For many years, I didn’t understand code or its impact on every aspect of life. And so I rejected it.
This changed a few years ago when I was hired to complete the development of a new Identity Management application. It wasn’t a development position exactly but it required working with developers and architects on a daily basis. And this is how I was introduced to application development. Learning how to modify a workflow in real time, or even change the look and feel of the user interface was magical. I was smitten. I began conversing with a couple of the developers at work and thought, “Hey, I could do this. I just need to learn how to code.”
So a year ago, I decided to do just that . I searched for online tutorials, books, and other resources, but the amount of information was overwhelming. Once I’d found them, I didn’t know where to begin. The gift and the curse of the internet. I poked through one of those free tutorial sites, but it lacked direction and wasn’t very personable. The lessons were generic and didn’t work for different learning styles. I needed live instruction.
I was a mom of two and both my work and home life took too much of my time. Later that year I found out that I was pregnant with my third child. I decided to put my code journey on hold until after the baby arrived. And when the time came to get back into the coding world, I was determined to make it happen. The following summer, after having my baby and while on maternity leave, I enrolled in General Assembly’s 10-week front end web development course. I knew that the only way I would successfully learn how to code was to fully commit to a live class.
So every Saturday morning at 7:00 AM, I would make breakfast and lunch for my family, prepare baby bottles for my then 4 month-old, and then trek four long blocks to the subway. I showed up to class every Saturday for the course, but once I left that classroom , I struggled to find time to code independently, practice the lessons and perfect the skill. I wasn’t always able to complete the assignments after class, and I felt like I was falling behind fast. Halfway through the class, I thought about quitting. Learning to code was not as simple as I thought it would be. It was complicated. And I was overwhelmed. Once the class ended, my learning came to a stand still. My stress and workload did not improve, and without those Saturday’s to hold me accountable to my learning, well, there went that.
Time to get back to my normal.
I wake up at 6:30 AM. I shower and begin getting ready for work. My husband dresses the 8yr old while I dress the 3yr old. I have about 25 minutes to get it done before the baby wakes up and screams for a bottle. We rush. I take both kids to brush their teeth and wash up. I send my son downstairs and brush my daughter’s hair. Neither of them appreciate the 7:00 AM wake up call so whining is part of the routine. I feed them, pack their snacks, then run back upstairs to feed and dress the baby while their dad gets them ready to go. I am already pooped. I walk eight blocks to daycare. I swallow the bitter guilt of leaving my baby with strangers all day and rush to the subway. I spend a full day at work, and some days are better than others. At the end of my work day I rush to the daycare, then rush to the school. The four of us walk home together. My husband rarely gets home before 8:00 PM, so it’s all me. Cook dinner, feed the kids, help with homework, bathe the kids and get them to bed by 8:30. Remember the 7 month old? She doesn’t always cooperate. By 9:00 PM, I cannot focus.
My mother tells me to quit my job and focus on raising my kids. She says that I’m just working to pay daycare and tuition. She tells me that my children need me now. It makes me question my purpose, my ambition. I feel selfish for wanting to better myself. I feel like a failure for committing precious time to things other than my kids. I hate this expectation that I should drop it all. What about my husband? Would he ever find himself in this conversation? “Ok mom, I gotta go,” I tell her and hang up . But the conversation still haunts me .
Before starting my 10 week course, I asked my boss what he thought about it. He said that he didn’t recommend it. He did not think that learning web development would be valuable for me. I was disappointed that he didn’t see the tremendous value in this, but I did it anyway.
My husband isn’t as supportive as I wish he would be. Somedays I’m not sure he understands how overwhelmed I am. Often times he makes me feel guilty for leaving to attend class, go to events or even take time to tell you this story. He just looked over and asked what I was doing, voice filled with annoyance. We both work fulltime, but when our work days are done, my job continues. I take care of bill pay, food shopping, doctors appointments and school meetings. Mommy is the problem solver. I could really use his emotional support some days, but I’ve given up on that. I’ve accepted that the heavy load is on me 24/7.
Most days I feel tired, lonely and unclear. Some days are better than others, but when my gas tank is on low, I debate whether I should just take a break from it all and be 100% focused on my family. It’s a constant struggle. Being a mom is not who I am. I am still Christina. I know for a fact that caving in to my fears and insecurities would be detrimental to my personal and professional growth. At the end of the day I not only want to do this but I want to be amazing at it. My kids do motivate me, but what really keeps me going is my determination to learn. I know that the steps I take today are leading me closer down the path of discovering my full potential. And this is extremely powerful.
I was taught that “When life throws you lemons, you make lemonade.” This is my reality and what I deal with to become a coder. I don’t expect that things will get easier, but I’m optimistic that I will learn to better manage it all.