Acceptance

“What if not just women, but both men and women, worked smart, more flexible schedules? What if the workplace itself was more fluid than the rigid and narrow ladder to success of the ideal worker? And what if both men and women became responsible for raising children and managing the home, sharing work, love, and play? Could everyone then live whole lives?” 
― Brigid SchulteOverwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time

Stuff I Would Like to Do/Be Doing These Days
Go thru Think Python and work on Python coding
Audit the Maps and The Geospatial Revolution course on Coursera
Attend more PyLadies NYC Meetups
Get my eyes checked
See a movie in a movie theater
Blog more often
Buy some new pants

Stuff I Must/Most Need to Do These Days
Go to work
Spend time with my family
Keep house (cook, light cleaning, shopping)
Exercise
Watch at least an hour of TV a night
Occasional social engagements
Eat
Sleep

All of this (and more!) has been rattling around in my head for weeks as I have been trying to find a moment to write this post. I recently read (or OK, read most of) Brigid Schulte’s book Overwhelmed: Work, Play, and Love When Nobody Has The Time. The book had the overall result of making me feel less overwhelmed. Hey! Look at me! I am reading a book! I am not totally bowled over by life! I do not think it is particularly cool to be busy all the time!  That said, I must admit that I read the book while riding the train on the way to work or laying around on the sofa, but most of the things on that top list are not things that can be done on my morning commute or while I waiting for pasta to boil. Most of those things require a longer and more focused period of time, brainpower, and energy — none of which I have right now.  So, I am just trying to take the time to accept that I don’t have the time to do all the things I *want* to do / feel I should be doing right now this very instant. I am also sitting with the fact that I might never have the time to learn how to code and frankly I have no great need to know how to code nor do I have any problems that I believe I could code my way out of. In fact, I almost think coding could unearth problems that would just open the door to a bunch of new stressors.

So that’s that.

None of this is to say I feel calm and guilt-free about it, but the direction I am going in is not towards finding the time to do the things on the top list but instead in accepting the fact that the life I live and love is comprised of all the things on the bottom list.

Although I think I *can* reasonably squeeze in the pants purchase if I play my cards right.

Have Family, Will Travel

I recently got back from a week-long all-staff trip, where I had all day (8:30-5:30) meetings and company dinners nearly every night and somewhere in the middle of it I squeezed in time with my husband and son, who were gracious enough to come along. The last time we had an all-staff, my kid was still under a year old and I was still pumping so I only ended up staying for two out of the five days. While I was glad that my company was flexible enough to allow me that schedule, I soon realized I’d missed out on a lot of important sessions. So this time around I decided to just ask my husband to come down with me.

This was an interesting experience and I thought there were enough lessons learned to share with others who might be considering doing the same. ‘

Business Travel with Family – The Good Stuff
1) MORNINGS – Waking up with my whole family was a nice way to start the day. I had breakfast with them most mornings before going down to the meetings. I felt like it put me in a good head space for the day ahead.
2) SLEEP – Since we were all in one hotel room, we all went to sleep pretty much when the kiddo went to sleep. This meant I was well-rested and refreshed every morning. By contrast, many of my co-workers used the evenings to socialize, enjoy the city, and stay out a bit too late (those of you who know how close the tie can be between drinking and tech know what I might mean).
3) SWITCHING OFF – After a day of non-stop meetings it can be hard to get my mind out of work mode, but with my husband and child there it provided an immediate context switch. I met up with them and found how their day of exploring the city went and shut down my thoughts/concerns/ideas about work for the day.
4) BEING HUMAN – On the first night we had an all-staff dinner that I was able to bring my family along to.  I was happy that my co-workers were able to see me being a mother and a wife in addition to their capable and hardworking colleague. My company is very geographically dispersed and sometimes it feels like we are just talking to faceless voices on the other end of the conference call line. Gathering for the all-staff once a year is a wonderful chance to put a face and personality to a voice and an email address and I can only hope that seeing me toddler-wrangler a bit will help to humanize me a bit more to people who might not actually be in a room with me again for another 12 months.
5) DOUBLE DUTY – It was nice to know my family was out doing something fun and new while I was working. They thoroughly enjoyed their time exploring this (new to them) city.

Business Travel with Family – The Tough Stuff 
1) NO R& R – I can’t lie. I love a good hotel stay. I love using their plush industrially cleaned towels and soaking in their deep tubs and watching trashy TV while lounging in a king sized bed. When I business travel — especially since having a kid — it is a nice chance for “me” time. Travelling with family meant that I was never really alone. That said, I was able to steal one soak. Ahhh,
2) AFTER HOURS – As anyone in business knows, a lot of the important discussions can happen off the clock when people are being casual. Travelling with my family meant that once the clock switched off, I wasn’t really putting in much extra time with my co-workers. I was more focused on making sure my kid got a bath and into bed at time. While I don’t regret the time spent with my family this past week, it’s hard not to feel like I missed out a bit.
3) TRAVEL WITH TODDLER – Travelling with a toddler is tough. He is a great child (sweet, gentle, good eater, good sleeper) and he in fact slept quite a bit on the flight, but he is a toddler, which means he is fidgety and loud and full of energy and wants to touch and play with everything. It was a short flight but I could not get off the plane or out of the cabs fast enough, both going and coming. Also, childproofing the hotel room was a daily struggle. He kept finding things to get into.

All in all, I am really glad we went as a family. The pros greatly outweighed the cons and while I sometimes felt overwhelmed or underinvested at moments, I think I was where I needed to be when I needed to be there. I surely can’t do this all the time, but when it makes sense I hope I can do it again.

Recent Thoughts and Reads

How’d it get to be February already? Geez.

Things are good around these parts. I’ve been working and reading a little and hanging with my guys and skipping through snowflakes. Oh winter! Here are some things I’ve been thinking about.

I just caught this great discussion on NPR’s On Being with physicist Brian Greene. He’s a spirited guy and I especially like how they touch upon the popular approaches to getting more young people into STEM seem to be borne out of fear of America “falling behind” rather than a sense of the importance and pure joy of scientific pursuits.

Slightly dated (2011) but still informative (especially in light of recent discussions of data breaches and public cloud) breakdown of various cloud technologies from Simon Wardley’s dense and educational blog.

Cleaning out my inbox, I stumbled across a link to  Gunnar Hellekson’s New to Open Source Reading List that I’d sent to myself three weeks before I gave birth. I somehow thought (hoped?) I’d be able to get some reading done during maternity leave. Well it’s a week before my kid’s first birthday and I am just getting around to giving it a second glance. Baby steps, people, baby steps.

The Center for the Public Domain put out a list of books that could have gone into the public domain this year were it not for the 1976 Copyrightwrong Act.

Finally, for those of you who are still scratching your head about what we actually do at Boundless, here is a really informative writeup of one of our biggest current projects, the ROGUE project for the US Army. It is a distributed system for gathering, updating and sharing geospatial data from terrain to desktop.

Through The Looking Glass

I’m still with the same company, but we recently moved to a new office. Lots of great changes are afoot and this is the third office we’ve worked out of in the two years I’ve been there…and the third office in a row with no private rooms. The issue of privacy bugged me a bit before I had a kid, but now that I am a working and pumping mother it has become absolutely crucial. I need a clean, quiet, and wired (electrical and internet) place to pump for 20 minutes, two times a day. I can pump hands-free so whenever possible I’d like to be able to take my laptop with me and keep on Leaning In and shit. I’d like to know that I can sit somewhere, undisturbed and un-spied on for forty minutes a day. I can only imagine there are other people, pumping and non, who would like the same.

Transparency is good. Open doors and visible co-workers, that’s all great.  But sometimes we need privacy. Sometimes we need to have uncomfortable conversations, sometimes we need to hammer out the details of Top Secret Project X. Why do media/tech companies keep designing offices where that can’t (shouldn’t?) happen?

I recently heard this interview on CBC’s Radio Q with architect Raphael Sperry who’s organized other architects to stop designing solitary confinement cells in prisons. He says that architects have a social responsibility to uphold human rights. I agree with him wholly (in fact I think architects should stop designing prisons full stop!), and I’d argue that architects also have a responsibility to push for spaces that work for many different types of use cases, not just when 20-something year old dudes are programming together, drinking beer and getting along famously with no need for any privacy. I don’t know any companies where that is the case all day long, five days a week, do you?


If you have any thoughts, just ping me. I’ll be sitting on the bathroom floor pumping.


Related:

(WSJ) Indecent Exposure: The Downsides of Working in a Glass Office 
(BusinessWeek) Working Moms Need More Than Subsidized Breast Pumps 
(Yahoo Finance) A woman’s place is in the home and the office: The case for breastmilk pumping stations in public spaces 
(Why Is Her So Stroppy Blog) The silent breast pump and other lies by power mums