I wasn’t happy spending all day, every day, as a caregiver

It didn’t matter how much I loved my girl - and trust me, I do - I missed building things and programming. So, one question answered: I still wanted to program.

So how to find time and regain the skills I was nervous about losing?

Thus arose The Game Plan.

The Game Plan

If I wanted to get back into programming, it was clear I needed to figure out how to both get more time and also utilize my existing time more effectively. Coming to terms with my babysitting situation made me sit down and start consiering what would be enough time for me to start feeling fulfilled again without tanking my at-home responsibilities. At this point I knew I wasn’t ready to go back to a full time job yet, but if I wanted to eventually, I’d need to get my skills back up and start building again.

This determined, my husband and I decided to extend our daughter’s preschool hours to get me 2 more hours every week. This might not seem like much, but having those hours, fully recognizing that these were my hours to spend how I wished, and deciding to use them intentionally (ah, my favorite word finally makes an appearance!), I suddenly found myself with some breathing room to take care of her, the house, and start getting back on track with my development work. Success! This meant I could, in fact, make time to program, as well as rebuild my skills to be a programmer.

Those changes just started this month, and today marks the first day I’ve been able to sit down and take advantage of them. I won’t lie, it feels pretty good.

If I’m Not a Programmer, Who Am I?

First, let’s all work on not being solely defined by our professions, yeah? 😅

But! This year I’m calling the Year of the Mom Programmer. I miss being a programmer, learning and building and engineering - but I’m a mom, too! I might not be able to “have it all” (spend all my time with my daughter and be a full-time programmer), but with proper expectations for myself, I can forge onward to be both things at reasonable capacities and see that get me to a happier place.

So happy new year! I hope you too can find some ways to make yourself happier in 2024, or at least get yourself to the next step of where you want to be.

  1. This is something I probably would have already known had I had children during the pandemic. ↩︎