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Ask HN: Developers with kids, how do you skill up?
589 points by fatherofone on Mar 8, 2017 | hide | past | web | 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.



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


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.

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.

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....

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!


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:


released open source frameworks:



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



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.


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.

One of the many great things about children, if you're not a total heartless bastard of course, is that having them really sharpens your mind as to what's important and what's not.

Most of these things the HN crowd obsesses over are shit, and the things that replace those things will also be shit, and the thing you make with those things--even if it makes you fabulously wealthy--will also be shit, and if you don't believe me, take Ryan Dahl's word for it: https://gist.github.com/cookrn/4015437

So rather than worry about sliding further away from the apex of our shit pyramid, ease up and enjoy the ride. You may even come up with something of actual value to society along the way.

Best reply as I am concerned.

I have a "ToLearn" list that keeps getting longer and longer as I struggle to have some quality time where I can learn and really comprehend stuff AFTER putting my 4 year old daughter to sleep- i too have to stay with her till she is asleep- often with me also going to nap...

When I am getting stressed and mad about all those constraints I picture the sweet moments with the knowledge, that there are just a few years left where my daughter and son are small enought to want to play with me ;)

I have both this "to learn" list and an ever expanding bookshelf (which grows faster than I can read the damn things, mostly thanks to recommendations in HN comments).

Being 5 months into the parenting adventure, I seem to get a few hours a month on each side project at the moment! It really does make you prioritise. (And work harder on things I can do on my rail commute than other tasks).

I haven't got to the "wants to play with me" part yet, just the "oh man, I just spend half an hour staring at the baby being cute" stage. :)

My daughter just turned five months.

Her favorite game at the moment is to press all the buttons on my keyboard. Whether or not a computer is remotely nearby.

I might not have much time to bang away on code, but seeing her proud of grabbing and biting a book, is much more exciting.

Yeah, I did that, and then some of the buttons stopped working on the keyboard from too much smashing from the children. In the end, I removed the cable from the keyboard and it became a toy. I never let the kids play with the replacement one, but they do love having their own real keyboard.

Hmm, thank you for the warning. Was it a mechanical one? I fear for my WASD! I have plenty of spare plastic dome keyboards in a box. Now I have a real excuse not to throw them out!

> but seeing her proud of grabbing and biting a book, is much more exciting.

this is exactly the sort of common statement from parents that is completely impenetrably unfathomable by non-parents and may even frighten the latter a bit as to how something so superficially insipid can attain a compelling and inexplicable level of fascination

Of course, you could say similar things about non-parents playing games for hours and hours which essentially consist of bumping numbers up to higher values in mutable RAM and considering it a "good waste of time"

The thing is, you've just spent a month watching this pair of eyes follow you around the room, and this face very slowly get the hang of smiling (initially it is only when they are defecating).

When they get to the stage of being able to hold objects, this is a major event. When they get the hang of putting stuff in their own mouths during teething, rather than screaming until you let them bite your finger, is another, similar world-changing event.

This was a mystery to me too, before. Now I understand, and am even mildly interested in other peoples' babies (since I have one to compare them with.)

Parenting also has another similarity with D&D: your adversary is surprisingly intelligent. (when they're grouchy, they'll see through your hacks very quickly and scream until you do it properly, however tired you are. A "hack" in this instance might be giving them the same toy to chew again, rather than a new one from the mat.)

Oh, I wasn't knocking it! I'm sure that (possibly soon?), whenever I get around to making life, I'll be quite fascinated by it (I seem to find fascination often! There's a lot of complexity out there!)

Watching a brand new human go from a useless blob to a walking, biting, hand-waving mini-human is pretty fascinating stuff, especially if said tiny human belongs to you.

hehe yes I still remember beeing a first-time-dad :D

But it keeps getting even better- at about 18 months they become "real" persons! I mean they learn to communicate and suddently want things (in the meaning want to do or have).

It's always awesome when my little son takes my hand after dinner and mumbles "build" so I play some duplo with him.

I've come to terms with the fact that my ever expanding bookshelf (and steam library) are now my kid's (eventually)

Some of my fondest memories are stealing the books from my mom's library.

She didn't mind one bit, and there was always someone to discuss the book when I was done!


PG wrote a post a while back about how kids really only have the magic of Christmas a handful of times (ages 3-11?) and then it's gone.

When you're making choices, realize there will always be another framework, another conference, another chance to try out that new tool but your kid is constantly changing, learning, and is fundamentally different today, tomorrow, and a week from now, especially when they're young. I have a 2yo and a 5mo and they get first dibs on my time. After they go to bed, I work until whatever time.. but they're back up by 8am so I take it easy.

Btw, it's fun opening a conference call with "Just so you know, my son is joining us for this call. He's not NDA'd but he's 2 years old, doesn't write yet and has a very limited vocabulary. Are you okay with that?"

And then if it's internal-only, I turn on video for a minute so he can wave at everyone. ;)

OK, I'm completely baffled by this. Am I the only one who thinks taking your young children on a conference call is somewhere between totally unprofessional and, well, very annoying? I get that your children are your priority - but surely they shouldn't be the priority of everyone else on that call? Is the work at hand not the priority?

My 3 year old makes a lot of noise and is quite prone to tantrums. Some of my clients are also quite prone to tantrums. Combining the two seems like a recipe for disaster!

On my "geographically spread" team, I have no issue with a team memeber having their kid in their lap while discussing the intricacies of postgres. Perhaps, part of this empathy is driven by having a 3 year old myself. I can totally imagine myself in the same situation if I had to join a meeting before daycare opens (or if I want to drop off my kid a little later, for whatever reason).

Compared to my kid, all else is secondary. I realize that I may not always have the freedom to work with a kid-friendly employer, but it will be an overriding criteria in terms of my workplace/career choices. I'll happily negotiate on other terms, but my time and priority for my kid. And if an employer does not agree, it's their loss, not mine.

My two year old is super chill and rarely makes a sound. If he does, I give him a clicky pen and he's set for another 5-10 minutes. If I open a cartoon on Youtube (muted), it buys me another 5-10 minutes.

I get your concern but it's a non-issue here.

Edit: Thinking more about this.. If my team was deeply offended by this, I don't want to work there. My boys are important to me and if they're not willing to accept that, I'd rather find a new job than raise f-d up boys that don't feel loved.

Just FYI, you might have coworkers that aren't all that interested in conversing with your children during conference calls. I know it makes me uncomfortable to have a forced interaction with a coworkers child. I doubt anyone would be deeply offended by it, but do keep in mind that not everyone is as comfortable with your kid as you are. If you have a team that embraces it, that's great - just don't assume everyone always is.

There's a big difference between waving at a coworker's kid for a second during a video conference (why would this make you uncomfortable?) and someone actually bringing a child to the workplace (which OP didn't do, and would actually be disruptive).

Yep, if it just stays at that it's fine. I find with the types that are likely to turn on their webcam for their kid, there's often more that follows as interested colleagues egg on conversation. That's fine, it doesn't bother me until there's an expectation that I participate in this conversation, which unfortunately doesn't seem to be as controllable (kid sees me on video or my screenshare or whatever and starts asking questions).

No, it's not that big of a deal, it's just something I'm not interested in interacting with, and if you're the guy who always has to introduce his kids at the beginning of conference calls, I'm probably going to generally avoid you unless I absolutely need you for something.

I'm sure if I had a kid I'd feel entirely different, but I don't. I also try not to involve my lifestyle choices on conference calls, so I really feel this doesn't go both ways.

Your boys will feel fucked up and unloved because you don't invite them on to your teleconferences?

No, it's because suddenly their parent is ignoring them for no reason they can understand.

Umm, I guess you have never given this thought in the first person, i.e. placing yourself in the shoes of the parent or the child?

You are distracted every five to ten minutes. If everyone on your team did this, nothing would get done. You are being extremely selfish and very inconsiderate of other people's time.

Please tell me you do not have kids.

I have 4.

You would be annoyed if you had to answer an email or phone call when you were trying to hang out with your kids. The rest of us are annoyed with the constant interruptions.

It is extremely selfish and others are too polite to tell you to knock it off. If everyone acted like OP, nothing would get done because there would always be a kid, cat, dog, whatever stealing focus. I need to get my work done so I can go home.

"If I disagree with this one thing which wasn't apparent from any glassdoor review, recruiter, interview, unique set of benefits and perks, or compensation package, then I don't want to work there"

- Says person with desirable skills in a hot job market who never changed jobs since graduating college

Oh you. Let mom or dad back on the computer and go finish your nap. You'll feel less crabby after.

The reality of many people who work from home is that this is the case anyway - the children are around and make some noise, because they live. Making this transparent and show who the kid is I think makes it actually easier for the other people in the call to feel empathy.

If that is unprofessional, then so is working from home, I guess.

I agree they make some noise, but having them in your lap during a conference call is over the line imo. If you have kids in the house then you need an office with a door. I've worked from home for 3 years now with 2 kids aged 0-5 and they understand that when the door is closed, Dad is at work and they don't come in.

In my experience, no, kids that young do not understand that. Furthermore, if you have the door closed for the length of a conference call with a child that young, I'd expect there to be another adult (or responsible elder sibling) there in the first place, such that the burden of not bothering you was never on the child.

If that can't be arranged, you reschedule the call.

If you have 2 children 0-5 with you all day, and no other responsible adult around, you are not working from home. You are getting some work done while you watch your kids.

Sorry, I thought it would be obvious that there was another adult looking after the kids. It's not really possible to work from home and look after kids at the same time obviously. I guess we'll have to agree to disagree on whether they understand/can follow simple instructions. It's never been a problem with my kids.

That is reassuring then. Not convinced their ability to follow simple instructions should even be a factor, though. Kids at that age lack the judgement to know when some rules should be broken.

I guess after today I should amend my original comment to specify that the door must have a lock too: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c5A1wg5FA-g

Haha just was going to post this in addition :D

> having them in your lap during a conference call is over the line imo.

You do understand that sometimes the alternative to the kid sitting quietly in their parent's lap is the kid screaming their head off on the other side of the home office door, right?

Personally, I'll take the kid sitting in the parent's lap as being the lesser by far of two annoyances, thanks.

"screaming their head off on the other side of the home office door"

Whoever is looking after the child should not be allowing them to sit outside the office door and scream! If you're home alone with a kid, you shouldn't be taking conference calls (except under emergency situations e.g. sick kid + critical call).

> If you're home alone with a kid, you shouldn't be taking conference calls

Right, so only people in two-caregiver households get to work from home. Got it.

Everybody up and down this thread who is assuming that there even is another caregiver needs to check their privilege.

I am not a parent myself, but I have been on conference calls where a colleague tried to keep a child out of their home office for a few minutes (like, for the part of the call when it was their turn to give an update) and it blew up in their face. Just let the kid sit in your lap already, it's fine.

Sorry but I don't believe you can look after your kid all day and work from home at the same time. It's not a matter of privilege, it's a matter of practicality. If you have a full time job, you need childcare whether you work in your home or out of it. I don't think that's particularly controversial.

edit: If it lends any weight to my opinion, I guess I could also point out I work from home and that that despite your assumption I've been the only parent for two children <= 5 years old for the last 9 weeks.

> If you have a full time job, you need childcare whether you work in your home or out of it. I don't think that's particularly controversial.

The need isn't particularly controversial, the availability and affordability is.

I guess I'm not sure what your argument is then. Yes childcare can be tough to find and it can be very expensive depending on where you live, but if you're saying its okay to hold a full time remote job and care for your child at the same time, I guess we will have to agree to disagree. I dont' think that would be fair to your child or your employer.

I am not saying it is "okay", I am saying that sometimes there is no other option. Life happens, people cope the best they can, and sometime the reasonable compromise is going to be to let the kid sit on their parent's lap for the duration of a conference call.


Wait, so what happens to the kids, or what are they doing, while your door is closed (and for how long)?

Whatever happens, the message is that it's not as important as what happens on the conference call.

I think you misunderstand. There is obviously another caregiver looking after them. I can't have a 24 hour open door policy with my kids while I'm working from home, just the same as anyone who works in an office.

Then it is perfectly reasonable to have a closed door for calls. However, even in that case, I would not mind an interruption or two during the call. Any more though, I'd start questioning the role of the caregiver.

I completely understand. Still, we outsource our kids care to be able to care about a conf call.

I'm not saying is the right or wrong thing to do, I'm just saying the message is clear.

They're with their caregiver. If you're looking after kids yourself you're not working from home.

I work from home with a great team. I had my son jump into two calls. Both times he was completely naked and had just ran away from his mother after a bath. Both times I was greeted with fun and interaction from the team. When I apologised after about the interruption, I got a private message from the CEO to never even think about it. They are happy he was on the call for a few minutes and everyone interacted with him.

I guess it depends on the team/clients, but my kid comes first, 110% of the times. I don't care. I do good work, if a 5-10 minute interruption on a call because my kid wanted to say 'hi' to the people in the computer is enough to piss people off, I won't work with them.

>>Am I the only one who thinks taking your young children on a conference call is somewhere between totally unprofessional and, well, very annoying?

The fact some people think like that is what dismays me with the corporate world, I'm glad I got out and I'm never going back. Thanks for reminding me.

It doesn't seem that uncommon for companies to recognize the importance of families, although perhaps it's more common in those with more older employees.

It depends on the kid. And the call I guess.

I've had my infant on video calls and he mostly wanted to see all the people. And I've had to turn off my camera to change diapers before. But everyone's been cool with it. Clients seem to like seeing him.

On the flip side, I've been on calls with people whose toddlers were running around their home office screaming, and that's not cool.

I agree it might be unprofessional but I would totally love to work with a team that doesn't find this annoying.

I work in a professional team, and one of the things that makes us even more professional is when we all get our kids together for a gathering, and let our kids inter-mingle. It has helped us become less of a group of cold-hearted single-minded professionals and more of a coherent, self-interested group with aligned survival potential.

Having kids sometimes come over while we work is pretty cool. They ask questions about what we're doing at times and we have to ELI5, it's great practice.

My desk has a number of puzzles and they have a ton of fun playing with it. Sometimes they draw on the whiteboard or write a quote.

A++, would definitely recommend bringing kids a couple of times a year.

I've found it really breaks the ice between colleagues .. especially when our kids make friends/make drama independently from the office politics - it somehow unites us. :)

Of course it helps to work in a company producing things that might be actually interesting to kids in the first place. If all you're doing web-blah, ymmv..

The ultimate form of Rubber Duck debugging is trying to explain what you're doing to a 5 year old in real life.

The ultimate reward for good parenting... the kid solves your problem in a way you never even thought about.

On the flip side I totally love working in a team that does find this annoying.

Hah, my first LOL this week. Good for you!

Bonus points if you ever leave the webcam on while changing a diaper or breast feeding. :-D

I had a video call interview recently and my interviewer was being attacked by his new puppy during the call. Although distracting it made me want to work there.

The comparison between kids & pets is amusing. So many workplaces are pet-friendly (despite people having allergies or phobias) but try bringing your toddler to the office.

Oh, there is no freaking comparison. Pets won't swipe stuff off your desk, practice their infinite regression of "why" on you, yank your pony tail, hand you stuff they swiped from another desk, knock over your empty-soda-can pyramid, try to eat a nerf dart, or demand your attention so they can explain to you how they are super-special and going to heaven because Jesus loves them.

No, I am not kidding or making up any of the above, though it wasn't all the same kid, nor all the same day (or even the same workplace), and admittedly I have no phobias or allergies.

Ok... there's a pretty huge difference between a puppy and a toddler. A toddler is a lot smarter, and a LOT more disruptive than any puppy (not to say puppies aren't, but they don't have two hands either).

One of my colleagues has a large dog who is often asleep, snoring, during conference calls :-)

Yeah -- I blame it on the dog too.

Depends on the kid. I could easily have mine on at 3 as long as I put something out to entertain him. You wouldn't know that he's there.

What it comes down to is a trade-off. If you want me working on the off hours and working 50+ hours a week, or working on days I'd otherwise take as a sick day, I get to bring my kids to calls.

I even took my older son, 4 years old, to a two hour meeting because my baby sitter called in sick. I just packed toys for him and told him that I needed to work and he accepted that. It worked out fine for one hour and 45 minutes.

I note and completely understand the 15 minute difference.

Unless your company is directly contributing to clinical immortality, children are always a priority for long-term development. That's where all the future owners, managers, employees, and customers come from.

Once a kid knows how to behave appropriately in public, any exposure to their parents' jobs also teaches them how to behave appropriately at the workplace, and what to expect after leaving school. If you don't accept this at your own workplace, you are pushing that burden onto someone else's workplace, or accepting by default any cultural shift that may occur in future workplaces.

As I would not expose my own kids to a workplace environment that I did not find to be minimally acceptable, seeing kids around is to me a sign of a healthy work environment. Not seeing them is a red flag, but it could just be because your workplace does not allow visitors.

This is the same principle that causes me to lower my opinion of employers that do not hire people with zero experience. You are simultaneously pushing the burden of assimilation and training onto other people, stunting the development of the people you do hire--as they are denied mentorship and leadership opportunities--and passively accepting that you have a much reduced role in shaping the future of the industry.

You are not alone. I find this disrespectful and very irritating. Probably depends on the tempo of your workplace. I am dodging meetings all day long, and when I join one I expect everyone to be prepared and fully focused

I find this disrespectful and very irritating.

I am dodging meetings all day long...


Yes, the way I wrote that made it look bad. But I get 5 invitations per work day on average. In Outlook I have the option to Accept, Decline or set as Tentative. If I click Accept on 5 meeting invitations in a work day I will not be able to write a single line of code. So 3 out of 5 meetings I Decline with a message describing why. And yes, my organisation is obsessed with meetings, we are working on that

It might be unprofessional, but I'd laugh and roll with it even as someone without kids. Especially for internal calls within your team, probably not a bad thing to do - you want to have a fairly relaxed relationship with them generally, so this kind of stuff is expected and perfectly fine as long as it doesn't get in the way of work too much.

With clients, I can definitely see it being a bigger problem.

Maybe this is just evidence that a lot of people I work with just aren't developers because they love development that much - they like it enough and it pays enough to get the things they want in the rest of their time and there's nothing wrong with that.

> OK, I'm completely baffled by this. Am I the only one who thinks taking your young children on a conference call is somewhere between totally unprofessional and, well, very annoying?

Probably not, but I usually don't mind. For that matter, the gloss of "professionalism" is highly overrated (I'll take empathy plus moral, ethical, and responsible conduct over "it's just business" type "professionalism" any day of the week).

Of course, it does depend on the behavior of the kid in question. I would expect a parent whose kid is disrupting the meeting to excuse themselves, or at least mute the mike on their end. That goes double for pets.

I occasionally have my 1 year old with me on calls. Besides the occasional burbling, the only issue is that she occasionally farts or burps and then cackles loudly to herself. I wouldn't have her with me on large calls, generally only on 1-on-1 calls.

I still laugh at my farts and burps.


Hahaha, occasionally I do too. It's amusing how much entertainment she seems to get out of it though.

I've seen much bigger disasters during conference calls than someone having a kid with them. Usually from people paid a good deal of money.

I think this really depends on the context. Some teams may find it unprofessional, but others don't. Someone on my team has a baby and we all enjoy seeing her in meetings. It's not a constant thing so it doesn't get annoying. It's just nice and if anything, brings the team closer together.

I work at a consulting firm. On internal calls, it's usually totally fine generally speaking, but perhaps a different matter if it is a client call.

Frankly given the hours people work, I respect that they're taking time to be with their kids and trying to find some balance in between the insane hours we work.

I've worked on distributed teams where kids pop into conference calls to say hi. It actually does some good when everyone is getting pissed about some shitstorm or another. If a kid (or kitten) pops on the screen, everyone calms down and the shitstorm magically evaporates.

"Professional" is subjective depending on your workplace. Jeans and a t-shirt is "unprofessional" if your profession is banking. Fortunately, developers these days have the luxury of choosing a workplace where the standards of professionalism suit them.


Concerning the Christmas thing: for me my children brought back the magic of Christmas for me too! When it was a super stressful time the years before, but now I can enjoy it again thanks to their enthusiasm and spirit.

I wouldn't do that. I do know that i personaly don't like that and therefore i wouldn't do that to others.

There are two types of people: Who like kids and think it is cute and the other half.

And the other half who don't think kids are quite, but don't mind some small talk. Wether it's kids, morning run or yesterday's party.

Personally I'd hate rush calls that are business only and straight to the point. Virtually all my calls include some offtopic. And that's fine, we're humans, not robots.

I have two kids, and I love the time I spend with them. My life's goal at the moment is "Have a good time with my kids and teach them the good stuff". There is this song "Cat's in the Cradle" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cat's_in_the_Cradle which I really love. It shows the pitfalls of living a fast life.

Pasting the lyrics here (http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/harrychapin/catsinthecradle.h...) :

    "Cat's In The Cradle"

    My child arrived just the other day
    He came to the world in the usual way
    But there were planes to catch and bills to pay
    He learned to walk while I was away
    And he was talkin' 'fore I knew it, and as he grew
    He'd say "I'm gonna be like you, Dad
    You know I'm gonna be like you"

    And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon
    Little boy blue and the man on the moon
    When you comin' home, Dad
    I don't know when, but we'll get together then
    You know we'll have a good time then

    My son turned ten just the other day
    He said, "Thanks for the ball, Dad, come on let's play
    Can you teach me to throw", I said "Not today
    I got a lot to do", he said, "That's ok"
    And he walked away but his smile never dimmed
    And said, "I'm gonna be like him, yeah
    You know I'm gonna be like him"

    And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon
    Little boy blue and the man on the moon
    When you comin' home, Dad
    I don't know when, but we'll get together then
    You know we'll have a good time then

    Well, he came from college just the other day
    So much like a man I just had to say
    "Son, I'm proud of you, can you sit for a while"
    He shook his head and said with a smile
    "What I'd really like, Dad, is to borrow the car keys
    See you later, can I have them please"

    And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon
    Little boy blue and the man on the moon
    When you comin' home son
    I don't know when, but we'll get together then, Dad
    You know we'll have a good time then

    I've long since retired, my son's moved away
    I called him up just the other day
    I said, "I'd like to see you if you don't mind"
    He said, "I'd love to, Dad, if I can find the time
    You see my new job's a hassle and the kids have the flu
    But it's sure nice talking to you, Dad
    It's been sure nice talking to you"

    And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me
    He'd grown up just like me
    My boy was just like me

    And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon
    Little boy blue and the man in the moon
    When you comin' home son
    I don't know when, but we'll get together then, Dad
    We're gonna have a good time then

I am now very sad, thanks. My little four year old son is asleep in the bed next to me, and I've been working since 3am. I can't let it stay like that.

I know the song well, but it's the first time I've really read the lyrics and ... wow... (running my own business with 3 small children, one a son)... listening to it on Spotify now.

I feel like every parent has this moment when they hear this song again, and it makes sense and your heart drops.

It gets worse. Harry Chapin died at the age of 38 in 1981. His son, Josh, was born in 1972. He only had 9 short years with him.

I've got my little boy here sleeping next to me while reading the lyrics and I almost cried.

Thanks for sharing!

What's next? "Footprints"?

and here's the barney stinson version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jmc6xdWpZVk

I agree with everything you say except for bringing kids into conference calls. I feel I still keep my kids as my number 1 priority even though I do conference calls and phone calls with my door closed (and locked). It just seems more professional and respects the time of others on the call.

Agree.. it does sharpen your mind, and also forces you to be more self-disciplined. You basically shift priorities away from things you might have done when you were younger (like drinking, dating, golf, etc), to playing with them, reading to them, taking them to practices, school functions, etc. However, I've found that the time I spend focusing on work or keeping up on technologies is about the same as when I was younger. Of course, there will always have to be compromises.. whether it be work, children, or doing anything else. When you're older, I think you're a bit smarter and more efficient with your time. You multitask a bit better, I think. Having an understanding work environment helps also. There will always be that one person at your company or client that doesn't have kids and thinks that any time away from driving to the next (fictional) deadline is the most important thing in the world, but at this point, you're a bit smarter than that. You start to anticipate potential bullshit situations, so you compensate and address possibly ugly situations much better. You also learn faster.. by necessity perhaps, you're more experienced, so you see the deep connections between technologies, or personality types much clearer and sooner in the process. Keeping with the spirit of the above comment, you start to see what's actually important and really what isn't.

I agree with this oh-so much, even as a non-parent.

There's more to life than working every hour you can, and preparing for more work in between.

Go out, see the world, spend time with your favourite humans and other animals. You'll have a richer life.

On that bell curve of technology, where the far left is "bleeding edge" and the far right is "obsolete", you'll move a bit toward the right. But if you're already bleeding edge, then you'll just move toward "new and productive". So really you'll probably end up being more valuable as an engineer. "Bleeding edge" is really more about playing than about getting stuff done anyway.

> "Bleeding edge" is really more about playing than about getting stuff done anyway.

Well, yes, but playing around with the bleeding edge now means that you get to legitimately claim "x years experience" when it suddenly becomes "new and productive".

Not that I actually like that particular dynamic, or the recruiters who make it a useful strategy.

Bravo. When the shitshow is over somewhere north of 60 and you're sitting on a porch contemplating your life, it sure will be good to have a son or daughter (or both) to be sitting next to you.

Actually it's also a social thing, not just a skill thing. You Need to know the stuff the other People talk about to be part of the gang. Being part of the gang is rewarded. Being outside is punished (sublty). That's just how humans work.

I really like the spirit of this comment, but I can only imagine feeling like that if I was either very confident in my skills or had some serious FU money in the bank.

I work for a big international company that is gradually sinking, and continually laying people off and replacing them with offshore staff. I'm sure I'm not alone among HN readers. I have no idea how much longer I'll have a job for, or whether there will be other opportunities when I finally lose mine.

I have no kids and nobody else depending on me, but still have massive anxiety about being able to provide for myself and remain employed in the future. All recent trends seem to point towards jobs becoming less secure and more globalised.

It's great to be aware of the important things in life, but I can't think of many more depressing scenarios than having children depending on me and no idea how to provide for them.

Ok i'll bite...

Setting some context: I have two kids, 2 and 1. And a mortgage thats too big and a job situation much like yours (do we work for the same company?? :))

Use this time right now to figure out what YOU want. That includes a general life path which prioritizes work or family - or for the rare person, both. And also what you want immediately-take risks now if that so interests you. Figure out what works and what doesn't in office politics. Expand your network. Expand it with quality connections. Then expand it some more, as if you were a politician. Learn.

The ability for you to remain at one job more than 3 years will be rare, and thats ok. Assume you won't have serious FU money, and so you need some backup plans for things you can't control.

If you do none of the above, at least don't just sit around waiting to get laid off. Its not good for the company, you, or your future.

Just the fact that you keep up with the stuff on this board means you probably already know, and always will know, more than most of the people in this field--even if you quit cold-turkey--because outside of the SV bubble, most tech workers are really only experts at coffee, Slack, meetings, and the art of looking busy.

I think this is more about your frame of mind. Without a wife or kids, you are in a fantastic position to establish leverage, wherever you may be. One mistake I made in my early career was trying to stay on top of the tech and credentials. After running my own business for a few years, it became very clear that things like empathy, physical dominance, patterns of speech, grooming, and basic manners are far more powerful when it comes to getting what you want.

It certainly does. I find it makes me more efficient or waste less time on things that don't matter. It forces optimization and applying the 80-20 to so many things.

> Most of these things the HN crowd obsesses over are [not important]

Maybe 'most', but some of it is important in terms of developing your skill set. It can be difficult to know which bits are going to become important (popular), so learning about as much as you can will a) increase the chances of you learning about something that will become relevant, b) getting better at filtering out the noise.

Best comment I've read on here since I don't know when. Well said.

>One of the many great things about children, if you're not a total heartless bastard of course, is that having them really sharpens your mind as to what's important and what's not.

Why do parents think popping out a kid gives them some mystical wisdom? Maybe it just gives you one thing to focus all you energy on and suddenly that feels really important?

The most charitable response I can think of is that "popping out a kid" (or adopting) immediately shifts you out of the center of your own universe. It's a profound change of perspective for most people.

I used to think like this. I have two kids and one more on the way.

Setting aside the emotional part of the equation, having kids _is_ very taxing on your time and energy. It forces you to prioritize like never before. And that shows in your work. You are forced to learn how to focus on bigger-picture issues because there's no time for bullshit anymore.

To reply directly to the OP: if there is an OSS project on Github that is really important, your green graph will stay green. If its not important, it won't stay green and it won't matter anyway.

OP here. If being jarred from a pathological mindset by a major life event counts as "mystical wisdom," guilty as charged.

Cancer would probably have the same effect, but I prefer having kids. To each his own.

Its more like a crash course on putting other before yourself, which can for sure adjust ones world view.

Why do you think your opinion has any chance of validity on this matter unless you have existed both without and with a kid? This is like people bashing Apple without having ever used an Apple product, or who have merely played with the neighbor's Apple product

Wait, they don't have a right to an opinion? I mean, sure, call them wrong, but to say they're not allowed to express a thought?

Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but that doesn't mean unfounded opinion has to be respected or borne just because.

Too many things people say are "just because I think so" without much thinking going into why or how they came to that conclusion. So, maybe calling out baselessly opinionated people is ok?

As an aside, seems like the response was in the same tone as the parent's comment.

I agree that the tone is the same in both cases.

>So, maybe calling out baselessly opinionated people is ok?

Of course it's okay. But call them out by saying they're wrong/baseless/uninformed, not by dismissing their "right to an opinion".

I read it as: "your opinion is wrong because you don't seem to have the requisite experience".

And, in such cases, I don't think people can be allowed hide behind the "right to an opinion". If you think about it, this is the source of "alternate facts".

But, hey, that's just my opinion :)

Right, incorrect wording. I reworded it.

So what you're saying is "you don't. People with children will not be as good".

Great. That means I should not feel bad about any hypothetical statistics that show parents paid less than non-parents. You're saying parents are, on average, statistically, not as useful as non-parents to a company.

What kind of trolling nonsense is this? The senior engineers I know all have spouses and children, and our employers find us quite desirable to have around.

If you're focusing on learning each new whizbang whatsit that comes out, you'll never learn how to lead a team. You'll teach your employer that you can be abused, because you are desperate to impress them.

Giving up a family to stay ahead will leave you a lonely, burned out mess. This is a marathon, brother, not a sprint.

> Giving up a family to stay ahead will leave you a lonely, burned out mess.

False dichotomy fallacy. There's plenty of programmers I admire who aren't apparently parents. And there's happiness studies which show neither a positive nor a negative gain when parenthood arrives.

Curious footnote: I tried to google further studies that creativity goes down once fatherhood strikes (which I have read in the past), and instead found this piece: https://onbeing.org/blog/becoming-a-father-restored-my-creat...

> What kind of trolling nonsense is this? The senior engineers I know all have spouses and children

Please read what was written, and what I replied.

> If you're[…]

I'm not. Your comment is completely disconnected from what I said.

> learning each new whizbang whatsit that comes out

Is that the only way you know how to improve yourself professionally? If so then I think you're doing it wrong.

If you're a developer doing network stuff, then given a few years you could get a CCIE or something, and learn tonnes of stuff and be a more valuable employee. You don't have to try to stay on top of the latest developments in SDN. That'd probably be a waste of time.

No he's saying the definition of "being good" is not obsessively adopting "new technology" but realizing that the core foundations of CS are the core foundations of CS, and doing your job 8 hours a day and learning your core skill set and iterating and practicing on it is in fact all that is needed to produce a good programmer.

Frankly I think those of us who have been in the industry over 15 or 20 years know that adopting new technologies is not the hard or important part. Having the wisdom about how, when, and what to apply things, recognizing good engineering, and learning to work well in a team -- that's what's important.

Having kids might mean you can't stay up at night learning the latest JS framework -- but that very likely might be a good thing.

Why are you assuming all learning is about "new tech"?

How about just taking an online class in old traffic theory, to improve your network coding skills?

Your whole comment is attacking some straw man.

Sure. From a certain perspective that's correct. If you're a non-parent and work/study productively 16 hours per day 7 days a week without time off and can maintain that, then, from some perspective, you're better.

Thing is, in most cases, your value as a software engineer is very marginally related to your ability to keep up with the latest and greatest of everything. In fact an obsession with bleeding-edge technology can be a sign of indifference toward what you're actually being paid to do.

> your ability to keep up with the latest and greatest of everything

This hypothetical person spending 16 hours a day doesn't have to spend it on latest and greatest, which you and many other comments seem to assume.

No, he is just saying that he does not have to worry about being as good. It is just a choice.

I do not have children but I do not want to spend much time learning outside of my work. But some parents like to learn outside of work.

He does not cite any statistics either so you are making a lot of shortcuts.

> No, he is just saying that he does not have to worry about being as good. It is just a choice.

Also, being "good" isn't simply a function of whether you've read up on the latest tech fad. A lot of the stuff we chase is an incremental improvement (and in some cases a step backwards).

Parenting also helps practice empathy, which is an severely underrated skill in technology circles.

Ha, you decide:

"Dude we totally have to use this new technology I read about on HN at 2:00 in the morning. It looks so cool!"

"Let's use the technology we always use because we know it works for what the client needs and I'll still be able to pick up my kids at 5:30."

Who are you giving your money to?

Why do you think that the ONLY way to spend extra time on is on that new thing from HN 2 AM?

I'm not following this huge leap that you and other commenters are making.

How about choosing between the people who have twice as much experience with managing this Oracle cluster you have. Do you want the one with 10 years experience, or the one with 20 years and is credited in Oracle documentation?

(all else being equal)

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