New year, more like me

03 January 2024

It has been years since I finished a side project on time. An idea takes shape. “This should only take me a day or two,” I think, optimistically. Then, life takes over. Between my kid, my job, and single-handedly running our household, the end of the day comes fast. My personal time comes after work is over and our bedtime routine is done. It is full of best intentions, until I fall asleep in a heap of exhaustion.

Eventually I do get to these side projects, but even this new year’s post is days late. This chronic problem has a host of reasons. The scattered feeling in my brain, because I have too many things to do and too little time to do it. The frustration that comes with feeling so scattered. The feelings of inadequacy. The imposter syndrome.

I will never blame motherhood for this, because being a mom is something I wanted for a long time. It is something I worked hard for and I love my child and every minute1 of her.

However, with motherhood came a partial loss of self. Being a mom is work, and there are only so many hours in a day. The time I had before for side projects is now time I spend teaching, mom-ing, managing a household of 2, and – of course – playing.2 The loss comes out of missing the time I had for these side projects.

Why are side projects important?

As a developer, side projects allow me the space to do something unique and more aligned with my interests. They give me the chance to experiment and play in the geekiest way possible. This kind of experimentation is rarely possible in my (or any) day job.

Almost every developer I know has a side project (or three). The idea of a side project has become so ubiquitous, that questions like “What projects do you work on outside of work?” are standard in development job interviews.

My side projects allow me to explore other aspects of myself. They can help me answer the question of, “where do I see myself in 5 years?”3 They help me figure how who I am as a professional, compentent, and creative adult. This is important.

Is this “normal”?

It is no secret that, in many societies, women are stereotypically expected to take on more household responsibilities. The BBC article, “The hidden load: How ‘thinking of everything’ holds mums back” discusses the toll this takes on women.

This article focuses on women in heterosexual relationships, but it touches on many points that I also feel as a single mother. The work it takes to be a mother is physically and mentially exhausting, because it never ends. A sub-heading in the article summarizes it perfectly as “invisible, unlimited work.”

It’s no wonder I’m exhausted.

It is time for a change.

Years ago, I was inspired by the idea of a yearly theme via a CGP Grey video.4 To that end, I decided my theme for 2024 is “Finding Myself”.

I started this quest in the latter half of last year5, but I want to make it official in this new year. What this looks like in practice is still to be determined, but my hope is to focus on the things that make me feel more like me:

  1. Traveling with my kid
  2. Escaping my mostly-sweatpants wardrobe
  3. Breaking out of my writer’s block
  4. Making art with my kid6

New year, new more like me.

  1. Well, most minutes. I do not enjoy tantrums. 0 stars. 

  2. Play is important and fun! 5 stars. 

  3. I actually cannot stand this as an interview question. I understand that you want access to the plans I have in my head, but those plans also change based on circumstances and 5 years is a lot of time. 1 star. 

  4. CGP Grey is a YouTuber and podcaster. I first learned about him from the Hello Internet podcast (no longer active), and am now a fan of his YouTube channel and Cortex podcast with Myke Hurley. Check them out, if you are so inclined. 5 stars. 

  5. Is that cheating? 

  6. We could probably already open an art gallery.