05-22-13 - Baby Work

Jesus christ it's a lot of work. I was hoping to get back to doing a little bit of RAD work by Monday (two days ago), but it's just not possible yet. I'm doing all the work for Tasha and baby and it's completely swamping me. I get little moments of free time (that I oddly use to write things like this), but never a solid enough block to actually do programming work, and you can never predict when that solid block of time will be, which is so hard for programming. A few times I tried to get going on some actual coding, and then baby wakes up and I have to stop and run around changing diapers and getting mom snacks. I give up.

(even when I do get a bit of solid time, I'm just too tired to be productive; I stare blankly at the code. Actually I've had a few funny "tired dad" moments already. I went to the grocery store and was shopping along, and all of a sudden I noticed my cart was full of stuff that wasn't mine. Oh crap I took someone else's cart at some point because I was so asleep on my feet. I remember all through my childhood my mom would make shopping mistakes that I found so infuriating (Mom, I said corn chex and you got wheat chex, omg mom how could you be so daft!) and now I finally have some sympathy; you just get so exhausted that you can't even perform the most rudimentary of tasks without spacing out and making mistakes).

If you haven't had your baby yet, get some help, don't try to do it alone. (our relief should arrive tomorrow, and it's getting easier each day anyway; the hardest days were the beginning when we were still exhausted from labor and cleaning up after the home birth, and baby hadn't figured out nursing very well yet, that was some serious crunch time). We thought it would be sweet to have some time for just the three of us, and it has been, actually it's been really nice just being alone together, but it's too much work, I don't recommend it.

(we've been incredibly fortunate so far that our baby is super easy, really well behaved, a good sleeper and nurser; we just have none of the problems that you hear about (*). Of course that's not entirely luck (though perhaps mostly luck), we're both super healthy people and we've done what we believe is right to make a happy newborn (singing to the womb, immediate mommy skin contact after birth, never separating baby from parents, cosleeping, breatfeeding, etc.). But it's been so hard even with a well-behaved baby I now have new respect for the parents that go through a baby with colic or feeding difficulties or one that doesn't sleep, you guys are heros).

(* = of course we're struggling with some acid reflux problems (what used to be called "colic" back when parents were awful and thought babies just cried because they were a nuisance, rather than because they were in serious pain that should be adressed) and forceful letdown and latching difficulties and etc etc, some other typical minor baby fussiness struggles, but that's all just normal baby stuff that I can't complain about, not a serious hardship like a baby with an actual health problem or disability)

House work is so annoying in the way that you can't just get it all done at once. Even during this time when the house work is so much harder than usual, it's still only something like 4-6 hours total of work, but it's all spread out over the day; you work for a while, then you have a 15 minute break (waiting for laundry to finish or the baby to poop again), then you do more work, then another tiny break, etc. I don't do well with work like that; I'm a work sprinter (actually I'm an everything sprinter), I want to get all my tasks on a list and then I'm just gonna strap on the gusto and knock it out as fast as possible so that I can be done and have a deep rest.

I'm sad that I'm so busy running around doing chores that I can't just lie in bed with mom and baby very much. I've always used doing work for people as a way of showing love, and it's fucking retarded. It's not what they really want, and it's not perceived as love. I'm sure that if I had someone else do all the work and I just spent more time cuddling, I would be a better dad.

At family gatherings, there are always those people who disappear from the group to help out in the kitchen; they might help cook, then help set up, help clean up; they do a lot of work and show their love for the family that way. There are other people who just hang out with the group the whole time and chat and smile and are more overtly interested in being there. Of course the hard worker is subconsciously perceived negatively, as standoffish, while the smiler is a "good family man" that everyone enjoys. In my youth I would rage about the unfairness of it all. I'm past that and can see things more clearly :

1. If you have a choice, then of course it's better to be the smiler who does no work and everyone loves. There is no reward in the real world for being a hard worker; not in social situations nor in the workplace. It's much better to be perceived as nice than to actually do deeply giving nice things.

2. Being a friendly, funny social creature is of course a type of "work" that's contributing value to the social situation. Think of them as an MC if you like; they're providing a service to the group, telling stories or laughing or whatever. That's valuable work as well.

3. The people who are really stealing from the group are the ones that don't do the work, and also don't provide laughs and good vibes. They are energy vampires and you should minimize your contact with them.

4. If you're a "smiler", the hard-working types will give you dirty looks or even drop passive aggressive shitty remarks about how "some people don't contribute" or whatever. Fuck them. They're just morons who have chosen a bad path for themselves and are trying to bring you down. Just laugh at them inside your head. Foolish hard-workers, your judgement has no sway over me, I don't need your approval. If someone else wants to do all the hard work for you, and then make themselves feel all sour about the fact that you didn't do the work, fantastic.

5. If you're a hard-worker, don't despair about the unfair world. You have found your lot in life. Maybe you are simply incapable of being a smiler. That's too bad for you, but we all have our place, and it's better to accept it and be content than to rage about what cannot be yours.

In my youth I used to struggle with trying it both ways. One of the nice things about age is you figure out your lot in life and just accept it; some years ago I concluded that I would never really contribute great social energy to groups, so I should just be a dish-doer in order to avoid being an energy vampire.


I'm a bit worried that I will never be able to really concentrate in my home office the way I have in the past. It's been a wonderful sanctuary of peace and alone time for me, where I can dive into my work and there's nobody making noise or peeking in at me (the way people do in offices). But now even just knowing that my baby is in the house, my mind is partly on the baby; is she okay, should I go check on her now? I'm sure that will decrease over time, but never go away. And of course once the child is running around making noise that will be a new distraction. Oh well, I guess we'll see how it goes.

Programming is such hard work to mix with anything else because you really need that solid block of uninterrupted time. You can't just pause and resume; or I can't anyway, I need to get into this sort of trance, which takes a while to acheive, and is quite draining. I feel a bit like a wizard in a fantasy novel; I can cast this amazing spell ("write code"), but to do so drains a bit of my life force, and if I do it more than once per day I bring myself close to death; if you're interrupted in coding, the spell is cancelled. I can write code without the spell, but then progress is slow and difficult, just like a normal human trying to write code, it's so frustrating for me to write code without the spell that I don't like to do it at all.


The actual point of this post is that I feel this need to get back to doing RAD work right away, and it's making me angry. Why do I have to feel that way? Fuck RAD work, I need to be with family. But my god damn hard-working WASPy martyr upbringing makes me feel like I can't ever take anything for myself, that I need to go and sacrifice and work for other people.

The whole time Tasha was pregnant I was crunching like crazy trying to finish Oodle 1.1 and get the real public release done, and to just get as much work done then as I could so that I would feel better about taking time off after the birth. I neglected Tasha when she needed me and she was really upset at me for it. I wanted to get ahead on my schedule, and I did, but now that I'm here my brain won't let me have that and wants me to go back to work.

One of the things I've really struggled with at RAD is the lack of structure and the self-scheduling. There's never a point where I can get ahead of an official schedule; I can't hit all my milestones for the month and then feel okay about taking it easy for a while. Any time I do take it easy because I just need a break, I feel bad about it. In general, my stupid brain makes me productive as a programmer, but also miserable as a programmer.

People who have a job where they just have a list of things to do and they can actually do them all and then go "I'm done, I'm going home" are very fortunate. In programming, the todo list is always effectively infinite (it's finite, but always longer than what you can ever accomplish). You might make a schedule and set a target set of tasks for a given month, but if you get them done sooner you don't go "great, I'm done for the month, time for a few days off", you go "oh, I went faster than expected, I guess I'll adjust the schedule and start on next month's tasks".

Even in a structured programming work environment, if you do your tasks faster than scheduled, you don't get sent home - you get given more tasks. In the traditional producer/team work system, your reward for being the fastest on the team is not more free time or even more pay, it's more work. Yay. Cynical "realist" programmers learn this at some point and many of them start to sandbag. They might finish their tasks quickly, but don't report it to production until their previously alotted time. Or they will intentionally take "slow work" breaks, like browing the web or watching videos while working.

I used to use my speed as a way to work on features I wasn't supposed to; mainly in the pre-Oddworld days, I would sprint and do my assigned tasks, and then not tell anyone I had finished much faster than scheduled, so that I could work on VIPM or secretly rewriting the DX render layer or some other task that had been decided by production was "low priority". Oo, what a rebel I was, secretly giving my employer masses of value for free, great way to use your youth cbloom.

Anyway. I guess this post is all just my way of trying to convince myself that it's okay for me to take a few more days off.


Aaron said...

Here let me help you: Don't you dare come near work for at least another week, you crazy person. You can't possibly take too much time off. No one on earth will notice if you come in and do work now.

I'm sure you've heard this 50 times, but the first month or two is just fucking brutal. It gets dramatically easier.

Beware the trap of believing too deeply that your behavior influences your kid's temperament too much (wtf, temperament has an 'a' in it?!?!). I'm sure you guys have done an awesome job and it sounds like you've definitely hit all the key pieces to be on your way to a good start. That said, while it's ok, and even super-important, to sorta half believe that what you do influences their temperament, it'll bite you in the ass like a motherfucker when their temperament isn't what you want it to be down the line (zomg what did I do wrong?!?!!?).

Are you thinking about sleep training yet? :) What was her actual birthday?

cbloom said...

First month is brutal, that's for sure. At times I think I can see the appeal of adopting a one year old just to skip this part, but there are rewarding moments too. And of course any time you get a used car you have to worry about whether the previous owner trashed the engine or not.

cbloom said...

"Beware the trap of believing too deeply that your behavior influences your kid's temperament too much"

Well, it's good to be chill and not blame yourself too much, but at the same time, that's just not true, is it? Everything you do affects your kid, otherwise why would you bother trying to do good things for the kid at all? Certainly there are random factors and genetics and so on, but there's also massive cause and effect between the environment you provide and the way the kid turns out.

Of course being stressed out and tired is one of the worse things you can do to a kid (though not as bad as neglect), so if you try too hard then you fail.

old rants