At 6 pm, R knew she would be late. The build was not released. Fixing the pending 'major' issues was bound to take an hour or two at the least. Creating the build would take almost an hour after that.
She called up her home and informed her mother that she would be home by nine. "The baby is fine," said R's mother. "We went out for a walk. He is playing with his toys. He does look around expectantly every time the door opens, though."
At nine, there were still a few major issues. Ten of her team members were huddled over their computers, discussing, trying, struggling. "Perhaps I should go," she said to herself. "I am hanging around just because everyone else is. Who knows how long this will go on? I am not needed, strictly. Someone else can take my place. But how can I leave?"
She looked around at her manager. He knew she had a small son, of course. "I wish he would tell me to go home. How can I go to him and beg when everyone else is here?" The rest of the team consisted of single men and women.
"I should be at home at least by ten, to put my son to sleep. But how can I abandon my team in an emergency? What do I do? What do I do?"
She prayed that the issue would be fixed soon. If the building of the release began, she could go. Please, please, God.
Twelve o'clock. She sat watching the team at work, chatting among themselves. None of them planned to go home that night. They could all be leisurely and calm. A "night-out" was nothing new to them. They would go as soon as the release was done, and sleep throughout the day. The team member who was onsite was coordinating the activities. It was 2am where he was.
She had called up her mother. "The baby fell asleep at ten," the mother said. "But he keeps tossing and turning in sleep. I am with him. It's okay, you work."
She felt pangs of guilt. Her baby felt her absence.
Her mother usually slept at ten too. R was inconveniencing both her mother and her child. At ten minutes past twelve, she rose from her seat and approached her manager. "I need to go home," she said hesitantly. He looked up in surprise.
It was true that the release was critical, she thought. It was true that everyone was spending sleepless nights over this. It was true that my presence could help. But it was also true that my son, who didn't yet know how to ask "Where is my Mother?" was spending a disturbed night because his mother was not near.
The manager's look well conveyed his dismay. The Team Lead wanted to leave when the release was not even ready? How irresponsible was that?
She didn't wait for his reply. She pretended not to have noticed that look, concealed her guilt and asked the team to call her if there was anything urgent.
As she went home that night, she wondered whether that feeling of guilt was justified, whether her duty was towards her son or her career. Whether it was really possible to balance personal life and work. Whether it was possible to take care of her son as well as give due attention to her career. Not for mothers, she concluded, her eyes becoming moist.
Two years later, she bid farewell to her software development job forever.