The Mother We Share

Confessions of a Neurotic New Mummy Coder

Becoming a parent is hard. It doesn’t matter how many books you read. Or how many warnings you receive from friends and colleagues. Or however many hours of extra sleep you attempt to stockpile in advance. Your new reality swings through like a sledgehammer through a paper wall. A world of laughs, tears, isolation and general cluelessness becomes your new routine, and that’s if you’re on parental leave. We’ll see how the adjustment to juggling work goes next year. Until then I’ll probably continue to have nursery rhymes running on repeat through my head.

Becoming a parent requires adapting your coping mechanisms. If you are on leave, not all confidants are accessible. That second glass of wine is a bad idea. As is one more slice of cake or chocolate if you’re attempting to lose that pregnancy weight. Or sympathy weight. Partners be honest, you’ve all been there.

One of my key coping mechanisms has been humour. Humour that seems to become increasingly more borderline appropriate, depending on your personal preferences. Thankfully I don’t seem to be alone. Sharing with my antenatal mummies has shown many of us are adopting the same tactics. Friends with and without kids see the funny side, even with the darker jokes.

The Joker

Becoming a software engineer was far easier. Many of the stereotypical programmer pigeonholes I’ve never fitted into now adapt to my new existence. Here I share some of my observations. None are intended to belittle the challenges of parenthood. All simply serve as a means of uniting humour with my other coping mechanism of reflective blogging.

  1. Birth plans, like any production deployment run book, never work out to the precisely defined steps. Many tasks are deemed either not required, altered or swapped with an entirely new procedure.
  2. Forget formal Agile ceremonies. Stand ups are redundant. There’s no point listing what you did yesterday and today as they are exactly the same. Retrospectives, while useful, are rare. When they do happen, half the mechanisms that worked last week now result in tears or looks of befuddled wonder.
  3. In the beginning, simplified Kanban is the only way to manage the priority tickets raised by your little bundle of joy. The new need immediately jumps to the top of the prioritised backlog.
  4. Regardless of whether you are in the zone writing code, blogging, reading, showering or simply having a cup of tea, be prepared for constant thought interruptions. Each of these tasks takes three times longer than before the baby arrived.
  5. As soon as you find a new algorithm to solve putting him down to sleep, it will prove ineffective. The quest is then on to find another, or add yet another conditional to the ever increasing if construct.
  6. Even the most intoverted of developers will feel isolated and crave any basic form of adult conversation. Mainly to escape the loop of singing nursery rhymes, or yet another reading of The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
  7. It doesn’t matter how many conference t-shirts and pairs of jeans you have collected over the years. You will quickly run out of clothes not covered in pee, spit up or poo. Good thing you’re washing clothes almost every day to keep up with demand.
  8. Late night and early morning production escalations become the new norm. Every two hours the cries ring out requiring feeding, changing or other maintenance steps to keep the system alive.
  9. The fear in transitioning from developer to manager quickly becomes overshadowed. No longer are you concerned about negatively impacting a human’s career. As a parent you worry about screwing the entire life and development of a tiny human.
  10. Browsing of framework API’s is quickly replaced by instructions for prams, carriers, sterilisers, cots and any other equipment deemed necessary to keep baby happy, content and unharmed.
  11. Group play, mummy play date and other baby related activities become more akin to your first tech meetup. Many are exceptionally cliquey. Breaking into the established mummy groups becomes a game of minor baby chit chat.
  12. You spend far too much time in coffee shops. Take the quintessential freelance developer. They exchange coffee for WiFi access to API docs and social media forums. The typical new mummy swaps coffee for basic human contact; a feeding and soothing forum; as well as the toilet for timely nappy changing. It’s far easier than risking a trip to the noisy throws of a crowded office where you run the risk of no free meeting rooms to soothe the little one!

Appreciate the thoughts of all those wishing to contribute to this discussion. Thanks to the many friends who helped refine these jokes!

Lead software engineer with a strong interest in UI, UX, Usability and Agility. Lover of cooking, tea, photography and gin! All views expressed are my own.

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