Are You Baby-Sitting or Parenting?

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Daniel Jalkut said that once you become a parent, it colors everything you do. He was talking about writing his first iOS app, Shush.

But a different thought crossed my mind when talking with my wife about the newest addition to our family. Did she feel like a mother? Did I feel like a father? We both agreed that it came and went. But if we really reflected on our lives, our wedding didn’t make us feel married. That had happened long before. And by inches.

What does being a father feel like to me? I feel most like a father when I roll up my sleeves and do the hard things. When I dealt with the Hospital Finance Department. When I drove home for 4 hours with my newborn in over 100 degree heat. When I change a diaper. When I clean a kitchen full of bottles and fill them with formula. When I do any number of household chores to ensure my wife dosen’t fall in to the trap of doing everything herself and she has time with her daughter.

Before becoming a parent I did some baby sitting. It was great until it wasn’t. Once the fussing began, I had one thought in my head. “I hope the parents get back soon.”

Once it was my kid the thought was different. I knew what it could be and how to solve all of it, except for just random fussy. But I have yet to stress during the fussing. She’s mine. I’m the one to make it all better.

What does this have to do with software? Ever been on a project where things go wrong and you have the thought, “Can I get transferred? Then this would end.” How about when things fall apart and the only thing you think is, “I got this!” Or even, “I don’t know if this project is possible, but I’m going to fly it in to the ground to find out.”

I’ve had all of those thoughts and I don’t think it has to do with whether or not I’m being professional or not. It has to do with Entitlement. By entitlement, I mean the psychological sense of belonging. It is mixed in to a few things, the most important is that your decisions and inputs are impactful both in the short and near term. If your are a clock punching monkey, you don’t love your work. The best you can do is baby sit a failing project.

If you are Entitled, it isn’t a feeling of being a design prima donna telling everyone what to do. Instead, it’s a feeling of being involved in the conversation of creation. It isn’t about being the loudest voice, but of being a voice that is respected and considered. It is then you feel like you are parenting a project. And a project you can parent is a project you can love warts and all. It is a project you will do everything for once it has growing pains.

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