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On February 25, I published a post about my career change from research to software engineering. At that time, I was getting ready to move to the West coast for a 16-week software engineering apprenticeship at a big tech company.
Prior to that move, Mr. FAF and I were scrambling for babysitters and helpers to help Mr. FAF take care of our two kids and housework when I was away.
Little did I know that a week later, I would frantically buy a $400 plane ticket to fly back to DC on the same day. It felt so unreal I still couldn’t believe it was the reality.
I felt like I was in a horror movie running away from the city to escape an apocalypse that could arrive anytime without notice.
1. My software engineering apprenticeship
I was supposed to be on campus for the whole program for a 3-week boot camp and to work on a project with an engineering team.
I ended up being on campus for only two days before being told by the company to work from home for the next two weeks.
The coronavirus started to spread in the city where I worked. I didn’t think the situation would get any better.
I was scared of being alone in a new city with a deadly virus spreading at a crazy pace. Two days after I left, both of our kids got a fever.
Needless to say, Mr. FAF was suffering at home with sleep deprivation and exhaustion. He had to take time off work to watch both kids. We had helpers, but they couldn’t watch our kids at night.
I was becoming increasingly worried about him and our kids. I checked with the program manager about possibly flying back to DC. They didn’t object, so I bought a ticket on the same day and went to the airport three hours later.
A week after arriving in the West coast, I decided to fly back to DC. I had a red-eye flight. And the next day, I arrived home, feeling like I had never been happier to see my husband and kids.
The remote work kept getting extended again and again until the leadership decided that we should work from home until further notice. There’s no knowing when and whether my cohort could return to campus and work with our team in person.
As the story goes, my cohort finished the whole apprenticeship program remotely. My team gave me a one-month extension, so now I’m still working with the same team. I will give you guys an update on my job status when the timing is right.
2. Our labor division
I work on PST time, which is three hours behind DC time. I basically start my work day at noon and finish at 8 PM EST.
Mr. FAF and I take turns taking care of the kids and housework. Our schedule is shown below.
5 AM: I get up to do work and study.
8 AM: I get both kids up and give them breakfast.
9 AM: I try to do more work and study while watching the 1.5 year-old and reading to my 5 year-old son or giving him writing lessons.
11:15 AM: I prepare lunch for the whole family. I usually just heat up our leftovers from the day before and/or make some quick dishes.
11:35 AM: I start both kids on lunch. Our 1.5 year-old can’t eat by herself, and she’s a bit slow on the teeth department, so I have to feed her.
11:50 AM: Mr. FAF comes to have lunch, feed the baby, and rush our son to finish his lunch (it takes him forever to eat!).
12 PM: I start working.
1:15 PM: Mr. FAF finishes cleaning up, puts our daughter to bed, and lets our son watch some cartoon while Mr. FAF takes a nap or continues working.
4 PM: Our baby wakes up from her nap. Mr. FAF then watches both kids while working. I also take a quick break to give our kids some snacks.
5 PM: Mr. FAF prepares dinnner.
6: 30 PM: Mr. FAF and the kids have dinner.
8 PM: I finish working. I then give the baby a bath while Mr. FAF gives our son a bath and puts him in bed.
8: 20 PM: I eat dinner and clean up the kitchen.
9 PM: I take a shower.
9: 30 PM: Mr. FAF and I spend some time catching up. But most of the time we are just too tired to have a date. We usually see and talk to each other for less than 30 minutes every day. It’s hard to hang out and be romantic when both of us are exhausted from working, taking care of kids, and doing housework.
10 PM: I continue working if there’s work to be done.
11 PM: Bed time for me. Mr. FAF’s bed time varies depending if he takes a nap in the afternoon and for how long.
Over the past 4 months, I haven’t been doing very well with my sleep. There were weeks when I woke up and eventually got up at 3:30 AM and 4 AM to prepare for the technical job interviews no matter if I went to bed at 10 PM or midnight.
That preparation involves Leetcoding, object-oriented programming fundamentals, and system designs. And I did all that while trying to navigate a new project using new technologies and a totally different programming language than Python.
I was stressed. I’ve been sleep-deprived. And that definitely affects my health. I feel tired almost all the time and every day.
But for me, it’s a happy kind of stress, which is different from all the anxiety, frustration, and desperation that I had experienced prior to the apprenticeship.
My eczema, which started a month after I started coding and which the dermetologist said was due to stress, also disappeared shorterly after I started the apprenticeship. For me, it’s a big win!
3. Our budget & savings
Due to Covid, Mr. FAF and I have been able to cut down on expenses significantly and save thousands of dollars more each month. Below are the categories that we have been saving money on.
– Tuition ($2,500/mo): This is the biggest savings for us. In total, it amounts to about $2,500/mo since both of our kids stay at home.
Mr. FAF and I would prefer to have them go to school so we don’t have to multitask and can just focus on our work. But the upside is that this is a nice amount to save each month.
We donated $500 to our son’s school to help with their expenses due to Covid.
– Helper & babysitter ($1,300/mo): After I came back from the West coast and due to social distancing, we had to let our helper and the babysitter go. We knew it was the right thing to do, but we felt horrible since they lost their income.
– Eating out ($300): This is totally a guess since I stopped keeping track of our food expenses a long time ago. But Mr. FAF and I don’t eat out as often anymore. When we are too tired to cook, Mr. FAF orders take-out sometimes.
– Gas ($100): Mr. FAF doesn’t drive to work every day anymore. We do drive out for some fresh air, and Mr. FAF drives to the grocery stores. But overall, our driving has been cut significantly.
In total, we have been able to save $4,200 every month since mid March. Our grocery bill averages around $1,000 each month. It also includes household items like diapers and toilet paper, so we are not too stressed about it.
Related: 10 Expensive Things Worth Buying
Prior to Covid, our family would go to Costco and the mall for fun. But now we mainly go to the parks near our house.
When we go out, we wear masks and try to avoid getting into a close distance with other people.
Honestly, we’ve been bored at home. Mr. FAF is itching to go on a road trip or travel to Vietnam. But all that has to wait.
Despite the sleep deprivation, exhaustion, and stress, I am really happy I have had the opportunity to join the apprenticeship program which has opened a lot more doors for my career.
During my short time on the West coast, I was able to see the company’s campus and met with other members of my cohort. We have an online happy hour every Friday which I rarely missed.
I now have more experience and a wider network of friends and colleagues. I have also been able to meet and work with great mentors who I look up to and am grateful to.
The Covid situation is unfortunate, and I wish things were back to normal. It has changed our life styles, our schedules, and our views on what it means to live.
I have been thinking a lot more about what I want to do now and in the future. Software engineering is definitely what I want to pursue in the long run for all the challenges and benefits it presents.
I have never been happier in my career. I am tired, but I don’t think negative thoughts. I also realized that no matter what career I have, family is and will always be my priority since they are part of the reason I work hard every day.