2010

I dented:

I had a baby. There. That’s my year in review post! (I’m enjoying everyone else’s.)

A year ago I was already been monitored several times a week in case rising blood pressure resulted in a sick fetus. That started on Boxing Day. A year ago I was keeping a secret pregnancy blog, and in January I created a new tag “over-fucking-due”. (OK, yes, technically “post dates” but since induction came up for me from 38 weeks onwards over-fucking-due was the appropriate sentiment.) Here’s some thoughts from that:

January 6: Hornsby’s hospitalisation time for mothers who had a vaginal birth and don’t have post-birth complications is 48 hours. If I’m induced Monday and Janus is born that day, then this time next week I will likely be home with him. This time next week.

January 9: My mental model of being overdue (I am not, but in a few days will be) was that women mostly hate it because it’s like being nearly due but not fair. For me though, things have actually changed for the worse over the last couple of days.

January 9: I have decided that Monday or early Tuesday morning would be optimal baby-having time, because the hospital is airconditioned and I would like to lounge around in a private room for the Tuesday heatwave. Let’s make it happen, Janus. Thank goodness I don’t live in Adelaide.

January 10: Meanwhile, waiting for labour: exactly as boring for me as it has been for every other pregnant woman in the history of the universe. I’m convinced the whole having sex with your acupuncturist while mainlining habeneros and raspberry leaf tea and constantly going for long walks thing is just to stop the revolution. The revolution that would inevitably happen if post-dates women were left to their own devices.

January 11: I trundled off for an ultrasound this morning. I don’t know the exact results. She said the placenta looked ‘mature’, undoubtedly that’s not an entirely positive thing. The amniotic fluid looked fine. The computer estimated his weight at 4kg almost exactly. I have no idea how the blood flow measured up, it took her forever to do it because he was playing with the cord. The exact prognosis will have to wait on the doctors tomorrow.

Apparently he has hair.

Oh good times, especially as he wasn’t born until a week and a half after all that. The only fun bit was talking about all of the silly self-induction advice. There’s a stand-up routine in there somewhere. (Also January 11’s heatwave was nothing on that of January 24, which reached 43℃… and! yes! I was in hospital!)

However, on reflection, I think I was wrong. In fact, the thing, the single thing, about 2010 was becoming a mother. The specificity of being Vincent’s mother isn’t confined to this year. And for all that another child would be a strange mystery and unexplored territory, I would be doing it as a mother already. I’ve been in places like that now, just not necessarily in the same company.

In 2010, I became a mother.

Baby and startup? Big deal! Or, perhaps, a big deal?

This article originally appeared on Geek Feminism.

Years back I read Paul Graham’s How to Start a Startup essay, which includes this footnote:

One advantage startups have over established companies is that there are no discrimination laws about starting businesses. For example, I would be reluctant to start a startup with a woman who had small children, or was likely to have them soon. But you’re not allowed to ask prospective employees if they plan to have kids soon.

Which, well, OK, I’m not in the business of forcing Paul Graham to start businesses with people he doesn’t want to start businesses with. But it bugged me for the obvious reasons, not least because, well, you know, men have small children too sometimes. Thank goodness they don’t have to put any work into them. Phew. Lucky escape there, men. Better make sure we keep that labour division in place.

Anyway, in the last few days, Tara Brown wrote this, in response to a few posts by men about having kids and doing a startup.

I am 35 years old, I have an 8 month old child that I breastfeed full-time and I am doing a startup. Big deal. Who isn’t?

Many women start businesses after having a kid, usually because they want to stay home and have an income. This was what I wanted to do after I had Ripley. I decided I wanted to look after him exclusively for his first year and then get a job as a consultant or something where I could continue staying at home with him. My husband and I took off with Ripley to Singapore and France and during that time somehow I ended up a co-founder of Noot.

I have a 9 month old baby (breastfed a fair bit as it happens, although you should have seen him get stuck into ciabatta bread today), and… I’m not doing a startup. I wouldn’t have been a great business partner or core employee for a while after birth, because it made me sick. I wouldn’t be a great partner or employee right now either, in fact, because he brings home illnesses from daycare and so we’re sick and exhausted constantly. (Not that I’m keen to encourage Paul Graham to add to the people he won’t start businesses with, but my husband gets these too, funnily enough.) I did recover our main fileserver when he was 12 days old. Pro tip: if you have any suspicion your hard drive is failing, replace it prior to the birth of your baby. (But then, I had to do the same thing the other week. Pro tip: mobile 9 month olds get in the way of hard drive replacements more than 2 week olds. Wait, that wasn’t a tip. Sorry. Pro tip: don’t have hard drives that fail.) I work various part-time and casual things now to afford the daycare to finish my PhD.

But Tara Brown isn’t telling everyone’s story: she’s telling hers, and she acknowledges that she has some advantages:

Honestly, I never expected to write this blog post because I just figured this is what every other woman that is working and has a baby must do, not something to make a big deal out of. But when I saw that email from Jason Calacanis and Jason Roberts, I just had to speak up so that more women can tell these guys that what they are doing is not extraordinary by any means. I mean come on, Jason Calacanis is rich, his wife stays at home and they have a night nanny. Not exactly a tough situation. What’s tough is single mothers and fathers trying to raise their kids by themselves. Me and the “Jasons” have supportive spouses who are at home for big chunks of time.

So moms dads out there that are doing a startup, tell the world YOUR story. Please! I need to meet more of you for the support and inspiration.

Starting, running and managing businesses, especially small ones, has been women’s work for a long long time, and that means mothers have done it. Mothers have done it a lot. But at the same time, I’m not keen to uncritically contribute to a superwoman culture: get back behind the desk woman! Sickness, disability, parenting and family and education and money demands and life preferences, these all vary a lot more than I would be reluctant to start a startup with a woman who had small children allows for. Sometimes women need to work with small children. Sometimes they need to not. Often it’s in between.

What’s your experience, if you’ve worked as a mother young children? If you’ve been an entrepreneur or business owner, do you think that that was uniformly harder than being an employee, or in some ways easier, or generally easier?

Babies, boobs and rooms full of geek men

This article originally appeared on Geek Feminism.

My six week old son has just rolled up his first D&D character, charisma stat 20:

Thrilled
Image by Andrew Bennetts, all rights reserved

Just kidding. I’m actually pretty wary of identifying children of geeks as geeks themselves. They’ll tell us what they are when they’re ready, right?

Now that I have my cute kid pic out of the way, what I did want to discuss though is mothering and geeking. Fathering and geeking seems pretty routine in my circles: lots of the Free Software Planets (blog sites) are full of announcements of newborns, pictures of kids shot by photo geeks, and so on. Parenting is not secretive in my geekdom, at least.

Of the mothers here, though, do you feel the same way? Do you feel able to talk about your kids to the same extent that your male geek buddies do? Do you feel comfortable caring for kids in geeky spaces? How about breastfeeding in public among geeks, if you do (did) it? Do you wish there were more kids+carers friendly geek events? (I sure wish there were more daytime events now!) If you have a geeky co-parent (or more than one) do you switch your geek time back and forth, or does the whole family geek together, or are you doing a lot of kid-time while the other adults geek out? Do you feel like you’re a closet geek mother or are you loud and proud? Alternatively, is geekdom your respite from mothering or simply an adult time for you?

Note: since I shared a cute kid pic, I can only say that you’re welcome to do the same in comments… fair’s fair!