Motherhood, says Erica Peterson, requires a certain set of traits: Persistence. Comfort with trial and error. The ability to multitask.
And, perhaps most importantly, patience.
“Only another mom can understand the frustration of opening your laptop to do something, only to have your toddler walk up and slam it shut,” she says, laughing. “Being a mom is the best thing, but sometimes it’s hard when you’re trying to learn something new.”
It’s a challenge that led her to start Moms Can Code, a new online community for mothers who, like Peterson, want to learn how to code. “I wanted to create a place where we could share resources, tips and success stories,” she says. “We’re not teaching coding ourselves—we’re identifying role models and all the ways moms are learning, so that members can figure out what’s best for them individually.”
The community was born of necessity, says Peterson. After looking into coding bootcamps—many of which require a large financial investment and a 50- to 60-hour a week workload—she found herself frustrated. Between motherhood and running Science Tots, a nonprofit that connects families to STEM learning opportunities, “[bootcamps] didn’t fit my mom lifestyle,” she says. “I’m not seeking full-time employment—at least not right now. I just wanted to learn coding so I could be an example for my son. I knew there had to be other moms in my position.”
She was right: In just over a month, hundreds of moms from around the world have signed up to join. Some are learning to code because they’re staying at home or taking a career break, says Peterson. Others are seeking to switch careers. One described how coding helped her through postpartum depression; another shared how coding helped her through a divorce.
“Coding and motherhood are a natural fit,” says Peterson. “They require similar strengths. Being a woman and a mother in the STEM field, you face certain challenges. Coding teaches you how to persevere and persist. My inbox is full of inspiring stories.”
As Peterson publishes these stories via Moms Can Code’s newsletter and social media accounts, “More and more moms are joining and cheering each other on,” she says. “Ultimately, our community is about more than just learning how to code—its about moms forming tech startups, hiring other women and bringing new perspectives to the tech field.”
Moms Can Code’s official launch party will be held August 3, but that’s just the beginning, says Peterson. She’s also exploring partnerships with local organizations to offer introductory coding workshops with moms in mind. Naturally, child care will be provided.
What would Peterson tell Pittsburgh’s interested moms? “Try it! Come on out to our launch party. Coding is such an integral part of our lives now—it’s is all around us. Our kids are programming robots in schools. They’re taking courses in computer science. There are so many great reasons to learn, and for moms, there are plenty of ways to try it before jumping into a program or bootcamp.”