Moms Are People, Too

One of the most frustrating aspects of working as a mom in tech is working with team members who don’t understand that I sometimes have family obligations.

Not all women in tech have families, and I’m certainly not here to begrudge those who don’t, nor belittle those who are consciously choosing not to (in fact, I applaud you).

Many, many men in tech have families and family responsibilities that often surpass mine.

In my experience as a technical project manager, though, it seems that the majority (but not all) of my dev team members fall into three family-related categories:

  1. Dudes with grown kids who are teenagers, in college, or otherwise self-sufficient.
  2. Dudes with no kids who have partners who either work similarly demanding jobs and/or have gotten used to the uncertainties that come with dating, marrying, or partnering with someone in tech.
  3. Dudes who have kids but have a partner or other family member who is able to address the needs of the kids when the dude needs to address a work issue.

These dudes are (in general) easier to get in touch with and more able to spring into action when the servers go down at 10 pm over the weekend.

I’m not a dev, I’m a project manager, and most of the urgent situations do not require my problem-solving prowess, but my people-rallying, meeting scheduling, and communication skills.

I’m also a single mom with two kids, ages 6 and 8.

I’m not asking for sympathy.

I’m not asking for “special accommodations.”

I’m simply asking for understanding.

Before it’s said:
Yes, I knew what I was getting into. I chose to have kids. I chose to work in tech.

But I did not choose, and cannot choose, to put urgent and unexpected tech needs above the equally urgent and often unexpected needs of my family.

This means that when you need a PM to set up a conference call on a Sunday evening, I may be away from my machine, or not checking my work email, or not responding to texts, as I’m helping my kids to remember to brush their teeth and giving out hugs before bedtime.

While I’m doing this, I may not respond immediately. Trust me, had I known a meeting was needed in advance, I would have made accommodations.

This also means that during 7 am deployment calls, I’ll need to be on mute occasionally as I rouse the kids, again remind them to brush their teeth, find something for my daughter to wear that doesn’t offend her sensibilities, make two lunches, locate the lunch boxes, and put the kids on the bus.

During this time I will be temporarily away from my computer, unable to screen share while the team updates stories on the agile board.

My time on mute, my slightly delayed responses, and my temporary time away from my computer are not a reflection on my dedication to my job, my role, or my clients.

I’m simply doing my first job: Being a mom.

And sometimes, this has to come first.

Thanks for understanding.

Your intrepid project manager,
Kate

PS: This is a commentary on moms in tech, but the larger conversation of why our tech jobs are unpredictable and so disruptive to “life” is subject for another post.

I’m interested in that, too.

This article was originally posted on Medium on November 24, 2014.

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