Mom Problems: How to Manage Life and Still Be a Great Developer

By tessa on April 2, 2017

This post is intended to go along with my talk from Saturday, April 1st at MidCamp in Chicago.

I am the kind of person that doesn’t like to say no, not to things I enjoy anyways. Which results in an overly booked calendar and me regretting my life choices.

A little background information on me – my husband’s name is Jeff, he the most amazing man in the world.  We have three beautiful children together – Kaden(8), Greyson(6) & Olivia(1.5) and a Great Dane puppy named Pixel. Jeff also has a son, Ethan(15) that I can thank for introducing me to the joy of children. Before Jeff, I never had any desire to have children and now I can’t imagine my life without them. Well, most of the time. Sometimes, when Olivia is throwing food all over the place and Greyson is hitting Kaden, I sometimes wonder what my life would be like had I never met Jeff and created this beautiful, but insanely chaotic, life. Cmon, every Mom out there has these same thoughts, don’t even try to deny it. I imagine a life in an upscale, downtown Minneapolis apartment with 2 perfectly behaved Golden Retrievers that go everywhere with me – including sleeping with me in my super-soft and comfy king size bed built for a human and her 2 furry friends. And since I will have so much spare time, I can volunteer with every dog rescue in town and save ALL the dogs.

Parent Pro Tip

If you don’t like constantly cleaning food off the floors, get a dog.

Like any life dream, they are never perfect. In my “single” life I would likely become lonely and seek human companionship anyways. I surely wouldn’t laugh as much. My kids, they are little comedians. Greyson especially – that kid comes up with the most bogus stuff. I would likely fill my schedule with something else or take on more work and never really get to spend all my free time saving dogs. My rent would be high and my yard would be non-existent. And parking, I don’t even want to think about parking in downtown. Nothing is perfect. Nothing.

No matter how much you dream of a perfect, less chaotic life, it just doesn’t exist if you have a personality like mine. I am the kind of person that does not stop. If I have free time, I find myself thinking of ways to fill that time. And then when I have too much going on that I do not have enough time I regret the thing I did before that filled my free time. #noregerts (haha that was intentional, haven’t you seen the snickers commercial?! Oh TV, how I love and hate you.)

So even with just my normal work day and home life, I have a lot going on. However, as developers we know that things are constantly changing and if we do not keep up with the latest technologies, our imposter syndrome will flare. You know what I am talking about. The syndrome that has you constantly wondering if you are truly qualified for your job or career. The one where you wonder if you fit in with your fellow super-smart coworkers. Then you have that new technology aw-haw moment and all is well again. It’s like a drug really. Learn something new and your syndrome is miraculously healed, for now. I don’t know about you, but my daily schedule is usually pretty full the way it is and I usually do not have a lot of time in my work day to learn new things so when in the world are we supposed to learn these new buzzword technologies?

With all of this being said, let’s get into the good stuff – how to manage all of these things.

Eliminate what you can

If you have things that you said yes to but shouldn’t have, stop doing them immediately. I know it sounds obvious, but sometimes as humans we feel the need to please other people at our own expense. You can not live a sustainable life doing this. Write down the top 3-5 things that matter in your life. If what you are doing is not on this list, then stop doing it. One exception being your job, but if you do not enjoy your job, find one you do enjoy. Life is too short to do something you don’t enjoy.

My list consists of:

  1. My Family
  2. Teaching Kids to Code – specifically diversifying the industry for our future
  3. My job – yep, I love my job.
  4. Saving dogs

This tip also helps for at home as well. If you are hoarding things you do not need, get rid of them. If you really can’t let it go, create a tote of stuff to be later reviewed, in say 6 months, and if those items are not important in 6 months then they can go.

Parent Pro Tip
Throw your child’s artwork away in the outside garbage. And then when your child figures out you threw away their artwork, blame it on your spouse.

Write everything down

Even if you are the kind of person that likes to keep things in your phone or tablet, write it down. First off, there is this amazing feeling of accomplishment when we write things down and check them off. Oh how I love checking things off. Second, it takes you away from the thing that is most distracting – our electronic devices. Third, you remember things better if you physically write them down. To build on this, do not wait to write something down. Take out your notebook and do it NOW. You will forget in 3 minutes.

Parent Pro Tip
Never, EVER leave a sharpie unattended.

Get a journal. My favorite journal is Self Journal by BestSelf. It includes a schedule for your day, which I normally do not update until that morning because my schedule changes frequently. I strongly recommend the morning and evening sections for what you are grateful for. In the beginning, these may be high level things but as you continue these will become more granular which has helped my overall mood. There is always something, at least one thing, to be happy about – no matter how bad your day may seem. Today’s targets are milestone-type tasks that help you reach your bigger goals. Lessons learned, for me, is usually “Do not procrastinate” or “say no.” Wins is a great place to showcase the things that you completed that day. This is super important. When you have a chaotic schedule, task completion is helps validate that you are actually getting things done.

To build on your journaling, you should check out my coworker’s talk on Peak Productivity with Ivy Lee.

Note: Another great journal option is Passion Planner – but they sell out quick at the beginning of the year. If you order one, please mention my email: I get a free planner after a few referrals. 🙂

Practice Mindfulness

Ever since starting to practice mindfulness (also known as meditating) I am able to actually fall asleep. My mind used to constantly race before bed and it would take me at least a half hour to an hour to fall asleep. It also helps when my mind is racing and I just can’t prioritize which super important thing I should do first. My recommendation would be to start with the app version of either Headspace or Calm. I subscribe to Headspace and really enjoy it. The founder of Headspace also has a book on Amazon that I recently purchased and really enjoy it so far. I even use it with my kids – Greyson can be a little sassy (mean) sometimes so I had him do the kindness one and it really seemed to actually set in. Kaden asks for it every night and now has it on his iPad to do before he goes to bed at night.

In Summary

  • Eliminate what you can
  • Write everything down
  • Practice Mindfulness

You can watch my presentation on


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