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Finding time when you have a family

If you are a dev with a spouse (or a partner) and kids, how do you manage your time so that you give your loved ones the time they deserve but also give yourself time for side projects, hobbies, etc? This has been a challenge for me since my kids were born (now 4 and 2 years old). I am curious to see how others handle it.

Top comments (3)

niorad profile image
Antonio Radovcic • Edited

The first year was super-productive!
After that a lot of the side-projects had to go.

It‘s good to have a project which needs focused work (as in thinking hard about it) AND half-brain work (graphic design, css, music). So that when you have time, you can work on it, even if you already spent your daily coding credits. Or just write some more tests if you’re out of ideas. Games are perfect for this.

I used to worry about it in the beginning but the kids are the side and main project now. I‘m sure there will be new stuff to build when they are older.

karlredman profile image
Karl N. Redman • Edited

When I started out it helped to have a wife that was understanding -as @jdforsythe talks about. I'm divorced (not because of the job -still a good relationship [20 years later]) but I've had several relationships where I've had to explain that my work, and ambitions, required 'alone time'. This has always come with concessions and promises. The concessions and promises have always been reasonable and, frankly, life balancing.

If you are the kind of person that wants to work 12-20 hours at a time, like me, it's important to remember that you are in a relationship, you have responsibilities (like being a parent), and that the world is revolving regardless of whatever amazing knowledge you are learning.

My relationships have never failed because of my focus on IT and learning and knowledge -It's other stuffs and those things have resulted in amicable separations. The key is, at least for me, being completely honest about what you are doing and why this work matters to you. Being honest about the aspects of your work with the entire family will give you a fair amount of wiggle room to pursue your work. Overall it's a delicate balance and it's not easy.

Relationships are important. Parenting is hard. On one hand, I suspect that you want to be 100% there for everyone. But that is not the nature of the job/career/industry.

Try something like this (after discussing it with your significant other):

  • Communicate expectations of time -if your are wrong about time (as a general concept) then you need to still meet your obligations and then attempt to adjust expectations afterwords.

  • Start a routine. Suggest a malleable schedule whereby you can work on your ambitions. Allow the same for your significant other (this is extremely important). Negotiate, Compromise, Discuss, and stick to promises made.

  • Make sure your children's co-caregiver is comfortable with his/her proportion of care-giving vs alone/family/couple time. If there are issues you need to address these things first before making demands.

Think: 'What is the baseline for duties and involvement of the family relationships?'

Lastly, don't steal time from your family. IMHO, and in my experience, you will regret every stolen moment in the future. Embrace that which you have and respect that the work may conflict with the values of the family otherwise.

my 2 cents. much love to all.

jdforsythe profile image
Jeremy Forsythe • Edited

It's definitely more of a challenge, but it's all about balance. My wife is very understanding. She gets that this is a hobby and professional development so the time I spend on it is truly beneficial for my career and my mental health.

When my daughter is in bed and my wife is watching something I don't care for on TV, I pop in earbuds and write code, read, or watch lectures while being in the room with her. This will help both of you feel less like you're absent.

But at times you need some separation and that's fine. It's no different than when I go out to the garage to do some woodworking project.

It's harder with young kids, and even at age 9 my daughter isn't quite as understanding as my wife, but I also find time to teach her about computers at her level, which helps you reconnect with your younger self's passion. Still, for my personal stuff, I mostly wait until she goes to bed.

My advice is help with the running of the house, whether helping cook or wash dishes or otherwise, and help get the kids to bed. These little things will prevent both of you from feeling like you're "always on your computer" and the more you help today, the better you'll both feel if you spend a little extra time on your computer tomorrow.

You'll also have to get better at working in 3 hour chunks of time instead of 8, as we in this field are used to.

And finally, communication! Tell your wife if you need to spend the next 3 hours without being interrupted. Tell her about what you're working on and how it's important. And also listen when she tells you she needs you to not do it tonight!