Friday, August 19, 2005

post-partum depression

So after saying I really don't want to talk about computers, I guess I can't get away from it. While I have a rather crowded and eventful life (six sons and six dogs will do that to you), I spend a lot of my time and energy doing this computer stuff.

I've had a lot of babies, and I've shipped a lot of products. Yes, these thoughts are connected. Think about a software project for a minute. It's actually a LOT like a pregnancy. There's the initial idea phase which is fun (conception), the first few months of putting it all together, which is exciting but sometimes difficult (the first trimester), then a period of relatively smooth sailing where a lot of the code gets written (second trimester), then the third trimester when the baby is getting ready to ship - that can get difficult, tiring, and you are just plain working really hard. Finally, the delivery stage - labor. Even the stages of labor apply, where everything peaks at transition, followed by pushing the baby out the door. So working VERY hard and intensely, the product/baby finally ships. All of a sudden the product you worked on for months is on its own - and in the hands of others (release people, marketing, customers, etc).

And I think the analogy goes even beyond pregnancy/birth to the post-partum stage. I always feel a little disoriented making the transition from shipping to having shipped. Having worked so hard for the end game, it's hard to abruptly stop. Yes, it's badly needed, but it's a very abrupt change and there's a sense of loss, too. There's the happiness of having shipped, but that work is now finished, and it's on to the next release, the next child.

But software kids seem to go right to kindergarten - you start getting the report cards pretty soon, and you are really hoping the reviewer is happy with the result.

A vacation in the middle helps (maternity leave), and I did that, but still feel a bit down. And software engineers have to turn around the next baby pretty quickly - is there the same effect on the mind that having continual pregnancies would have on the body?

It would be good to have a longer maternity leave...

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