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Jeff Atwood On Parenthood (codinghorror.com)
334 points by mootothemax on Oct 24, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 165 comments

So true that you can't explain to people. You can try, but they will either get the horror, or the bliss, but they'll never understand the strange and gut-bustingly hard mix of the two, and how quickly it swings from one to the other.

When they are defying you and just threw food over the kitchen, you'll get grey hairs trying to fight the urge to blow your top. You'll say things you promised yourself you would never say, because you're all out of ideas how to handle a tiny creature who is intent on riling you, just to see what it's like.

Then they'll get sick and you'll need to carry them to a doctor and entrust them to medical staff you've never met, and you'll be so anxious you won't eat or sleep.

Then the next day you'll have the most wonderful conversation where your little charge asks you about the universe and you try and explain it to them, not knowing where to start or how much understanding they really have.

One thing though, you'll learn compassion, forgiveness and patience like you never thought possible.

One thing that surprised me immensely was the unexpected new perspective and sense of respect for my own parents who had obviously been through it all themselves.

And the funny thing is, I remember them telling me "one day, if you have kids, you'll understand how this feels". I didn't take them seriously because I thought I knew everything. Now sort of understand what they meant.

Now friends with older children keep telling me "little kids -- little problems, big kids -- big problems". I hear the words, but it doesn't really mean anything to me now, just a nice saying. But something tells me though, one day I will say to them too "Yeah, I know what you meant..."

My kid is a little sensitive. He was born prematurely and he also inherited a little allergic material from me. A month ago he had a very mild version of Lyell syndrome, most probably as an allergic reaction to an infection with staphylococcus aureus.

He's over it, he's doing great in general, he looks his age both physically and mentally and to us he's the best kid in the world (and I'm sure we aren't exaggerating much), but ever since he was born we have been freaking out, being extra careful not to catch cold, doing all kinds of tests for hearing, eye-sight, immunity, allergic reactions, bacterial infections and so on and so forth.

Imagine that in the case of this Lyell syndrome, the doctor warned us that he may lose all his skin, and that this is extremely dangerous because it will behave like being burned. Fortunately it didn't happen that way, but imagine the stress.

Now, I don't know what kind of problems I'll have later down the road, but I'm pretty sure health-related problems, especially when the child is between 0 and 2 years, are the worst ;)

I can't imagine how I would even handle that much stress and pressure.

I meant my comment to be more along the lines -- 'if you think crying and diaper changing is difficult, wait till you have to start worrying about them crashing your car, getting a call from the police when they are out with friends at night, or getting someone pregnant'.

I'd be less worried about your son getting someone pregnant, than your daughter getting pregnant. I would think that it would be easier to force your son to be responsible for the child that he's fathered, than to be the girl's parents trying to force someone else's son to be responsible for the child he's fathered (especially if his parents are resistant or apathetic to the whole thing).

Either way, the point was that it would still seem like a lot bigger problem than having to change diapers a couple of times a day.


Yeah, unfortunately natural selection doesn't favor intelligence.

I apologize on his behalf. You should know that the majority of the community here isn't trollish like that.

I would also like to apologize for his words.

Unfortunately even HN has its trolls....

I became a father 2 weeks ago and that's the thing that's struck me most. We're only 2 weeks into it and we are giving everything we have night and day to look after our daughter.

I don't recall ever hearing my parents using it against me or even mentioning it. You suddenly realize that ever parent has just taken it on the chin and selflessly put themselves second to their children.

As a father I completely understand why, as a child I just had no idea (until now).

For me, the first 6-8 weeks were the most difficult. It starts getting easier and you start getting better at it. Hang in there.

Your parents didn't mention it because they probably forgot how difficult that part was. It passes quickly-- even though it may not seem like it at the time-- and is mostly a blur when you look back. Take lots of pictures. Think about keeping a journal.

When they turn 13 you'll miss the "baby days". You'll look on those days fondly, forgetting the stress, lack of sleep, etc. etc.

And when your son turns 18 and joins the Army. You'll wonder "where'd it all go".

It all goes by in a blink. Enjoy the moments you have now. You'll miss then soon enough.

2 weeks milestone/warning for the next few months: It gets worse. Then it gets better. Then you just have to get used to the new lifestyle.

Then it gets worse... Then it gets better.. Then it gets worse.. Then it gets better... I'm not sure how long that loop lasts.. But dealing with teething, sickness, going from crib to bed, etc.

The hours of sleep change from time to time. But there is nothing quite like seeing your child look at you with a grin from ear to ear when you come home and they come running up to you saying "DADDY!" (or "MOMMY" -- but I'm not a mother ;) ).

Just to add to the many other comments here: Having just crossed a year, I swear it does get better, much, much better. Also you will honestly almost completely forget how intense those first few weeks are. You will have increasingly more and more time for yourself. In fact I'm pretty sure this year has been one of, if not the most personally productive and I've refused to sacrifice anytime with my son to make that happen. There will come a time soon where that baby is able to completely refresh you much faster than it can drain you, that first real smile... better than 3 nights of sleep :)

This hit me really hard when my daughter was born. My mother died when I was 14, and we were really close, but I didn't fully understand until my kid was born just how much she went through and put up with, fighting years of devastating illness and still being the most amazing mom on the planet. I wasn't prepared for it at all.

I noticed this too. I started to think of all the times I was mean to my dad or mom, or just an outright bad kid. Totally changes your perspective.

I'm not a parent and don't ever plan to be (not all plans go that way, so my feelings might change on the matter) but I dont really get the whole parenting/having kids thing. I really have no affection for children at all, I dont find babies cute, i dont think kids are darling and i honestly think i'd make an absolutely terrible father because i just dont think im wired that way.

When Jeff talks about the 51% to the 49%, my personal opinion is why even bother devoting 18+ years of effort for a measly 2% payoff? Because, if it WAS worth it, wouldnt it be more than 2%?

I know this is perhaps a controversial opinion but please keep in mind I dont advocate my own views for anyone else. I have friends who i wholeheartedly believe weren't complete until they had kids, they're great parents and its what makes them whole and i think thats brilliant. But kids are like bungee jumping or religion, great for other people, but certainly not for me.

I felt _exactly_ the same way as you before we had our son 15 months ago. In fact, I felt _exactly_ the same way as you until he was about 6 months old. I'm not exaggerating — it's painful for me to say, but I cursed myself every day for not being able to bring myself to tell my wife that I didn't think I wanted kids. He was just a helpless baby, but I was convinced I'd never feel any kind of strong connection other than a sense of duty to him.

However, around six months, when he started to be able to actually do things for himself, like hold his own bottle, I started to feel a shift. Now he's 15 months old and I completely understand what everyone means when they say "you'll never love anything more." Being with him is the most heart-breakingly beautiful part of my life and I wouldn't have it any other way.

All that said, I firmly believe that kids aren't the only, or even best, path to fulfillment for everyone. In fact, I still don't really get the same sense of accomplishment from raising him that I do from my work. And I'm sure if we didn't have him, I would be able to do some other amazingly beautiful thing that helped other people or just made me happy.

This is all to say, don't write anything off, even if it feels like a mistake for far longer than you think it should. Sometimes doing something just because someone you love wants it so much more than you can turn out better than you expect. On the other hand, finding someone who wants the same things as you can turn out just as good. Be open, that's all I'm trying to say.

I'll say this as a father: Too many people feel like you do and have kids anyway. This is a huge mistake.

If you can never picture yourself with children of your own, or more importantly, don't want to, then don't have them.

You're not "incomplete". Having children changes you, but it is not a measure of completeness. This statement comes from any major learning period, which I think is what having a child essentially is. However, it's meaningless to say that "learning to play piano completed me", outside of your own context. Not everyone wants to play piano, and some of us don't even like music.

This is hilarious because this is exactly what both my wife and I think and we would have said exactly the same thing as you just did.

I think some people are geared for it. Some people are not. Unfortunately, a lot of people that aren't geared for it still end up having children anyway and that becomes a huge mess, obviously.

I personally just don't like children. My family begs my wife and I to have children and it annoys us to no extent. We understand the complexities of having a child and we also understand how selfish we currently are. We would probably end up despising the child if we ever had one.

We go through periods at times where we'll see a baby and be like "aw, how cute", but that quickly changes when that child starts screaming and crying.

I can't even stand my nieces and nephews. I'm serious... I hate holidays because I know I'll have to put up with them. This sounds harsh, sure... but it's the truth. All I see out of them is a mass quantity of pure concentrated annoyance. While I love them because they are family, I simply don't want to be around them. If they ever needed help, I'd help them. If they ever needed a home, I'd house them... I'd be there for them because they're family and that's what family is there for... however, nobody said I had to like them!

Our views may change, obviously. As you get older, your priorities change and we both may have different opinions. However, we're both in our mid thirties and time is not on our side anymore and we still, to this day, feel that not having children was a great idea.

As far as the 51/49 split, I'd personally say I feel that way with my dog. :) However, when I want to get away from my dog, I crate her and go out to dinner!

"We understand the complexities of having a child and we also understand how selfish we currently are." How is not having a child selfish? I believe that having children is way more selfish - there's already 6 billions mouths feed and it's just adding another one.

I guess it's a matter of perception. If I'm going to have a child, I'm basically giving up my lifestyle of travel, going out wherever/whenever I want, spending money on what I want, eating out all the time, etc... In order to provide for that child. This is selfish activity, as far as I'm concerned. However, this is how my wife and I live at the moment. We don't want a child ruining our fun! :)

There are 7 billion people in the world not 6, yet approximately 50% of all food produced is thrown out uneaten. Sorry, you'll have to find another drum to pound.

99% of people would tell you they don't find other peoples' children cute or darling, especially when crying in a restaurant. The whole point of the article is to explain that when it's your child, it's completely different. It's nature in action. Suddenly, you're a fucking silverback ready to rip the head off a jaguar for your baby.

Ecological pedantry: no apes in the americas, nor jaguars in Africa.

Haha. Well, damn. Leopard or tiger then.

> I really have no affection for children at all, I dont find babies cute, i dont think kids are darling

Have you spent much time around them? I have a 16 month old, and before he was born, I felt exactly the same as you. In fact, I went out of my way to avoid having to interact with children of most any age. Once I spent some time around my son, I began to find other babies cute and fun and now I really enjoy hanging out with kids (well, most of them). Maybe it's an acquired taste?

In a very weird way having your first kid is kind of like having sex for the first time. I think it throws a switch, somewhere deep in your brain, the part that hasn't changed much since we walked out upright into the grasslands.

I imagine there is all this code in your brain that doesn't run because 'if (kid)' resolves to false. It can freak people out when that code starts being run. I've never met anyone who thought it was like they had imagined it would be. Kind of like sex in that regard.

I resonated with a lot of what Jeff wrote. And the funny thing was after my first kid I became an expert. I studied her and figured out all the responses to various stimuli, created models and developed strategies. Then when I had my second I discovered I knew nothing. I didn't give up trying to make models but I've spent time discovering the unique value that each of my children brought with them to this world.

Sometimes, it doesn't feel like I had children, it feels like they were simply waiting for me to be ready to meet them.

I felt exactly this way as well. For a long time. Even while my wife was pregnant, I couldn't imagine having a child, taking care of a spitty, whiny, crying mass of flesh - that will eventually give me attitude shortly after it starts talking.

And you know what, my son is almost 8 weeks old now, and sometimes I still hold him at 4AM while he's screaming and I can't imagine what I got myself into. But you know what? It's truly the most amazing, "fucking terrifying" thing you'll ever do. Emphasis on the amazing. And terrifying.

I couldn't imagine doing it, and now I can't imagine my life without him. I don't think it can be explained.

I never found babies cute, objectively. Newborns are, frankly, ugly. And I'm sure mine was no different - objectively. But I didn't see it. He was heartbrakingly beautiful. And even when he screams and I want to tear my hair out and I just want him to sleep - sleep damnit, it's 4AM and I have work tomorrow! - he's amazing and beautiful and he's pure, unbridled LIFE.

I think, ultimately, that's what it is. You hold your child - your wrinkled, red-faced newborn - and you realize you're holding on to pulsating, breathing, unadulterated vitality.

And that can't be replaced by anything in the world.

Definitely think it's good to get yourself clear on this so you can be as upfront as possible with potential partners.

Kids are one area where you do have to go all-in... The last thing the world needs is kids who are screwed up because their parents "sorta" wanted kids (the way I sorta want an rc helicopter) and discover their personal pain/gain is over 1.0, and check out and let the tv raise them.

That's okay Tam. Like you said, parenthood is not for everyone and I agree with that. And yes, Jeff's chart would imply only a 2% difference. But that 2% doesn't include the child's happiness and well being. When you have a child, you are doing it for you, but more importantly, you are doing it for them. You are giving them the greatest gift -- life. Almost everyone -- children of flawed parents included -- is glad to be alive.

> 49% incredible pain in the ass, 51% most sublime joy you've ever felt; that one percent makes all the difference.

Between 49 and 51 I count a difference of two percents?

> Turns out, we're having two babies, due in mid-February 2012.

Aha. Let's talk again in a year or two, see who you'd throw under a bus.

I have three of those myself. I don't really subscribe to this whole "kids are wonderful" cliché.

The first kid, it's wonderful, yes (but this has been said before, no?) The other kids? Let's say I would agree more with Louis CK:


Edit: downvoters should try to take care of my kids for a few days ;-)

Upvoting because, as a parent of one (well, two in a few weeks), I find it very hypocritical when people really don't want to admit that that 49% is a INCREDIBLY HUGE PAIN IN THE A$$.

Apart from being exceptional time-sinks, children can be infuriating "just because". It's not that you have to explain everything (that's expected), it's that you have to do it 15 times, and you know they got it after the very first one but still refuse to do what necessary "just because" -- because they want to see your reaction, or because they want to exercise their power on you, or because they don't really want to go see Grandpa Smelly, or because they feel kinda lazy, or because there's a lovely shiny thing somewhere, or because... by the end of the argument, they probably can't even remember.

And obviously they'll try to crush your laptop under the heaviest object, or crawl on you when you're typing The-Most-Important-Email-Ever, and by the time they're 10 they'r probably going to send porn links to your entire addressbook just because it's funny. Etc etc etc.

Obviously I love my daughter and I'll love her brother, but if it was for my brain alone, that 51-49 split would be more like a 10-90 no-contest one-party landslide.

It seems to be taboo to talk about one's children in any way other than describing how incomparably wonderful they are. Talking about the bad stuff is allowed, but only in relation to the incomparable wonderfulness.

I think it's really unfortunate. It gives people unrealistic expectations and makes it that much harder to deal with the bad bits.

I have four kids and you'd have no problem watching them for a few days ... they're obedient, yet questioning ... civil, yet fun-loving ... rambunctious yet non-destructive.

Each of our kids was different and their personalities were by no means easy to deal with, but molding them into who they should have been was our job as their parents. A few days with your kids might be hard but once they understood our boundaries I think you'd see a big difference in them. A few months with your kids and I'll bet that we'd love them too.

You assume, without evidence, that his kids are troublesome. You overlook that they could be perfect angels, but that he still feels they are a larger timesink than he would have liked. You validate the taboo: he dissents, so your immediate kneejerk reaction is that he must be a bad parent with unbehaving kids.

Here's a thought: one can be a model parent with model kids and still feel that life without kids would have been better. You can even enjoy your life and your kids while still feeling that way.

Wow, I can honestly say that as a father I cannot relate to you at all.

I've got two boys, 4 and 2. As you said the first one is pretty good, but the second one is a terror. If I lose it on him and yell with all my might at his misdeeds he will just sit there and laugh - he thinks it's funny. He can be - and is - exhausting to just be around, let alone parent.

But I love him to death. He's a reflection of certain sides of me. He is WONDERFUL. And yes, if I had to give my life for him I'd do it in a heartbeat.

Kids, at the end of the day, are just a reflection of their parents, both good and bad. Sure they can be unique in their own right, but how they handle stress, their gut reactions, their deepest feelings, their expression of opinion - all very similar to the parent.

> how they handle stress, their gut reactions, their deepest feelings, their expression of opinion - all very similar to the parent.

Do you really think that this is true often enough to present it as a blanket rule like that? It seems like a fantastic oversimplification to me.

I'm not a doctor and don't have evidence, but my direct observations seem to suggest that it is in fact true.

Let me clarify: I'm not saying that kids are similar to their parents in the outcomes (a parent may like going on bike rides while a child doesn't, for instance), rather I find that the way they process information can be very similar: if a parent tends to react emotionally, then logically to certain cues, the child will emulate, although not to the same particular cues.

This gets stronger as the parent molds the child, in that I've found this is more likely the case in "older" children than babies.

It's been my experience that once you've identified the key drivers pushing this response, the response between adult and child is almost identical. I'm somewhat ashamed to also confirm that this works even when the parent is yourself.

> Do you really think that this is true often enough to present it as a blanket rule like that? It seems like a fantastic oversimplification to me.

Of all the children and parents I know well enough, yes. They all match this mold. Even my own children. They match expectedly and precisely.

This, of course, is merely my own observations, and limited in it's scope.

My sister in-law declared, "one is a hobby, you're not parenting until you have two!"

(I have one.)

> I don't really subscribe to this whole "kids are wonderful" cliché.

Failed parent. Since kids can only be as wonderful as you (parent) mold and let them to be. (at least in the early years)

and why the downvotes?

You can't make such a strong and almost offensive statement without at least elaborating a little.

As it stands you're adding nothing to this conversation.

I didn't down vote, but it could be because you stated a belief as if it was a fact.

If they misbehave, that's another story to discuss.

But the manner in which you publicly talk about your own family is just disgusting.

I have only higher words even about my dog even with the headaches she causes sometimes.

Thanks for commenting, because I can't understand the downvotes. I still don't see where I "publicly talk about my own family" in a "disgusting" way, but if that's how my comment comes across, it sure looks bad.

For all it's worth, I love my kids. Of course. And I would throw myself under a bus for any of them. Of course. And I almost have, twice (under my motorbike, which is not a bus, but weights over 400 pounds).

My point is: who doesn't love his kids??!? (And who cares?)

- - -

Edit: this may bring more downvotes, but it's worth it if it helps me understand myself.

I profoundly disliked Jeff's post. I should have said so instead of trying to be funny about it, but then I would have had to explain. Well, I have to explain anyway. So there.

If parenting should teach you anything, it's that your kids are not you. They are not part of you, either. They're them; they're persons. Jeff says so near the end, but I'm afraid he doesn't understand what it means.

Contrary to what most people apparently believe, praising your own kids in public, or your love for them, isn't helping them. It's helping you. It's using them to project a better image of you. It objectifies them: in fact, it's a kind of abuse.

You probably got downvoted because while everyone was having a kumbaya moment, you "went there". I appreciate your level perspective FWIW.

> It objectifies them: in fact, it's a kind of abuse.

Really? It's abuse to praise your kids in public? Do you really feel that praising your child in public is the same as abusing them?

Regardless of whether that praise is warranted or not, you're calling it abuse?

I honestly think you are disconnected. I understand you are trying to make a point, and while I didn't necessarily agree, I could respect that opinion. But when you started to define praise in public as abuse (that whole line of thinking), I really think you lost it.

The worst part is, I could see what you were thinking. I just think it's so disconnected from reality. This explains why you think and feel the way you do. This could be a cultural thing (you are from France). Might also just be who you are. But I honestly think you are disconnected, and that can only hurt your opinion.

I didn't make myself clear, I think.

Praising your kid in front of your kid, in public, when he deserves it, for example at the end of a game where he played well: that's good, that's just... normal.

Talking about your kid, when he's not here, and presenting him, or your relation to him, in such a way that you benefit from the exposition: I don't think that's ok. Abuse is certainly too strong a word, but it's related.

You didn't. I could have assumed you didn't mean what you said, but you were so adamant about it, I didn't want to impress my beliefs on you. Thanks for explaining.

That being said:

"Talking about your kid, when he's not here, and presenting him, or your relation to him, in such a way that you benefit from the exposition"

Is this abuse?

"For all it's worth, I love my kids. Of course. And I would throw myself under a bus for any of them. Of course. And I almost have, twice (under my motorbike, which is not a bus, but weights over 400 pounds)."

Because, in this context, you are using your child and your relation to them, as well as your love, as a way to bolster your own argument. It's a way to lend credibility and weight to what you have to say. It could be said that you felt your arguments couldn't stand on their own without making it clear that you're a parent.


No, I dont' think it's abuse. I understand what I think you are trying to say: using those that would treat their children as mere accessories rather than children. But honestly, I don't think that's something you can see from one single post. Jeff made a post on a blog. It had some commentary, some interesting thoughts. It was something he had on his mind, and wanted to share it. He also used it as a segue into announcing the future birth of twins.

To equate his post on his personal site announcing the pregnancy to abuse is, if I may be so bold, absurd.

> downvoters should try to take care of my kids for a few days

And it could be equally said upvoters should take care of my kids for a few days.

Kids are different, and some can be an absolute joy, and others a nightmare. And you see both sides. People complaining, and people happy.

Throughout my life, I've heard people say "Just wait until..." and at that moment, I'll understand what they've said.

Sometimes this is the case. Sometimes it isn't.

Just wait until you're me. You'll understand.

I'm not a psychologist and I really, really hate what I'm about to do, but I'm going to do it anyway because I believe it may possibly help you. Feel free to take it or leave it, it's just a voice on the internet after all.

First, I find it annoying that you're being downvoted here. You're being honest and sincere and that should be commended even if I don't agree with you.

To the point however: From reading your comments, it seems to me that there is something about your children (well, two of them at least) that you really, really don't like. My guess would be that this isn't because they are so different from you, but rather that they are exhibiting qualities that are very similar to qualities about yourself that you detest. I could be way off, but you might do well to explore this aspect on your own, if only to discount it.

You seem to think that what you're feeling is positive to them. I can assure you that it isn't. I can also assure you that they feel it too.

At first I read too fast and saw "I'm a psychologist and..." Now I'm happy to see that you are not! ;-)

Again, I love all my children the same way. Really. I just meant to say something really trivial: having three (very young) kids is a lot different than having just one.

With the first kid, everything is amazing, and eventually kind of funny / charming. With three kids, you're just tired.

Tired makes you upset, and it doesn't have anything to do with any of them. The cure? Sending them to their grandparents. After only one day I miss them so much I have to go back to check on them; and then it starts all over again.

Yes, I completely agree. If you have anything other than complete unconditional love for a child under about 10, then it seems possible there's something very very wrong.

Its almost like he's talking about someone else's kids that he's baby sitting.

Small children are a blank canvas. Good and bad. Mine is sitting down quietly paging through a book whilst I tap this in on the iPad. Moments ago, she was blundering about with a blanket over her head. A day ago, she was tired, and apparently determined to crack her head open by falling onto a metal bed frame.

It's life, the most precious thing in the world. Love it while you can.

This really bugs me. Why can't we have a normal range of emotions here? Yes, we are predisposed to enormously love our children. But it's just a massive bias, not an absolute requirement.

Acting like anything short of complete and unconditional love with absolutely no complaints or downside somehow means that there's something wrong with a person just suppresses completely legitimate feelings and makes it difficult for people to figure out how to deal with the inevitable problems and bad parts that will occur.

Often this comes up in the context of a conversation with people you don't know very well. (Like, on an internet forum.) When you're discussing some subject X with people you don't know that well, and you complain about X, people might get the impression that you don't much care for X. For all values of X, not just kids.

People that mostly like their kids and kids in the abstract, but nonetheless want to complain about some aspect of kids (understandably!), may not wish to create the impression that they're not into their kids. So they make sure to include a disclaimer in their complaint that their kids are wonderful, etc.

It's different among close friends -- there you find people complaining that their kids kept them up all night or whatever without feeling the need to include a "my kids are wonderful" every third sentence. Because their close friends know this implicitly.

> Yes, we are predisposed to enormously love our children. But it's just a massive bias, not an absolute requirement.

You're not getting the entire point of Jeff's post if you are saying something like this. If you aren't a parent, fair enough, you simply don't understand. No disrespect intended but this is the truth.

If you are a parent, we should clarify that "unconditional love" doesn't mean no complaints or downsides. Nobody here is suggesting that.

What does "unconditional love" mean in this context, then? Are we still allowed to hate the little fucker temporarily because they got shit everywhere? If so, how's that mesh with the unconditional love?

My point is just that it's apparently unacceptable to complain unless it's also tempered with something like, "but it's awesome and great and they're wonderful and it totally outweighs the downsides!" The moment you talk about your children as troublesome without explicitly bringing up all the wonderment and joy and love, you get accused of having mental problems. Bambax presented a view of parenting where the children aren't absolutely wonderful all of the time. He fails to add on the socially mandated "but they're the best thing ever", and as a consequence people start wondering about his mental health, just because he presents a realistic picture of parenting. This, to me, is sick.

I didn't down-vote you because I think I get what you're saying (even if I don't agree), but your first comment initially reads like: a) you're suggesting you'd throw your kids under a bus, and b) you only love your first.

I didn't downvote you even if I could have, because it was clear to me where you were coming from (I disliked the article too, though for different reasons.)

However, you (generally, not specifically you) would never say in front of your kids "well I love the first, but the others?" unless you're out of your mind. Imagine they'll dig down in the HN archives.

It can have such a long-term harmful effect on their self-images. The difference might be that this kind of abuse is a bit more explicit compared to the public praise.

I think he meant the feeling you get is different: the first time, it's all wonderful and unexpected and This Baby Will Be President. By the time Jr-Jr comes along, expectations will be more... subdued.

Exactly, thank you. I was not talking about the children themselves but about the experience.

Read again. He never said he loved the first one but not the others. I'm paraphrasing: "the first one is wonderful, the others not so much".

As a childfree individual, I'm amused by the euphoric claims of parents regarding the improved quality of their lives after having children. All the science seems to point in the opposite direction:


I have to confess: from the outside looking in, parents resemble nothing so much as cult victims gushing with conversion stories, complete with the requisite, "It'll be so much better once you join!" It's even creepier than that, though: cults may have leaders, but parents merely have genes flipping switches. It's like we all have a brainwashing trigger implanted at birth, waiting for the right circumstance to arise. This makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint, though: if raising kids is extremely hard, something would have to get tweaked in the parents' minds to convince them to stick around.

(Sometimes I wonder if some aspects of my genetic "kid trigger" were co-opted by my cat. She reduces me to a babbling puddle of mush, and I'm enormously protective of her. When she nearly died, I was reduced to tears, and I made large sacrifices in time and money to save her life — and I'd cheerfully sell a kidney if that's what it took to do so again. I plan on having her cryogenically preserved if the worst happens someday. But throw myself under a bus? No — although I'd throw someone else under a bus for her.)

The hardest part of being childfree, I've found, is the realization that I don't even live on the same planet as people who are, or will be, parents. Each side looks crazy from the other. I've found it impossible to maintain a close friendship with someone once they've had kids; schedules and priorities diverge, and you become increasingly convinced that it's best to "stick to your own kind" in the first place.

> I'm amused by the euphoric claims of parents regarding the improved quality of their lives after having children.

I would go the other way and claim that the main benefit of raising a child is that it's the most effective way to banish the seductive illusion that you yourself are the most important thing in the universe.

I'd argue that "the most important thing in the universe" is always an utterly subjective feeling — an "illusion" — whether evoked by thoughts of oneself, one's child, or anything else. The interesting lesson is that the object of one's supreme devotion can change at all.

I sort of agree: the biggest "cult-like" effect is how mothers tell non-parent women it is simply wonderful to be pregnant, how small a deal child birth is, and how romantic breast-feeding is, and then later agree with these now-mothers about how ghastly each of these stages can be. It's a sort of selective conspiracy of silence.

The pros and cons of being a parent change with time. If you've built a good relationship with your children and they are not very unlucky in life, then by the time they are 30 they are a huge asset to you. I haven't met many happy 60-ish childless couples.

> I haven't met many happy 60-ish childless couples.

I'm admittedly generalizing here from what I've seen and experienced, but I suspect that you haven't met them because the childfree (i.e., those who are childless by choice) tend not to inhabit the same social circles as parents. Those who are instead childless by circumstance may well be the very image of unhappiness.

Nicely written, although I have to say I don't find having a baby quite as horrible as most other parents seem to find it. Exhausting at times, yes, but nothing that gets me angry. As for my old life - maybe I wasn't partying hard enough, because I don't really miss it that much.

OK, it is terrifying, but not because the kid is a terrorist. It is terrifying because life suddenly has you by the guts. I guess I cared a little about my own survival before, but now I really want to survive to be able to be there for my kid, and I definitely want my kid to survive. Suddenly life has gained a whole new dimension.

> I don't find having a baby quite as horrible as most other parents seem to find it

It depends on your partner a lot. If your partner stays home, doesn't mind if you travel 50% of the time, or allows you to arrive home late from work (after 6) every night, it's just a completely different ball game.

Having NOT lived in that situation and splitting child care responsibility 50-50, I've found the adage "you can't serve two masters," is true for me. Either my business or my kids will suffer, even with 50-50.

So I've decided to allow the business to suffer, which means I don't create situations where I'll let down 3rd parties (investors, customers) due to my limited, erratic schedule (9a-5p and 8p-11p M-F, with random days off when day care shuts down or early departures from the office for 3:30p day care pickup).

But I only have the luxury of doing this because I sold my last company before we had kids. My advice to entrepreneurs who plan to have kids: find a partner who wants to take primary responsibility for child care (or hire an awesome full-time nanny) so you can put as much as you need to into your business. OR save enough money to be able to bootstrap and be available to your kids as much as they need you.

True enough, and I don't even have enough money yet to see all this with peace of mind. But still, I can't help thinking: I am not Steve Jobs, so it is an easy decision (what I do is not that earth shattering atm). My business is not really that important, as long as I make enough to put food on the table.

Also grandparents help, money helps. If you have money, I suppose you could also hire a babysitter.

As I have learned, there is such a thing as easy babies and hard babies. I lotteried a hard one, and our friend landed an easy one. It's really unfair, but that's just how it goes.

If you had an easy one, don't expect that all are equal if you ever decide to have another one. ;)

I've seen what you're talking about with easy vs. hard. We were lucky enough to have an easy baby. Yet I found the first few weeks very tough as I have higher than normal sleep requirements. By the end of week one I had trouble staying awake during the day, and was not able to return to normal functioning until a grandma came to help out for a couple weeks.

My son will be 7 in a few months. This age is way easier than the first few weeks . . . not hard at all really and filled with lots of fun times.

Same here.. our baby has been pretty easy once we got past the first couple weeks. He's 3 months old, and sleeps 9+ hours straight at night, he almost never screams unless there's a reason, etc. I kind of worry that we're going to think, "oh, babies are easy!" and the next one (if there is a next one) will turn out to be terribly hard, but....

Also totally agree about "caring for your own survival". Not that I didn't before, but it's suddenly so much clearer.

> I guess I cared a little about my own survival before

After kids, I suddenly became much more conscious of my mortality than I ever had been. Intellectually, we all know we die. But seeing my kids, I suddenly internalized this fact much more. Perhaps it's the thought of the things I won't be around to see or help with once I'm gone.

I guess I cared a little about my own survival before, but now I really want to survive to be able to be there for my kid...

Exactly how I feel.

Nicely written, although I have to say I don't find having a baby quite as horrible as most other parents seem to find it. Exhausting at times, yes, but nothing that gets me angry.

Wait, it'll come!

"Wait, it'll come!"

Granted, it will probably come. But I wonder if it will really make me angry. I fully expect that at some point my child will try to test my limits - it's basically his job. But knowing it is what he has to do, maybe it won't really make me angry. We'll see.

On the other hand, I wonder if the time aspect won't become better over time. Right now we have to watch the baby all the time to make sure he doesn't hurt himself. But there will be the time when he can play by himself of with friends. Of course by then there are also a lot more things we could do with him, which might induce us to spend more time with him in turn.

I don't know how old your kid is, but my little girl is 2 in a few weeks and she sure as hell tests my limits.

I am a VERY laid-back person. I don't believe that kids exist purely to manipulate us, and I do believe that a lot of what some people think is "misbehaving" is just a kid's learning journey (exploring emotions, boundaries etc) but even so... wow. I've found patience I never knew I had.


The melodrama comes out of a fear of losing them. Would you "throw yourself under a bus" to save them? When I think about why the answer is always yes, it does my head in. Puts my priorities in check.

"As an adult, you may think you've roughly mapped the continent of love and relationships. You've loved your parents, a few of your friends, eventually a significant other. You have some tentative cartography to work with from your explorations. You form ideas about what love is, its borders and boundaries. Then you have a child, look up to the sky, and suddenly understand that those bright dots in the sky are whole other galaxies."

So Jeff is implying that those who choose to never have children will never experience love, life, and the universe with the intensity and awe that parents do. Somehow I'm "missing out". Sorry, but no.

A quick clarification in response to the downvoting. I have no disrespect for Jeff or anyone else's choice to have kids. I have brothers and sisters who went down that road and I'm happy for them.

But Jeff threw around condescending terms like "roughly mapped" and "tentative cartography" to describe the worldview of people who don't have kids. That's where I begged to differ.

All I'm saying is live your life and love it regardless of the path you go down. But please don't talk down to people who choose not to follow you there.

I think he's pretty well stating it, and I think he's pretty well right. (I'd have also agreed with your point-of-view 3 years ago before my first was born.) It's not worth much arguing about, because as a non-parent you'll have other compensating "benefits", but it's hard for me to imagine how much my own world view and views on selfless love changed with the birth of my first (and to a lesser extent, my second).

FTR, I didn't downvote.

I dislike that attitude as well. Having children is presented as some amazing thing that you can't possibly comprehend if you haven't. Then the child comes and, guess what, life is pretty much like before, except there's a new member of the family with interesting needs. I'm not somehow more complete than before, and people like you aren't missing out on anything fundamental besides the raw personal experience of parenting.

We all make choices about what we want. I'm sure an avid skydiver could talk your ear off about how amazing that experience is and how you don't truly understand X until you've done it.

There's not an original thought in Jeff's post and it's wonderful. Yes, becoming a parent is exactly like that.

The birth of my first baby was pretty difficult for my wife, because of injuries that happened because of incompetent midwives. My wife was very crippled for the first week, our daughter had a hard start to life outside the womb, and our family was almost completely useless so I had to do nearly everything (the new midwife was great, though); oh, and just to make it perfect, our dog sliced her paw deeply open on some glass four hours after we returned from the hospital who had kicked out my injured wife at 5am because they didn't have space. That week was the happiest of my life. If I ever am in need of cheering up, I just need to think back to changing my first blood-stained nappy.

As Jeff sort of said, becoming a parent is weird.

I couldn't agree more with Jeff. I myself have said it on multiple ocasions, having a kid is an emotional roller coster. It's amazing just how much you fall in love with them and with life, but there also quite a few moments where you just wanna disappear, leave it all behind and just... rest...

These times are a real challenge. You HAVE to deal with it, you just cannot give up, and most of the time there isn't really anyone else that can cover for you.

It is, by far, the most difficult thing I've ever done.

Parenthood is kind of a good rehearsal for founding a company: you won't sleep much, you're very emotionally invested, you're on the hook for everything, and boy is it hard without the right partner.

Parenthood also makes founding a company 100 times harder, because you don't have the luxury of throwing yourself into the company 100% and never looking back. You have other responsibilities, and just letting them go to concentrate on your business comes at the cost of not being there for these wonderful little beings that you brought into the world.

And quitting your job to try a startup is fraught with a whole new peril -- you've got a family to feed!

I can imagine starting a part-time lifestyle business and taking it full-time if it ever became successful enough, but never a full-on work-til-you-can't-work-anymore startup. People who can do this after they have kids have my utmost respect, but I genuinely don't know how they can do it.

Maybe it's founding a company is a good rehearsal for parenthood? Having done the former, I'm terrified of the latter!

true! i've done both - had a baby when my startup was 3 years old, and it made parenting much easier to have gone through that whole everything-at-stake emotional roller coaster once before. I had the same partner in both ventures, so it was particularly good practice. amazing how similar startups and babies are! (and Jeff's pain/pleasure pie chart could easily apply to either, imo)

"It's amazing just how much you fall in love with them"

And how quickly - I can vividly remember being handed my son by the midwife and having the immediate reaction of "my overriding concern in life is now to protect and love this wee thing".

For me the main discovery is that of pure bidirectional unconditional love

Sure, I loved him from the start, but he really wasn't very interactive in the beginning and definitely a lot of work. For me the true bond really came when the little guy started following me everywhere, crawling with great effort, just not to lose sight of me.

Yes, it is a burden when I am trying to fix a cup of coffee and he's standing there holding my leg making it difficult to walk from the counter to the sink, but the joyous expression he gets when I instead bend down on my knees and tickle him or blow on his stomach is pure happiness worth all the work we've put in so far :)

Thanks for writing that first paragraph. It was not an instant thing with me either... the first 2-3 months (maybe more) were spent helping taking care of and playing with my daughter and wondering now what... And then she started cracking open a smile every time I came back from work/groceries/etc. Every time. It was a simple acknowledgement, and I fell for it...

Yes, the first three months come with very little reward, it's exhausting. During that time almost all I can remember is my daughter crying, she cried to take a bath, to change diapers, from gas. And maybe the worst was that she cried really, really loud, affording comments from doctors and other professionals (that are in frequent contact with different kids) that she had "good lungs" or "strong personality".

Then at four months she teething started early and she couldn't even sooth herself by biting toys, so it was a real burden for everyone.

It was only after that period that things really started to look better, with her interacting more and developing a more visible personality.

I heard somewhere that babies should actually spend three more months in gestation, but can't since we started to walk upright and now have a narrower birth canal. I think it's a very elucidative theory, because in that period I really don't think that babies are ready to face the world.

Sure, this is not bidi in the very beginning, and later it can get messy.

I don't know, reports suggest a lot of people give up.

Having kids will change you, no question. You would throw yourself under a bus to save your kids, absolutely. But let's not forget that you are still an individual with aspirations, ambitions, needs. Even after your child is born. Some people are better than others at repressing that side of their identity, instead evolving into a seemingly completely altruistic being. I couldn't.

The first year with my first born was hard but still magical (plus my wife stayed home with him so it helped a lot). After that, time to be used for myself was coming back, restful nights... Piece of cake.

Then I pushed for a second child (I always loathed the idea of raising an only child for some reason). My wife had resumed working by then and it was understood that she would go back after a couple of months of staying home with the baby.

That's when it became insanely painful for me, trying to protect my newly returned freedom (after my first born became more independent) while carrying 50% of the child rearing load with a newborn and a toddler.

I had to surrender (my self lost) for my own sanity and the well-being of my children. The lesson I think I've learnt is that to be as "successful" as possible at raising kids (whatever that means) you have to let go. A lot at times. And hope for the best.

Interesting how the core elements of this are similar to what people say about psychedelics.

The whole theme of "People told me about it but I never really understood. Then I tried." and "Feelings/emotions I'd never been able to imagine.", this is exactly the kind of language people use when trying to explain to me why I should try psychedelics. I haven't so far. I don't find it compelling. Wonder if the chemical effects are similar though.

Congrats to Jeff! My firstborn is also Henry, and I have two year old twin girls (Ada and Alice). The most interesting things about twins is how incredibly different they are from each other. They were nurtured in the same way, they share the same sets of genes, but they are wholly and fully their own people from day 1. It is completely fascinating stuff.

Ada and Alice. Might I ask if the inspiration for those two names came from a computer background? (Ada for the first programmer, and Alice for the first Apple computer)

I bet when she gets to school Alice is going to be trying to pass secret notes to Bob.

Just as long as they stay away from that Eve kid, I hear she just wants to know EVERYTHING!

We are on Hacker News.... Indeed, Ada is named for Ada Lovelace, but Alice is named in honor of Lewis Carroll. We like math.

Loved the names

Wasn't the Apple computer called Lisa?

Yes it was, I got it mixed up.


(That's the best infinity symbol I can make.)

"Having a child is a lot like running a marathon. An incredible challenge, but a worthwhile and transformative experience."

Yes, except it never ends.

My elderly father's last conversations were filled with concerns about my siblings. The more limited his mobility, the more exhausted he seemed, the more he worried about how they would get along.

I tell people that there are switches in the brain - that when you first hold your child (or any child should you hold it long enough), those switches turn on. You have no control of the switches; they are genetically-controlled hardware passed down from your parents. They have lain dormant for the several decades of your life, awaiting this moment. Once they turn on, they will not turn off.

The "switches" change your behavior radically: you will now react to the child's cry to sooth it, you will protect the child at all costs, you will grieve if it is harmed, etc.

Here's an example. One friend, an animal lover, upon entering her home with her first newborn instinctively commanded "Get the animals outside, all of them, outside, NOW!!" and to the bewilderment of all present, four previously beloved and sheltered pets were cast out into the frozen dark backyard (we did improvise shelter). To this day she remains amazed at what she did. The pets were allowed indoors 18 months later.

When I was young I didn't understand this. I was taught that we were tabulae rasae. Once I started to understand evolution, I saw that it only makes sense from an evolutionary perspective: what could be more important to a gene than producing another copy of related genes? What better way to do this than to program the organism to protect its young at all costs?

But there's another level of understanding: standing there, holding a child as the switches turn on. The experience itself.

One of the beauties of the human experience is that we can overcome our genetic "switches" to derive a more positive experience.

You're not a slave to your instincts unless you want to be.

"One of the beauties of the human experience is that we can overcome our genetic "switches" to derive a more positive experience.

You're not a slave to your instincts unless you want to be."

That's old tabula rasa thinking - it's false. Tell that to someone who has fallen in love (another example of this type of genetically-programmed behavior) or who has bonded normally with their child. They'll laugh you out of the room. They would, in a heartbeat, throw you and themselves under a bus to save their loved one(s). They are slaves to their instincts.

Until the "switches" turn on, few (in modern society at least) realize/believe the switches are there! It isn't easy to counteract something internal that you have no belief in and have not experienced before. And it may be best (for the other, certainly) not to try.

Some say, for example, that romantic love isn't real. But romantic love is automatic and non-participatory: that is, your conscious self doesn't do the decision-making. And when you fall in love, every conscious system in your brain will be suborned to justify your automatic genetically-programmed behavior. So much for "free will!"

There are many instances where a parent does not bond with a child - they will not be protective or nurturing. In extreme instances they may kill the child. But none of this is normal or common.

Tabula rasa says there are no real switches. Grandparent is saying that there are, but we don't have to obey them unthinkingly.

Not all switches in the human brain are for stuff that's as nice as caring for children or falling in love, so you might still want to think twice before unquestioningly endorsing their superior wisdom over conscious thought.

- "Grandparent is saying that there are, but we don't have to obey them unthinkingly."

How does he know that we can override genetic behaviors? Sure, we can try, but that doesn't mean that we can override them.

- "you might still want to think twice before unquestioningly endorsing their superior wisdom over conscious thought."

Don't put words in my mouth. I said: "it may be best (for the other, certainly) not to try."

How does he know that we can override genetic behaviors? Sure, we can try, but that doesn't mean that we can override them.

Given that you could view large parts of human culture as semi-successful overrides of instinctual behaviors, I'm not entirely sure what kind of thing your thinking of that might not be possible even in principle. Not feeling the instinctual impulses to begin with as opposed to not acting upon them?

"choosing to become a parent is the hardest thing I have ever done"

Actually, I'd imagine that that bit is pretty easy because the subsequent parts (as described in the article) cannot be imagined before they happen. Thus choosing to become a parent probably looks pretty easy.

Well it is choosing to become a parent if you know what it is like to be a parent. So that makes sense only in in retrospect.

Q: So why do people have more than one child?

A: Because they are so sleep deprived they don't remember how difficult it was handling the child after they are born ;-)

From personal experience, saying "Let's have a baby!" was at least as terrifying as "Will you marry me?".

I would say that having a kid to me seems like a lot bigger change than getting married. But of course I am married already, so maybe that in retrospect doesn't seem like such a big change...

This was a great post. My wife and I have 4 kids and even though we are technically "outnumbered" we try our best to get everyone in on the idea that we are a team in this adventure of life. It's hard but it's wonderful too!

This was my favorite line: "Children give the first four years of your life back to you."

It's true! They teach you in those 4 years so much about life and I think the true loving nature of humans before we all get shaped through our environments.

Way to go, Jeff! Congrats on twins!

I had twins born just over 10 years ago, and can clearly remember the doctor pulling up the ultrasound and circling a little dot and calling it a baby. There was another dot just like it on the other side of the screen, and I thought "this guy has no idea what he's doing", because he was missing the other dot.

Then he said, "here's another one". I said "another what?" He looked at me, and calmly replied, "there are two babies in here. You're having twins."

At that point, everything changed. Nobody believes me, but I bet you do. And everyone else on this thread who has kids gets it, too.

I had a boy and girl; the boy is named Henry. Small world, brother.

Keeping with the hacker theme, my kids are easily the best products I have ever shipped. :-)

Little tip for any budding writers: Whenever you feel the urge to use the word "enormity", use enormousness or magnitude instead. Especially if you're talking about your children.

This is particularly true if you're writing before the 18th century.

Anyone writing in the 21st century however could just ignore the original meaning of the word and go with the meaning it's picked up over time - that is implying a sense of scale without the negative implications. This definition would be supported by a majority of modern dictionaries.

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/enormity http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/enormity http://www.thefreedictionary.com/enormity

See also: http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/enormity

Yeah, that always bugs me too. It seems like a relatively recent thing, too; I feel like I always heard it with the negative connotation growing up and in early adulthood, but within the past 10 years or so I suddenly see people who write as if there were nothing negative about it. It would be like next year seeing people start using words like "terrible" or "PHP application" non-negatively.

It is nice to see some positive words about having kids. But still what is so hard? Spending less time online? I have the impression that raising kids is much harder in the US.

You have less free time, in smaller increments, and no longer under your control. Let's say you have no children, and work a standard forty-hour week. I know that's not common here, but bear with me. The thing is, that other 108 hours per week is yours, and you can arrange it as you like. You can choose to work longer hours at a startup, or spend time on strenuous hobbies. You can choose to stay up late and sleep in late. You can choose to work more one day to guarantee yourself a large block of free time another day. Whatever you do, it's a choice.

Now you have a kid. That 108 hours just turned into 80 or less - much less in the early stages for just about any parent, still less for at least the next decade even if you're a selfish parent. What's left is no longer movable from earlier until later, or from one day or to the next, because your child's schedule is not as flexible as an adult's. You practically never get to sleep in past 8am. When you do it's because you owe your spouse a favor - and with everything else in the paragraph it's a big one. It's impossible to do anything requiring intense concentration, because your child is a high-priority interrupt and that interrupt triggers frequently. My daughter (seven) is far better than most at staying occupied by herself, and even she interrupts me all the time. You know that look you give your coworkers while they interrupt you just when you finally got into the coding groove? You can't do that to your kid, so you don't even start anything that intense. You code less, you read less, you exercise less, you game less, you get online less. Your only real opportunity to have a significant block of free time is after the kid's in bed. To take advantage of that you'll be dipping into that 56 hours per week of sleep time and using caffeine the next day to (sort of) make up for it. By the way, I hear all of these factors are compounded when you have more than one kid, and I just can't even imagine what it's like for single parents.

I'm not complaining. There are other things that more than make up for the loss of time and control over time, but it's still draining. Still, I just have to laugh at the childless people who just assume all that time is available and flexible, who don't realize that being able to ride their bikes three hours a day or spontaneously head out for a three-day binge in Vegas is a luxury. Enjoy it while you can. Enjoy it your whole life if that's your choice. Just understand that every parent in the world is going to have a different perspective on free time than you do. Even though the result is worth it, losing two thirds of your usable free time is hard.

[edit: redoing my comment on desktop, was stuck with it on phone, sorry for the mess]

When our kid was still sucking his mother's milk we went on 5 days trip in Dali, Yunnan, rented a 4*4, went to cheap backpackers hotels, no problem at all. The only diff was to wake up earlier than we would without him.

For the interruptions, why do you allow them? When my dad was working at home, we wouldn't enter his place without a reason.

I think a big issue is about a new kind of culpabilization of the parents. Mothers need to be perfect mothers. Fathers need to be perfect fathers. Kids are supposed to be perfect kids. That's ok, but can be dangerous if taken to the letter and too seriously.

Different concerns apply to children of different ages or temperaments, and to different situations. My seven-year-old daughter is actually better than most at entertaining herself with books or puzzles etc. She also has a mother who stays home. Thus, when I work from home, she's quite capable of leaving me alone and knows to do so. During the evening or weekends, though, it's perfectly reasonable for her to request my attention pretty often. My wife deserves her breaks too, and there are no siblings. Someone who would completely shut out a seven-year-old during those times, under those circumstances, is IMO too selfish to be a decent parent - or for that matter husband, colleague, ...

If your child is a different age, or has siblings, or is even more exceptional in terms of self-entertainment, or if you're content to plop your kids in front of a TV/computer for hours on end, or if you have other family/friends willing to take your kids often, then maybe you're able to achieve longer periods of concentration. Good for you. Please don't assume, though, that your circumstances and thus your choices are applicable to others. Among the hundreds of other parents I've talked to, this issue of limited and fragmented free time is a major challenge for every single one.

On the other hand, most people just use that usable free time to watch TV. Giving up 2/3 of your TV watching is not that hard.

As for interruptions: I know grudgingly admit that I have to go to CoWorking spaces or an office to work. (Granted, that is also lost time for the commute).

Maybe exercise could be build into the kid time somehow?

Also it might make sense to take turns with the spouse to create more free evenings.

Where I live, most kids also seem to go to kindergarden from age one, which seems rather early to me.

This times 1000. While the article emphasizes the narrowly-won balance between love vs pain, this is a lot more realistic IMHO.

My wife and I have an 8-month old, and she's a reasonably 'easy baby'. But even so, from a coding perspective, the non-maskable interrupt thing is an absolute brain killer. And it's more difficult to get in the groove because of the sleep deprivation.

From what I see above, there's a lot of encouragement here that the instant love/bonding thing will make the whole experience worthwhile. That may be true. But there's also a lot of self-censorship (or even explicit censorship : search for the word 'disgusting') about how draining the whole thing can be. And that having a baby is not a choice that suits everyone : Think long and hard about whether you really want to give up two thirds of your usable free time...

This has been one of the more interesting posts I've seen on HN in a while. Imagine if you presented all this evidence to each parent before they decide to have kids. I wonder if most people would still go through with it?

I'm glad my parents did! But the more I hear about parenting the more it seems that you lose your life. I hope that one day my DNA forces me to override my logic unit and find a nice lady to have kids with.

I just hope Jeff realizes that the amount of work per child is exponential not linear. So having twins will be about four times the work of just one child.

Also, I'm sure Jeff has already done the math on this but at at roughly seven diapers per day, 40 diapers per week, 2000 diapers per year, your average child goes through about 5000 diapers. 5K down, 10K to go :)

Yes! And as tempting as it is to think child #2+ later might be 'easier', (because you've already ramped up the learning curve of caring for a baby with #1), you are confronted with the entirely different issue of logistics, especially when both are under 3 and demanding 100% attention when not sleeping. No longer 2 parents that can tag-team to rest, you now have two different schedules and sets of needs that will test parents ability to sleep/get rest/get anything done. The good news is that is is worth it, and it does get much better once they start independent play or playing with each other after 2/3 years.

Regarding the amount of work per child being exponential, is this from your personal experience? My experience is the opposite.

His point on twins (triplets ..), where there are parallel simultaneous needs is perhaps different than multiple children, where at some point older ones 'help' with younger ones.

OMG...I was just trying to explain to a friend why she should wait 3 - 5 years before having kids, but I found it so hard to put into words.

That graph is SOOO true. Haven't even read the entire post yet, but after 2 kids (both under 4) that graph sums up the entire experience - from my perspective anyway - more true than any words can.

The angle that you almost never see mentioned in discussions like this is those 0.01 percent of scenarios where "both mother and baby are doing well" isn't true. There are all kinds of risks, complications and gut wrenching, soul searing, life destroying outcomes which you're up for when you play the game of life.

Congratulations Jeff! We were never concerned about being outnumbered as long as we had a hand for each of them, so we had three and adopted a fourth. Now that the oldest two are 20 and 18, I'm pretty convinced we've been outsmarted ... but that's a good thing ;)

Its funny that I was about to post this on Twitter here when I saw Jeff's post:

Successes and Failures melt away in front of a two year old. Validations and affirmations happen by way of a smile.

That being said, I cant wait to go home and wrap my hands around my two year old son.

I can't believe how accurately this post reflects my own thoughts on parenthood. He just put into words so clearly exactly what I've been thinking and how I've been feeling.

I whole heartedly agree. Our baby is 1 next week and it has been, without doubt, the most amazing, terrifying, tiring and joyous year.

Can't wait to teach him to code.

Just remember: you don't get to pick what fascinates your children. He may love sitting by your side learning all about coding -- and he may get bored and restless and want you to go outside and throw a ball around with him.

He can code a physics engine and throw a ball in that. </sarcasm>

I've always admired Jeff Attwood's courageous honesty and insight. Gives me hope for getting married :)

Beautifully written!

Jeff has done what women have tried for ages...made men open up emotionally

PS: for the 1% female population reading this...nevermind I don't think it is even 1%...

Having kids is the ultimate startup

Beautiful. I'd give this 400 points if I could.

I love children but I am looking forward to NEVER having them. My sister's got a couple now and my cousin's boys are carrying on the family name for the people in my family who care about that.

I think it's incredibly selfish to bring new kids into the world when there are so many that nobody wants. I don't normally say that to people and I don't really hold it against anyone (I do understand the motivations for having your own children), but that's how I feel.

If really want to do something useful and not just serve your own desires, why wouldn't you just adopt?

Because it's not about "doing something useful".

And that's okay.

The adoption process is very very difficult unless your willing to pay $30k+. It's much easier to just be pregnant for 9 months. It took my parents 6 years.

Having watched a friend do it a few times, I think only someone who has never adopted would ask the question "why wouldn't you _just_ adopt?"

I am close to two sets of families who each adopted multiple kids. One family adopted 2 kids from Russia and the other adopted 2 from China. The first family also had multiple children biologically.

Honestly, the 4 adoptions seemed much easier to me than the biological process which I've also seen many times. This probably sounds terrible, but you can also return the adopted ones if there are any major problems (and I've seen that happen too.)

"Honestly, the 4 adoptions seemed much easier to me than the biological process which I've also seen many times."

I can't even begin to understand how that would be possible.

My friend who has adopted from overseas spent several years and thousands of dollars (something like $45,000 if I recall correctly) making it happen.

I had sex a couple of months ago and now I'm 8 1/2 weeks pregnant.

Let's just say I know which route I found easier.

> I think it's incredibly selfish to bring new kids into the world when there are so many that nobody wants.

Having a child is a selfish thing to do regardless. That's not really much of an accusation.

> Having a child is a selfish thing to do regardless.

Ridiculous. As stated elsewhere, having kids is giving a part of your self to create a new independent self. It will teach you the hard way compassion, love to the other, etc. It is exactly the opposite of selfishness.

How the hell can you hold such a paradoxical statement?

editadd: There is a very strong anti-child line of thought in the US, I felt it in many occasions (on Lifehacker, for instance), and I think it is very strange, and dangerous. Is it because of a fashionable thinking that humans are too many? Is it a consequence of utilitarian morals? Honest question here: I think it is a subject of tremendous importance. Hidden behind this apparently innocuous sentence and pushing its logic to its limits, one may find the death of humanism and the end of civilisation.

> How the hell can you hold such a paradoxical statement?

I think in this case, the paradox unravels if you realize that I precisely chose the words "having a child" instead of "raising a child."

The decision to mate is usually selfish, and the decision to spawn offspring is also selfish (except where it's careless). People don't have sex because it's their duty. People don't try to conceive a child because they feel responsible to anyone but themselves. They decide they want the experience of raising a child, and so they do it for themselves. The experience itself is, obviously, a mixture of selflessness and selfishness.

Also, the word "selfish" has slightly more negative connotations than I would prefer, but I can't think of any suitable words that wouldn't require a whole paragraph to qualify.

So we have a 51/49% ratio for happiness and crazy in relation to child rearing. And this is for a middle to upper class person who wanted kids in the first place. Kids are crazy, generally make the gf/wife look 15y older after they have had em, and allow said gf/wife to have ultimate control (child support and divorce) which essentially robs a man of his independance and ability to have fun. There is a damn good reason that there are family sections of restraunts... Also, consider bars/leaving bong & vape on the coffee table/leaving porn and condoms out/leaving booze out/leaving good food out (kids are less behaved than kitties in most ways)/leaving expensive tech out (kiddies going to puke on that MBP)....ad nauseum. There is really no point to having kids, although social convention aka parents in some cultures sometimes advocates them, but it is a matter of rational self interest to disagree with this notion. 99% chance your kids will put you in a rest home, rather than take care of you, thats how the cookie crumbles.

Right, but people who don't hate women, children, and possibly themselves, don't really have that reaction right off the bat.

You are right in the sense that you should not have children, less because this is a reasonable and healthy outlook on life and more because if you believe this bullshit and live your life by it, you aren't fit to raise kids period.

This is not Parenting Magazine. I am a parent, but I came here to read about startups, technology and etc.. What happened?

No, it's not Parenting Magazine. It's also not bodegajed Magazine.

Like many have said before—to others who stress a dislike over an article that made it to HN's front page—if you don't like an article then flag it, ignore it, and/or don't click on it and comment. Move on.

I'm not a parent, but as soon as I saw this article in my feed reader I came to HN to see what other hackers had to say about parenting. I am not disappointed.

There are people who want to have startups, deal with technology, AND be parents, too. There's no reason that they must be mutually exclusive. Besides, the number of articles regarding parenting on this site is a metaphorical drop in the ocean of tech articles.

I think it's wholly appropriate : To put up a warning flag around some of the major non-tech life events that the site's main demographic will be making decisions about.

Where do you go for parenting?

agree with bodegajed. I like jeff, but this article falls mostly outside core interest of HN.

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