If you have read (hehe, I know you didn’t :P) the very first post on my blog, you would know that I had about one year break in my, let’s say, ‘career’. For my personality it was quite a challenging and surprising time, but for me as a programmer, it was an extremely tough year. I literally had to fight for each hour spent on writing code so I decided to write down some tips that helped my knowledge and skills (somehow) survive.
And if you think that it doesn’t concern you, just think of a situation when you break an arm or lose your job and couldn’t find another one for longer than 5 minutes (haha, hehe, yeah, that joke is stupid, but I had to write it 😉 ) or decide to stay at home with your newborn. I was in the last situation.
Read anything that’s interesting for you and related to your job.
All you need is a smartphone/tablet/book/ebook reader or all of them! Seriously, breastfeeding at 1 AM? Let’s check what’s new in IT posts aggregator. Kid fell asleep at your belly and you know the slightest move will wake him/her up? Let’s check the latest post on the favorite blogs! The crawling little human is contemplating the intricacies of table’s leg – that’s the best moment to listen to some IT podcast! Really, anything at anytime!
You win not only the knowledge here but also a great bunch of subjects to talk about with your IT friends (and that’s a big thing when all your daily activities concern the kid and a household, trust me)!
Meet as many programmers as you can!
An IT conference in a nearby? Not a problem, prepare a stock of milk, leave your kid with somebody trusted and go!
IT job fairs, even if you don’t plan to change a job right now? Who cares? Just go and talk to other geeks.
A friend from the University times is able to visit you at home? Great! Sooner or later the two of you will start talking about IT subjects, trust me!
Really, talking to other geeks will give you a boost of energy for a few days and will keep you up to date with the news in the business.
Code when you can!
That’s the most important point. Programming is not only about the knowledge but also the practise. And I mean ‘practise’ as even operating with shortcuts in the IDE. Believe me or not, but you may forget some used less frequently.
So select some technology (brand new or already known) and create anything, even if it is the hundredth ‘TODO list’ app. The best pet project is the one you (or somebody you personally know) will use, so you have additional motivation to finish it.
Choose small pet projects.
Programming with a kid on board is full of unexpected breaks – some longer, some shorter but usually you have to leave PC immediately, without the possibility of writing down what’s done and what needs to be coded/tested. In a bigger project you can easily lose the track of already implemented features and the ones that still need an attention. And searching the code every damn time you open the IDE can be frustrating.
When naps of my kid were getting shorter and shorter I realised that soon there will be no time for coding.
That was a time for the best decision of my whole ‘maternity leave’ time – I took an example from my husband and decided to stay up to the 3 AM every second night. That’s thaugh, because beeing a parent means permanent lack of the sleep but that give me some additional time and a programming ruitine I missed so much! On the other hand, I still dream of a good sleeping too…
Don’t complicate things!
You want to be a perfect say-at-home mom/dad/husband/wife/neighbor? Do you want to spend most of a day keeping a house in a good shape? Cooking fresh meals, ironing cloths, mowing the lawn? That’s great, if you really want it. But if you do it only because of the society pressure, just forget others. They will not pay your therapist in a few years ;).
Seriously, your kid will be much happier when he or she will eat a ready-made food and have a happy parent to play with rather than after a home-made meal with a frustrated adult that dreams only of a rest.
Trust me, I walked this path and now I can’t understand why I was complicating things so much!
Plan your day but be prepare for a change
You know what hit me when I stayed at home with my kid? That I totally don’t know what will I do in an hour! That was strange because working in quite a big company taught me to live with a clock in my head – and this clock was ticking even after my working hours. And I liked it, it made me feel more confident.
But now, I don’t know if I’ll be able to work on my pet project this night or if I chase shadows on the wall with my teething baby. And all I can do is accept it and plan the evening anyway, hoping this time I will be able to do at least half of the planned points.
Tell everybody that you still ‘do code’
That’s right! It’s like with a diet – you want to be sure you will stick to it, just tell everybody you decided on it. Sooner or later somebody will surely ask you how it is going and it would be a shame to admit you gave up the idea. And trust me, every time I met my collegues during my maternity leave, I was asked if I program or if I didn’t forget how to code (oh, yeah, I love this question! :D) in the very first 3 minutes of the conversation!
I was really, really scared of coming back to work. I was afraid of the programming side, I was afraid of my kid’s reaction, my boss’ reaction, I was afraid how will I survive without the Litle Human ‘suppervision’.
The possibility of accidental talking ‘broom broom’ to my collegues instead of ‘a car’ also scared me a litle bit…
I wasn’t sure if I get used to drinking a warm tea while programming. Or being able to listen to music on headphones with both ears covered… There was really a lot of scary changes on the horizon! 😉
But you know what? It was really OK! People are not robots, they will understand if you need a little more time at the beginning. And according to the science, you are doing a favor to your child, because kids of working mothers tends to be more intelligent! And the feeling of being in the business again is an amazing thing too! The same with the moment of getting back home to my family – the pure happiness never felt before!