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Balancing Code and Kids

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Before I had children, my life revolved around my work as an engineer.

RescueTime tells me I spend ~80 hours a week at a computer either programming or working on my startup in some way, and for the last 15 years, most serious problems I've faced could be solved by working harder. No money? Get a 3rd job. Too much to do at work? Push it to 100 hours. Not fit enough? Run harder.

I've spent many long hours coding, debugging, and contributing to various projects, and my focus and purpose were clear: to build and learn as much as possible.

But everything changed when my son was born. Suddenly, I found myself with not just less time and energy to devote to my work, but an incredible sense of guilt whenever I did spend time away from him. "Working harder" doesn't solve my problems anymore, it just creates even deeper ones. Balancing the demands of parenting with my professional and personal goals was a constant struggle.

At first, I tried to continue working as I had before, just with fewer hours, but it quickly became clear that something had to give. I had to find a new way to approach my work that would allow me to be a present and involved parent while still making meaningful progress in a fulfilling professional life.

Over time, I started to find ways to blend the competing demands for my attention (walking desk work while doing a carrier nap is going to stand out as one of my favorites of this era). I also found ways to make the most of the time I had, such as saving research-focused tasks for contact naps and reading work emails or code aloud to my son as I read and write them.

But really the biggest change for me was simply in my expectations. Becoming a parent made me reevaluate the life experiences that were truly important to me. I want to love being a dad and not have this experience be something that was constantly "getting in the way" of my responsibilities. It is the responsibility. Focusing on this helped me find new goals for my work. Instead of just wanting a generic exit for my company, I now had a specific end date and financial independence goals. I knew I wanted to spend more time with my kids while they still wanted to spend time with me ๐Ÿ˜….

To other parents out there who are juggling professional goals and parenting, I understand how challenging it can be. But don't give up! It's possible to find a balance and continue making meaningful progress. If I had to distill my findings into a few core ideas, here are the few tips that have helped me:

  • Blend. Blend. Blend. Turn any task you can into an activity you can do to spend quality time with your kids!
  • Really identify what drives you and focus on one professional or personal goal at a time.
  • Do something for you once a day, everyday, even if it's just a few minutes.
  • Remind yourself of your purpose for your work, use that to stay motivated.
  • Delegate more than you did before. Something's gotta give, don't let it be what matters most to you.

It's not easy, but with a lot of hard work, some expectations adjustment, and a little bit of lingering guilt, you too can continue to further your professional goals, even as a parent...I think... ๐Ÿ˜… I'll let you know in a few years if it works out!