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How to keep my mental health while working in a competitive team and having kids?

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Anonymous User at Taro Community6 months ago

This is not a typical question for Taro community, but l'm here to vent, and looking for honest advice. I'm a working mother at one of MAANG companies. I am a senior engineer, and currently working in a very competitive team that has very poor work life balance. I love my project and l've been getting good ratings so far and everyone is happy with my performance whether it's my manager, TL, DS, PM or XFN partners, according to their feedback for me during PSC.

However, I've been mentally stressed for months now about meeting the expectations and finishing my work while also meeting my kids expectations and having to deal with their emotions and other stuff, taking them to activities and playdates, ... etc and I don't get much help from my husband due to his larger responsibilities at work. I don't Iike to be an average engineer, as l've been used to excelling in my studies and work, it's a mental thing, perfectionism I believe. Should I just quit my job and look for a more relaxed one, if it exists? I’m at a good point in my career now and have already built very good relationships with everyone, and I’m afraid if I will regret this decision later if I don’t find a good alternative.

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(4 comments)
  • 19
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    Looking to improve my career
    6 months ago

    I would say family comes first any day any time. Easier said then done. I would take a good look at how and where I am spending my energies and time. Once I determine how much time I need to spend with my family then may be its time to have a 1:1 with the manager and discuss this issue. If the company/manager does not appreciate your concerns then getting another job with lesser stress/responsibilities could be an option? Not sure if getting another job in this economy is as easy? But then again I think I am just stating the obvious.

  • 25
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    Senior Software Engineer [IC3] at Nvidia
    6 months ago

    What I'm hearing in your question is the assumption that you need to be able to do all the things. This is a common issue in today's world, where time is so carefully measured and opportunities for using your time are endless. Even those who manage to do many things, have many experiences, contain many great things in your life, etc. then want to use their time to have even more things, experiences, and things. There is always a tradeoff.

    You need to prioritize. In that process, question your assumptions. Are there things in your life where you use time that do not add sufficient value? For example, social media can be one of those things for people. You are not a robot, so you cannot remove all of it, but that is a reasonable question. Based on your question, I assume that you have probably looked at many of those things and have little free time.

    Then, it comes to priorities. What are your values? How do you live in alignment to them? What will you value or regret on your death bed? This is a great chance to re-evaluate how you want to be living your life. Jumping to a much less challenging job now might make sense if you are very burnt out and that would help. It sounds like that would make you unhappy, as someone who seems to value ambition and career growth highly.

    This question sounds more in the realm of one for a mental health or coach. You can do a lot on the professional side. Figure out your goals, set clear boundaries with your team, and see what it takes to achieve the career success you want and what the costs are for each possible level of success, then decide what is optimal. But a lot is outside the scope of careers. Maybe you want to have a conversation with your partner about what you need. Why is their career more important than yours? What would make sense for both of you in terms of contribution to your kids and the household? I would engage with a professional who can help you think through these questions or, at a minimum, think through them yourself. You cannot give 100% of your resources to being an engineer, 100% to being a parent, 100% to being a partner... and so on. And you will burn yourself out trying.

  • 16
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    Senior Software Engineer at Intuit
    6 months ago

    This sounds stressful.

    What is causing the stress?

    This is a deeper question ->

    1. Have you received any feedback or is it to maintain a perception of a high achiever in a competitive work environment?

    1. That mental stress soon makes our patience run thin when it comes to young kids ( when they have their own meltdowns)

    2. Are you filling your cup before you attend to your responsibilities?

    3. Can you carve out 30mins - 1 hour a day to do what you love, if it is to workout / watch TV/ read? Where you are not needed by anyone. Try this for a week, and see how you feel. As managing everything with an empty tank, can get very overwhelming.

    4. Take a few days off work ( with kids in daycare / school) , and see whats out there and how you can ground yourself.

    5. If you still want to change your job, go for it, without quitting. One never knows how work-life balance is, unless you start the job. Grass seems greener on the other side.

  • 35
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    Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
    6 months ago

    As Zulfiqar perfectly put it: Family comes first any day any time! We work to live, not live to work. This only becomes more important as we get older (our parents become senior citizens, we start families, etc), and it's crucial to recognize this prioritization and be comfortable. I don't have kids (yet), but I would sacrifice my career in a heartbeat if it was truly necessary to properly support my wife.

    At the end of the day, we only have 24 hours to work with, and there is literally an infinite amount of ways we can spend that time in the modern digital age, especially if you work at a MAANG company. Be extremely comfortable dropping things - I did this at Meta all the time by putting a task in my backlog, marking it as a P2, and never doing it. When I left Meta, I had 40+ undone tasks tagged to me! 😂

    I don't Iike to be an average engineer, as l've been used to excelling in my studies and work, it's a mental thing, perfectionism I believe.

    Coming from a fellow perfectionist: There's nothing wrong with being an average engineer. Priorities naturally change as you get older: You grow super fast in the first 10-15 years of your career, and then you just sort of... level off. That's just how it is (and it's perfectly fine!) - When you're in your 20s, you can work like crazy, but your energy levels drop in your 30s and 40s and your life outside of work gets much tougher. Also, the average Big Tech L5 is better than 90% of engineers in the world. Given that you mentioned "PSC", I imagine you work for a certain social media company with a reputation for pushing its engineers extremely hard. 😉

    Now when it comes to tactics, here's some things you to think about:

    1. Ruthlessly prioritize - As mentioned before, drop stuff aggressively. Identify the big fish on your plate, land those, pretend everything else doesn't exist. There is always a power law. I talk about this in-depth here: "How does one effectively handle pressure especially when the stakes are high?"
    2. Talk to your manager - I was a high-performing tech lead at Meta, and I rarely worked >40 hours a week. During covid, I was working 35 hours a week as I got burnt out so easily with remote work. I was able to do this as I had a great relationship with my manager and made it clear that work-life balance (WLB) was important to me. WLB is a team effort - You can't do it on your own.
    3. Get more raw productivity from your time - This is much lower leverage than #1 and #2, but it can still get you substantial gains. We gave an entire masterclass about this: [Masterclass] How To Manage Your Time Optimally In Tech And Achieve More Results
    4. Consider switching teams - I imagine it's much harder now, but I'm sure there's some more "chill" teams within your company. Every Big Tech has thousands of teams, and no company is a monolith. Use this as a nuclear option if #1 through #3 don't work, and your work is seriously bleeding over into your life.

    For more tactics on staying a high-performer while having great WLB, check this out too: "Is it possible to do well at a SWE job working less than 40 hours a week?"

    Best of luck! The Taro community is rooting for you! 🙏