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Ask HN: Developers with kids, how do you skill up?
589 points by fatherofone on March 8, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 511 comments
I recently had one of my colleagues comment on my GitHub account graph - 'There won't be many green boxes in your account once you have a kid'. This was in response to my suggestions on how we should all keep learning.

I argued many good programmers have family with kids and still manage to keep up. They brushed me off saying it's just not possible or they don't look after their kids.

When i look up the internet I find people doing full time job delivering products while having a family and some still find plenty of time to blog or write books. How is this possible? Are these people super-human? How are you all doing or managing if you have kids/family?




My daughter turns 20 this year. I learned Perl as a young, soon to be single, mother. I had no computer science background, I just wanted to learn to do more than the basic HTML I had already taught myself. That learning gave me a career.

I've only ever done this with a child to take care of, and I've done it by simply working every possible moment I could, and being organised and focused with my time. However being able to provide for her, made that worthwhile. I started my own business when she was still only at school half days, and we talked about work, and why I needed to work, and that work was where money came from. The money to eat, have a home, and do nice things together.

I count myself lucky that I get to do things I enjoy. However it is amazing what can be achieved with hard work and focus, and a purpose.


The internet is such a small world, I watched one of your videos last week[1], you are an excellent conference speaker.

[1] https://vimeo.com/133642780


I know her from all of her "A List Apart" articles.

https://alistapart.com/author/rachelandrew


Inspiring.


wow !


I have 2 kids - 4 year old & a 3 month old.

I am writing this (comment), as I put my son to sleep. He is almost 4 & wants me to be in the room as he drifts to sleep. So i am sitting beside his bed (after an evening full of quality time with him), checking up on left over work for the day (& hackernews)

We just had the second one - who is 3 months old now. So it's still adjusting phase for all of us at home. Sometimes, I just wonder, how people have/manage time with 3 or 4 kids. I seem to be struggling with 2.

Let me write down, what works for me/us:

1. Early dinner & 8 pm bed time for kids gives me 2-3 hours every night. Sometimes, I choose to work on side projects/hobbies. Sometimes, I just binge watch netflix with my wife. Sometimes, I make my kids bedtime my own & wake up early next morning. It depends.

2. On weekends, afternoons - I can easily get a couple of hours - when kids go to nap. Of course, this is not working out recently, as our new born colludes with the elder one - and they nap at different times.

3. What really would help me - and i struggle with this - if i have clear priorities in my head - what I want to achieve in the 'extra time' that I have got. The clearer the goal, better the results.

Ultimately, I have realized, kids give me far more joy than anything work related can. However, hats off to all of us parents - who are juggling of priorities - work - life & trying to do the best we can.


We've got 3: 4,2, and 9 months. Thank goodness they all sleep (relatively) well.

The baby goes down at 6 and the older ones go down at 7:30 (really, we start the process at like 7, targeting 7:30). We're also incredibly lucky that bedtime isn't much of a fight, it goes pretty smoothly so we're not all ragged for the rest of the night.

I usually don't count on doing anything beyond trivial at all after they go to bed- it's full on cleanup and relax time unless there's an actual work emergency. Or, usually a couple times a week when it's above 30 degrees in the garage, I'll be out there doing some woodworking or wrenching on the motorcycles.

We've started watching a lot of Netflix stand up specials because a) we just wrapped up a day in the life of three kids under five and two startups and b) they're just long enough to watch one and decide to call it an early night.

I don't even try and squeeze in code or learning during the weekend when the kids are awake because I'll spend the entire time stressing about when they're going to interrupt me, that they did interrupt me, or that I should be playing with them instead of [whatever].

I get up early just about every single morning, usually before 5, and I get my time in then. On the weekdays that buys me around 4 hours every morning before I have to start my 'real work', on the weekends it gives me a couple hours. I try to make my hay during the week as I've got my own office outside the house, and I get a lot more done a lot faster there.

What has been helpful, though I'm certainly not over it yet, has been to just not try and cram things in during the day between naps for the kids. It just wound up with a lot of anxiety and clock watching. Instead, when I'm at home I'm trying to be present, trying to stay off the phone or computer, and just trying to quiet my mind by being busy with the family until bed time. Once they're asleep then I can do whatever I want with whatever energy I have left.


I was wondering how you'd end up with kids 2, 4 and 9 months old there for a moment.


Harem style.


How much sleep do you get?


> What really would help me - and i struggle with this - if i have clear priorities in my head - what I want to achieve in the 'extra time' that I have got. The clearer the goal, better the results.

I suffered with the same thing. I started using dynalist (https://dynalist.io/) to list down whenever i felt like i wanted to do something. Later when i have free time, i just go to the list and see what i can finish in the time i've got. It offers a very intuitive interface to map/organise ideas. An alternative to it is Workflowy (https://workflowy.com/).


This is roughly my story with the added note that I find that Github activity inversely correlates to how much Netflix I watch. I currently average about 3hrs /wk of TV time and probably about 15hrs/wk on personal projects.


All the responses here indicate the same "la dee da having kids is so wonderful that you don't even miss the other stuff." Fuck that. I have kids and I totally miss being able to stay up all night working on stuff and exploring new technologies, feeling like the world is going on without me.

Don't get me wrong, I'm a passable dad, spend as much time with kids as possible, take them out to libraries and parks and try to teach them things. But in the back of my head most of that time I'm still lamenting the things that I'm not able to do and that I'll probably never be able to accomplish, wondering if this was the right decision. But it seems almost heretical these days to admit that. I can't be the only one, right?


I think a lot of people can sympathize, but as you said, it's kinda taboo to say you wish you didn't have kids! I think you get the same feeling, a loss of freedoms, from any significant evolution in life.

Leaving college: "I wish I could still go out drinking every other day and perform the best in my peer-circle"

Getting to a more serious romantic stage in your relationship: "I wish I could still play video games all weekend and not have to think about another person's feelings"

And in my case, getting a puppy: "I wish I could leave the house for more than a day without having to worry about the living being I'm responsible for"

And then having kids, and then getting old enough that you can't be as active as you want, and then just being an actual grandpa.

I think it's just important to put things in context and look at the sum of the joys in your life. I was pretty stoked in college because I could do whatever I wanted, but I also couldn't afford nice vacations, casual plane trips to see friends, quality (expensive) food, etc.


Nailed it.

Perspective is what it's about. Your kids won't be the same in a few years, neither will you and nor the world. Take care of your health while doing all that you do and you'll get back to doing the other things that you miss doing or would love to do.

It won't kill you, or your career, if you miss out on a shitty framework or two.


> It won't kill you, or your career, if you miss out on a shitty framework or two.

How about: if you miss on most weekends, music festivals, backpacking through different countries, working whenever you want, getting a drink whenever you want....and that is only your personal freedoms. Add to that all the responsibilities that comes with parenting.

I'm not saying its not a good idea to be a parent; simply that its not just "missing out on a framework". You miss out on a lot of things...and you should be aware of that before making that decision.


When my older daughter was 7 and my younger daughter was 3 months old we went on a 2.5 month camping trip to Australia. This is more than what me and many other people have done with no kids. We've certainly taken the kids to music festivals as well and have gone on short backpacking trips (not that we couldn't do long ones if we wanted).

A lot of the limitations you're describing are self imposed.

Life tends to have responsibilities whether you have kids or not.

Having kids is a life changing experience for sure but you can definitely "skill up" and do a lot of other things after you've had kids. Not a problem.


> A lot of the limitations you're describing are self imposed.

I'm sure there are some self imposed limitations, and I'm sure there are other avenues opened up by having children as well. I'm not saying there aren't. All I'm saying is that people should be aware of them before making that important decision. It shouldn't just be a natural progression i.e. college -> job -> marriage -> kids.

> Life tends to have responsibilities whether you have kids or not.

Its the specific responsibilities of child-rearing that I do not like. Also, let's please not gloss over the incredibly time consuming, financially draining task of raising children by saying that "life is the same either way". That is simply not true. I'm not making a judgement about which path is better, but lets agree on the facts.

> Having kids is a life changing experience for sure but you can definitely "skill up" and do a lot of other things after you've had kids. Not a problem.

Again, not denying this. In fact, having kids might make you want to be more ambitious so as to provide a better future for them, which might be more motivation. That still doesn't change the points I've made, in that it is a huge tradeoff in lifestyle and one must be clear about that.


> That still doesn't change the points I've made, in that it is a huge tradeoff in lifestyle and one must be clear about that.

This is the case for many life decisions. I don't see how this is a helpful addition to the conversation.

* Move to another state? There will be big life implications.

* Change careers? Ditto.

* Go to college?

* Go _back_ to school?

* Spend loads of free time hacking away instead of getting out of the house?

* Travel a bunch, perhaps at the cost of rapid career advancement?

* Take a huge pay cut to work on something you enjoy?

All of these (and more) will limit you in various ways, but gift you with different experiences. The same is for kids.

It sounds like you don't want kids. That's cool, I'm glad you know what you want. But no need to hype up this decision to have kids or not as scary or some kind of albatross. It's just another decision with pros and cons.


> It's just another decision with pros and cons.

I can understand why some people here are so sensitive about this particular topic. Anyways, no, it is definitely NOT the same as any of the decisions you mentioned above. Having another HUMAN BEING is a commitment of ginormous proportions. You are responsible for raising a kid, for being there when they need you the most, through teenage phase, and (luckily? hopefully?) have good relationship as adults. All the while, supporting them financially and emotionally until they land on their feet. And even then, the parental bonds of love and care are never truly severed...you are connected to that person for your whole life. Tell me one of those decisions you mention above that are similar to this. Its absolutely a huge decision, and all of this must NOT be discounted, especially when young people are attempting to make a decision.

Also, one more really really important point about all the decisions you stated is simply: you can choose to change your mind about a decision you make, but not so with children.

> It sounds like you don't want kids. That's cool, I'm glad you know what you want. But no need to hype up this decision to have kids or not as scary or some kind of albatross.

No, its not hype at all, as I've explained above. And despite all the cons I still have an open mind about it. But please don't try to convince people its all flowers and unicorns. Give them the pros and cons and let them make the decision.


But please don't try to convince people its all flowers and unicorns.

Oh my! No way! More like tantrums, stinky diapers, strongly curtailed freedoms, opportunity costs and grey hair and/or hair loss.

But I can count at least 12 other "irreversible" life choices a person could make that will lead to more or less similar results. So, there's that.

Each person needs to make this decision for themselves, but once you do, you are in it for the rest of your foreseeable future. If you can't make that kind of commitment, for whatever reason, stay the -eff away!


Can you provide us a list of those 12 other irreversible life choices that you can count? I am genuinely cuious to know what other such life choices are there that I need to be careful about.


"Irreversible" life choices, in no particular order:

* Getting convicted for an offense with "mandatory minimum" jail time - e.g. dealing drugs to minors.

* Driving drunk, crashing and getting fully paralyzed - 'coz "driving drunk" is a choice.

* Having unprotected sex and living with HIV - for the rest of your days.

* Getting college/higher education, on a student loan, in a field that does not/will not pay at a high enough rate to payback the loan - good luck discharging that.

* Doing any high-risk physical activity with a >50% chance of serious bodily harm/injury. (Death is OK, by this metric!)

... logically refute all of the above and I'll give you the remaining 7 :P


I don't think this list comes anywhere close to having a baby. None of the items have a 100% probability of causing irreversible life choices. For example, the choice of performing a crime may not end up in conviction, the choice of drunk driving may not end up in a crash, one may not get HIV even after having unprotected sex, one may be able to repay the student loan even after choosing an unoptimal field, etc.

But having a baby has a 100% probability of altering one's schedule for the rest of the life!


But having a baby has a 100% probability of altering one's schedule for the rest of the life!

Sure, but you can put your kid up for adoption if you are so deeply affected. I mean, Steve Job's biological mother did, so it is not really a 100% thing.


Let us take it case by case.

Case 1: Have a child. Take care of the child until the child is an adult. It has an irreversible effect on one's lifestyle and schedule. Even after the child has grown up, the parent and the child are still emotionally bonded to varying degree.

Case 2: Have a child. Put the child up for adoption. Once the child is adopted, two cases emerge.

Case 2.1: The adoption lasts life long, thus being irreversible by definition.

Case 2.2: The adoption is reversed, thus bringing the biological parent back to Case 1 and thus facing the irreversible effects of Case 1.

Thus, in all cases, having a child has 100% probability of having life long effects.

I am honestly unable to understand if you are arguing for argument's sake or if you are genuinely trying to make a point. I think most people would agree that issues like having a child or putting a child up for adoption has a 100% probability of serious irreversible effect on one's schedule, lifestyle and emotions than something like high-risk physical activity which has less than 100% of probability of such an irreversible effect.


I think I've made my point :-)


All of the choices you mention are considered as harmful by society; in contrast to having children which is considered good.


The criteria was "reversibility", not societal acceptance.

Also, "having children" is not "considered good" by society in 100% of cases. We'd never have Roe v Wade if that were the case. I think you are building a bit of a straw man there.


I don't see how Roe v Wade contradicts the claim that "having children" is "considered good". Roe v Wade is about abortion, i.e. a situation that applies to unwanted pregnancy, something we are not discussing in this thread. When we say "having children", I thought it is understood that we are talking about planned/wanted pregnancy with planned parenthood.


Having children is definitely a bigger commitment than getting a dog ;) However the picture painted that your life is over financially or otherwise is a bit of an exaggeration. So it's not a fact that you can't go backpacking, drinking, or learn a new framework once you have children. Don't get me wrong, having kids is a huge change in your life, just not necessarily in the way people who don't have kids think.

Everyone is free to live their lives as they wish. I'm not implying you should or shouldn't get married, or a get a job, or go to college, or have kids, in any order you feel like... It's just that you shouldn't decide not to have kids because you think you won't be able to learn a new framework (or whatever other skill you wish to acquire) once you have kids. At least generally speaking. Different people may have their own specific situations.


Apologies, I didn't mean to imply life is over after having children. I think we are in agreement over the basic facts. I've been brought up in a culture that places too much emphasis on having a family as the "right" thing to do so I try to find the downsides and/or tradeoffs as well, more for personal reasons than anything else.


> it's kinda taboo to say you wish you didn't have kids! I think you get the same feeling, a loss of freedoms, from any significant evolution in life.

I think any society that has thrived has had some variation of this cultural trait. Its easy to see why: without lots of children the society would simply die out.

This is a very nuanced point though. As a young, somewhat single developer, I'm incredibly grateful to work a job that I enjoy that pays great. Love the freedom to go on vacation anywhere, to afford nice restaurants and such. I can't see why I would give up all that freedom to "settle down" as my parents keep reminding me of. Although I've had many great relationships, at some point, its always: "I just want to not have to plan out every weekend together!".

Perhaps I'm an outlier that just puts way too much emphasis on independence.


> > it's kinda taboo to say you wish you didn't have kids!

> I think any society that has thrived has had some variation of this cultural trait.

I think in a lot of societies, having kids doesn't quite restrict your options as much as modern American society - prior to this century, you'd likely still live surrounded by family and a community who could help you with a lot of the childcare.

You could drop the kids off at granddad's on the way to work, and not spend a significant portion of your income on daycare; in-laws could come and stay with you for awhile to help you get some sleep during those first few months; if you needed to do something during a weekend that you couldn't bring a kid to, you could drop the kid off at the neighbors'.


I agree completely. And I imagine, before the internet, having an extended family would have a lot of "tribal knowledge" about all the little idiosyncrasies of raising children as well.


That can be both good and bad, though; I was talking to my stepbrother - who is 30 years my senior - and when he was raising his kids, who are my age, putting them on their stomach to sleep was the medically advised strategy. Today, that's considered a risk for SIDS.

I'd say that 90% of the benefit of the extended family would be people who would come and be a warm body to sit with the kid, or bring you food, at least for the first year.


Don't forget the unmarried, childless (ie. gay) uncle or aunt could pitch in occasionally as well.


Don't let anyone with kids fool you. It's perfectly fine to never have kids, and becoming much more common.

My wife and I decided before we got married we were probably not going to have kids. Now that we have been married for years and enjoy our life of independence, it has to turned solidly to never.


You may not have met the right person yet. It doesn't feel so much like "settling down" as much as "co-captain in life's adventures."


Possible...I haven't stopped looking; that's an adventure in itself haha.


Simple fact is, having kids is gonna change your life, should you choose to have them. It seems like a lot of people in this thread are trying to hammer down a reality where this isn't a fact, but that won't change that every aspect of how your time is managed will revolve around a new focal point for 20 years or more.

>And then having kids

I take issue with the prevailing attitude that having kids should be a mandatory evolution in life. My partner and I are quite happy spending the better part of some weekends playing videogames, and we're especially happy never sharing a minute of either of our time with anyone's children, especially our own. So many people in this thread and in general will just regurgitate "but you can't imagine it!" and "your whole perspective changes!" but that's the point. We've concretely determined we do not want that shift in perspective, and I want child-rearing life to remain firmly outside the grasp of my imagination forever.


I get especially happy, but why especially your own?


Being around other people's children can be annoying if they're not well behaved, being around my own children would imply a 20 year sentence of that. I did not mean to imply I've left a trail of abandoned kids across my history :)


Ah. So, it's the interminable aspect, rather than your particular kids being especially unbearable. Got it. Thank you for explaining.


I have two daughters, 7 and 8. Both have clinically diagnosed ADHD and the eldest has ODD and was born with heart problems that required open heart surgery to fix. I love them both to death. On their good days they're amazing kids. On their bad days, I, like you just slog through it and keep my thoughts to myself wondering just how much longer I can keep going. It's hard. You don't want to ruin your kids by admitting your doubts. You don't want them to have any inkling that they were anything but the perfect decision to expand your loving family. But your computer at least does what you tell it to, even if it wasn't quite what you intended to tell it to do. If I have to tell my kids to put on their shoes one more time today I may jump off the roof. I won't lie, there's days I'm truly not even sure how I make it through the day, but somehow, by some grace of God, because it's not my own, that left long ago, I do. On the days where they snuggle into you and tell you you're the most amazing Daddy a little girl can have, that makes all the suffering and sacrifice melt away.


This is so well said, thank you. My own kids have their moments of driving me up the wall (every bedtime, where "brush your teeth" seems to be in a foreign language), but there are very very few things that feel even remotely as good as your kids giving you a hug when you (or they) need it.


What exactly is ODD? Where is the line drawn between an aggressive child and ODD? Are girls diagnosed more liberally with ODD than boys?


ODD: Oppositional Defiance Disorder

The clinical symptoms are listed as:

- Frequent temper tantrums

- Excessive arguing with adults

- Often questioning rules

- Active defiance and refusal to comply with adult requests and rules

- Deliberate attempts to annoy or upset people

- Blaming others for his or her mistakes or misbehavior

- Often being touchy or easily annoyed by others

- Frequent anger and resentment

- Mean and hateful talking when upset

- Spiteful attitude and revenge seeking

https://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Fam...

I can't speak to whether boys or girls are more frequently diagnosed with this. My guess would be boys that are more frequently diagnosed, but I'd like to emphasize the word guess; I've not done any extensive research on that aspect. We (her parents and psychiatrist) have determined that my eldest daughter hits every single symptom on the list.

It's been particularly hard to live with and we've sought out help from every available resource to learn to manage it and live with it. This will likely be an ongoing work in progress until we find a balance where the effort to manage it balances symptoms we can learn to live with, eventually as she grows and looks to leave home and start her own life, she will need to have learned to manage and control it herself. Of course, it's already been 8 years and is at least another 10 years away. It hasn't been and isn't going to be an easy path.

I often tell myself that she's just 8 and growing up with heart problems and surgery that you can't hide from her because of the slew of tests she's had to undergo her whole life to ensure her health has been harder on her psychologically than it has on all of us - and it's been hard for us, I can only begin to imagine what it was like to go through for her. So some allowances have to be made for her psychological state from this. That doesn't make it easier to deal with, it just helps you to keep putting on the mask and continuing to demonstrate a level patience that you ran out of so long ago you can't remember what it was like not to feel this way.


Wow. That sounds really, really challenging.


It is, but you do what you have to do to get through.

Realistically, everyone has their own shit to deal with and nobody really wants to be reminded that their own troubles aren't the most important things in the world - because to them, their troubles are the most important thing in their world. So you dig deep and you get on with things and hope you make it through before it spits you out of the other end a broken mess and you do the best you can with the resources you can dig up and you keep a smile on your face and keep everyone laughing because you don't want to be that guy that's always complaining about how their life sucks and the world owes them something.

Some days it's secretly really, really bleak. But other days it's openly beautiful and life couldn't be better. You have to try and focus on those days because they're the ones that pull you through the hard times.


I'm sure you're not the only one. As a soon-to-be Dad and long time single hacker late night guy, I've been wondering myself if I'll feel the same way.

But then I remember the day jobs I've had where I was thinking the same things on the clock: lamenting what I'm not working on and will probably never accomplish. Especially including the programming and/or devops jobs.

I've got to say I can't point to a single job (even working in a restaurant as a dish washer, and on a ranch) where I couldn't have found any way to constantly increase my knowlede even by some small ammount while working. It's even more challenging to me working remotely on gigs that are utterly boring, because I'm tempted to stray out into left field and the Internet makes that so easy of course.

But those boring gigs carry value that I can find if I look for it, and that I can build upon. Every second, they offer opportunities for exploring a new problem domain - for learning something new. And my client gets a great ROI if I do that. We both win.

And with Kids, is it not a good thing to tell them about what you're working on? To show enthusiasm for your work? You say you try to teach your kids things - I've heard it said the best way to learn something is by teaching it, right?


There's a pretty powerful and largely unspoken cultural norm to present yourself as happy, motivated and fulfilled. I'm not sure if it's a US thing or a universal thing. Those are all good things indeed, and good to aim for. But ... some days/some weeks/some months/some years ... life is not fun, is demotivating, and is a grind.

You aren't the only one for sure


Definitely not the only one. I think it depends on what stage your kids are at. Are they old enough to have their own hobbies? Our first arrived recently, I've resigned myself to the fact that working toward any sort of mastery again will elude me until he finds his own obsessions. So about 6 years or so if my childhood is any indicator. But I think having a relationship cuts into that as well. There are times when he's sleeping and we're both trying to work on projects and my wife wants to talk or "needs a hug" or something. At times it's frustrating, then I try and remember what things were like before they came along. Obviously this would all be different if I had means or money and was single at the same time...


How do you know the other side would feel any better? If you had chosen not to have kids, would you lament your solitary existence and worry that maybe you've picked the wrong path?

Or put differently: how do you tell the difference between making the wrong choice and buyer's remorse?


One of my old high school friends just posted a long rant about this and it's totally understandable. I'm not sure I could have kids for the same reasons you mentioned.


It's a mix. On the one hand, I do also regret not being able to crunch things through the night like I used to. On the other hand, most of that stuff matters a lot less to me now than it used to.

I mean, I still do a fair amount of hobby stuff and learning new tech stacks, but it's just one part of my identity instead of being the primary part. If I was gung-ho about wanting to start a company and never got the chance, then I might feel more regret about it. But that has never been a personal goal of mine.

I've talked to a lot of dads at my workplace about this. Everyone has these questions come up, and everyone feels closest to their children at different timescales too. E.g. some dads do not feel close to their kids as babies at all, but became very attached once they started talking.

Lots of random thoughts there. Just don't beat yourself up over it.


Expecting our first kid and I already feel this feeling coming.


ahmen to that brother....


Be honest.. before kids, how many nights did you "stay up working on stuff and exploring new technologies?" My bet is most of your time pre-kids was "wasted" on non-career things. If you were actually spending many nights studying then having kids won't really stop you from learning.

My anecdotal story: Before my kid, I spent roughly 80% of my time outside work "wasting" playing video games, watching youtube, twitch, going out, things like that. The other 20% was spent learning and progressing my skills. Since having a kid, I haven't really touched video games nor really miss them, though I may pick up a switch soon. I tend to spend about the same time, maybe more now, on studying and picking up new skills. What i did find is having a kid helped me sharpen my focus when I do study and helped me put my life in perspective of his.

*I use "wasted" as you used it, but I personally don't think that time was actually wasted.


I find this to be the best response. I don't miss the "crap" I used to have time for, lack of "freedom" isn't that big of a deal. It's more about putting ambitions and dreams on hold, likely forever, and the recognition that no, I'm not going to be the person who solves quantum gravity because I have to spend most of my time making sure these little things aren't eating worms or tearing library books and whatnot, and I'll be 60 when they're gone. It's easy in those moments to blame them for it, but you have to remember that such things were always pipe dreams anyway. Still, that doesn't make the recognition of that fact any easier.

All that said, due to lack of free time and the newfound need to use it efficiently, I've found that I've probably read more actual physics in the last four years than in the previous many years of dreaming about it. So there's that aspect too. It's not all bad.


This is quite common. Find a balance.


At first, it will be hard. You may not have any spare time. After the newborn phase, the amount of spare time you have will slowly start to go back up again. Enjoy it, they aren't little babies for long. You will be well aware of how precious that time is, in a way that your pre-parent self could not comprehend.

I usually have about 4-5 hours of time after the kids go to bed. During this time I either program, talk with my wife, work on mixing records for clients (I'm also an audio engineer), compose music, rehearse with my band, research interesting things, etc.

If you are with a partner, try offering to watch the kids and suggest they do something enjoyable for themselves. This not only gives some quality time with the kids, it also makes it a lot easier to ask for time to do the things you want, or even have your partner reciprocate.


At first, it will be hard. You may not have any spare time. After the newborn phase, the amount of spare time you have will slowly start to go back up again.

Interesting... My experience has been the opposite, the first ~6 months they sleep so much that there is plenty of time to do things. Then you get a phase where they start to crawl and then walk around. In that phase, you have to be attentive all the time to ensure that they don't harm themselves or break stuff :). That really changed when our daughter was ~2, when she knew what she can and cannot do and they can basically play more by themselves. She is now ~3, sometimes she plays alone (she likes Duplo) and sometimes we play together. Since she usually goes to bed at 19:00 and is a good sleeper, we usually have a couple of hours every night for ourselves.

What I learned: your time does get reduced drastically, but you spend the remaining time with more focus/direction. Also, you use your time smarter. E.g., I used to do sports (indoor climbing), but now I just cycle every day from/to work (~1 hour) to stay fit. It takes approximately the same time as going by train or car.


There are various phases that I've observed:

1. They can't move stage. Depending on their sleep schedule, this is easy, or it's still tiring.

2. They can move. They still have the baby sleep schedule. No sleep, no time.

3. They have a normal sleep schedule. You can sleep.

4. They can play with other kids. A chance to save time, if you can use it!

5. They go school. You have time.

6. They are teenagers. You wish they spent more time with you.

7. They move out. You miss them a lot.

8. They move far away. You miss them even more.


> 3. They have a normal sleep schedule. You can sleep.

For all you new parents out there, this bit might seem like it will never happen, but it will, eventually. It might take longer than your friends kids, it might take longer than the books say, but don't despair - you'll get there

> 6. They are teenagers. You wish they spent more time with you.

My kids are only 1 & 3, but I'm very conscious of having learned the lesson of others on this. I believe spending time with your kids while they're happy to spend time with you is far more important than putting in extra hours at work or fixing bugs in your hobby projects


> 2. They can move. They still have the baby sleep schedule. No sleep, no time.

Phew, this list resonates. Never thought the time would come that my wife and I would get an uninterrupted night's sleep but sure enough time passes and we're at point 3.

Alas points 6 onwards are in the back of my mind. Tough balancing work and family but it's also such wonderful fun.


A crucial truth about parenting is that every kid and every family is different.


Yeah, I think this is the only true fact.


> the first ~6 months they sleep so much that there is plenty of time to do things.

They sleep a lot, but they don't sleep at a stretch. It's hard to motivate yourself to do something when you get six hours of sleep in 45 minute increments.


Exactly the same with me. Only that I have another 2 years old son :)


3 under 5 here; evenings and random hours here and there on a weekend. Also, one of my hobbies is hacking on random software and hardware things... strangely I find it's a way to de-stress. I put all my random side projects on GitHub. Every once in a while one gets FP'ed on HN, even! But I only maintain a few of the projects I set up.


27 - Father of a 4 1/2 year old and a 7 month old. I really don't have time to program in the evenings much, but guess what? That's ok! You'll come to learn that there are more to life than "skilling up." I'm enjoying taking my oldest to after school activities and teaching her math a few years ahead of her age.

Programming couldn't bring me any of the happiness that being with my children could.


Most people on HN spend 8 hours or more a day writing code, myself included. I enjoy programming, but there's things I'd rather be doing with my time after I've clocked out most days.

Being with my daughter is probably one of the reasons I love my job, I get to work from home and my wife and daughter stay at home with me so I get to hang out with them on break/lunch, and there's no time lost with them on a commute. I don't work for the sake of work, but so that I can enjoy the other ~67 hours a week I'm awake with my family.


Well, I think many of us on HN would not mind too much spending 8 hours a day writing code, but actually end up maybe if we're lucky spending 2 hours a day maximum writing code, and the rest is meetings, rebooting computers, trying to reproduce ill-written bug reports, reviewing others' code, reading docs, watching a test suite run flawlessly and then cursing because it's not catching a bug we know is there, installing software updates, reading some awful wordpress plugin code that the boss installed on the team blog to figure out why it broke on firefox but not IE8...

Coding is quite fun. A lot of the related guff that is part of software engineering in 'the real world' is quite frustrating.


I appreciate the sentiment here, but for a lot of people I suspect it wouldn't actually be ok to stop learning outside of work. I know there's a lot of pushback on this idea for very good reasons, but if you have a job and want a different one, sometimes evenings and weekends are the times you need to teach yourself the skills you need.

I also want to push back a little bit on the idea that "programming couldn't bring me any of the happiness that being with my children could." I see what you mean—that you enjoy time with your kids more than time with code. However, I can't help thinking that programming enables that free time. It's because of the programming that you can be with your children instead of working a second job to make ends meet. That's why "skilling up" is so vital. If you're already skilled enough to get the jobs you want, then yeah, maybe you're all set.


I agree with you about the need to remain buzzword compliant for jobs, but are we "skilling up" or spinning our wheels? There is some worthwhile learning, but a lot of it is just BS status signaling. Learning another SPA framework that solves the problems of the last framework, while introducing new problems? Learning yet another way to bundle your web content? A new transpiled language to patch the holes in JavaScript?

A lot of what we regard as "skilling up" is just a product of our immature dev culture-learning stuff for the sake of buzzword compliance that doesn't improve anything in the long run. And the high failure rate of software projects shows that we aren't gaining a lot from this culture anyway.

Buzzword compliance is the tech world equivalent of sexual signaling that led to peacocks getting extravagant tails. Developers are stuck in a feedback loop with employers...the more pointless garbage they learn, the more employers value the pointless garbage, and the more developers are forced to learn more pointless garbage. Until they break down, and leave the field to younger men, who perpetuate the cycle.

Fundamental good practices should be learned early on, and honed at work. For the rest, we should work to break the cycle.


>Learning another SPA framework that solves the problems of the last framework, while introducing new problems? Learning yet another way to bundle your web content? A new transpiled language to patch the holes in JavaScript?

I understand that HN is (probably?) pretty web-centric, but this portion of your comment makes me wonder if it's just the web that's fucked. I'm not hearing a ton of complaints re: burnout or being left behind from the server-side, database, BI, or embedded spaces. Or maybe I'm not listening.


You're right, it is pretty fucked up. A rat race, really.

I appreciate what parenting has done to me, it's re-prioritized things for me, but it's also shown me that I should make an exit in the next five years, to save myself some sanity.


Every now and then, things go haywire in the web world.

The last time I recall feeling this way was 2005-ish, when Java frameworks took off. Previously, small to medium sized java apps used servlets, jsp, jdbc, and something along the lines of the "java cookbook."

It was, in fact, inefficient, with lots of typing, and it was difficult to manage dependencies. I think the work that went into dependency injection, ORMs, MVC frameworks, and so forth was undertaken by smart people.

The result, unfortunately, was close to fatal for java as a language for small to medium sized web applications. Spring, Pico, Struts, Struts 2, Spring MVC, iBatis, Hibernate, Spring JPA, Wicket, Stripes, Tapestry... just to be clear, I understand that Java frameworks are no longer this chaotic, so I don't mean fatal in the sense that it never worked. I mean fatal in that this was the moment that I, and a lot of people who quietly enjoyed java and felt embarrassed when people made fun of java devs (blub programmers) here on HN reluctantly joined the chorus and gave up on it, never to return.

People complain about the complainers, asking why choice is such a bad thing. The problem was, getting any of the choices to work nicely together was a challenging. All of a sudden, something as simple as a crud front end became extremely challenging. I lost a lot of time and become, not exaggerating, very unhappy during this time. It made me not want to be a developer anymore.

I believe we are now in a similar time with javascript frameworks. It's not that these frameworks aren't addressing an important problem, intelligently. It's simply getting a basic crud app up and running is tough, and making the inevitable modifications to test, alter, implement business logic, and so fort, is vastly more complicated in SPA frameworks with some other backend than it is in, say, Rails. That doesn't mean these frameworks are the product of poor design or bad developers, it's the opposite. These are the product of exceptional people working on hard problems. But if you don't need it, you're putting yourself in the path of tremendous complexity and churn, for very little benefit.

If I learned one lesson from 2005, it's to have the conviction to stick with old, outdated technology, for longer, even when people are telling you it's wrong and out of date. I knew in 2005 that writing your own jdbc and routing around through Servlets wasn't going to be the right way to do it for much longer, but that doesn't mean you have to use the first round of frameworks that addresses this! Eventually I hopped over to Rails (a lot of people here on HN think rails developers picked it because they were magpie developers, I'm not sure how many people realize a lot of us picked it reluctantly, only after it really became clear that the time invested in a new framework would pay off).

And that would be my advice now, if you're free to make this choice. Stick with integrated systems, and pick one that is clear and well researched. If this isn't a possibility for you because of your requirements, then yes, by all means, do use (what I heard Ember described as) a rapidly evolving hack pad for brilliant developers working on extremely difficult problems.

Otherwise, watch, observe, try things out, but I'd stick with a better researched and integrated system like Rails, add javascript as needed but sparingly, Just because you know you won't be doing it like this forever doesn't mean you have to stop doing it like this right this moment!

And be aware, the solution to the java churn for many of us (myself included) wasn't that a winner emerged, it was that with a loud crashing noise, a different solution that addressed these problems swept them off the table.

I wouldn't be at all surprised if something like that happens here. The existing MVC approach is still a bit deficient with highly synchronized apps. Current advances in Rails 5 make it possible to do some of this... but (and now I'm really making guesses), I think that non javascript languages, transpiled to isomorphic javascript, may lead to highly productive integrated frameworks that finally tip the reluctant ones, like me, to give up on our older ways of doing things and finally make the plunge.

This may turn out to be so effective that people take a look at tons of javascript code, written in framework specific ways, and start wondering how to get it back over to ruby, or python, or many of the other wonderful languages that have been temporarily sidelined. You may, in fact, be better off having a code base in an older, more dated framework, that gives better clarity than the current, more modern javascript version would give you.


Hey, thanks for this in-depth response. I've generally felt that thinking high-level and not getting bogged down in implementation details is a great idea, but I do try to keep up, only really investing in a technology when it seems established (for instance, Angular a couple years ago, and VueJS now). Occasionally I get restless, and I do feel that tying myself as much as I have to .NET has limited me in some ways, but I guess there's a balance to be sought.


This is such a great comment, I had to say thank you. I'm extremely reluctant right now to hop on the JS frameworks bandwagon. I played around with Ionic 2 for a bit and while its nice, they (and Angular 2 and TypeScript) release updates every few weeks. This results in me having to go through code all the time – or leave it untouched for a year. But if I do the latter, I'll run into almost unsolvable problems later.

I wrote my web app in a small self-made PHP framework 8 years ago and it's still running to this day, with only minor adjustments. The advantage is: I understand the entire "stack". In comparison, the current JS madness feels extremely fragile. I feel like it's impossible to write good code in it that'll be around for the next 8 years, when all of those dependencies are either updated to something entirely different – or simply disappeared.


I'm way late to your response, but just wanted to thank you for taking the time to write this out. It's probably the most convincing argument against "BS status signaling" I can remember reading.


I would be worrying about the nature of the job I had if it wasn't allowing you actual career growth from doing your job. Maybe this is the exception, but the challenges I've had to solve at work dwarf anything I've done outside work.

It feels like people get too hung up on keeping up with the new shiny when honestly, it is all about fundamentals. Anyone can pickup a new technology if they understand the design and architecture of systems/software.


This was the specific comment I was scanning in the thread hoping to find! Well put.


I'm the father of 2, ages 3 and 2. My wife is due with number 3 in May. My son (3) was diagnosed about 18 months ago with level 3 ASD. I have a beautiful family that I adore. I'm a software engineer, and I was just promoted a couple months ago. I'm definitely not superhuman. I have several unpublished blogs, but haven't been able to get to them lately. I open source more projects than contributing to existing ones, and most of my contributions are in some way work related.

It's very challenging, but at the same time, much more fulfilling. I find myself more focused and therefore more efficient with my time. I learn but don't spend time going down rabbit holes. I ponder philosophy as I play with my children, and I often learn so much from them. And, their bed time is 2-3 hours before mine, so naturally I'm able to spend quality time with my wife, enjoy a hobby (I'm a guitarist, thinking of picking up piano), or get in some extra work or side projects.


Mine will be 3 and 7 this summer.

Congrats on number 3, too!

I also play guitar, but unfortunately, haven't given it the attention it deserves.

I think that sometimes, new parents or non-parents can forget that kids are human, too. They're experiencing everything for the first time, literally, and it provides an opportunity for us parents to remember how incredibly compelling the world can be, tech or not.

PS - I have soooooooo many unfinished/unpublished blog posts!


And a guitarist too.....jeez....what a legend ! Hope to read your blogs some day, can you provide a link?


Ha, not really. I don't play gigs or anything like that. :)

My blog's in my profile, although I converted to a static hosted blog on github recently and haven't written anything since (classic!). I'm working on open sourcing something I think is pretty cool that I did at work, but it's pretty in-depth (mid-tier load balancing algorithm and design), so writing it up takes a bit of time!


This is the winning comment for me.

You won't have as much time. But you will learn to make that time really count.


It's a great question.

Get clear on the myths you develop after having kids. The biggest for me is: I only have ten minutes here, fifteen minutes there. I need focused hours of time to build something. That is just a story.

When my first child was born, I used the time to write an app late at night while I was getting my wife some sleep. I called it the one handed blogging tool, because I needed a way to blog with one hand while I was holding my sleeping son: http://blog.teddyhyde.com/2013/04/03/teddy-hyde-the-no-compr...

When my daughter was born two years later, my wife was so exhausted she would go to bed at 8. I'd get my son to sleep and then promised myself I would write for just fifteen minutes before bed. That usually turned into an hour or two and three years later I had written a book for O'Reilly: http://shop.oreilly.com/product/mobile/0636920043027.do

My third child was born three months ago. I wonder what myths I'll make up and will stop me and which I'll wake up to and empower myself through.

I'm not the greatest developer, I struggled with the Google interview I got. But, success is 90% perspiration and 10% ingenuity. Who cares if you are sweating because you are exhausted and sleep deprived caring for infants as compared to pulling all night coding sessions?

And, I'd never trade any accomplishment, no matter what, for the connection I have with my kids. Nothing. I cry a little every day when I look at them and think I could have missed this if I gave in to my arrogance and fear about relationships.


One handed typing? That's great, I'm glad it works for you. All babies and people are built differently. To call (what I imagine to be the majority) those babies that require attention, and those people who can't coherently code when giving their baby their attention, a myth. Sheesh. I wish you all the best.


No, you're missing the point. Most of what we think of as being "too busy" for any particular thing is a cognitive bias for forgetting just how much time we waste.


Exactly. There are so many times I'm exhausted after getting the kids to bed and I just browse the Internet. If I was really intentional about my time, even that fifteen minutes could be used to work towards my goals. But, there is a powerful story telling me that it won't make a difference if I just waste that time.


The OP may have chosen the wrong word with "myth". He simply means that new parents create limitations for themselves in their belief that it is utterly impossible to do anything outside of parenting. The OP is saying that meaningful work can be done in the 15 minutes your baby might be asleep. A year of 15 minutes adds up to a lot.


Side question to the main focus but I'm curious, have you found it to be profitable writing a book? Don't need to go into specific numbers but just roughly. It seems that for the amount of time it takes to write a book and the profit made it would work out less hourly than doing contract software work and the value in writing a book is more in self growth. I may be completely wrong though so just wondering from your point of view if you would recommend writing a book to someone else? thanks


Kids have a great property, they have a bed time. I structure my day so that I come home from work at the same time every day and spend time with the family. My skill building happens when they go to sleep. You can get a good 2-3 hours in a day this way if you need to.


This. Although how dedicated you want to be with this is up to you, e.g. you didn't mention this, but I assume your relationship with your spouse is important as well. This is what works for me for my relationship with my kids as well as my wife:

- Evenings after work is family time. Focusing on kids if necessary.

- Wednesday evening after kids go to bed, as well as early Saturday morning, is skill building time for me.

- Every other evening after kids go to bed is time spent with my wife.

This tends to be a good mix that keeps everyone happy.


I've been battling with this exact sentiment. I want to spend time skill-building, but my wife is a definite priority.

You're right, 3 hours on Wednesday, and getting up early on a Saturday morning is plenty of time to learn something new, or apply the skills you have to a side-project.


I was lucky in that my natural schedule allows a lot of quiet thinking time without having to short shrift the family time or time with the wife.

I'm up by 430 every morning and in my office by 6, with gym time before I get in. I get a good 2-4 hours of 'me' time every single work day for learning or exploring- and it's also my most creative time of day. The gym lifts the early morning head fog and I get a lot of stuff done.

I'm almost always home by 4:30 or 5 and get a few hours of play time with the kids which usually rejuvenates me more. If I'm having a good day I may get a little exploratory work done after the kids go down, but usually I just let the mind rest a little or read some HN.


Where does time with the wife fit into your schedule? Presumably you must go bed quite early to rise at 0430 everyday.


I usually go to bed about 10, usually at the same time as her. We get a few hours every night to just us.

Mind you, I'm not forcing myself up at 4:30 with an alarm or anything. I'm up when I'm up and it's nearly always before or at 5.


I have a 12-year-old step-daughter. That is how my schedule has shifted -- doing more after her bedtime.

I am lucky though. I am working for an early-stage startup, and there are a lot of opportunity to step up and skill build, not for its own sake, but because we need to.


Sometimes. My kids bedtime is also my bedtime. My 4 yr old sleeps for 9 hrs as do I!


Yes.

But there are two things more important for me: 1. relationship: you have to spend time together to have one... 2. health: sports is a must- not daily ofc but twice per week.


You have to let your interests drive you. I've got 2 kids who are 8 and 6 years old respectively. Prior to having kids, I had my own contracting business, all nighters were a part of my nightly routine and I obsessed about every new technology that came out. I tried to keep this up almost through the birth of my second child before I put myself in the hospital.

That'll put things in perspective.

Now I'm a lot more selective about what I devote my time to learning. I'm skeptical of new language offerings. If a language doesn't give me a reason other than being a different flavor of C for using it, it doesn't even cross my radar. I'm more of a server side, devops, database guy for the most part so I've largely avoided the framework a week craziness in javascript world.

You pick your battles. Something looks cool...great. Does it really add any value beyond my current tools...?

Since getting back into a full time job about 4 years ago there are 2 technologies that have sufficiently captured my interest that I make time for them. Those are PostgreSQL and Elixir.

As it turns out, because of the two of those there's very little that comes on my radar that makes me say...I need to learn that. Most new tech that comes out seems to live in the land of edge cases that I may need one day, but don't have a reason to dive into.

IBM's Watson API's are probably the only thing I could see really grabbing my attention in the last year or so. You pick your battles.


This is a great point. You really need to get pickier about what you invest your time into, because your free time becomes so much more rare and precious. It no longer makes sense to "skill up" on every framework-of-the-month that makes #1 on HN. "You pick your battles" really sums it up.


The nice thing about having kids is that it forces you to think about time management. Think about how much time you waste chit chatting, eating lunch, watching TV, surfing the Internet, etc. After kids, you'll want to rethink how you spend time and cut down on non-productive activities. That's exactly what I did - I reconfigured my time around productive work and kids. On week days, I allocate 7-8 hours for my day job, 2-3 hours for kids and family, and 2-3 hours for myself - blogging, writing, learning, etc. Weekends is more flexible. So think hard about how you spend your time and cut down on things that aren't important for you - you'll find more time than you think you had.


This. Part of the adjustment is working in pockets of time rather than decent stretches with time to get into "the zone". I did well during the young kids era by keeping a text file of exactly what I wanted to do next. At the time I was using a paren-prefix language (Scheme) that made it easy to come back to half-finished code and see where I was going with it. In other languages you might want to write a bunch of one-line comments describing what the code is going to do, then fill in the code under the comments.


Time management, to me, is a more powerful "skill up" than anything that could keep your GitHub green. When you know you have limited hours in the day and you have hard time commitments, you have no choice but to learn and work efficiently.


The nice thing about having kids is that it forces you to think about time.

It's the time that rolls on whether you are present or not. It's the time when you said something to your kids and you realized you are becoming your father or your mother. It's the happy times and the sad times, it's the times of intense passions and times of gentleness. It's the time of living fully, without regrets, the time with the people you love, walking the path with purpose.


For me:

Don't use the computer to waste time - if I need decompression time, try and make it doing something w/ kids (LEGO!)

A solid dev. environment where you can walk up, crank an iteration, and walk away. (Like in the time it takes a kettle to boil)

Learning to code in my head - basically planning the path of changes/tests I will make next time I am back at my machine. It feels to me somewhat like the 'method of loci' - a definite journey. Often times, the plan goes awry, but the successes make it worth it. After 12 years of reading to the kids, I can do this whilst reading a story to them :).


I'm 38 with three kids: 2 year old twins and a 5 year old. During that time, I've done a lot on my own, and I feel I've had more than enough time to accomplish more.

I've taught myself Swift and Cocoa:

https://github.com/johnwheeler/CocoaProgramming

released open source frameworks:

https://github.com/johnwheeler/flask-ask

https://github.com/johnwheeler/flask-live-starter

and have had plenty of time to pursue interesting side projects:

https://oldgeekjobs.com

https://alexatutorial.com

I also spend plenty of meaningful time with my kids reading them books, going to the park, playing with toys, and day dreaming. Stop watching T.V., playing video games, and making BS excuses for being distracted from life.

It's not a tradeoff--you don't have to choose one over the other. _No one_ is so busy they don't have a few hours of down time a week. It's how you choose to spend it.

Incidentally for myself, with kids, a full workload, and pursuit of projects that interest me, I still find myself with too much time to know what to do with and squander a good portion of it.

The best thing you can do for your kids is teach by example. If you spend all your free time with them and grow up bitter that you didn't accomplish what you wish you would have, you're creating a shitty template for them mold themselves against. Let them watch you reading books, building things, crashing and burning, and chasing your dreams instead.


What is your perspective on having kids a bit later in life than most?


I think about that a lot. I don't know if the events in my life would have unfolded the same, but all things equal, I would've had them earlier just so their mom and I would be in their lives 10-15 years longer. Also, just pushing 40 health starts becoming a real issue vs. thirty, so that can be a bit of a stressor, but I try to manage with diet, exercise.


Is that later than most? Most of the people in my professional peer group who are my age (similar to GP) have children of a similar age.


You're a legend !


Here is a tip - when you have kids it's usually time for you to switch gears and start looking for jobs where you don't code anymore. It's time for you to take more responsibilities at work. Manager, project/product manager, etc. What?? More responsibilities means less free time right?? Think this way - this will put you in a different spot where you will need time to execute a bunch of tasks rahter than having to utilize your brain too much.

It sounds pretty bad but as a parent that's what you do everyday, which makes it easier for you to switch between work and personal life. You reuse the same pattern and it's all about time management rather than trying to fit a task that requires deep thinking, in your busy schedule. For me reaching that quiet moment where my brain is fully awake is way too unpredictable.

So you have to take control of your time by not relying on your brain power too much. Then if you happen to get a quiet moment at home ready to think, nothing stops you from coding or learning new things. The rest is all about teaching your kids rather than staying up to date with the latest framework or programming language. Young people will do it faster and better than you, it will be too hard for you to compete. Let's face it, this industry is all about performance, competition, bonuses. You don't want to be in this position.


There are two things going on: one is that many of them have spouses whose full time labor is taking care of the kids. I remember that being the strongest predictor of getting tenure for university professors, too.

The other is that you realize that you can accomplish significant things by stringing together scraps of time and making sure you don't obsess over minutiae. Or, more directly, when you've got twenty minutes to write, you're not going to concern yourself with the font.


Just to note, I'm 23 and have no kids.

I've heard comments like this in every possible form before---"Once you get out of college and get a job, you won't have time to...", "Once you're at a startup, you won't have time to...", "Once you start volunteering after work, you won't have time for...".

It's nonsense, you make time for what you think is important. I wake up at 5:30 am to train Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, I read when I'm commuting, I work hard at my startup, I teach a few nights a week. I plan things out ahead of time and stick to my plans. I don't have kids, but when I do I'll adjust my schedule to make sure I can keep doing what I think is important (kids Jiu-Jitsu starts at 5 years old).

I never found the argument that you won't have time to be very compelling. People who complain about not having time seem to usually be the person who is caught up on every tv show and wake up at 9 to get to work at 9:30.

I think the easiest way to build these habits is to make a plan and stick to it. You want to go to the gym? Get up before work and go. Period. If you aren't getting up 40 minutes early to exercise, you're not busy, you're lazy. Being a good parent definitely takes up a chunk of time, but you can always find time.


For what it's worth, planning when you have kids is much harder than without.

You plan on going to bed at 10pm and getting up at 5:30 to train? Cool, but are you going to be in any shape to train when you're back awake at 11:30, 1:30, 2:00, 2:15, 4:30, and 5:15? Are you going to be in any shape to study and retain that knowledge when you spent four hours of your night walking around so your kid could sleep?

That gets better as they get older, but if you told me that "it just takes planning!" after I'd gotten two hours of sleep, you might have had to demonstrate some Jiu-Jitsu, because I'd very badly want to slap you.


This is my life. I have the best intentions but when my kids wake me up in the night, or won't go to bed easily, or any number of things that don't go according to "plan" all bets are off.


preach!


Kids actually are different. If you put them to bed early, that usually means they're up early. Your 5:30 jujitsu is gone... sorry, it's now 5:30 breakfast and play time. Your 9 or 10 hour work day is now a solid 8 hours. Your daycare defined the times you can arrive and leave. You get home, and now it's playtime. When he goes to bed, you can crack out that laptop. You're going to be tired.But that's the time you can find.


Although I happen to agree with you, please understand this logic does not apply to children. You are monkeying around with t in the s domain here. It's just a different ballgame. Everything else you do has a certain limit (you can only train for so long, each episode you binge is 44 mins, you can only reasonably eat your fill, etc.) but kids (especially early on) are like air for the vessel of time - their needs and wants will expand to use every last second and then some. They will cost you mindshare when you are not remotely near them. They will change the way you allocate present and future resources including time. They will never let you completely sleep. Please note that none of these are complaints (except maybe that last one) - these are merely the constraints of this domain.


(I've a 6 year-old son, and I've been in software development for more than 20 years).

As a general principle, it's all about "priorities", and "how bad you want it?".

Most of us have time for things other than work and family (unless, of course, you're a single parent trying to juggle 2 jobs, etc.)

Instead of listening to music during commute, one can listen to professional podcasts or talks (youtube to mp3 is great).

Instead of watching TV you can read a book or program.

Instead of spending time on sites like Hacker News (I'm not trying to be cute) you can spend that time on your higher priorities.

I think we all have time for our top priorities. It's just a matter of reordering that list.


Regarding spending less time on HN: I did a 6 month blackout of HN because I perceived that it was taking too much time that I could spend on side projects. After the 6 months I came to the conclusion that I wasted that time on other things. Turns out that I didn't actually want to be productive, and I just want to waste time because my job and family life requires me to be responsible and productive all day long, and it's nice to be slacking off every now and then. So now I am back on HN to waste time :)


All joking aside :), checking HN is not time-wasting if it is useful for one's priorities (professional, personal development, etc.).

I don't read everything on HN, but I can usually find here interesting articles, and most of the time the discussion threads are even more interesting than the articles.


I agree that it's all about priorities and being mindful about when I drift away from doing things I prioritize.

I'd add that kids have taught me to be a better planner, and to break my priorities down into small, well defined chunks that can be slotted into a busy life. This has been valuable in general, not just for programming.


Are you in your 40s, or did you start developing software in your teens?


I'm significantly worse in my job than what I remember from before I had kids. What I miss most was the "deep thinking" mode that I used to get into, when you think about a problem for days on end, and solutions and ideas start popping in your head while you're in the proverbial shower. This rarely happens to me nowadays - the life I have outside of work scrubs my mind clean like a metal brush the second I step into my home. Especially over weekends. I frequently joke about it, but there's more than a grain of truth to it - on Monday mornings I try to remember what was it that I'm working on.

I still think I made the right decision, mind you. I believe having kids and taking care of them is the right thing to do, and will be the most important thing I've done with my life in 10-20 years when a successfully delivered build or a Metacritic point here or there wouldn't mean shit. I just don't want to fool myself or anyone else that my job performance hasn't suffered.


>I just don't want to fool myself or anyone else that my job performance hasn't suffered.

I think you have prioritized correctly. There can be beautiful periods in life when your passion, discretionary time, and energy (physical and mental) are all coherent with the content of your job and you are highly productive and feel awesome. These times are wonderful and should be appreciated, but they can't last forever.

I have had those times, and I've had times where I felt I was really letting stuff slide at work and playing catch up all the time. These days I seldom feel like I'm giving my employers the full 100% of what I am capable of on my best day... maybe I only feel like I'm giving 50-60% of that most days. But if you are a diligent enough person to care/worry about your own productivity and contribution to the company ... you are probably STILL more valuable than many people who come in aiming to do only the minimum needed to keep their job.

>on Monday mornings I try to remember what was it that I'm working on.

This is so freaking healthy. I love it. Don't feel bad.


> I'm significantly worse in my job than what I remember from before I had kids.

I'm not sure if I'm significantly worse in my job since I've had kids (I have a two and a half year old boy), but what I'm not able to do is keep up with "the kids" who get to work at 8:30 AM and leave at 7:00 PM, because they're young and single and no one is waiting at home for them. I try to leave at 5:45 PM so I can get home in time to help out with dinner and putting him to bed.

So many folks I work with get home after their kids go to bed. I just don't want to miss all that time with my son. It's definitely affecting how I'm perceived at work, because I'm seen as not as "dedicated" as the folks who stay at work till all hours and are online late at night at home. It's constantly striking a balance between the demands at home and the demands at work.


My workplace is probably half parents/new parents (late-twenties and thirties) and half single people. All the parents come in a little later and leave a little early. Not one of them is judged for it.

Not all workplaces are so toxic.


It's tough, I won't lie to you about that. But it can be better if you have a supportive partner who understands, and is willing to give you decent blocks of time to code or study.

That is really the secret - reduce constant interruptions, so it may mean trading time between you and your life partner and other kids etc. Basically take up extra load with baby duties so they can get sleep/work etc., and in return, arrange for 2 to 4 hour blocks of time where you can cut code or learn new techniques uninterrupted.

Good Luck. Oh, and it does get better years later when your kids show an interest in your work and ask you to teach them! :)


My advice, fwiw.

Do whatever you decide you want to do to "keep up" with github, open source, etc. But keep it absolutely as separate as possible from your family time.

When you have a day with the kid, make sure that you disconnect and get yourself as fully as you can into the right mindset. "My job today is to enjoy my time with my son/daughter, to be there for them, to be present with them." Leave your phone at home when you go to the park. Disconnect.

If you find yourself thinking that your parenting time is an annoying distraction from the coding problem you're trying to solve, you're in dangerous territory and need to re-calibrate.

This is a hard lesson that I constantly try to re-learn. When I'm successful, everything is much, much better.


> If you find yourself thinking that your parenting time is an annoying distraction from the coding problem you're trying to solve, you're in dangerous territory and need to re-calibrate.

I'm not a parent, but surely this is a little off; either can be a distraction from the other, the thing is to balance which the primary task is and when.

For example, say you get a phone call at work to inform you that your child's got into some kind of trouble at school (for example - I'm sure yours are great and this will never happen!) and that you need to pick them up. This could absolutely be a distraction from some coding/work problem you're trying to solve, but you're hardly in 'dangerous territory'.


I've found a curiosity-based learning approach to be effective for me. Rather than trying to put X amount of time into programming like it's a chore (or a prison sentence) I try to find things that spark my interest. Lately I've been trying to figure out the inner workings of the single-page application framework that we use at work and I'm slowly starting to create my own as well.

Asking questions has helped me a lot questions like "how does this work?" has motivated me to read code (which I think can be more useful than writing code sometimes) and try to learn things as they really are rather than how I assumed they were built (I've discovered some interesting patterns and came to some interesting realizations this way).

I actually try to minimize my time spent reading blogs and books but sometimes I find wikipedia to be very good at giving me really good information that isn't as dogmatic or opinionated.


With kids, my commute is my 'me time'. And nearly only me time. Once home I am a human trampoline. :)

I hack away for an hour each way, especially on my home journeys. I actually appreciate the long train journey. Thankfully it is all one journey without changes. And train delays once I am on the train I don't actually mind. Though I go first class so I have a guaranteed seat with table and comfort. Otherwise, I'd be a miserable sod.

Though I also had to cut out all time wasting like tv watching, time sinks like free newspapers on the train, and ban myself from any gaming before 11pm.

With one kid it felt like I hardly had any spare time for hacking or anything, and I was so envious of my previous childless me with all that spare time I had then. Now with two kids I am envious of all the spare time I had with just one kid!


One thing with having kids and therefore very little spare time is that now I really understand and appreciate the value of focus and doing things straight away. No postponing and dragging things out in my private life as well.

I no longer add paragraphs to potential blog posts over a long time. Blogs have to be published as a draft the day I get the idea. Otherwise, over time my opinion changes and the post would be rewritten over and over again and then inspirations dwindles to another mothballed blog idea.

The same goes for hobby projects though with a slightly longer time frame. I force myself to concentrate on only one project and insist on reaching at least some sort of basic MVP before I jump onto the next shiny thing. On my http://code.flurdy.com some projects have a demo site, others where I lost focus do not.

Essentially these same principles are important at work as well :)


Agree with this. I too have a 2 hour commute daily and treasure this alone time.


Currently struggling as a father of three (12, 10,7) with how to up my game as a developer. At the evening, when I get home, I'm just dead tired. I get no further than eat diner, watch a documentary, read a little and sleep. Repeat. Weekends are filled with chores and quality time with kids. All this leaves me without the energy or drive to learn something new, while time flies by. So I'm gonna read all the comments now, see what I can pick up. But it won't be easy.


I'm not even a parent and I feel like this already.

:(


Nobody on their death bed will ever say "I wish I had more green boxes on my github page". Enjoy spending time with your family.


Honestly I think learning new technologies comes out of a passion for learning and has nothing to do with kids, wives, friends, social life, or work.

I have five kids (all teens now) and have managed to keep up with technology throughout their early years and to today.

There is all kind of parenting advice I could offer, but it all depends on how you personally wish to raise your kids. I'm old school. I think the more kids play on their own, by themselves, the more they read....the better they'll be. I'm highly aware of other parenting techniques, especially where there's some weird expectation that we devote our lives to our kids every moment of the day outside of work. I find that patently ridiculous.

When I've needed to carve out time for learning, I just tell the kids I have to learn something. They ask me what it is and I explain as much as I can. I ask them if it's okay that "this weekend" they focus on friends or read a book. I get complaints on occasion and if I need to bend I bend. More often than not, my kids respect my request. Even so, I still cook, clean, play board games, take them to movies, and have discussions with them.

But the underlying aspect (to me) is passion to learn. If you don't have a passion to learn new things _on your own_, I can't help you.


Absolutely, I've got passion for cricket, no matter how tired, hungry I am i find time to play. But I don't code if I have free time, I'm too tired for that.


Reddit [1] asked Bill Gates: "What is your idea of success?". His reply: "Warren Buffett has always said the measure is whether the people close to you are happy and love you."

As a father I also think this is the most important, no matter what. If it means you will be an average programmer, so be it.

But I discovered that you can still keep up by keeping it simple. Because simple saves time.

For example I wanted to learn more about creating web apps. So I took an evening and checked out all kinds of Javascript frameworks like React, Angular, and so on. And I after looking at the examples I ended up with VueJs. Why? Because I could just download one Javascript file to get started. No need to learn all about thousands of package managers, about NodeJs and what not.

I'm not trying to start a war about which Javascript framework is best, or which other framework just works by downloading one file. But what I like to point out, is that there are sometimes options that just work without you having to learn a ton of other stuff.

[1] https://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/5whpqs/im_bill_gates_...


It was never hard for me. I'm naturally a late night person, and my daughter slept from 9pm to 5-6am pretty much weeks after coming home, and just got lazier until she hit 18 :)

All that said, 9pm to midnight was always plenty of time for me to keep up on anything involving a computer. For some, it might not be. The day light hours, and time before she'd go to bed, were all about her. If you run around, do homework with, cook dinner and play with your child all night long, it's much easier to get them to sleep through the night! I consider myself lucky, but many of my friends through bike racing, and other outdoor related activities are similarly active people, and their kids are exposed to active, high energy pursuits in the day time as well and - you guessed it - most of them sleep pretty normally.

Also, admittedly, the day I worry about my github commit graph is the day I think I need therapy. Life's more than contributing to code projects.


I almost entirely stopped watching TV and movies. I work after they go to sleep, 2-3 nights per week.

Startup culture preaches move quickly, pivot when something doesn't work. I apply that to my development. In the past I might hammer on a bad design for two days until finally figuring out I was on the wrong path. I am much more focused now. I'd say I'm a more productive developer than I was without kids because I avoid a lot of dead ends and wasted time.

My tolerance for friction and pointless bullshit is also much lower. The main project is difficult to build and test due to lots of state? I create scripts to automate or I spin up a test project, investing an hour up front because I know it will pay off over time. In the past I wasted too much time doing things manually because it felt like extra work to automate it. There is a delicate balance here and it just takes experience to figure it out.


My kids (4 and 6) go to bed between 7 and 8PM (target = 7:30). They have to get up at 6:30 AM so we can get them ready for school without too much of a rush, so they go to bed early. They are both good sleepers; that helps of course.

Subtracting time for household work, that leaves 1-2 hours each night for leisure. Weekends can give a bit more leisure time, but not always. Sometimes my girlfriend and I eat after kids-bedtime to have a chance to actually taste our food (or go out, with a babysitter staying with our kids), once a week I go to the local hackerspace, the rest is more or less for myself.

For me, I learned to ruthlessly prioritize in my list of things that I want to do, and I got good at structuring my projects in result-oriented blocks of work that can be done in one or a few time blocks.

I also don't watch TV; this went way down the priority list after the first kid was born.


I am a father of 6.

I could be a better father. I could be a better programmer. I'm doing a good job of both. It is a full life.

6 hours of focused work is more than most people get done in a day. You want to be a great dad and a great programmer? Cut out Hacker News ;)

edit: I guess we are listing ages. 15, 14, 12, 11, 10, 7.


Add all aspects of social media to that, as well.

Congrats on maintaining six! I can appreciate what you're doing.


#1: None of this development shit matters. Your kids matter. Your own mental health matters.

#2: Carve out a bit of off limits time for efficient learning, say mondays 8-9AM. Guard it jealously and make yourself intensely look through the new stuff out there, picking a few things a month to deep dive on. Be picky, most of the new technology out there is shit.

#3: see #1


For me, I skilled down.

I always told the people I supported, "You only get one chance to rear your child."

And now decades after first birth I can easily say "there is nothing _more_ important than than your children"

I'm not in tech any longer because of my actual ambivalence of technology. I was naturally good at it but hated the chase to keep up.

If you compare the outcome of effort in keeping up in tech to the effort in rearing children then it's a easy answer. The better outcome is always children.


Oh my God, are you my future?!?!?!?!?

Quit two great jobs because they didn't value my value of children.

Programming came easy to me, never learned it anywhere but by myself - out of necessity with a new family.

Now that I'm in a better position, I'm already planning my next career pivot; away from cogs and trinkets and into an even better schedule, as well as my real interest which I was too foolish to finish in school the first time.


Cut down on TV. Wake up super early on Saturdays and get about 3 hrs of skill building time. Occasionally take a day off work to do a straight 8 hr skill session for self. Find a friend at work to do a class with and make a plan with your significant other for one hr a week to dedicate to the class. You and your friend can keep each other motivated!

I feel this is a super important question. I've published it on LinkedIn with my thoughts. Hopefully, you will get some feedback there as well! https://www.linkedin.com/post/edit/6245042931087007744 Good luck!


> Wake up super early on Saturdays and get about 3 hrs of skill building time.

You never know what kind of kids you'll get. Mine wake up every day at 5:55 to 6:30. Otherwise, generally good suggestions.


doesn't look like a valid link !



No TV ever (except when it is about watching a movie with my son, and he choses what we watch), less hobbies (reading tech books instead of novels, etc.), and especially optimizing my time around family: for example I'll drive my son to his ice skating lesson and will watch a technical talk on youtube or read a technical book during 1h while he practice. Another things is living close to my work: little commute time means less waste and more time at home. Biking during my commute (~20min) is also giving me my daily physical exercise!

Also, some people have the ability to get into work and focus efficiently even for a 10 min slot, which can happen multiple time during the day.


For me, some things are luck. I live 25 minutes from my workplace by bike. The kids get themselves to school. I never worked more than 8 hour days, and have a job where nobody really understands what I do (a unique skill area within the company), so I actually spend work time on maintaining my skills. There may be reasons why communities like mine, and less intense employers, are magnets for people with kids.

A huge matter of luck has been my kids not needing things like exceptional medical or behavioral care. That's just not predictable.

Having kids does sharpen your time management, and may cause you to set aside some activities that no longer matter. I think that the mental stimulation -- or perhaps sheer terror -- made me more creative and energetic, even if I was physically fatigued. In the weeks after my daughter was born, while she was asleep, I actually developed and launched a new product for my side business.

Don't rule out changing jobs. I've read that something like 50% of workers change jobs right after the birth of their first child. A repeated pattern I've seen, over and over, is that new parents suddenly express an interest in becoming managers.


How did you find the mental energy to come up with a new business idea and what was your inspiration/idea?


It wasn't profound -- an improvement for an existing product. The idea came from suggestions made by users on a web forum. Since it's an electronic gadget that means a new design. It's a fairly specialized audio related device. What I needed to do was a circuit board design spin and prototyping stage, then a bunch of testing.

One good thing was that the effort could be broken into chunks, and interrupted. I didn't need the kind of "flow" that programmers often talk about.


Father of four with one on the way.

As mempko said, kids can go to bed at a structured time. Kids getting enough sleep is really good for them and really good for you. After work I spend about three hours with the whole family, including supper and housework. Then the kids go to bed, and I get an hour of learning coding in, then hang out with my wife for an hour. Usually I get about theee straight hours on a project somewhere in the weekend.

Newborns are something else though. It's prudent to plan on being a sleep deprived zombie for three months. If you are in the lucky 33% that escapes this, rejoice!


It depends. Some people have children that go to bed at 8pm and wake up at 8am.

We have a 14 month old that wakes up 3 to 4 times every night. Even using strategies with my partner to take turns, it weighs down on us and sleep becomes the priority after the kid and work.

I have no idea how people with more than 1 kid have any time to do anything, unless you have access to babysitters, of course.


When they get older they sleep better! Our kids woke up a lot too, now they go to bed at 7 and wake up between 6 and 7.

Also, two kids spend time with each other! Sometimes I can get a bit of work done while they are playing legos. That's pure bliss.


I do find this whole situation a tiny bit crazy, I often think software engineers are often taken for a complete ride by employers. We shouldn't have to feel like we each have to take responsibility to be up to scratch on the latest tools, we should be encouraged to factor that into our day to day work.

I don't think this is a question you should ask yourself, but you should talk to your employer about. I don't see any brick-layers practising new brick laying techniques in their spare time, or car mechanics expected to find out about new cars and engines at the weekend. Obviously you have interests, and you like to know about the latest news or craze but this should be a recreational activity (ten minutes here and there). If blogging, research and trying new technology benefits your work then it should be supported by your employer.

Incidentally I am a full-time senior engineer with two kids and many years experience. You shouldn't be expected to juggle like this.


I think this is a pretty distorted worldview. I'm confident most brick-layers would be happy to be taken for this kind of "complete ride by employers" in exchange for the cushy offices, offsite retreats, snacks, beer, endless perks, and $100k+ USD/yr salaries that software engineers tend to get in exchange.


Most developers I know get paid less than national average salary (for the uk) and are expected to deliver above and beyond, with non of the perks you mention (I didn't even get offered 2 weeks paternity pay in my previous job). Please don't get me wrong, I love what I do and I absolutely know how lucky I am to be here, but I just feel for the OP having a weight of expectation that isn't fair in any industry.


Assuming that the average dev receives "cushy offices, offsite retreats, snacks, beer, endless perks, and $100k+ USD/yr salaries" is a distorted worldview unto itself.


Consider that nurses (both RNs and LPNs) have to have a certain number of Continuing Education credits[0] (which means not just learning something, but passing a test) every year in order to renew their license, without which they can't work as a nurse.

And yes, they are expected to pay for these courses out of their own pocket, as well as do this studying and test-taking on their own time, even if they have a full-time job as a nurse.

[0] eg. http://www.westernschools.com/


Be mindful my statement was my opinion, not factual. I am completely aware there are people screwed over a lot more than software developers, and I know how fortunate we are to do what we do. I am just making the point that normalising the expectation of constant self learning is fairly unique in this industry as the defacto standard for employees.


"fairly unique" is one of those annoying phrases that parses to meaninglessness. Either something is unique or it isn't, there aren't degrees of uniqueness (unlike, "creative", "special", or "new"). For comparison, while "really unique" isn't meaningless, the "really" is pointless and so still quite annoying.

Perhaps you meant "fairly unusual"?

I suspect that the emphasis on self-teaching is due in part to the pace of change in information technologies, and also to "rockstar" culture.

The most useful and valuable technical skills are usually the ones for which there are no formal courses yet, and most businesses are reluctant to spend money (or employee time) on speculative investments which may not pay off (for the business or the employee).

Meanwhile, the most valuable employees often disdain spending time acquiring skills that do have some form of formal credential or certification available, as those are inevitably going to be much less interesting and shiny.

And so, non-rockstars (including junior folks) are left to fend for themselves (if they are lucky, a more experienced co-worker will point them in useful directions) even when formal learning options would be helpful to them.


I think there's a difference between learning and having green boxes on GitHub. I've followed uncle Bob and he basically spent an hour and a half after his wife went to sleep. Your time does shrink to next to nothing but the answer to why people can't keep up can be summed up in a paraphrase by Gary Vaynerchuck. He talks of an imaginary truck driver named steve. It goes something like "In 10 years Steve won't have a job and Steve can start learning now when he's home so he's ready for that day. But guess what? All Steve wants to do is watch the football match".

Ultimately it comes down to being extremely hard on yourself. It is not a bed of roses. In fact just by being around to comment on HN I'm wasting time. Having a kid and still levelling up means becoming a machine which tbh is terribly unappealing. And it does suck from time to time. Dragging my ass out of bed early ( I still get 7 hours sleep by not watching any TV) so I can study before my son wakes up is crap. But if you want it, you gotta do it.

And that's what your coworkers probably don't have. It's one of those hurtful things to say, but for the most part it's true. They don't have the entire drive needed to keep learning. They aren't hungry enough for it.

I just want to clarify I don't advocate killing yourself over this. I don't advocate doing something you don't like. But I do guarantee however, there's time. To get there is an all or nothing road though. Screw TV. Screw games (I do about half to one hour per week max). Screw HN ideally unless you are here to check on actual important developments like security or _relevant_ programming language related updates. FB, twitter, YouTube, etc. Bye!

And that's tough really. So I don't fault anyone either. But I don't like hearing others trying to tell you "oh it can't be done". Can do.


Without reading all the comments (I'm sure there is great advice).

The older you get the more structured your life gets. Startup cofounder, husband, dad of 2 (10 & 7 now...), Ironman, runner, endurance cyclist. Focus on the important things; you can't do everything so do what matters most.

1. Your kids will only be kids once. You will never get that time back, so figure out what's most important.

2. Get them involved. Young. There are opportunities for kids to learn. Teach them. Get them involved. My kids are startup kids. But their fun times include coming to the office evenings and tinkering with a raspberry pi or doing some kodable stuff

3. Prioritize. Things change. I used to be a gamer. And tinkerer. And... other things. Now, I work (SimpleLegal CTO. I'm a husband and father. And I race my bicycle (train 10-15 hrs per week). That's pretty much it. There is plenty of time in the day, and it's easy to waste.


I have a 7 year old step daughter. I make heavy use of a calendar and set aside blocks of time during the week for focused study. I make sure that I don't schedule myself for anything involving deep concentration when my kid is home and awake. You are just asking for frustration because kids _will_ interrupt your flow and you _will_ be a jerk about it. Don't be that parent. A calendar makes it clear where the gaps in your day are to focus on improving your skill set. Trust me, you have a lot more time than you think you do.

Having a kid doesn't mean you never have any time for personal enhancement like study or exercise. It just means that you have to be more structured and focused. It takes a lot of trial and error to find a good balance.


I've thought long and hard about this very question as I often wondered how I'd maintain my skills when my kid was born. I remember reading the Preface of some technical book where the author said he's glad he never had kids because he would always be afraid that in a competition for his time, "the computer would always win." I feel that way sometimes, I just want to study, learn, write code, because I love this field and having a family doesn't mean my interest in computing has died.

But we have to ask why this attitude is endemic to tech and not to other fields. You don't see surgeons or investment bankers asking their peers in forums, "how do you skill up" after having kids! So why do we feel like in tech we must sacrifice everything else that makes us human just to keep our nose to the grindstone?

I wrote two blog posts that echo this dilemma. [1] "Don't call me a '5:01er'" where I attack the unfair portrayal of people with kids as being less committed to their jobs, and [2] "Why can't a CEO be a family man?" about how our entire civilization seems to have its priorities bass-ackwards.

For me the critical turning point in my perspective came one day as I gazed down at my son on his changing table. I looked at him lying there helpless and it made me think of how I said goodbye to my father, looking down as he lay in the casket. Then I realized that one day the tables would literally be turned as this very same helpless creature would be looking down at my lifeless body to say goodbye. And then I knew that the rest of my life was merely the prelude to that very moment. It taught me that I want to be the kind of man who my son will miss when I'm gone. I'm not going to get to that point by stressing out about my github contributions.

[1]: http://czep.net/15/dont-call-me-a-501er.html [2]: http://czep.net/15/ceo-family-man.html


Short answer is: you don't. You'll mostly be standing still until the kids are a bit older.

If your answer is "But [insert famous tech guru] does it", you'll find that [famous tech guru] has a spouse who takes care of all or most of the kid stuff.


Golden comment!


(A) They are in fact super-human...think 180IQ plus aspergers/OCD/etc

(B) They hate their children and use coding/work as a way to avoid them(a lot of aspergers here too)

(C) Their day job can/does involve open source and/or writing blog posts.(consultants are big in this category)

Then there's the other 99% of us with very few green boxes who finish chores at 10somthing at night and pass out.


This thread is slowly filling up with stories of enthusiastic workaholic parents who are disciplined and fit enough to take every single 15 minute break to sit down and get some code out.

If you're able to code up a blog engine with one hand while holding your baby in the other, I envy you. I wish I could muster up the energy and discipline to do something like that. But to other readers: for many people this is not the way. I hope that by writing this comment I can provide some counterpressure to this usual HN moral of "work harderer, even hardererer, all the time, at the cost of everything" that these proud over-achieving-parent comments breathe.

It's perfectly OK not to code outside work time. It's perfectly fine to, once you're finally done with the intensive and tiring quality time you spent with your kids, to sit down, have a cup of tea, watch some Netflix and go to bed early.

This means that you must ensure you have a challenging job. Not learning on the job is not an option - you'll be out of work in 10 years, maybe sooner. So be critical, request transfers, and if your financial situation allows, care less about salary than about how much you can learn on the job. The downside of our market is that knowledge gets outdated fast. But the upside is that we programmers are in great demand. We get to make demands - not many people have that priviledge. Use it. You can't afford not to.

I'd say that this is good advice for most people - as you might guess I'm a violent opponent to this whole "you're not worth your salt as a coder if you don't do hobby-OSS every evening" meme. But it becomes a need if you can't or won't be Superdad or Supermom every day.

Think about yourself, think about your future. Consider letting off-time be off-time and getting yourself a better job :)


> this usual HN moral

Please don't make up generalizations about HN for rhetorical purposes. There's no "usual HN moral". It's a large community.

The thread doesn't seem to me to fit your description, but even if it did, the OP asked specifically for helping about keeping his skills up. That's a perfectly legitimate question, and no one deserves to be slurred as a "workaholic" for caring about it or sharing their approach.

Questions about family are deeply emotional and tug on all our ideas about who we are. HN's civility rule requires us to respect each other's differences and not resort to blame or self-righteousness.


Hey, thanks for the feedback.

I agree with your comments about "workaholic" and the "usual HN moral". I'll be better.

I disagree with your implication that my comment does not try to help the OP with keeping his skills up. I think it's a very legitimate question and my advice is to try and find a challenging job. I don't understand how my comment can be read as a dismissal of the OP's question. It's a great question that I relate to.

Also, I realize now that you read "workaholic" as a slur and probably most people did. For anyone who felt attacked/offended by that: it was not meant that way and I think I mistranslated the term. I did not mean it as a slur and I wrote nearby that I envy the people with that kind of energy / work ethic. I miss the time when I was a workaholic (it was before I became a parent).

I do feel that there is a growing culture of "work over everything" in startup land and I believe that this is a bad thing. When I wrote my comment, most top comments were indeed examples of ways to squeeze every single ounce out of the day (they are again as I write this). I don't understand why you imply that proposing an alterative ("skill-up on the job") is not a legitimate response in that context.


Totally agreed. I find it impossible to work in the afternoons/evenings, because even if you find a moment, it's too hard to concentrate and do meaningful (e.g. hard) stuff.

Make the best of your work hours. The idea of a boring job "for money" and fun/learning stuff afterwards is outdated. Don't waste your life on a boring job. Work time should be when you do fascinating stuff and learn.


That is totally unrealistic.

No job will fit your interest 100% unless you are lucky bastard. Boring jobs are the rule. The point is to make boring stuff less borring.


I beg to disagree. I don't consider myself a "lucky bastard", but I define my own job(s) and everything I do is fascinating, I learn new things all the time. I don't do boring stuff.

Sure, there are compromises (plenty of people make more money), and it took me a while to get to where I am, but it proves that it is possible and not through luck, but rather a well-thought through approach and careful strategic thinking.


i agree, but i think this is not what he meant.

Most of the people working in the software industry are lucky enough to balance the two (getting a job that is paying enough to live a decent live while also not being totally boring). If you are extremely lucky, there is some correlation between fun and pay. Maybe working not as long is harder in SF, but there are other options, it's a compromise.

But lets not forget that for many this is not very their reality. They have a family to feed and not much room to compromise.


If you are not living in a city with plenty of developer jobs available then that's often not possible and you are stuck to the boring job "for money" scheme. Of course you can always relocate but this has its own downsides...


We as developers have privilege to work remotely. Don't excuse yourself saying "I need an office and people around". That's just not true, as you gain so huge amount of perks when you find a remote job it's madness if you don't even try it for a year or two.

If you really go crazy alone you can always find coworking space almost anywhere in the world.

Moreover, constantly look for opportunities. I recently heard very wise words that the best time to change your job is when you are perfectly happy with current one.


If you are not a web developer or DevOps it is very unlikely you have that privilege. I currently do ML/NLP, and my heart is really in embedded. Almost nobody is going to hire me to do either remotely.


I'll add my own anecdote to this. I think the point about getting a better job is spot on. I was working a job for 2 years that wasn't challenging me at all and got to the point that it was almost rote. It was at those times that I felt the need to get intellectual fulfillment by coding outside of work. I was actually able to notice a very significant inverse correlation between the nature of my day job and how interesting it was to my "skill development" outside of work. If you are spending 40 hours a week on challenging technical problems, you should be getting all the skill development you need.


Agreed. I'm only 25 with no kids and single. I still don't program in my off time. I do things I vastly prefer like rock-climb, work-out or just get very, very drunk.

I'm not a rock-star programmer but I can definitely hold my own in the office. And guess who the managers prefer to take to meet clients, me or the guys that spend 120 hours plus infront of a screen.


> And guess who the managers prefer to take to meet clients, me or the guys that spend 120 hours plus infront of a screen.

It's been very difficult for me to guess the answer to this.


Additionally, I can't say either scenario sounds enjoyable to me.


I'll just add that even if you are able to perform superhuman feats of parenting and coding simultaneously, you will eventually get burned out. I was able to handle both for quite some time, and I've now stretched myself so thin that I don't feel like I'm doing either thing particularly well.


Go to the gym/bike/whatever. It helps me a lot, at least.


I totally agree with your story.

So to keep up with technology is that I sometimes switch from customer (if you have the chance), then you will automically learn new things. Whether they are old or new technologies.

Another thing is try to follow sometimes courses, seminars (hard- and soft skill), during working hours preferably. Then it won't affect your private time.

And if I have time when my 3 kids are in bed, and I still feel the energy to create something. Force myself to keep my side project small, and don't be too hard on yourself when you don't finish it. Because you definitely learned something.


In a personal yet not entirely unrelated note, thanks for taking over my brain-sucking gig at Philips back in the days :D


Also in this case I've learned a lot from switching.....and then I switched again ;)


Agreed, except it's not an either/or situation.

I am one of those people who at least tries to do lots of extra learning. But firstly, it doesn't necessarily have to be programming: I learn things like math, but also other hobbies (e.g. drawing).

But whether I have time to do things "on the side", the BEST thing I do for my professional career is work for myself, and spend time working on projects that push the edge for me. However much "extra time" you put in outside of normal work hours, normal work hours still make up the bulk of your time, so you have to optimize those.

So like I said, I completely agree with your post, I just think it applies equally well to those people who try to cram in more work on the side.


"Consider letting off-time be off-time and getting yourself a better job :)" - Those two conflict. Most jobs want the next buzzwords in the job description, which you aren't learning in the current job.


Most jobs?

I work for the uk office of a finance company, on a contract basis, on target to pull in roughly six figures* this year.

My CV consists of C in the main, with a little C++11 and a smattering of right-up-to-date javascript and python.

"Most jobs" seems like a bit of an overstatement.

(*for Americans, the UK market does not pay like the US market, rates of pay here are generally awful in comparison to the US or Australia)


C/C++ developers are relativity rare. So most people would have to learn that.


Most HR departments won't care if you haven't actually used those buzzwords on your current job.


IMHO, this thread is slowly filling up with stories of enthusiastic workaholic parents making wildly optimistic claims regarding how productive they are.


There's one big thing to note about boring jobs. A little background on me. I'm a full time student taking online courses, I have an 18 month old so he's old enough to now be a handful and need constant monitoring, and I work in forensics which to me is pretty boring. My wife is also a full time student who is in class till 8pm every night and works weekends. I've definitely learned to prioritize and spend much less time doing things that are more a waste of time, but surprisingly enough I love it this way. I take my son to daycare every day, work my butt off at work, learn a ton, pick my son up, come home feed him, play with him, give him a bath and put him to bed at 8pm. After that I sit down and knock out some homework, do some self study, and work on personal projects. If I'm on schedule or ahead of schedule I spend time playing Forza or TitanFall 2, or working on my cars. This usually happens 1-2 days a week, but I've reached the point in my life where that's all I need to make me happy(I'm only 27 though lol).

However, even though my job is boring I love it due to the management. I'm lucky enough to have the type of job that even though it's boring, it offers me a lot of other opportunities to keep me sharp, and puts me in a location with a lot of extremely competent developers and engineers. I learn from my colleagues every single day. I'm also always in some type of training, even if it doesn't directly apply to my position. If there's a nearby course offered in advanced C methodologies, hardware advancements, intrusion system implementation, or anything else I'm honestly interested in, my company is fine with me going.

I understand this is rare to find, but I think if you have the right atmosphere, being on the bleeding edge of development isn't even remotely necessary. In the end you're gonna look back and see what you remember. And the things that will stick out will be time with family, the friends you made, and the impact you made. I gauge my impact based on my family and I couldn't ask for more. My friends and colleagues at work are amazing. And I get to be here for my son for every new thing he experiences.

Also on a side note the best way to learn is to teach. I heard that a long time ago and I'm a huge advocate for it. Because if you can break something complex down to the simplest level then you really know it. Having a son thats always interested in what I'm doing gives me a constant avenue to teach. So I'm always willing to spend time with him showing him new things and watching how quickly he picks them up. He's still young, but I know once he gets to where he wants to learn how to do the stuff I do at work it'll be a huge boost for me professionally. Because then I'll have to push myself even harder to learn more so I can always have something to teach him.


> When i look up the internet I find people doing full time job delivering products while having a family and some still find plenty of time to blog or write books

When I think of those I follow in similar situations, it seems they tend to eschew learning for learning's sake, and even those who were successful programmers learn to delegate. (Rob Walling comes to mind) So whether it's running a product, or learning new skills, I think it's a matter of avoiding shiny object syndrome.


Data scientist here. It is 100% possible to do things with kids, but you really have to be motivated to do it, AND it really helps if you have a support system of other people to help take care of your child. I wrote about the dangerous deception we have in American culture, and particularly tech culture, of people who "have it all," but in reality have a bunch of help in the background here[1] and here[2].

If you work full-time and you want to go above and beyond, you're essentially working three days: work, before school + after school, and then your third day is learning or development.

Whatever that means for you in terms of reshuffling energy and other commitments will vary on your personality, energy level, etc, etc.

When you have a small child, it is extremely hard to multitask. So I wait until she is asleep. All after work time and weekends are for her.

Here is the way my schedule works: I pick her up from daycare, do dinner, playing, and then she goes to bed. I then take half an hour break, and delve into whatever I have going on, for about three hours.

I'm currently taking a Java class, writing technical blogs, and working out some Python. So I'll usually do an hour of reading/Java homework, then start a blog post, then finish off with whatever else I was working on.

Over the past three weeks, I developed this talk on big data[3]. That was probably the hardest because I needed a lot of time to write the code, test the code and concentrate, and all of my energy was just sapped.

All of this is to say that you can do it. For me personally it takes a lot of reshuffling and work and giving up things, but that's how kids work.

[1]http://blog.vickiboykis.com/2015/09/we-are-not-getting-the-f... [2]http://blog.vickiboykis.com/2012/07/sheryl-anne-marie-and-ma... [3]https://veekaybee.github.io/data-lake-talk/#/


I was stuck in a seemingless treadmill where I was looking after my children, going to work, coming home and being utterly exhasted.

I started going into autopilot at work and stopped inovating and spent more and more time organising things and less time coding.

I realised that if I didn't change I would end up de-skilling myself and end up in Management or worse.

Don't get me wrong about Management, I'm sure it's deeply rewarding if it's your calling but for me it felt a bit soleless so I had to do something.

I now have a nice balance of family time as well as spend at least 5 hours a day coding professionally and around 5 hours a week hacking on personal or open source endeavours

So what changed?

I made things uncomfortable for myself.

I started running a few times a week - suprisingly, this eats into more of my precious time but seems to make me less mentally tired, less grumpy with the kids and more able to concentrate when coding.

I made sure I did at least 30 minutes of personal coding an evening to skill up - starting with katas then moving onto personaly projects, open source contributions or groking new tech. Once that is done I'm free to relax with my partner, eat, watch tv, drink wine, etc

I quit my permanent Senior Development role and started contracting, this resulted in less meetings and more pure coding tasks.

I always take the opportunities that allow me to learn new things.

During the day I don't procrastinate (browsing the web, e.g. hacker news is limited for me) - I work hard on my programming tasks but not silly hard, e.g. I have regular breaks, lunch, etc.


I got two kids: 4 and 1. The little one is a horrible sleeper right now. Me and my wife work roughly 30h a week each. 50/50 taking care of the kids. Kids are in daycare for roughly 7 hours. We commute 2h a day if not doing home office.

I just stopped bothering what to learn or accumulate green boxes. The only time github graph looked like a jungle was when I was hired to work on a sponsored open source project.

I tend to read on the train ride if not completely wasted. Coding is kind of not fun while commuting. Topics differ however.

In the evenings I just do whatever I like to do after chores. Sometimes it's coding, sometimes just playing games, mostly screwing around the internets or reading non profession books.

Demand for computer science is not (yet) declining, quite the contrary. So my need for learning does not come from competition.

The most quality time to learn something new is an hour here an hour there at work. I try to be efficient to generate the desired output so I can get a bit of slack to get my head into something new coding wise. Call me unethical, but it seems to work out for me and clients. There is only one life to live.


I'm on PTO today and could notice how distant I am from my kids' daily routine. They see me home, but they are not sure if they can play or even talk to me, even though I'm completely available to them. I work an average of 12h a day, mainly attending project status meetings with clients, which require all my focus, no background noise or distractions, meaning that my wife and I have to keep our kids away from me. I lost count of how many times I had to ask them to be quiet or leave my home office. And it was only TODAY that I realized the profound impact that this lifestyle has on my kids firstly, and secondly on me. My kids don't know what it is like to have an available daddy. Don't know how it works. So they stay with her mother, which is routine to them. This sucks big time to me, especially because I don't know how to reverse it, nor if it is even reversible. I'll do my best. (or maybe I should consider finding myself another job)


It's reversible, just not overnight. Start today and don't give up.


Children spell love as t-i-m-e, so one hour of my time every weekday evening was family time. Weekend evenings were the same but usually added reading a story from Winnie-The-Pooh or the like in the younger days. I did not make this their rule for them, it was my rule for me. It worked for us, and strangely helped me intellectually rather quite a lot.


I have been working as a coder for almost 12 years now. We have a 3 month old baby.

Life changed a lot after the baby was born. I took time off for almost two months and now am getting into a rhythm where I can spend 7-8 hours in office everyday.

Coming to the original topic - the way I have solved skill up is by having a day job which helps me acquire skills that I want to acquire. I would never do a job where I am not learning what I want to learn. I have left multi million dollars in equity on table at jobs where I was not learning (LinkedIn, Dropbox). Moved to management roles and back to individual contributor a few times, as soon as I had acquired the skills I wanted to acquire.

Based on this strategy I have acquired following skills - Backend, Infrastructure, DevOps, Frontend web, Frontend iOS, Data mining research, Product, UX, BizDev, Sales. Current plan is Analytics and Machine learning.

Given that now I am able to do a full time day job - I am able to skill up as a part of it.


Make ability to learn on the job a high priority. Save your money and take time off.

I wrote about my experience taking time off for a 'learning sabbatical' here:

http://karlrosaen.com/learning-sabbatical/

and now have a job where I make quite a bit less than my last job but have a lot of freedom to learn on the job (e.g spend several hours a week working through material that will make me more valuable on the job, learning stuff I'm really excited about in the meantime).

I have a family, and can probably squeeze out maybe 3-4 hours a week tops outside of work / family stuff, and usually don't feel like it because it's important to have downtime. Having a way to learn during the day is great and I think a sustainable solution for family minded folks.


My daughter turned 10 momths recently. Last 10-11 months haven't been the same. Instead of reading/being on laptop whenever/wherever we (both of us work) want, now our schedules are more deliberate. My daughter is a good sleeper, she is usually in bed by 7pm, we eat dinner after that and get back to work+light TV watching from 7.30 to 11. Having a good schedule for her helped us a bunch for maintaining sanity. We started sleep training her very early.

7.30-11 is the time where I get most of my learning done - code reviews, feedback to design docs, reading articles on HN, watching lectures. Essentially what I'm saying is - if you can set and maintain a schedule for your child, it will help you find time for your self. Hope this helps.


Assuming you have sleep, I found it easier to learn theory and read things than code. Coding requires longer uninterrupted time, which was hard to get. Learning from articles not so much - you can do it on playground while they play, you can read paragraph or think about problem while you watch them at home. Writing text turned out to be similar - it is easily possible with interruptions.

I guess the trick is not to fall down into a trap of thinking that kids needs you super active all the time. They don't, they are fully competent to play without you, for short times at first only and they will break your focus every few minutes or so. Give them your attention, but simply dont give up on reading/writing/etc and you will find the balance.


Before I had kids, I considered myself to be a busy man. After my first kid was born, I realized how much spare time I actually had when I had no kids. After my second kid was born, I realized how much spare time I had with only 1 kid. After my third kid was born - you get the picture (we stopped at 3).

My point? your life is full of unbelievable pile of unimportant things (and by 'unimportant' I don't mean important in some objective, cosmic way, but important by the core values YOU have that can only present themselves when under pressure). Having kids (or, in a more general way, having much much less free time) will force you to become much better in separating the wheat from the chaff - which is a great thing.


My kids are 8 and 6, last thing I learnt was to knit some months ago. Last thing I coded in my spare time was a midi generator. I'm not a super human, need to sleep 7-8 hours, don't go to the gym and instead bike to work every other day and enjoy playing videogames.

It is difficult to find a balance as responsibilities don't scale linearly, combination of different situations are more complex than the sum of the parts. Just think about this: When you get out of the office, what do you have to do? I'm not referring to what you want to do but to the things that you are "forced" to do. Probably nothing or very little (gym, laundry, etc).

When you have a family, you have to consider lots of unknowns when returning home: problems, chores, play time, illness, vacations, homework, parties, injuries, different hobbies per family member, sibling rivalry, etc. You have to consider everyone in the family and all the combinations so, of course you have way less spare time to enjoy for yourself.

That being said, here are some ideas:

1) There are lots of things to learn other than what can be shared in your Github account graph. Having kids forces you to diversify and that is good.

2) Kids are a great opportunity to learn mentorship. They need to learn everything: how to talk, walk, ride a bicycle, eat, manage their time, etc. Learning how to distill your knowledge and propagate it is a really good skill for a programmer.

3) All the good programmers that keep up and share things: It is easy to see 20 great programmers sharing their projects in twitter and think that they a super-human, but remember that for some of them, that is their job and that it is easy to feel you don't do much when comparing yourself to a collective that is delivering every day something awesome.

4) There are things you never got to learn/do but with kids you can have the opportunity (or be forced :)) to. In my case: camping and surfing

The ultimate trick is to stay in a mental state that allows you to do those things, it is easy to sometimes feel overwhelmed with so many things going on that depend on you.


very good point on mental state !


Founder, big data startup 4 kids in 4.5 years Lots of patents and nerdy stuff.

I have no hobbies. I don't go to networking/startup events. I don't watch TV,Netflix, etc and I don't have cable. Rarely go on vacation, unless a family obligation to visit grandma.

Tactics: Office with 24/7 access outside house (worth the rent) Coffee shop open at 6 am/closes at 1 am with wi-fi.

Basically I work every morning at coffee shop before kids get up. Partner works late after kids go to bed at 8 pm. We work at the office lab every weekend, taking turns, with a sitter, or we just bring kids to office with coloring books, games etc.

Doing this you can work about 35 - 50 hours a week, but obviously it's not for everyone!


A lot of people have a stay-at-home partner who takes care of the kids. This makes a huge difference. My partner is currently studying at university, and whenever she has holidays, I can work a lot more.

But in general having kids takes a lot of time. So I can't do all the things that I used to do before. I go out a lot less, I watch barely any TV anymore, and I rarely code anymore at night (too tired most days), and I read fewer books.

However, I'm still productive. Little projects that I used work on for a few weekends take months now. I just spend a few hours here and there. But once the project is done, it's done, and it doesn't matter how long it took.


For me it's helped me _really_ come to terms with the KISS principle and avoiding needless stuff. Understanding the value of proven and stable technology, and convenient, flexible, yet fast workflows. Spending a bit of extra time to get things right from the beginning, and then settling.

The past me would have messed around playing with Linux distros trying to find what's most cool and best for me, totally wasting a lot of time in the process, perhaps kept building websites using more obnoxious workflows because I never saw a need to change.

Now I'm using a combo of gohugo and surge.sh to build my site, on Debian Stable Xfce. No distractions and stuff just works, man, with a minimum of fuss. Xfce on SSD is just laughably fast and slick. I think I audibly laughed. It's not just for low spec PC's! Anyway, then came the realization I could evolve my new site with these new tools to build a better face to the web for my career. I'm blogging in convenient, fast near-prose Markdown and I type one damn command to puzzle everything together and deploy. Now I realize these new insights will probably be good for me as a professional too, not just sparing time at home. It's not only at home time is considered valuable...

It's especially good to get this thinking into the "core" of yourself, you know. That it's automatically part of everything you do. It's honestly too late I've had that happen but kids probably helped.


Focus on tech. with long life-cycles (as in spend 80% of your learning time on it) and the rest to get familiar with the latest cool things. As an example in a world where most teams don't have a DBA being a go to Person for say Postgres is a valuable position to be in. The 20% time also needs to be strategically allocated spend it on something that is likely to have staying power. Also don't spend it all in one area as in learning React and Ember and Angular and Vue or spending it all learning all the KV stores.


You've got confirmation bias. The people you read about were likely all great coders/writers before having kids, and their livelihood now depends somewhat on those activities. For the vast majority of us, githubbing and blogging are enjoyable but not necessary activities. When we have kids, yes there's not so many green boxes. If you haven't written books already, now is probably not the time you're going to start. That's not to say there's no free time, just not as much.


Okay there were many comments here... I'm a dad of 5 and 7 year old girls. They're now old enough so I start teaching them to code, and then I plan to take it from there some day (learning together). Besides that, I always have an hour or two each day to do what I want, when they sleep. In the first year with each kid it's hard to find any time, which is fine, but then it just gets easier every year.

Another way for you to keep learning might be to found your own company - just be careful to focus and not to neglect your family. With my first company, I was lacking focus and put too much unnecessary work into the company, to the cost of my family. Also, my co-founders didn't have kids.

The second time I founded a company with another dad, who understands flexible schedules. We're now a few moms and dads in the team. Sometimes I would go home early, be with my daughters, and catch up with work later. I feel I'm a lot more focussed than before having kids, and I definitely get a lot more done, in less time! It doesn't even compare. I don't have a choice anyways. My learning mostly happens on the job. When we get a new project, we sometimes decide to try a new technology - if it seems to add a benefit or save us time in the long term.

Ah yeah and of course, communicating with your partner is key if you want to shave off some time here and there!


It's possible to skill up, I do it by using public transport for +-50min a day and asking everybody in the house to be quiet after 8PM and leave me alone, a few times per month.

Why only a few times per month ? Because most of the time my brain's too tired to function properly and it's wiser to empty it with netflix than getting pissed off on your family.

It's true that there aren't many green boxes on my github, but it's not my main income, it's on the side. I do it for fun !

Advice for anyone willing to skill up with kids : - discuss this with your SO. Your SO can understand this and accommodate some time for you. (Some time) - discuss this with your kids when they're old enough to understand. - work by small increment

You cover both extreme of the argument with "I argued many good programmers have family with kids and still manage to keep up. They brushed me off saying it's just not possible or they don't look after their kids.", .

Some are super humans and can do everything, some think that they must forget who they are because of their kids and put their lives in PAUSE for 20yrs. ALL the others try to balance their life.

You don't stop training because you have kids, you don't stop watching movies because you have kids, you don't stop going out because you have kids. They become an important part of your life, just a part, not your whole life.


Father of a nine months old. I do as much task at work and try learning up at work. When I come home, I try to spend as much time as I can with my boy. Even though I want to go open up my machine, whether it's for work or for blog posts, his cute smile hooks me in. My wife and I love to spend time with the baby. We appreciate how hard it must have been to our parents to raise us, and since they made it, we believe we can too. So cheers to all the parents and the babies and the diapers.


I should caveat that I'm not a professional developer (I code things occasionally during the day for work, but my job isn't to make things with code). It's something that I enjoy learning & making small projects with, but for the most part, it's a thing I mostly/only do outside of work/during personal time.

I usually work on things after my son goes to bed and spend anywhere between 2-4 hours depending on the day. My wife takes him to a class on Saturday mornings and is gone for about 2 hours so I use that time. My work ethic definitely ebbs and flows, and I definitely wish I could do more, but I also have a rule for myself to not have a laptop out when he's awake/home.

My son was born 9 weeks early and had to spend a fair amount of time in the hospital after he was born. During the time my son was in the hospital, I took on a freelance project that required a fair amount of front end work and frankly I was in over my head. After the first week of this project, my son came home and I was trying to juggle a newborn, a full time job and a pretty significant freelance project that I wasn't totally qualified to do. I got fired from my freelance project after about two months when it became clear that I didn't have the time or skills to do the job. Looking back, I have no idea how I did it.


It is gratifying to see so many developers have kids and achieve amazing things simultaneously.

I put myself through grad school in economics (5 years), learned C/Fortran/Python, learned data science, all with two young kids. Ungodly hours and sleep deprivation were the norm for months at a time. Prioritization of that precious little free time became so important. Milestones, project plans, etc. Recreation consisted of kite flying after exams for the semester were complete, and the student-apartment barbecues on Sundays.

How do I keep learning? I keep Netflix off as much as possible, code on projects (sexy or not) instead of firing up steam, and focus on good enough instead of perfection. In other words, tradeoffs.

Do I have everything down? No, I have a list of things to learn or understand better as long as my arm. But I'm working towards it, and my kids (now tweeners with a toddler brother) work with me occasionally too. Just last week we worked together on an invention convention with me as a SME. I learned about circuitry, my kids built an awesome LED light/clock/bookmark. One wants to be a video game designer when they grow up, one wants to be a musician and deejay like Tiesto, and I'm tickled that I get to share the things I learn with them.

Tech and coding really are and can be a family affair. It's not only a good source of income, but for kids the idea that they can fundamentally change the world, push boundaries and improve life for people builds on their already optimistic imaginations and, frankly, is really cool to see.


I have a very pregnant wife and 3 year old son.

Once you have children, your time management skills go through the roof. I should start off saying that I always put family time first and my hobbies second. The key is to have a solid routine that you follow. We try to get my son into bed by 8ish. I then will watch TV with the wife until around 9. From 9-midnight is my free time. Sometimes I watch another show with the wife, sometimes I am tired and go to sleep, but most of the time I am on the computer. I also have time during his nap on Saturday and Sunday. I will probably lose these 4 hours once my daughter is born.

I used to excessively play video games during this time before my son was born. Now I have been working on my roommate matching website https://www.roommatefilter.com . My priorities changed once my wife became pregnant. I wanted the best life possible for them and started getting productive with my time.

You quickly find out what's most important to you once you only have a few hours of free time a night. Most people have at least an hour a day to better themselves, but choose to engage in more enjoyable activities.

I tell people that don't have kids, having children will be both the most rewarding and hardest thing you will do.


Just my case: 3 kids (7, 4, 1.5), I have all the time I want for my hobbies (mostly in music, prgoramming and gardening) and I get beers and loud music with friends every other Friday. I also have plenty of time with my kids, do a lot a different with them, often going to countryside together, going to buy second hand things, etc.

The recipe?

- A good stable programming job with zero travels and few overtime.

- A wife that understand that going to bars with friends is necessary for personal balance. She does the same.

- Zero "kid week-end activities", week-end is not filled with car trips to the piano or aikido lesson, it is filled with random activities with kids like gardening, fixing the house, lego, cartoons (only Miyazaki), books.

- We live in China so we have plenty of help, someone drives the kids to school, someone else cooks and take care of the youngest, yet another person do the house cleaning.

- I never forced myself into some activities I did not enjoy with my kids. I try and find cartoons and books that them and I can enjoy (thus the Miyazaki restiction). You do not owe anything to your kids. Having a good life balance, therefore being a happy parent, is the best gift you can give them.

Obviously this works well for me because I like kids in the beginning, I'm naturally attracted. Some could have to force themselves a bit more, but nobody should ever self-sacrifice to their kids: this is a poisoned gift to them, they will know, and have this terrible burden to carry thorugh their life, and might not pardon you.


There is no one answer here as every family structure is different. Like most other comments here, my 2 (5yo, 22months) children have first dibs on my time while I am not on the clock or am not dealing with a production issue off hours. Once they go to bed (sometime between 7:30-8:30pm), I determine if I have enough in the tank for either: 1) Learning 2) Spending time with my wife (second dibs on my time).

In order to "stay relevant", I have found this to work for me: 1) During my passive commutes (every morning and afternoon), I have a solid 30 minutes of either listening to a podcast if I don't get a seat or toying around with new languages/frameworks otherwise. 2) Convince your current company that it is in their best interest to bake learning into your current job.

Obviously (2) can be quite difficult, but it starts a conversation you want to have anyway about making sure the entire team stays relevant and fresh. Most people always point to Google's innovation time as a good measure of how this should be done.

Having children has absolutely changed my priorities around and put an increasing value on my time. For me, I would much rather forgo learning the new JS flavor of the week in favor of spending as much time as possible with my growing children.


One insight I had with kids is that, assuming you have a willing partner, you can free up evening time for yourself by doing "nights off.". I hugely believe that kids and parents benefit from quality time together. However, it feels that it is not always necessary for both parents to be involved. My wife and I switch up at least once a week where one has the whole evening off. Often, it's more than once a week. The free parent can go and meet up with friends for supper, go to a meetup, or work on a side project.

I learn at work. Not always, but a little bit every day. It is rarely a new library or language. Often, it's a little insight into how to name functions better, or a subtle shift in my philosophy of how code should be organized. It compounds heavily over time, and makes me the experienced developer I am today.

To answer your question, some people are superhuman. Some are just better at marketing and aggrandizing their ability to split time. Some have kids but don't spend time with them.

Try to find a good balance that satisfies you. Be cognizant of your time management, energy levels, and expectations. Consider how your diet, exercise, and sleep affect your day. If you have resources, consider outsourcing some work like house chores, laundry, shopping, and cooking to free up some time. Most importantly, make sure you realize that it's OK not to be like everyone else.

As a side note, my public GitHub account graph is a bad way to judge my professional activity. I push code multiple times a day to GitHub repos, but only have 7 public contributions in the last year. A huge majority of my work is in private repos.


Down here in the ignored bottom of the comments, all I can really say when it comes to juggling family and any other activity (job, interest, hobby...) you either do it or you do not. All I can tell you is the how of what I do.

I set a goal and found time. I found 30 minutes every morning. I make it a point to have slack time (hence, answering this post and reading Hacker News...), but I target about 90 minutes a week on whatever single project I choose for the week.


I'm 37, I have two sons, 7 and 5yo. Me and my wife both work full-time, with ca. 1.5h commute time every day.

I still do a lot of open-source and side projects. These are my green boxes:

http://imgur.com/WTgz9TE

I don't stay late in the office, we're home around 6pm. We have an au-pair girl who helps with children (takes them to school/kindergarten and picks them up). I mostly do 1-2 hours after 9pm (after I bring children to bed) a couple of times a week and maybe a few of hours on the weekend. I guess that'd amount to around 6-10 hours a week altogether. I don't always get enough sleep. Sometimes when working on something very exciting I stay till very late (like 2am) and regret it the next day. I go to 3-4 hackathons a year, something I arrange with my wife well ahead of time. She knows it's important for me and is very supportive.

But to be honest I don't I do my OS or side projects for "skilling up", I do them as a hobby, because I like it. "Skilling up" happens primarily at work - my employer invests around 10% of the worktime in "skilling up", I have around 15-20 days of courses/workshops a year.


Yep, your friends are pretty much completely right. After you have kids, particularity when they're going, you'll lack the time and energy so skill up at anything. It's a challenging, frustrating, rewarding, and super meaningful. That said, you'll have a couple hours a day of "free time," but you may find it difficult to be productive in that time when you're exhausted. Good luck! It's a hell of a ride!


the advantage of having young kids is generally they sleep very early which means you can have the early evenings to yourself (assuming they stay asleep).

they also take lots of naps in the afternoon which equals down time for you.

so as a rule, when they sleep you have some free time.


True to a point, but I almost sacrificed my mental health, and I did sacrifice my marriage by not sleeping when the kids are sleeping.

As a single parent, now, I have to go to bed right after the kids do. The unexpected benefit is that I'm much healthier and happier. Also I have several full evenings a week with no kids to use for e.g. learning.


how did it sacrifice your marriage?


I would stay up very late after the kids were in bed, because I was unwilling to give up on the day. This meant I was never around to help in the mornings, and would routinely sleep in 'till 11 or so on weekends, while my ex-wife got up with the kids at 6 am.

This, coupled with reduced income due to bootstrapping a business created too much relationship damage to recover from.


My kids are 9 and 10.

About 5 years ago I read 'Getting Things Done' and (despite my misgivings) it literally changed my life.

Since then I've:

- set up a JIRA to track ALL the things I work on

- written a book https://www.amazon.com/Docker-Practice-Ian-Miell/dp/16172927... (and am currently writing a second edition)

- started a blog https://zwischenzugs.wordpress.com/

- changed jobs

- become a speaker https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=ian+miell

- started an open source project that helps me automation my spare time tech work: http://ianmiell.github.io/shutit/

And now I feel I've got MORE time than I had before I read it, and better time with kids etc..

The takeaway from this is that if you get serious about managing your time the benefits can be awesome.

Although when your kids are very young (we had two demanding ones under 2) don't be too hard on yourself - it's really hard!


I didn't read GTD, but I liked the philosophy when it became popular.

Just came here to say that time management is key. When we had our first child, I learned this sink-or-swim style and it made me a much better human being because of it.


Having a kid kicked my ass in high gear as far as learning and monetizing that learning. I've been fortunate enough to have good jobs and arguable didn't "need" to do more but when I found out we were going to have a child every part of my body shifted into provider overdrive.

I started consulting, hustling, and expanding my knowledge and skillset as rapidly as I could. I started a consultancy on the side and nearly doubled my income over the course of a few months. Between that and my boy not being a very good sleeper I probably ran on an average of 4.5 hours rest a night for between 3-4 years (with once a week crashes of a long night of sleep on Fridays and Saturday afternoon nap).

It was tough, damn tough, but I made sure to spend quality time with him every night and most mornings, gave him nearly every bath during the first 2 years of his life, and got up with him every time he needed me in the night from midnight to 7am as that was my shift so the wife could sleep. During the same time I achieved an extremely high proficiency with ruby and later rails, learned to sell myself, came on as first engineer at a startup and dug deep into Elixir right around the time it hit 1.0, eventually launching a product written in it and learning a ridiculous amount about the BEAM in the process.

Theres less time to fart around with video games, and I don't have much in the way of hobbies, but little fulfillment was going to come from those areas anyway.

Its doable, and I'm alive and sane on the other side with a load of accomplishments to point to, a great relationship with my wife/son and reasonable assurance that my child(ren) will have everything they need to be successful.


I don't know how they do it unless their partner is doing all of the parenting. I used to work crazy hours until our kid arrived. Now, I work 10 hours or less per day. My kid doesn't sleep, so this compounds the problem. He never goes to sleep until 10:30 pm, and always wakes up before the rest of us. He is young, though, and every year gets a little easier. I'm more productive this year than I was last year.


Planning tasks works for me. For example - I maintain different list of cards in private TODOS boards. I add the item as soon as it comes to my mind. I don't place a deadline - but I may reprioritize items every week. So, if I have 3 hours to work on something - I know exactly which priority I could work on. I also have a lot of other automated reminders - to an extent that sometimes the list automatically drives me into finishing a lot of tasks. The other part is a Completed list where I move cards as they are finished - gives me a very good feedback when I archive cards every weekend. Apart from this, I also use a time-tracker (for personal use) - It helps me look whether I was wasting too much time.

Once you have a kid - time shrinks. If you thought 24 hours a day was less before having a kid - just imagine. However you also start focusing on being efficient with your time. At least that's what happened to me. You can't work 100 hours a week consistently after a certain age (usually after 30). I don't thrive to work 100+ hours a week, but I am very careful at where/how I spend my 50+ hours a week.


Many interesting answers in this thread. But to get to your question: How do you skill up? My answer would be: As best you can, all the time. Find pockets of time and learning tasks that fit within them. Explore opportunities: Moocs, toy projects, more serious projects, read books, listen to podcasts during your commute, when you work out (which you should even though you don't have time for it), switch jobs from time to time, talk to people. Just never stop. One thing you should do however, from time to time, is to give up: It's not as if every learning task is feasible. Kids/work/family do put sometime severe constraints on what you can do. Some things just don't work out, and you won't necessarily know what they are before trying. So try lots of things, but give up from time to time when you have to. Learn about what your constraints are, and design next your attempt to fit them better, but don't stop. (.... but every now and then, you just have to find/steal/cheat to get some time to just hack, there is no substitute :-) )


You will have less time and have to prioritize. I look back and wonder what I did with all that extra time before children. Turns out not much.

Thankfully babies need a lot of sleep and after six months their stomachs get bigger and they start eating a bit of solid food and will sleep through the night if you are lucky.

Night owls can still have 9-midnight to yourself if you want... I did this for two years with my first child while trying to get a start-up going and still use that time once in a while now.

But there is a better way. Look at your employer or company culture. It turns out the standard hero culture in tech of long hours on your own is not a very effective use of anyone's time. Look for a culture that values learning, collaboration and teaching. If you actually work 8 effective hours a day maintaining a sustainable pace you can get amazing things accomplished.

Techniques like pair programming, BDD, trunk based development with less or no time wasting code reviews can help you transfer knowledge, let teams move faster with higher quality while maintaining a good pace. Try those things instead of sleeping less.


Children under age 1 are easy. From ~1 to ~4, they consume A LOT of your free time. For me, that was the hardest period to find time to continue to learn and to work on personal projects. From a mental health standpoint, it helped me to "give in" to being a parent and "let go" of the notion that I could live the same life as before. I put those in quotes because they are silly concepts. Embracing being a parent and the joys of interacting with your kids is a lovely replacement for spending time alone with a computer.

Eventually, I combined the two and ended up creating several apps for my kids. One was an OS X app that allowed them to bang on the keyboard without damaging my files, etc. Each letter corresponded with an animal. A full screen pic of the animal would appear and the sound would play. It was called Toddler Typer. While it's no longer on the App Store, my kids, now 6 and 4, both still like to play with it. The second was an iPad app called Toddler Taxonomist (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/toddler-taxonomist/id6423870...) that is still available for free (though I need to rewrite it in Swift or something). My older daughter sat on my lap and helped me make it.

Now, I have a full time job, hold a position as a Fellow, work on personal projects when I have time, and spend good time with my kids, when I can. The best advice I have for you is to try to avoid getting frustrated during those first few years and to pivot to parenthood as a learning process. Combine interests where you can, and don't lose sight of the fact that your kids will be intensely interested in the activities you do on the computer. When they're old enough, show/teach them what you're doing!


You can have: 1. your partner not working and taking care of kids 2. a nanny hired for after office hours 3. parents helping (realistically short term only of course)

Can't think of other options. Just one kid can easily fill up 24h of a day without a problem, as a bonus leaving you with 45 minutes of sleep only - and the kid will be just fine, i.e. with enough energy to do it to you again, no problem.


I teach it to my kids. The lesson is that I find out that I didn't know it half as well as I thought I did once I try to explain it to them.


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