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It's later than you think (linkedin.com)
913 points by cloudytoday 7 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 136 comments





I took a step back in my career to work from home, and bring my kids to the kindergarten with my bike some days, and take a late lunch and eat their "dinner" with them, and it has been totally, totally worth-it.

Remote work being a set-back is possibly a side-effect of how I selected my new gig, but it has suited me so well, I don't care about the (temporary) career stagnation.

Beautiful story, I felt it hard.


I had the opposite path 4 years ago.

After working from home (and watch my kids grow) I had an opportunity to work to help finishing a big project that would make money.

It was just 3-4 month of hard work (including almost every week ends and some nights) and then back to normal hours when the project would be on track.

Well, as often, months turned to a year, then a year and a half, and no real end of the "hard" part in sight.

My son started ignoring me, my daughter waked up early to have a glimpse of me before I go.

I finaly ended it (mostly when the word Divorce was pronounced out loud) and fight to be a member of my family again. And work from home.

For now, this period was the biggest mistake of my near-half-a-century life, and until the kids can take themselves in charge, I won't move from home again.


Yeah, I've never had the experience that those project schedules ever turn out to be realistic. You get to the end and then there's just more stuff to do in less time. And now that you've put in all those hours everybody wonders why you're backing off from the project.

My experience is that "crunch time" never actually ends. It just becomes the new normal and expected over time. Its better to deliver under the maximum you are capable unfortunately. Think of it this way, is the company providing the maximum value they can to you?

Same here, except I quit completely to stay home with our two kids. The decision was easy. One day when I was working remotely from home, the nanny rushed in carrying my 6 month old daughter. She was completely unresponsive, having her first of many febrile seizures. Eyes rolled back, body limp. We called 911. By the time they arrived she had mostly recovered, crying, but could respond to us. I quit a few months later.

She's now 5 and her brother is 7. They grow out of febrile seizures and luckily she hasn't had one now for about 2 years. Overall she had about half a dozen.

Besides that, the reason I also it is because if one day, my child is a drug addict, asshole, school shooter, or any other "failure" of sorts. If someone asks me if I did everything I could to prevent it. My answer will be yes, I gave it my all.

It seems in the US when people say I want to provide for my children, they mean money. But more money doesn't really help your kids, it helps you. What kids really need is people to provide time.


As a Foreign Reader, it really pains me to read that there exists parents in other countries (maybe mostly USA?) that worry about whether their kid will one day become a School-Shooter. :(

Don't worry, your kid could be the next hitler or stalin!

Sorry for the gallows humor...not sorry.


Its only recently that we started to frown upon genocide. The atrocities committed in the Middle Ages aren't fresh enough. Mind you, its not "just the numbers". Here's a US example [1]. Or think about stories in the bible about the ill.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salem_witch_trials


Same here. I think the work-life balance that remote work provides is understated in our society.

I get to be far more involved in my kids day-to-day, I know their teachers, friends, and generally what's happening in their lives.

I think of the alternative (what I grew up with, and what a lot of my friends with kids are still doing) and it's sad.

Barring the awful circumstances of the article (my heart goes out to the author) spending time with our children shouldn't be a chore to fit in.

Hug them, tell them how much they mean to you, that's important. Being present in their lives though, for the brief period that life affords us, that is essential.


Similar story. Made a decision to set aside career path in favor of remote work, flexibility and autonomy (I have young kids) for this exact reason. I will never get this time back. I want as much of it as possible to be ours. These stories bring it home.

This post was both heartbreaking, heartwarming, and very emotional to read. Thank you to the author for sharing your story.


Such a heart breaking story. For me it was taking a walk around the office and seeing a private plane take off from San Carlos airport, here its engine sputter, and then watching as it fell from the sky into the "lagoon" next to a hotel. Life ends. Really slammed home how a 'normal' day could suddenly be a really bad day, or your last day.

One of the unfortunate challenges of tech work is that as someone young and single you can spend all your time at work with your colleagues building really cool stuff and get the social fix and the financial rewards of lots of hard work. And if you get married and have kids, and suddenly the demands of the family keeps you from putting in the same amount of time at work, well you find yourself either explaining to your boss why you aren't getting as much done, or explaining to your spouse why you don't seem them as much as they would like. Can be tricky to navigate to a new normal.


Was it a twin airplane? I was doing flight training out of San Carlos around the time that happened and yeah, it was sobering. I haven’t flown since my daughter was born.

This one: https://m.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/NTSB-Engine-failure-in-...


That exact one

I took a slightly different lesson from the light aircraft crashes close to me- I don't get in them anymore.

IMO, the best PG essay says the same thing differently http://www.paulgraham.com/vb.html.

It has had a profound impact on how I think about everything, but especially the time I spend with our now 1 year old.

I'd recomend everyone read it, and internalize that you only get 52 weekends in a year. You also only get a handful of each holiday with your kids. His words are better than mine, and I encourage everyone to take the 2 minutes needed to read the essay, then implement a life strategy that gets you home with your family more.


> And while it's impossible to say what is a lot or a little of a continuous quantity like time, 8 is not a lot of something. If you had a handful of 8 peanuts, or a shelf of 8 books to choose from, the quantity would definitely seem limited, no matter what your lifespan was.

And yet if you had a handful of 8 loaves of bread, it would be a lot of bread, if you had 8 luxurious chocolate truffles it would be more than you want to eat in one go. If you had 8 shelves of books the quantity would still "seem limited". If you stepped outside and there were 8 cars on your driveway, that would be a lot of cars and a long driveway, if none of them started and you had to walk 8 miles to the train station, that would be a long walk, if you went to the dentist and needed 8 fillings that would be a lot of fillings, and if there was a creature as tall as 8 humans, that would be a long horse.

Just choosing that the units of measure are peanuts and books, is not enough to establish that 8 is a small quantity, objectively and unquestionably. Everything is relative, everything is viewed in comparison to something different. Peanuts compared to how filling they are, books compared to .. how much choice you feel you deserve, outside of reading time. 8 books is quite a lot of reading time.

If you decide that 8 Christmasses is a paucity of Christmas, where did that decision come from? Why is it not enough, and how many would be enough? (and is the answer an eternal "just one more"?) If you have $8 but you want to spend $10 then $8 is not much money. If you have $8 but you want things which are ten a penny, $8 is a lot of things.

If we can't control how much we have, but we can choose what we want, why do we so often choose to want more than we have, then feel annoyed at the disinterested universe for being so mean to us?


I live in Portland. I switched to being a software developer when my son was born, starting a new career.

I make probably $20K less than my peers. (I make $82K a year as a fourth year C# software dev. I've got a law degree and am willing to travel around the country a few weeks a year for stakeholder meetings.)

I'm home every day by 3:15. I take my son to the library, to the park, to the forest, to OMSI, on weekdays. Some days he and I just sit on the couch reading and talking about superheroes for two hours until dinner.

Do I feel envious of my peers who make more? Yes. A lot. The urge to keep up with the Joneses is strong. Do I second guess my decision? Never. My job is relaxed, I come home and party with my son and wife with energy. I cried reading this story, but it only affirms my decision.


You can do both. You’re worth more than that. It doesn’t need to be one or the other.

I believe it's almost impossible. Each of us have 24 hours per day and as of now, there is no way to stretch it.

With that mindset yes it’s impossible.

Remember that performative workaholism is poison to life. Every time you put in more hours over the weekend "just because", dial in to a meeting on your vacation, or get on Slack at 10 PM "just to check a few things" - you're shifting the culture to make it that much more acceptable to demand it of everyone. The parents in your meetings that run until 7:30 bitterly hate you.

It might seem OK when you're single, childless, etc. but once that time starts coming from your family you will realize what a prison you've built yourself.

STOP IT. STOP IT RIGHT NOW.


This also applies to new technologies and skill gaps. I'm over 30, and have stopped following the latest javascript trends. I want younger people to be satisfied with the tools that I learned; they're perfectly adequate.

The treadmill of re-inventing the technology wheel also looks like a prison.


Only on HackerNews can a somber discussion about family and lifelong priorities turn into dunking on javascript. Not a jab by any means, just amusing.

The struggle with that is how do you step off the treadmill but stay relatively current. I think about how web pages looked 10 years ago, and in a world of React, I feel like very, very few of the things I learned then help me for more than the very, very basics.

The reality is that engineers with a strong foundation in the fundamentals can pretty much pick up any new technology. The details are different, but the underlying principles of software engineering, algorithms, data structure, distributed systems, etc. are the same.

I guarantee you that a talented kernel hacker, with a few weeks of reading the docs and writing some toy examples, would be just as productive in React as the front-end developer with years of experience.

I work in a pretty niche industry, where hiring people with specific experience in the tech stack is rare or impossible. So, I see this up-close and personal all the time. Fluid intelligence, an understanding of computer science fundamentals, and a demonstrated history of delivering results trumps specialized experience with the specific technology. Every. Single. Time.

Keeping this in mind relieves some of the anxiety of keeping on the treadmill. You might feel like if you don't start getting experience with Kubernetes or Typescript or Airflow that you'll be left behind. The reality is that if you're smart, then if/when you need Kubernetes/Typescript/Airflow, you'll be able to pick it up in a week or two.

I think some of the industry-wide problems with this come down to the fact that HR is too involved in the recruiting process. The typical job listing gets written by someone who's never written a line of code in their life. They just walk down to engineering, talk to the manager, hear something like "we're using Kotlin", then decide to add "5 years of Kotlin experience required".


> I work in a pretty niche industry, where hiring people with specific experience in the tech stack is rare or impossible. So, I see this up-close and personal all the time. Fluid intelligence, an understanding of computer science fundamentals, and a demonstrated history of delivering results trumps specialized experience with the specific technology. Every. Single. Time.

I think that actually helps you look for generic skills and generally good people - if you're guaranteed that your interviewee doesn't have the direct skills your position requires, you look for the generic stuff. I don't know if that translates to other places, who like you said don't need someone smart who can roll with things, but instead a very particular set of skills.


Read and inwardly digest the Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs.

After that, whatever is next on the treadmill is just some new syntactic sugar on top of the fundamentals taught in that book, which you can pick up with a minimum of time and effort.

Occasionally there is something truly new, but those are few and far between.

Also, if you are seriously worried about your earning potential, read this and learn to really apply it, before picking up another Javascript framework:

https://www.kalzumeus.com/2012/01/23/salary-negotiation/


This isn't so much about React as that the expectations for web applications have skyrocketed in the last five years. Before 2012 or so you could call yourself a front end developer with good knowledge of html and CSS and little bit of javascript. If you were working in the industry back then and you're one of those people, you've had to teach yourself to be a proper software engineer in that relatively small amount of time. It's possible that the complexity growth curve has rounded off and over the next five years things will settle down and mature (fingers crossed).

> It's possible that the complexity growth curve has rounded off and over the next five years things will settle down and mature (fingers crossed).

I really hope so.


I suspect, right around the time this happens, a new "paradigm" will start, with new alpha frameworks and philosophies.

This is especially important if you're a visible technical leader; you serve as an example for what it takes to get there, so set an example that you can do so without regular overwork.

I love what I do, but I don't ever want to give people the impression or example that becoming a technical leader requires working 50+, 60+ hour weeks. I maintain a work/life balance, and I want people to see that you can maintain that balance at all levels.


I agree if you're talking strictly about salaried employees, because you don't get paid for that overtime work. But as a contract developer if I want to work 60 hours each week, instead of 40, to earn an extra 50% when I invoice them at the end of the month, that is my prerogative.

I'm a contractor. I've been working extra hours continuously for a few months. The money and flexibility are great. However, more than a few times my 6yr old (Whoa, he is 6 already?) has stumbled into my home office at 9:00 PM. I've been telling myself that this should stop. But I've been ploughing on. What if my contracts run out the end of the year? I need to upgrade my skills. So I'm traveling next week for a week long programming course.

I hear first hand accounts of L5 to L6 employees and first level managers working unbelievably hard. The pay off is probably "worth it" if they or their kid don't end up being "a statistic". To be in this place (CEO, Founder, AppMaGooSoft) the odds were always in their favor to begin with. So why would the odds be unfavorable going forward? As a result there will always be a group of employees willing to throw themselves head first into whatever "challenge" "management" throws down.


It definitely is - and if you're paid overtime it's fantastic because it gives the company a signal that yes, this is possible if they need it, but it doesn't come free.

I don't mean that it's bad to work hard, or long sometimes. But it MUST cause the employer some pain.

I'm talking about salary jobs where meetings scheduled to end at 6 routinely run past 6:30 (even though daycare closes at 6:30 too). Where you get non-actionable pages all the goddamn time because it doesn't cost the company anything. Where you say better integration tests should be a higher priority, but nah, it's all good we've got Datadog alarms set up so let's launch that bad boy! Where week-long work trips come with the assumption you'll fly on Sunday and Saturday with no time off in lieu, and people ask how they can reach you on vacation.


That is of course your choice, but if you do that for a long time, there's a chance of burning out, divorce, losing touch with friends and family etc. Money isn't everything.

'Money isn't everything' is kind of truism. Stories abound, however of divorce, losing touch with friends and family once a person faces money troubles. Note that I am not trying to justify any particular way. It is just things are going to happen irrespective of one's outlook towards money.

This seems like a classic case of you projecting your value system on your peers. The reality of the situation is that is that there are a ton of ways to live a fulfilling life. Not all of them require strong family values, and there isn't any legal pressure to adopt family values as far as I can tell. I would actually put the onus on you to learn to work with colleagues who value work over family. If you can't live harmoniously with your values and your employer, you should find another job.

As someone who's young, childless, and just getting started in the tech industry at a big company: thank you.

Strong second on this one. I don't have a family; that doesn't mean I don't value time outside work (and the relationships I get to build during that time) extremely highly.

100% agree that the habits to have a more balanced life starts when you're young, single and childless... working 24/7 doesn't just turn off because you have a kid, it takes time and practice to reprogram your life habits

> It might seem OK when you're single, childless

It's not OK even when you're single and childless as well. The fact that people think it is is revolting.


Well, there are no rules.

What bothers me about this attitude is that it totally ignores the rewards for working hard for at least part of your life, and it also relies on the idea that everyone subscribe to the same theory, which makes those pushing it suspicious in their motivations.

"You shouldn't work hard because if you do, it makes me look bad and I don't want to look bad or work hard."

Some people have lives and the capacity optimized towards working many long hours. You can't tell us to stop, it's not fair.


The thing about "at least part of your life" in that equation is that there will always be fresh meat coming down the line "just doing your time".

Also, it's OK to work hard. Work your ass off if you like. Just try not to get shafted. If nothing else it would help if overtime rules were meaningful.


Well, you shouldn't impose it on other people by inviting them to meetings outside their designated working hours.

But there's nothing wrong with solo work that involves working late.


> you're shifting the culture to make it that much more acceptable to demand it of everyone.

I would argue the cowards who refuse to ever stand up to employers are the cause. If you aren't able to push back on your boss, you're fucked regardless of how many hours I choose to work.


> I would argue [...] are the cause

There is a problem in thinking any one thing is "the cause". It's a multi-faceted problem of many self-reinforcing causes. The comment above talking about "shifting the culture to make it that much more acceptable" is a nod to the subtlety of what contributes to this.

All parties, employers and employees both, need to see how they do this.


> The comment above talking about "shifting the culture to make it that much more acceptable" is a nod to the subtlety of what contributes to this.

I see no "nod to subtlety" as you claim. All I see is a claim that one employee's overwork is what enables the boss to force you into overwork.

For this to happen one needs 1) routine culture of overwork, 2) and employer who leans into this fact, and 3) an inability or unwillingness to push-back.

If you solve for #3 you've made #1 and #2 irrelevant.

Calling for others to stop willingly work as much reminds me of an old film I'd seen as a kid wherein a new employee starts at a loading dock, and after his first highly performant day the old-timers come along and give him a talking to about his making them look bad.

You'll only look bad if your team and boss expect the "above and beyond" to become the new norm, and this isn't a rule. It is a result of shit conditions.

Just as expecting your coworkers to go above and beyond is bad, so is chiding them for willingly working harder than you.


I think you underestimate how easy it is for a CEO, manager, or even high-performing/high-status peer or IC to set the tone and give implicit instruction to others without ever intending to do it.

I have seen it in very mundane things that are not nearly of the magnitude of consequence of this topic. And also, in big things, such as expectations around working hours and standing up to unreasonable requirements.

Perhaps one aspect is that if a behavior is perceived to be a path to success in an organization, it will be emulated, rightly or wrongly, consciously or not. It's important to create an environment where many can thrive.


Calling people "cowards" who may individually be in no position to push back, doesn't really help the problem. It drips of condescension.

Your point is sound. It's also more ascerbic than it needs to be.


When has any production/productivity increase not become the new norm? Have you ever finished a 6 month job in 5 and been given 6 months again the next time. Everywhere I’ve worked if you finish a month early you just get 2 months less the next time because obviously you weren’t challenged enough

Maybe you can "push back" and get out of additional work. But when it's that time of year for raises or promotions, who do you think is going to be the first in line?

Let's be clear -- the biggest responsibility for change rests on those who have the most power. Those "cowards" may have no savings and could be fired at the drop of a hat.

But if what you mean is that employees have a choice between passively accepting the status quo or trying to act collectively to improve their conditions, then yes, I agree.


If everyone stood up maybe we could have some sort of organized labor...wait, that's the ticket, a union! (Seriously, I think that's more in line with what's needed, otherwise you become the squeaky wheel most likely to be replaced when belt tightening comes.)

As a perennial squeaky wheel who happens to work too much, I think you're on to something.

You lose the freedom to test your boss' limits the day your job is the source of your child's health insurance.

> The parents in your meetings that run until 7:30 bitterly hate you.

It's just not true at all, and seems quite dramatic. A lot of people enjoy working on weekends or putting in long hours some days. When I was younger I would do it regularly, and I certainly don't begrudge or "hate" younger, childless colleagues who do that now, even if they involve me sometimes. Nor did I build myself a "prison". Stop demanding people live their lives how you want them to.


Did you miss the "meetings" part? Even if you enjoy burning the candle, you should be mindful of what you ask others to do.

> A lot of people enjoy working on weekends or putting in long hours some days.

Who are these people? Don't extrapolate your anecdote.


I come in on the weekends sometimes, because I'm bored or lonely or have work that needs to be done. I get paid for the privilege and I love my job, and it means I never have to stay past 5 during the week. Granted I work in academia where the norm is to stay till 8:00 and weekend work is necessitated by the projects we work on, but I personally don't have to. If I had a family things would be different though.

I'm in tears reading this and his wife's account (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/all-remains-dr-jessica-brande...) - I didn't realize how short life was until I realized I only had 52 weeks with each of my one-year-old sons, and stories like this are a reminder about what's really important.

A friend said it well when I was feeling guilty I wasn't putting more time into my work, "No one has ever looked back on their life and said 'I wish I spent less time with my family'".


> "No one has ever looked back on their life and said 'I wish I spent less time with my family'".

Not everyone has a family worth being with.


At some point your family is not so much the people you were born to or grew up with, but the people you've chosen to be with, build a live together... Also, if I had to guess, no one has ever looked back on their life and said 'I wish I had spent more time being deliberately obtuse on the Internet' either.

>At some point your family is not so much the people you were born to or grew up with, but the people you've chosen to be with, build a live together...

Point still holds though. Your "made" family (marriage, heck, even kids) might turn up not to be all that great either. Happens to millions...

>Also, if I had to guess, no one has ever looked back on their life and said 'I wish I had spent more time being deliberately obtuse on the Internet' either.

Those are people who die with regrets though, so perhaps not the best people to listen to what to do not to have regrets! Their "I should have actually done that instead" deathbed choice might be equally bad as the original choice they made...


I think they meant the people that become your real family. It doesn’t have to be marriage. It can be a select of friends where a strong bond has formed.

> I wish I had spent more time being deliberately obtuse on the Internet.

This is going on my tombstone lol.


If we're talking about a wife and kids, or blood-is-thicker-than-water style friendships, or just people you dearly love, then I couldn't imagine somebody saying they wish they spent less time.

If we're talking about parents and siblings and relatives—the family you inherit at birth—then yeah, I can totally see where you're coming from. Same with the other less happy scenarios that I don't think are helpful to go into in a topic like this.

But essentially, family means different things to different people, especially when we're talking about it in the positive sense.

Which is also why I found the OP's article about his son really upsetting, because from that point of view, I've lost people I love and wished that I spent more time with them when I had the chance, or did more of what they wanted.

It makes the loss feel so much deeper when you start playing back history and noticing the times you weren't present... and now that you want to be present it's too late for them. All you can do is take that with you and make sure those loved one you still have can enjoy that from you.


Family is who you love.

Everyone has the chance to make one, though.

Just a note for everyone who tends to go through the comments and weigh if they should actually go read the post (I'm guilty of this), go read the post. Even if you have nothing to relate this to, it's a great contrast to the majority of posts on this site. It's a breath of fresh, troubling air.

My deepest condolences to the family. I hope no parent goes through that experience the author and his family had.

On the other had, I met a lady at the gym counter. She looked very tired so I enquired about her. She said it was third job. She said that she was doing that just to barely put enough food on the table for her family. I think some of the benefits IT folks enjoy is not what rest of the world experiences. She too complained that she doesn’t spend enough time with her kids. Life is difficult for so many people that they to make such compromises. The rest of us who can take time off a little should put it to best use.


I was shocked when the author of the post said he had had twins and founded his business in the same month. I just had twins a few months ago and founded my business ten years ago. I couldn't imagine doing both at the same time.

I have massive newfound respect for parents, and especially for working single mothers. I have no idea how they do what they do. I am fortunate enough to have a nanny, work from home, and it's still very challenging.


I see this kind of stuff from time to time and I also don’t understand how people do it. I wonder if they either don’t sleep or over report their contribution to parenthood

Many of us, especially younger folks with income anxiety and families see no other choice but to work slavishly at the expense of time with our families because we see avoiding starvation as more important than quality time. We could all be forgiven for this.

I've made it past that phase of my life, having missed the entire first year of my middle daughter's life, not being there properly for my family after the loss (cancer) of one of our daughters at 2 1/2. My oldest daughter (are you keeping count) who is 18, I barely know and am just now building a relationship with.

I have the luxury of not making that mistake with our youngest daughter (we're up to 4 girls now) who is now 5. I still remember giving up time at home so that I could ensure I kept my job and was investing in the skills to get the next raise.

Hindsight is 20/20 and you already know what I'm going to tell you. You'd be surprised how little of your stress about your current job translates to you keeping it, but that stress makes you grumpy or distant and difficult to feel love from. You'd be surprised how something as small as dinner together, tucking them in at night, or an unrushed breakfast, can take so little time but mean so much to you and to them, still leaving you with the time to advance your career on behalf of the ones you love.

Please spend those special moments, they're so few and they pass so quickly. Your family likely won't starve, and maybe even getting fired from a toxic environment will be the break you need to see what else the world has out there for you and your family.

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

Jeremiah 29:11


I read things like that with totally different eyes than when I had no kids.

My kid recently turned one. I can't read this article without weeping. Everyday when I back home, I regret not spending more time with my family. I love coding, by all means. But this article is a huge wake up call on where I want to strike the balance.

Thanks for the article


I could read things like that when I had no kids.

I can't imagine. I don't have kids and the horror and grief is tangible.

I can feel the panic that the author describes as he runs out of the office. I can feel it in my chest. Before kids this would have been a story to read. With them, reading this is me falling apart at my desk.

Yep. That horrible feeling from this story stuck with me for DAYS.

me too.

Very touching, I shed a few tears on this part.

"I’m guessing you have 1:1 meetings on the books with a lot of people you work with. Do you have them regularly scheduled with your kids?"

I am totally doing this, but more like 1:1 days.


Definitely, make sure there's just "time". Everyone I've spoken to who has a real quality relationship with their kids has reiterated quantity is better than "quality".

Don't fall into the trap of thinking that making it to the odd piano recital is the same as being there every day for dinner.

As the piece sadly reminds us, that calendar invite might be scheduled too late.


Yeah this "quality time" trope is often just a justification for not being there very often.

You become a manager of your kids, not a parent. The quantity time is when you’re there to emotionally engage with them. If you only show up during quality time, you’re teaching them that it’s only during big moments that life matters.

Reading this post I can't help but feel for the sibling. When I was 5 I lost my sister and best friend; you just aren't equipped to deal with the event at that age.

Yes, so many years with the pains unravelling as you learn to cope with that loss. Children are great at handling traumatic events, but it doesn't mean it's any less traumatic. That poor kid is probably going to struggle with this for a long time.

One hot August day my father was involved in a farm machinery accident, and died of his injuries two weeks later. I was 5.

All the time I was growing up, it used to surface every couple of years. Later when I got into college and took a bunch of psychology and child development classes, I learned that the brain undergoes a major reorganization at about two year intervals, the last being in the early twenties. Looking back, I realized that at every brain re-org, I mourned again. I mourned like a 5 year old at 5, like a 7 year old at 7, etc.

After my twenties, I thought I had put it completely behind me.

Then when my own daughter was 5, I had a period of several months where I felt an unfocused dread. A feeling of impending doom that I just could not explain or account for. Then in late September of that year, somehow I snapped out of it, with the realization that I was still alive. I looked at my daughter and understood that I was her age when my father passed. And it all made sense. And I am free.

Thanks for listening.


That's an incredibly hard event to process at 5. Someone close to me lost her dad at 6 in a similar way (major injury, passed away shortly after), and I've helped her process that in conversations over the years. It's still hard to grasp what that experience would be like. I can see the pain it inflicts, the questions it triggers, but I suppose I'm fortunate enough that I don't fully comprehend it. Losing parents is so hard, and hard enough as an adult when it's easier to process and you may even feel secure in your independence.

I'm glad you feel free now.


Heartbreaking to read and every parent's worst nightmare. Life has become so fast and everyone works too much these days. Growing up in India, I remember my parents (who had challenging jobs as a math prof and doctor) still spent all evening and all weekends with us and my one surviving grandparent also lived with us. Cousins came by every week and there was so much family around. Now, here we are with all this money in a giant house in this expensive place, working 60-70 hours a week and I wonder if I'm doing right by my kids. Need to spend more time with them..

Crying as I read this. I can't imagine. Thank you for sharing. So sorry for your loss. As a new father, hits home hard. Nothing is more important in life than your family and friends.

As a new father, things like SUDEP and SIDS are terrifying. I hope one day technology will improve, so we'll have fitness bands or smart cameras or smart mattresses that can detect these rare events and report back data so we can understand them, and hopefully at some point, intervene and prevent them. Sharing your story will hopefully inspire people to keep working on this kind of thing, so hopefully it might help save some other child in the future.


Wow. That’s a jolt of sobriety. God bless this man and his family.

No man is an island,

Entire of itself.

Each is a piece of the continent,

A part of the main.

If a clod be washed away by the sea,

Europe is the less.

As well as if a promontory were.

As well as if a manor of thine own

Or of thine friend's were.

Each man's death diminishes me,

For I am involved in mankind.

Therefore, send not to know

For whom the bell tolls,

It tolls for thee.

I hope you heal in time, and we're with you in your grief.


Wasn't planning on wiping away tears from my eyes this evening...

same, and I don't have kids yet.

As a father of a toddler, I really appreciate stories where you get a phone call out of the blue and somebody tells you your child died. I didn't have enough anxiety about him already, so thanks for giving me a reason to panic at random phone calls from my wife.

An incredibly heart-breaking story. I can't relate as I'm younger and just graduated from college last year. However I've lived away from my grandparents and my mom for the last 3 years and I'd like to move back home so I can spend as much time as I can with them.

>Wiley was obsessed with starting a business. One day it was a smoothie stand, the next it would be a gallery, then a VR headset company, then a ‘coder’, then a spaceship building company.

To me, this sounds like the father shouldn't be worried too much. Wiley loved the way his father was to the point of wanting to emulate him.

>Damn, could that kid dance.

The kid gave it all, like his father. Without such a role model, would he have been the same kid? Would he have had such a precious life?


Thank you very much for this. As adults, we often forget we need to cherish those around us. I hope author finds peace.

i went through a very similar experience a year ago. its been hard looking to go back to work, in particular responding to the inevitable question of "what have you been doing the past year". if you respond truthfully, its so shocking the interviewer never knows how to process it, so almost immediately feels like the doors just close. i know these things dont happen every day, and they are existentially challenging to contemplate, but they do happen. if you're responsible for hiring, please remember that your candidates are first and foremost human beings. i wish the author luck when he is ready to begin the next chapter.

I thought it was about my favorite poem [0], but it turned out to be even more heartbreaking.

> Lastly, you who read; aye, you

>Who this very line may scan:

>Think of all you planned to do ...

>Have you done the best you can?

>See! the tavern lights are low;

>Black’s the night, and how you shrink!

>God! and is it time to go?

>Ah! the clock is always slow;

>It is later than you think;

>Sadly later than you think;

>Far, far later than you think.

[0] https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/46651/it-is-later-tha...


I don't know you, but I send my love and good thoughts.

Condolences for your loss...

We should all focus on things that matter in our lives and not take as granted that we (or our loved ones) will be around for ever.

Stories like this remind me of a nice post about the “lifetime calendar”: https://waitbutwhy.com/2014/05/life-weeks.html


I don't have kids of my own but my SO's sister has twin boys, aged 5 months.

Reading this article was tough. What if one of her sons doesn't wake up one day? What if something happens to both of them?

She and her husband have busy careers, and while I won't share this article with them (it'll probably be a sore spot) I'm hoping that they'll make enough time for their kids.


This is a horrible fate and I wish the parents of the boy all the best. It's important that you don't beat yourself up and search for regrets though. Maybe that's part of griefing but it's not okay if it stays. It's very important to look out emotionally for yourself, only then you can reliably look out for others.

Enjoy yourself, its later than you think

Enjoy yourself while you’re still in the pink

The years go by as quickly as a wink

Enjoy yourself enjoy yourself its later than you think


When I was 16 I started my education as a software developer in a company and for the first time realized there are fathers who cannot go home and eat lunch with their kids.

My father was always at home for lunch.

My daughter was born 11 months ago and I switched jobs and work now fully remote.


I hate you for posting this, but I'm going to hold my children really tightly before bed tonight.

I think for me the biggest lesson is that I am taking from these kind of stories: be focused. When you are spending time with your loved ones don't look at your phone all the time. Be there with them. I am really bad at this...

Orthogonal to the main point of this post, but was anyone else struck by the part about "he had kissed multiple girls" (by age 8)? I find that fairly incomprehensible.

Glad he's able to take time off.

I've known people who couldn't get time off if such a tragedy happened to them. Sure as hell stronger than I am.


Thanks for writing this. I'm sorry for your loss.

>The big question is how to return to work in a way that won’t leave me again with the regrets I have now. To be honest, I’ve considered not going back. But I believe in the words of Kahlil Gibran who said, “Work is love made visible.''

Imagine you just came into enough money that you never have to work again.

What would you work on, then?

What is something that you can do that no one else can?

What can you do to help make the world more harmonious?

How can you help humans, animals, plants, machines, and the planet as a whole?

Think about these questions, and then do that.

Ignore money.


I’d probably find some open source project to dedicate myself to. Maybe work towards sustainability in some shape or form, or at the very least invest in it. But it’s tough to ignore money.

It hurts hard. I'm taking day off tomorrow for long overdue day out with my daughter.

Yeah time and the self.. a harsh lesson to get.

Nothing is more important than family.

I honestly was not expecting that.

Really bravely written post.

I have liked this video by Sam Harris for several years now. It is all to easy to go through life, lost in discursive thought:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T3JzcCviNDk


I think we need to care about our parent too. As they become old, we are just fly away from them and they will struggle in their stage as us. Damn life.

So much this. Personally feel this is one of the most deplorable "widely accepted" social phenomenon in the west.

I have an immigrant family on my street (know them and they are from China) that is three generations...every morning as I drive to work I pass the grandparents walking the children to the bus stop for school. Every day I think "why don't our parents live with us"? I've asked them but they've said no. They have their own home and lives and like their independence. Maybe that's true, but I wonder if they're actually lonely and don't want to impose. At the end of the day I just have to think this is a mutually non-beneficial setup for all involved (the US style of moving out "never to return" at 18).

I don't pretend to know why or say how to "fix" it but I believe we in the U.S. (and assuming at least some of the "west") took a wrong path somewhere when it comes to this.

Also constantly see in the media examples of college grads living and working from home, always in a "negative" economic-driven context. Maybe this is a trend that is changing (again in my opinion for the better).

I didn't even bring up nursing homes.

Edit: Constant ""'s are because I'm trying to be aware of over-generalize here...mainly speaking for "mainstream U.S. culture" which is always problematically reductive


It's a devil's bargain either way. If you can't move away from your parents, your career prospects & upward mobility can be severely hampered. If your parents move to follow you, they can cut short their own successful careers and sever deep social ties they have spent a lifetime building.

Most of this country was settled & built by people who left home to find their fortune.


My mother moved to a far-away, small town late in her career to improve her retirement finances. (It worked). Then one of my brothers moved to a new town for access to recreation opportunities. Surprisingly they have been living a short drive apart since then. But neither of them live near the friends they made in $BIGCITY where they were born, raised, and lived for a long time.

I agree with the idea of being able to start your career somewhere other than where your parents live. In the future maybe something will change about vocations/careers that will make location less relevant and this might help our family lives.


Living with family is fantastic and should be strongly encouraged.

The WaitButWhy post a few years back is incredibly compelling in helping one understand how little time with your parents you may have. For example, if you see them 10 days a year, and they're 70, you might have (10/days * 15 years).... 150 total days with your parents. Link: https://waitbutwhy.com/2015/12/the-tail-end.html

Add on: https://waitbutwhy.com/2014/05/life-weeks.html


I moved away from home to study, then even farther for work. I usually see my family once every one or two years since I left during our summer gatherings. Couple of years ago I realised I will see them maybe 20 maybe 30 times if I am lucky, hopefully more.

This has been the hardest realisation of my life and I try really hard to be there for the 1-2 weeks I can see them and try to make the time we spent count.


I think those who like their parents do already. I think those who don't like their parents don't need to. It's the parents' job to be a person worth loving and caring for. It isn't the child's burden.

Exactly this. I have divorced parents who each remarried.

I have a mother who makes so much effort to make sure she stays in our lives. Calling/Facetiming every week at minimum. And she has visited at least once or twice a year the past five years. And we visit at least once a year if possible.

By contrast, I have a father who has literally done nothing to try to visit us in five years. It was always us making the effort, taking time and money away from ourselves, for them. And we got very little in return. We have been given very little respect by them despite showering them with undeserved respect. Every time we visit, it's like they're acting out their own Seinfeld episode -- literally worth nothing except waiting for the next opportune moment to be sarcastic "gotcha" asshats.

Some people would say, one shouldn't look for a return, that it should be all about giving. Those people must never have been burned in their lives. For me, reciprocation is the bedrock of a relationship. Any relationship. It doesn't have to always be equitable, but time and effort must be shown. Otherwise, I'm out.


I just read this the other day about caring for elderly abusive parents and found it refreshing:

https://slate.com/human-interest/2013/02/abusive-parents-wha...


Thank you.

I don't spend time with my parents because they are toxic assholes who are extremely mean to me and abused me growing up. I don't need shit that in my life.

Yet society thinks I'm the asshole for not wanting to subject myself to that?


As I age and realize more and more we're all just making this stuff up I really come to appreciate what my parents have gone though and are probably currently going through. Knowing they are struggling the same as I am, they just has a head start, has made me realize that the relationship moves both ways and that we are in fact there for each other as we move through life.

If the author is reading this, I'm so sorry for your loss. I can't imagine the devastation you must have felt and must continue to feel.

It's important that you take care of yourself though. As someone who works in mental health, I've seen how these events sometimes have a way of affecting your mental state in a gradual and cascading manner. Please stay cognizant of you and your family's mental health in this difficult time.


I'm divorced, with one young boy that I split time with my ex. Were this to happen to me, I am really not sure a mental health professional could help.

This quote FTA may have just changed my life:

"I’m guessing you have 1:1 meetings on the books with a lot of people you work with. Do you have them regularly scheduled with your kids? If there’s any lesson to take away from this, it’s to remind others (and myself) not to miss out on the things that matter."


I was logging on here to call out that quote specifically. My kids are both in college now, and we're empty nesters for the first time as of a week ago.

My advice to all of you with young kids is to follow that advice. Schedule 1:1 time with each of your kids, and make it more important than your most important meeting at work.


i'm not crying you're crying



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