Sha Sha Chu is the Android platform tech lead at Pinterest, the site that lets us keep all our favourite inspirational quotes, Instant Pot recipes and potential paint colours for the guest bathroom in one tidy place. Her first years of motherhood haven’t been easy, but she’s managing to make it all work. Here’s how she parents.
Name: Sha Sha Chu
Location: Menlo Park, CA
Job: Android Platform Tech Lead at Pinterest
Family: Wife Amanda, kids Simon (4) and Willow (15 months)
Tell us a little bit about your family and your career. Did life happen mostly as planned or were there surprises?
I mostly got into computer science because it was a way for me to get out of being pre-med. I’d grown up playing tons of video games and surprised my mum by proving to her you can actually make a living building them. After being in the games industry for about decade, I had the opportunity to shift to Pinterest, where I’ve been working on the Android app.
Our parenting journey has been more challenging than we ever anticipated. Our son was diagnosed prenatally with a congenital brain cyst and ended up having nearly 20 surgeries before he was 1, so we spent much of his first year living in the ICU at Children’s Hospital Oakland. A while later, he was diagnosed with epilepsy after a severe seizure, and about a year ago, he received an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnosis.
Our daughter had a very complicated delivery, and we weren’t even sure she’d survive past the first few days. And yet somehow we ended up with two of the silliest, happiest children you’ll ever meet. If nothing else, it has made us grateful for every day we have together. (Although when my daughter is smashing my face in with her Happy Apple toy, it can be harder to remember.)
Take us through your morning routine. What are your best tricks for getting out the door?
My wife is a doctor so she’s usually up before me and will pack our son’s lunchbox for preschool. After the kids wake up, we shift into ‘do what you need to do’ mode, which generally involves me shoving scrambled eggs (with white cheese only) into our son’s mouth while simultaneously brushing my hair, as our daughter eats egg scraps off the floor.
As long as the whole family gets out the door with pants on and at least one parent has showered, that feels like a huge success.
How do you divide household/childcare responsibilities with your partner?
I’d say we’re pretty even with childcare and tend to pretty naturally divide up and take turns wrangling the kids.
For household responsibilities, I’m not proud to say that my wife takes on more than her fair share, although I do my best to contribute. Having a special needs child can be a challenge in itself, and organising all of his therapies and appointments is essentially my wife’s second job. On top of that, she manages to keep our house in order. I’ll just say that my No. 1 advice for newlyweds is to hire house cleaners.
How much outside help do you get as a parent? Who or what can’t you live without?
We have a full-time nanny on weekdays whom we and the kids love. Additionally, Amanda’s parents both live in the area, so our kids are lucky enough to be able to see their grandparents weekly. We wouldn’t survive without them.
What are the gadgets, apps, charts or tools you rely on?
How judged will I be if I say YouTube Kids?
Has becoming a parent changed the way you work?
It has made me about 10,000 times more efficient at work. Because of my wife’s schedule, I often have to be there both in the morning and the evening to meet and relieve the nanny. Since I take the train to work, this means I have set hours I can be in the office, so I have to make the most of the time I’m there.
Also, after what happened to our son, I’ve gained a new perspective on the things that are really important in life, which has made me a lot less afraid at work. I have lived through most people’s worst case scenario, so speaking up in meetings seems pretty easy by comparison.
What does your evening routine look like?
Our kids go to bed early, so my wife and I have about an hour with them before they go to bed. A quick dinner and some playtime, followed by their bedtime routine, which we’ve managed to keep pretty minimal: stories, bath, and bed. After that, equal parts catching up on work from the day and bingeing Netflix.
How do you decompress?
I’m a member of the 501st Legion, a volunteer Star Wars costuming organisation, so I spend a lot of my free time dressing up as an Imperial Stormtrooper and doing volunteer and charity work. It’s exactly as nerdy and amazing as it sounds.
What’s been your proudest moment as a parent?
Making it through major crises with both of our children while remaining married and mostly sane.
What moment are you least proud of?
Chewing out a poor first-year resident in the ICU for five minutes straight because I was upset and she was standing in front of me. I apologised a year later.
What do you want your kids to learn from your example?
That Very Bad Things happening doesn’t mean you can’t still choose to be happy. While I am forever changed by what happened to our family, I try not to let it be a black cloud over me. I can still enjoy a nice sunny day or stay up until 2 AM making a Spiderman costume for Halloween.
What are your favourite funny/weird/special family rituals?
One of my son’s favourite YouTube videos shows a man ordering a “Puppuccino” at Starbucks for his dog. Every night as we put him to bed, we have to follow this script:
“Simon do you need anything?”
“What do you need?”
What’s the hardest part about being a parent?
The not knowing. Every parent does the best they can every day, but it can hard to accept the fact that our children’s futures are giant black boxes that we just poke at every so often.
The one thing I would tell other parents who are juggling a career:
You are enough.
What a cool thing you’ve pinned on Pinterest?
This DIY Lego tray.
Is there anything else mums and dads need to know?
Costco sells Annie’s Mac & Cheese in bulk.