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Parenting and a Career in Coding?

Cliff posted more than 10 years ago | from the how-well-do-they-mix dept.

Programming 534

el topher asks: "After 5+ years of being married, my wife and I have been blessed by her becoming pregnant. I've professionally been a programmer for a while now and am now concerned that commercial software development is not a good job for a dad to have. Thinking back on all the software development groups I've been in, it seems most of the coders were not parents, and the coders that were parents seemed to have trouble with things like dealing with unplanned death marches and not being there for their family. So my question to the programmers with kids out there: How does a programming career jive with family life? I'd especially like to hear about parents who have been coding for a while and the situations in this area they've faced."

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I'm the father (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9340239)

I fucked your wife.


FP? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9340245)

FP? omgwtfbbq!

Change the where, not the what. (5, Informative)

Skyshadow (508) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340246)

This seems like a situation where it's less about *what* you do for a living than *where* you do it.

I used to work at startups and I currently work at the in-house development department for a major HMO (it's a big department, like 3500 people). The work itself hasn't changed a whole lot, but the expectations about hours certainly have -- at my current job, we're not relying on the next release to stay alive so there isn't a constant scramble to push product out the door. I've found, incidently, that this suits me much better than high-pressure 90 hour work weeks.

You might expect that sort of job to pay less, but it actually doesn't. Sure, I'm not going to become suddenly rich off stock options, but who does these days?

My advice would be to look for a job like mine -- someplace stable and with reasonable expectations when it comes to the hours you work. That's going to be someplace big and probably someplace in a industry where software/hardware isn't the big money-maker. Be sure they know your priorities; an interviewer at the sort of company you're looking for will respect a commitment to family. After all, these sorts of people are looking for *you* to be stable, too...

Aside from that: Kudos to the author for realizing that his kids are more important than the software release. Bringing home the bacon is important, but it ain't everything -- When I was with the startups, all of the parents just dumped their kids into daycare and with babysitters a week after they were born -- our sales VP probably spent a week total of waking time with his new daughter over the course of a year. Bet he felt really good about that when the place went under...

Exactly (5, Insightful)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340289)

This is 100% dead on and the thread can be closed now. My wife worked for Boeing and Lockheed Martin- and this was never a problem. I've been programming for about 3 years now, and the times I've been forced to put in a lot of hours have been few and far between.

I would think that changing employers would be easier than moving to a new profession.

Re:Exactly (2, Informative)

red floyd (220712) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340341)

Ditto. I worked for Litton for 17 years (before it became part of NG), and never had an issue.

Agreed (1)

E1v!$ (267945) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340354)

Changing where/how you work is very important.

You could also teach....

Re:Change the where, not the what....and the HOW (3, Interesting)

sseman (706568) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340409)

In this day and age, you should push your employer for remote access via VPN.

I regularly work at night, just after tucking the kids into bed. I simply head to the basement, connect through IPSec and RemoteDesktop and there I my desk at work.

It sure beats the drive in, and the crap I get from the missus when I come home late.

Re:Change the where, not the what....and the HOW (2, Insightful)

ouzel (655571) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340459)

So lemme guess - either your kids are old enough to sleep without waking up every half hour asking for mommy or daddy, or you just don't sleep at all. Or both.

Re:Change the where, not the what. (5, Insightful)

psycho_tinman (313601) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340432)

To offer a concrete example or two, it is generally better to work for a product oriented company than some place actively looking for projects (send us anything in area X and we will implement it for you). The reason is that product timelines have a bit more flexibility since you're not generally working to please a specific customer, and it also means there will be more planning and (hopefully) fewer adhoc features creeping in.

Another thing is perceptions, though. It's important to make sure that there are other parents in these places. If you're the lone 9 to 5er in a stable full of 20-somethings on the fast track to burnout, then you're going to be noticed and probably not in a positive way (I am narrowly considering the number of hours you have available to put in, of course). My anecdotal evidence, there were subtle cases of discrimination (a loaded term in the US, I know) against programmers with "other" responsbilities when it comes to doing crunch projects. Management tends to favour those who have expressed willingness to throw countless hours into a project. YMMV.

Another thing is, some companies will actually seek to ease your parenting workload, for instance, my last place of work had a daycare facility in the campus itself, so that any employee could drop their toddlers off and pick them up at the end of the working day. It seemed to work out all right and it was only marginally more expensive than conventional daycare (I think.. I don't have any kids ;)

Having said all of that, I think you may be surprised at how resilient kids can be about parents who are actually busy doing work some of the time. It may be an unpopular view, but so long as my parents were there some of the time, I didn't really notice the difference. Both of my parents worked (till their retirement a few years back) and I was a latchkey kid for quite a while. I think having siblings also helps :) I have 3 siblings, so it meant a lot of time playing with them :) It also helped me that I am introverted and didn't mind curling up somewhere with a book. The point is that I think your kids won't mind you occasionally staying late at work (so long as it doesn't happen frequently/regularly).

To conclude, I agree with the parent poster, kudos on planning to spend more time with your kids.. if my former co-workers are any indication, I think that will serve to give you a much sharper focus for getting in, getting the job done ASAP and going home..

Re:Change the where, not the what. (1)

dnoyeb (547705) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340479)

The reason is that product timelines have a bit more flexibility since you're not generally working to please a specific customer, and it also means there will be more planning and (hopefully) fewer adhoc features creeping in.

Bwahaha. Just laughable. Try working in the auto industry. Perhaps you mean, products you intend to sell to the public.

Re:Change the where, not the what. (4, Insightful)

bigman2003 (671309) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340489)

True dat-

I work at a university, and my pay is okay, but not great.

We don't have deadlines, and I don't have a pager. I do check my systems to make sure they are running on the weekends, but that is for my own reasons, not my bosses. (I believe I have come in about 4 times on the weekend in the past 5 years to clear up a problem, and each time my boss says "you know you didn't have to do that")

I was offered a job at an outside company, with a 50% pay increase. My bonuses would be tied to the hours I billed to a client. Anything above 35 hours a week (billed) I would have been paid double-time. I could have easily doubled my salary by putting in some extra hours each week.

I declined the job and I have not regretted that decision at all. I spend plenty of time with my family (15 holidays/year, 12 sick days, and 3 weeks of vacation a year) and I'm not going to get an ulcer.

You would have to pay me 10 times what I make now to get me to consider switching over to a high-pressure commercial situation. My priorities are quality of LIFE, not quality of STUFF.

Am I Missing Something? (3, Insightful)

th1ckasabr1ck (752151) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340247)

Am I missing something?

I'd think that a fairly structured, stable, relatively high-paying job is perfect for family life.

Re:Am I Missing Something? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9340293)

Yes, you are missing something.

There's more to family life than having a high regular income.

I often don't see my kids except to say goodnight to them when I come in from work. That's hardly ideal.

Yeah, you are missing something? (5, Insightful)

Skyshadow (508) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340303)

Bringing home good money is important, but there's a lot more to parenting. You gotta be there for those Saturday softball games and Thursday night recitals. You gotta have time for the family, and you gotta be able to make it when you say you're going to.

This disqualifies a certain sector of the development industry where the next release of X product will determine the ongoing fate of the company, and so everything else goes out the window as you try to meet some deadline.

Absent parents cause all sorts of problems -- kids with substance abuse issues, teen parents, low self-esteem... Trust me: I went to a private high school where a fair number of the kids were from rich up-and-coiming families, and a disproportionate number of them were burnouts or had serious problems.

No job and no amount of money is worth seeing your kids slide down the tubes. I'd rather be broke with well-adjusted successful kids than be a millionaire with my kid in rehab.

Re:Yeah, you are missing something? (1)

th1ckasabr1ck (752151) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340343)

I do work as a programmer, but I'm only 20 years old (I've been at this job for over a year now). Everyone here seems to have a family life, we very rarely work insane hours, and the people who work here generally seem very happy - I know I am. Maybe I just have a skewed vision of how things work.

Re:Yeah, you are missing something? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9340412)

Great, someone who understands the commitment parenting requires. On the other hand, I'd rather be rich and single with no kids. Oh well, two out of three ain't bad (single and unreproducing). ;)

Re:Am I Missing Something? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9340315)

Are you missing something?

Too right you are. At least for the first six months one thing you'll be missing is sleep.

Trust me on this - sleep deprivation and programming don't mix.

It does get easier once the little so-and-so starts sleeping though.

Re:Am I Missing Something? (3, Funny)

slickwillie (34689) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340364)

I remember when my kids were infants, everyone warned us of the "terrible twos", meaning that when the became two years old they would be hard to manage.

What they didn't mention was that things would only get worse from there.

Re:Am I Missing Something? (1)

after (669640) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340316)

Lots of programmers spend insanely large amounts of time in the office with the team working on a project and not enough time with their family. Sometimes during project phases, such as crunch-time, programmers see their team more then they see their family because things like overnight coding sessions are not uncommon.

Take a look at the International Game Developers Association: Quality of Life [] for good information about this kind of work. Game development is a career that is notorious for splitting social groups apart.

You're missing something (3, Insightful)

KalvinB (205500) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340349)

the hours.

If you can't be home on a regular basis (more than a few times a week, at at least one whole day free) at a reasonable time (in time for dinner or sooner) and be willing to spend quality time with your kid you need to find a new job or expect to not be much of an important part of your kid's life.

What job you're working doesn't matter. It's the hours you work. The hours you are home. And the ability to bond with your kid effectivly within the time you have.


Re:Am I Missing Something? (4, Insightful)

BrookHarty (9119) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340357)

Wow, depends on what High Paying is. If its work a few years and quit then its worth it. If its working 80 hours a week for 52 weeks a year, expect your wife to take the kids an leave.

Also expect to get burnt out.

We have the reverse problem, they moved us from hourly to salary to save money, then expected the same 80 hour weeks. Most people where working the 80 hours for OT, now that they left the company, the work load increased, and PHB want us to do the job with fewer people.

I said, I'm not working another 20 hour day. Stood my ground and they hired some contracters. Only thing they could do was fire me, and man I need a vacation.

Sometimes spending time with the wife is more important than being single and rich. (Or broke if you have kids and paying child support)

pfft (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9340253)

feel luckey you got a girl to have sex with you.... dont worry about the rest...

Hrm... (2, Informative)

Trillan (597339) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340258)

I'm not a parent myself (yet), but the company I'm working for has a lot of coders who are parents. It doesn't seem to cause too much trouble for them, as long as management is reasonable on estimates (which is usually the case).

I'll see if I can draw their attention to this article, though.

It was tough (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9340259)

... for the first 3 years:, but then my kid learned vb and started writing windows security patches.

Re:It was tough (1)

BrookHarty (9119) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340404)

I have a friend who set his kid up a little freebsd box when he was 6. The kid sitting at the login prompt, started hitting keys and pounding away. Dad came back noticed the kid somehow created an error, and was sitting at the command prompt, logged into the OS.

He now has to tell us his son started hacking at the age of 6 everytime we talk about hackers.

Re:It was tough (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9340435)

3 years old and writing window security patches?

A little old for that isn't he?

Re:It was tough (5, Insightful)

XaXXon (202882) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340444)

Sorry, but I'm gunna have to call the cops. Letting your kids learn VB is obvious neglect. You should have beaten the tar out of him when he installed Visual Studio -- even if he wanted to do C++. You have to nip this in the bud.

It can't be any worse... (1, Insightful)

BW_Nuprin (633386) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340260)

...than having an unemployed drunk for a father. At least when you come home, you'll probably hug your children and tell them you love them.

Easy answer .... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9340264)

... get a programming job with the government! You'll have plenty of time to spend with your fam.

Try a non-profit (4, Interesting)

PIPBoy3000 (619296) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340266)

I work for a large healthcare organization, writing custom software for the needs they have. There are occasional deadlines, but the pace is much more relaxed than for a for-profit organization. The work is interesting and meaningful.

In fact, I took off before lunch today to attend my son's preschool graduation. To put it in geek terms, my current job is so good, I turned down an offer from Bioware making games for a living.

Re:Try a non-profit (1)

frodo from middle ea (602941) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340428)

How's the Pay and general benefits package , working for a Non Profit Organization ?

I have been working for some very PRO-PROFIT companies for more than 6 years, And even though I have earned a lot of dough, I am not very satisfied with my work.

In fact for the last 2 years, I have been in the fight club/ office space mood, . The thing is I love programming, but I have stopped getting any pleasure from my job for a long time now.

Although I do a lot of photography in my spare time, and that has been a lot of help. But JOB sucks.

I have been wondering , whether working for a more moral cause might help.

Re:Try a non-profit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9340478)

How's the Pay and general benefits package , working for a Non Profit Organization ?

If he's in health care, it's probably comperable or better than industry average.

There are *significant* tax advantages to being a non-profit in the health care arena. The HMO I work for is actually three different companies which work as essentially the same unit, but which are seperate for tax reasons.

Trust me: we ain't the United Way (although actually they pay fairly well for certain positions, too)...

Family news (0, Flamebait)

Fullmetal Edward (720590) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340270)

Is it me or is "Ask Slashdot" really "Help I fucked up my family/social life because I'm not suited to it and my hobby/job".

Simplest way to work out YOUR life if to LIVE YOUR LIFE. We're faceless user names on a geek website, not people who follow you twenty five hours a day noting every little thing you do.

Re:Family news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9340398)

I think he actually has a point here.

what the kid wants (1)

mastergoon (648848) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340273)

Just make sure you are programming cool stuff, like games, and your kid will be happy to have the betas. :)

Depends on the company (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9340277)

Programming and families are quite compatible. Lots of folks work basic "9-to-5" jobs that have standard in and out times.

Sure there may well be crunch times, but they SHOULD be rare and not "normal".

It's all a matter of expectations by you, your employer and your family. Get them all set up straight up front.

Administrators typically have worse issues, because they tend to have to do things "off-hours".

Quck Fix (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9340282)


You make your choices. (4, Insightful)

gfxguy (98788) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340283)

Life is a series of choices, you have to choose your priorities.

I've been programming professionaly (i.e. not including school) for ten years now. My son is 5 and my daughter is 2.5, and I love them more than anything.

Sometimes I have to work late, but it's very infrequent. I go into work very early so that I can come home early and not miss evenings with them. Sometimes I telecommute so that I can take an hour and go to a program at one of my children's schools.

I do get called after hours and on weekends, but it's extremely rare.

If you've been working in a "slave labor" job where you constantly work late, on weekends, and have no free time, then see line one.

Re:You make your choices. (2, Informative)

Jack Greenbaum (7020) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340466)

Balance is what it is about. If you live a life centered around work, regardless of what it is, then you have not choice but to change your work habits. If you live a balanced life with regard to your vocation, then you can replace your current non-work activities with family time. Likely you're already spending those hours with your spouse, so the new activities will be a natural growth of raising a family. Perhaps your friends are/will be spawning about now too, so your social life will gradually change to a family oriented one.

What I found in my life was that I had to give up my geek projects outside of work, and let work suffice as my creative geek time. I couldn't do everything I need at home and work and make accellerometer-based blinky widgets after hours. My wife doesn't work outside the home, so she has the flexibility to do more at home when work requires travel or a weekend here or there. I appreciate the flexibility on her part, so I support her when she's doing something special. Partnership rocks. Since I'm not geeking out on my own in my office she doesn't feel that work is taking over. Conveniently I've know for quite some time what my vocation would be, and I've been lucky enough to align my job with my interests, and my home life with my job, so it is all working out.

-- Jack

ps. Congratulations! I hope the family stays healthy!

Nightmare (1)

Mondorescue (652638) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340288)

My wife has been pregnant for 7 months (baby due in July) and my software project has been stalled for... 7 months. :) Before you stand a wife, a baby, and a successful software project. Pick two.

Re:Nightmare (1)

eln (21727) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340406)

Pick two? How can you have the baby and the successful software project and dump the mother if the baby is still residing in the mother?

Really, if you stop work completely because your wife is pregnant, you really need to learn how to better manage your time.

I've held down several programming jobs and made deadlines while my wife was pregnant. The trick is to be in a work environment that allows for reasonable deadlines based on the programmer's own expectations of how long a particular project will take to complete. Then of course, you have to manage your time effectively so as to be able to make doctors appointments and whatnot while still putting in the required time at work. Really, it's not that hard.

Oh, and congratulations on the baby.

nonsense (5, Insightful)

selderrr (523988) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340292)

I have 3 kids, and I'm 32. They take a lot of your time, but if you have basic planning skills, that is no problem at all. Just consider 16:00 - 20:00 to be a no-work zone. As long as you don't PLAN to do any work then, you'll be fine. However, if you plan to work all the time, then prepare to get frustrated. After 20:00, they sleep, and you can code since going out every evening is a big nono with kids at home (babysitters are damd expensive !)

If you can manage a wife for 5 years, you sure as hell can manage a kid : if you can not plan free time from work with your SO, then forget about kids.

Re:nonsense (1)

selderrr (523988) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340329)

duh.. replying to self, since I forgot one important issue : I'm a freelancer, teleworking at home most of the time. When kids are young (
However : take 16:00 - 20:00 as qualitity time with the kids.

and work instead of watching TV

Re:nonsense (1)

gfxguy (98788) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340392)

Aaachh... this is something I didn't say in my first response.... I have two kids now and I follow NO television shows. When I can watch the Simpsons or one of my other favorites, great, but I don't plan on it.

Sometimes I do leave work very early, but then telecommute in the evening for a little while after the kids go to bed. Also, in five years, my wife and I have seen all of two movies in the theaters, not including the ones we took the kids to. Somehow TV and movies aren't very important anymore.

+5 Married (2, Funny)

EnsilZah (575600) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340296)

Was i the only one thinking "el topher (Score:5, Married)" when reading this?

Re:+5 Married (1)

general_re (8883) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340381)

(Score:5, Married)

Trust me - once the kids come, you can forget about scoring for a while....

It depends more on the employer than the position (1)

majkqball (696199) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340299)

My employer is super flexible with interruptions and what not. I've taken a week or two off here or there because of family interruptions, even for moving, all without a hitch. And I'm coding for a living too (besides reading Slashdot...).

Other jobs I've had where the employer was not as family friendly made life quite a bit harder - like taking unpaid time off.

If you've been with your company for a while (and assuming it's in the States) you can take unpaid (or sick time) off via the family medical leave act (act?). There's nothing they can do about that.

It's compatible, just set expectations (4, Interesting)

Chairboy (88841) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340301)

The two careers are completely compatible, you just need to set expectations ahead of time.

Tell your co-workers that you have a family and that they'll always come first. Let your boss know that you're willing to go the extra mile when you're needed, you're just counting on him/her to use really clear judgement about when to have you working late or weekends. You'd be surprised how reasonable someone can be if you actually talk about this with them.

Finally, offer to fill in occasional gaps by working at home. When I had my first kid and I started getting antsy, my boss suggested that I work from home occasional Fridays. It was a small thing, and I'm careful not to betray the trust inherent in it, but it definately helps.

Software development has occasional deathmarches, but it also has unprecedented flexibility other times of the year.

Not personal experience but... (1)

picklepuss (749206) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340302)

I would venture to say that the vast majority of the IS folks in my company have children. Let's just say that there is no shortage of Girl Scout Cookies, Candybars, etc. being sold at any given time to raise money for some child's extra-curricular activities.

I think that rather than worry about programming as a career, you need to look closely at the company for which you work. Find yourself a large bureaucratic organization where you can get yourself a cube and a steady 9-to-5 and you won't have much of a problem. Stay away from small development and software companies and move into some other field.

Not every programming job has to be so dramatic.

"unplaned death marches"? (4, Informative)

autopr0n (534291) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340305)

Thinking back on all the software development groups I've been in, it seems most of the coders were not parents, and the coders that were parents seemed to have trouble with things like dealing with unplanned death marches and not being there for their family.

Just because it's possible to have "unplanned death marches." in the software world doesn't meant that you should have too. In fact, if you do it'll probably mean that the software you write won't be adequately tested before it's deployed.

Anyway, you shouldn't have to stand for that crap. If you're team is slipping behind deadlines, it's the managers fault, not yours. Asking you to sacrifice your social/family life because of someone else's fuckups is ridiculous.

Work at home (1)

taniwha (70410) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340311)

when my kids were really young I reorganized my work so I worked at home 4 days a week ... I got the kid(s) in the morning, my wife worked mornings as a part time teacher ... morning was get up, get kkid(s) up, feed them, go for a walk (playground, cafe etc) come home by 11, put kids to nap, start work, wife comes home at about the time the kid wakes, I work 'till horribly late (I do startups).

This worked really well for the first few years and I'm someone who actually gets more work done when working at home - I'm really pleased I got to spend that time with the kids whe nthey were really young ....

if you're thinking the family life will suffer (1)

ChipMonk (711367) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340323)

Then just don't do it.

Computers will advance. You might get carpal tunnel. Any of a million things could happen. If it comes to a question of family vs. job, take the family. What you gain will far outweigh what you lose. Or, think of it this way: a computer won't hug you tenderly the way a kid will.

Re:if you're thinking the family life will suffer (1)

foidulus (743482) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340400)

Or, think of it this way: a computer won't hug you tenderly the way a kid will.
Damn you, you just shattered all my dreams of a robot wife!

Re:if you're thinking the family life will suffer (1)

foidulus (743482) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340422)

After posting this, I see that it may come of as slightly robopedophilliac, so let me rephrase it:
Damn you, you just shattered all my dreams of a robot family!

It's easy (2, Informative)

bahamat (187909) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340327)

Just write a UNIX compatible OS like Linus did. He's got 3 kids and handles it very well.

Plenty Of Time With Family (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9340330)

Believe me ... you spend a lot more time with your family than military servicemembers. Try doing IT for the Army and being involuntarily extended in Iraq continuously.

Simple: Family first (5, Insightful)

JasonEngel (757582) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340332)

Being an admin with oncall duty, second and third level help desk chores, and app coding, being a married man with two kids has been easy. At least, after you get accustomed to Rule Number 1:

Family First.

If your employer can't handle your family obligations, then Family First says you get a new employer who can.

If you are on a project that suddenly requires a lot of work, but your child is sick, then Family First says you take care of your child first then do whatever you can to help out with the project second (if that means late nights, it means late nights, if it means burdening your coworkers then burden them).

Maybe I am fortunate, but I have always worked for companies and/or managers that understand the Family First rule, though that might be because all but one of them had kids, too (the only mgr I had who did not have kids was a complete jerk anyway, and he was soon fired for it).

You might want to consider... (1)

kemapa (733992) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340335)

...bring a family member into the home and keeping your current job / profession. Meaning, why not have "grandma" or "grandpa" come live or stay with you? Or maybe be a nanny during the daytime? I'm not saying to replace yourself with another family member, but anyway family influence is a positive one, and it may allow you to keep things the way they are now.

Its all in your priorities... (4, Interesting)

Supp0rtLinux (594509) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340338)

I coded in C/C++ for about 5 years. Learned some perl, php, and python too. More recently, I've been a sysadmin for 8+ years, but I still do a lot of coding... and some DBA work... and I consultant on the side cause my wife doesn't work and my salary, even almost 12 years of experience later makes for a decent life, but not the best one. Plus I've been laid off enough that consulting is my little "what if" plan. My first kid came about 2 years into my coding career. I have three now... ages 12, 10, and 3. When it all comes down to it... its all about time. I work Mon-Fri from 9am to 6pm. Mon, Wed, & Thur nights, I code and other stuff from 9pm to midnight. Tues and Fri, I don't do anything unless emergency requires that I do. Then on Saturday from 7am to noon, I work more. So I get my fulltime salary, another 10 to 15 hours of side work a week, but I get to have dinner with my family every night. I get every evening with them and most of the weekend. Having tried different combinations, this is the only schedule that allowed everything to happen without sacrificing something... either the boy's hockey game, or the wife, etc. Plus, being salaried, I can take a morning or afternoon off when the wife has to take a kid to the doctor or dentist. And with three weeks of vacation a year, I enjoy two weeks off and with the family, and one week I spend consulting full time for a nice little check that gets saved until November when we go Xmas shopping with it. For me its all about priorities and schedules and knowing when to turn the cell phone off and when to leave the PDA at home.

Get a job at a University (4, Interesting)

frodriguez (527375) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340342)

I am a father of 5 children and have been a programmer for nine years. All of my programming career I have worked at a University. The pay is not great but the benefits are awesome for a family man. I get 6 weeks off when the baby is born, 4 weeks vacation a year from day 1. Great Medical and Dental for your family. No overtime or beepers. So I have the time to devote to my family. They even gave me a below rate mortgage to purchase my house.

Congratulations! (1)

thakadu (776967) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340350)

I have a son of four years old and have been a coder/designer/architect for many years. The irregular hours that are typical of my coding phases are very difficult for me to fit in with family life. My wife is a great person but has no clue about the mind of a coder! And I cannot explain the habit of working 14 hours a day for three weeks and then working half days for the next three. I try to work at night when her and my son are asleep.

As a Single Father (3, Interesting)

techsoldaten (309296) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340355)

As a single father, I have been taking care of my daughter on my own for over 7 years now. I often think I could not take care of her by myself were it not for my job as a developer.

The biggest advantage has been in terms of salary, which has allowed me to afford private schools, material things and education which otherwise would have been hard to afford. I make more even than some of my friends in the banking industry, although their long term salary prospects are probably higher than my own.

The ability to work from home has been the second largest advantage. There have been days my daughter has been sick or on vacation where I could not physically be at work but have remained productive. Having a cable modem has made it so I am available to write code 24x7 and not be tied to a desk somewhere. Along with this goes the possibility of freelancing, which I have often had to do when the car breaks, an unexpected bill comes up, or when I just feel like taking a vacation.

The third biggest advantage is the social aspects of having a child. The relationships I have developed with other parents at my daughter's school have led to endless opportunities as a programmer, and I actually once got a job through another parent.

The bottom line is having a child is no shopstopper, even in terms of massive work schedules. I can work all day, go home and relax for four hours with the child until it is time for bed, then stay up and write code all night if I feel like. The fact is coding and parenting have many similarities - you are constantly issuing instructions and trying to find out why they are not producing the expected results.


No different with or without kids (2, Interesting)

clandaith (187570) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340356)

I have two children. One 6 and one 2. I have seen no real difference in my life as a programmer with or without kids.

I still go to work at the same time and come home at the same time. I work about 9 hours a day and then it's home to play with the kids.

Lately I have been on a hard project, but it's not required for me to stay and work extra hours. I have done it because if not, my boss would have been here for many more hours (2 can get the job done twice as fast).

But, I still make it to my oldest little league games at 5:30pm. Guarenteed, I'm there around 6pm, but I still make it. I have my weekends off to play with the kids also.

I guess it boils down to your job. Do you work a crap load of hours? If yes, then you will have issues. If no, than I doubt that your programming life will change.

Now, the personal projects that I work on have suffered because I don't have the free time like I used to have after work. I prefer to be playing with my boys than working on the computer anyway. ;)

Similar situation... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9340362)

I'm in a similar situation. My suggestions are to

(1) make sure your boss is aware of what's going on (your child is sick so you won't be working until later in the day, you need to take your child to $random_activity, whatever). Oftentimes I think you will find that if your boss is aware of what your family issues are and how they are going to impact your time at work, he|she|it will be far more understanding;

(2) strive to work more efficiently when you are at work: don't screw around at the pop machine, skip the 10 minute hallway BS sessions that are part of company life, decide which meetings you really must attend and those that you can skip and ask someone else about later (this last one being a good idea whether you have a kid or not...)

You have to ask? (1)

RolandGunslinger (597069) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340363)

Who decides what gets posted here anyways? This is silly...I've been a programmer for 20+ years and have 2 kids. Like *anything* you allow to dominate your time, programming will only shortchange your family if you allow it to. Asking a bunch of total strangers the answer to a common sense question seems a bit silly to me.

I do it (2, Informative)

4b696e67 (670803) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340368)

I have been working from home as a sysadmin/programmer for a small local company since my son was 6 weeks old. My wife works away from home full time, so I am the primary caregiver. I have strange hours. I usually do my coding/system updates from midnight to 8 am or so, then I watch and play with my son till by wife gets home at around 6 pm. During the day, while I am watching my son, I keep the phone open for any "emergency" situations that come up at the main office. I go to bed early around 8pm or so. I don't require more than 4 hours of sleep, so it works out good.

It's not easy, but it can be done. Plus, I am having the time of my life raising my son, who is now 15 months old. It is such a joy to watch him develop his own personality.
Best of luck to you. You will enjoy being a dad.

When looking for a new job... (1)

red floyd (220712) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340370)

And when you're looking for a new job, make it clear that you have a family, and expect to have a family life.

Even when I was recently unemployed, when I interviewed, I specifically asked, "I have a family. Will I be able to have a life if I work here?"

Families will ruin your life (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9340373)

Just a warning - don't do it.

If you are married and have children - Can you imagine how happy you'd be without the income drain of a wife and a kid? Dude, you are SHACKLED, as is the submitter of this story.

Also, he uses the word "blessed", which just goes to show that a majority of "family men" are religious types who have no place breeding to begin with.


Re:Families will ruin your life (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9340484)

>Also, he uses the word "blessed"

All whipped guys do shit like this. On the surface, they're happy as clams. Inside they're getting a new ulcer every day. If a woman is not herself capable of supporting whatever larvae she can produce, she should not be producing them! She damned sure shouldn't be leaning on some guy to support them for her! This is so fucked up. The single, childless people in your company are going to have to work harder to do the parts of your job that you neglect because you think your goddamned spawn is more important than the work you're supposed to be doing. But you still expect to get paid the same, no, paid MORE because you have created new mouths to feed. That's pretty irresponsible, bringing new kids into an overpopulated world. Encouraging some woman to be a freeloader. Shame on you and your kind.

Telecommuting Helps (2, Informative)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340374)

1. work for a real company - not some psycho-start up run by a bunch of childless 20 nothings wired up on Red Bull. Sure - the start up might have a big pay out at the end of the day, but then... it might not. And you only get ONE chance to be involved with your kid's early childhood.

2. Telecommute. My wife works for HP, and she hasn't been to the office in...ummmm... two months? She works her butt off, but she's home, and so it makes things a lot easier to juggle. I work at home as well (she took over half the "dining room" and I built a small room off the garage for my video editing / sound design / graphic design biz) so even though we're both home, we're not in each other's face all the time, and either or both of us can care for the Wee Child when she's not in school.

3. Get the kid into a Really Good Pre-K. This is important for a number of reasons - he or she will have lots of friends, will learn to read faster, and have better social skills. Oh- and you can get lots of work done from your home office without a 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 year old destroying things.

This is ALL true, and I speak from experience.

by the by: congrats on reproducing, and I welcome your child to this little green planet of clocks.

Now: do the sensible thing and get your yarbles snipped before you do it again. The world needs fewer people, not more. And a gradual reduction in population is what is indicated.



priorities (3, Insightful)

programic (139404) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340375)

It is a matter of priorities. Either your family or your job will come first. I realize there is a catch-22 there, but let me explain.

If you are willing to put your familiy first, seek after a programming job in a company that does not make "death marches" a regular occurance. It isn't hard to spot this kind of tendency in a corporate culture during a job interview. It usually comes out in the kinds of questions the interviewer asks anyway.

If a career comes first for you, then find the best paying job you can where you will be happy at. You don't have the prerequisite of needing to balance your time with family life.

Of course the best option is a combination of the two. Maybe you can find an employer who will let you work flexible hours, or from home, or whatever. In any event, the bottom line is that you need to find a job that is in line with your priorities with respect to career and family.

Wait till you have two... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9340378)

you think one kid will fuck up your life, wait till you have two or more. Stay what your doing...You'll adjust.

Just be careful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9340379)

As a geek, don't name your kid el topher 2.0 or some Anime name. He/She will resent you.

In the early years it's gonna be tough, but once your kid is old enough to handle a keyboard, you can teach him/her to be an elite hacker, and then your kid will grow up making viruses you fix for a living. Ah, the circle of life ^_^

But as long as you can take your work home with you (don't know exatcly what you code?) you'll be able to keep your presence around and let your kid know daddy is there if he/she needs him. Coding is pretty tedious and your code won't dissapear on you, I'm sure you can fit in a few hugs without losing your place.

Programming job is no prob (1)

figa (25712) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340384)

I'm pretty happy being a programmer and a parent. I have flexible hours, so I can take my older daughter to kindergarten in the morning and spend some time with her there before school starts. I've volunteered a couple times to help in her classroom. When my older daughter was in the hospital last year, I worked part time so I could trade shifts with my wife. I could have taken time off, but she was in there for a while.

I rarely have to work more than an 8 hour shift. I telecommute when I have to work weekends, which isn't often. My biggest problem is telling myself to stop working and go home when I know the house is a mess and the kids are guaranteed to be tired and cranky.

A job that's bad for your family is going to be bad for you in the long run, anyway, so you should start looking around if you're pushed too hard. I'm working in finance and found the right niche. You can find one too if you look.

My son just said his first word! (0, Offtopic)

gatesh8r (182908) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340385)

#pragma! I'm soooooo proud!

Veteran programmer and parent (5, Informative)

MythoBeast (54294) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340386)

I've been programming for about 13 years now, the last three of them as a parent. This has been compounded by the fact that my wife is even less of a stay-at-home mom than I am a stay-at-home dad. The truth is that it's workable, if somewhat demanding. Here are a few suggestions:

1. Tagteam the kids. Take turns keeping them distracted while the other one gets stuff done. This gets much easier after they start to walk, although you REALLY have to childproof your home if you're going to get any programming done while they're keeping themselves busy.

2. If your boss would fire you over putting your family over your job, you need to find a different boss. As long as it isn't a continual parade of parental interruptions, most employers are entirely understanding when family life interrupts.

3. Encourage your employer to use a better management technique (for instance Scrum), which doesn't encourage forced death marches to make up for bad planning. Programming is a demanding field, but if your employer expects you to wreck your health over a deadline, then they're doing something wrong, not you.

4. Don't expect to be a perfect parent. Perfect parents don't really exist because parenting is always a tradeoff between overmanaging your children (in which case they don't learn) and letting them run too freely (in which case they get hurt). If you have ANYTHING to do besides parenting then you will have to juggle that priority in with that balancing act. If you don't have anything to do besides parenting, then it isn't likely that you'll have the perspective necessary to make healthy decisions.

On the other hand, programming trains you for parenting pretty well. The long sleepless nights, the time spent explaining very simple things to really stoopid people, and the ability to tune out the rest of the world all really help when dealing with children.

Your wife's support is key (2, Informative)

The Bungi (221687) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340387)

If your wife does not understand that there are going to be times when you work 12-14 hours a day for weeks or months and that sometimes you'll have to work Saturdays and that sometimes you'll have to sit at the computer and work instead of playing with the kids or helping her around the house, then you're screwed.

I know couples who have been at the brink of divorce because the wife just wouldn't have one of my developers work on a Saturday or whatever. Some of it is selfishness, but you also have to understand what they're going through. And if they work... well, that's another bowl of fish.

She has to see that you do what you do so that she and the kid(s) can have a better life. Just don't disappear at nights because you went drinking with your buddies - and whatever else, MAKE SURE YOU MAKE IT UP TO HER AS SOON AS YOU CAN. After a particularly difficult project for example, take her on romantic dinners or a good vacation. Let her go out with her friends while you watch the kids instead of firing up the XBox. And so on.

Life is a balance, and you need to find yours (and hers).

if ya can't handle it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9340388)

if you can't handle it, Jus' give me a call and I'll take care of the wife for you.

Join management ... (1)

hobbs (82453) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340393)

I'm only partly facetious. I don't know if its a natural cycle, years of service, or whatnot, but management (even people formally coders and those who actually *did* work) is more often filled with family types who manage the work/life balance well.

Management isn't always the pointer-haired boss, but can just mean Tech Lead or Supervisor, where you aren't necessarily the frontline coder. Being the latter can be fun when single or childless, but can lead to unhappiness when you have to balance work and family.

In the end, remember one thing: your child is here for life, your job (usually) isn't. Prioritize from there.

Don't work for a marketing company (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9340405)

I'm currently employed in a marketing company.... my bosses make me work insane hours and i don't get paid overtime...1250 a month i get .. then i have to spend 250 on the train.... go figure...

my point is... don't go work for some marketing company where your needed as "flexible"

since at the moment i'm being "flexible" and programming at 0:38 (GMT+1)

Re:Don't work for a marketing company (1)

sshearman (674082) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340450)

I work for a med size (2500+) company and switched from marketing back to engineering as a SW engineer. The time demands are about the same on a whole, but travel is much lighter, making it easier on my wife and two young kids.

WTF? (0, Flamebait)

WIAKywbfatw (307557) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340414)

This is what "Ask Slashdot" has been reduced to?

Since when did a programmer becoming a parent pose any greater a challenge than anyone else becoming a parent?

Newsflash for you, people: becoming a parent is challenging. It doesn't become more or less challenging based on your chosen career path, especially if you're not the one who's actually had the baby.

Regardless of what you do for a living, you're life becomes less care-free and less flexible because you have, shock, horror, new responsibilities. If you work in a bar that means you can't hang around with everyone else for hours after closing time because you have a family to look after. Similarly, if you're a coder you can't casually decide to wave your evening goodbye by staying on for another four hours to finish the portion of code that you were working on because there are other more personal demands for your attention.

Whether you work in a bar or code in an office the bottom line is the same: work isn't the be-all and end-all of life when you have little mouths to feed. Start working to live and not living to work.

Now, is there any chance that we could see some "Ask Slashdot" questions that aren't remotely stupid?

My Story.... (2, Insightful)

borgheron (172546) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340415)

I subcontract for a company in the MD/DC area. I work for them 8-10 hours a day and I also do other work both for other clients and for my own company's projects.

I also spend a lot of time with my kids. Its all about *making the time* and setting limits. Your family should come first, no matter what indoctrination your current or future employer has given you.

Also, it is encumbent upon you to build in and plan for time that you can spend with your family. Most of the contractors/employees that I work with are married and have one or more kids, so there is nothing stopping you.

Just thought that might help, GJC

That should be sufficient (1)

picklepuss (749206) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340416)

Well... It looks like there is a sufficient amount of favorable responses posted already. You can go ahead and let your spouse read the thread. And don't forget to start looking for a better job. It shouldn't be hard. My company has openings for 100's of positions in IS right now. As a matter of fact, we're having a hard time finding qualified individuals (they must have all moved to India or something).

And now for the crass response... (2, Funny)

mark-t (151149) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340421)

You're married... and the fact that you are having a kid proves you are getting laid with some regularity.

So **WHY** are you asking Slashdot?

Not a direct experience but... (1)

TWX (665546) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340429)

...I worked for a company as a QA engineer breaking software, and many of our developers were family people. The easiest solution to being able to deal with family stuff was to work from home. They had offices in the home where they could work relatively undisturbed yet be there in an instant if something desperately needed their attention, and any "crash!" noise was usually loud enough to make it through anyway. Breaks to spend some time with the family every now and then worked out okay, so the kids got to see their father, but work still was able to be completed.

As the (15yr old) son of a programmer... (5, Interesting)

RyLaN (608672) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340430)

My father used to commute 2-3 days out of the week, and work at home the remainder. Now, he works at home full time - the hope being that more time is available for my siblings and I.

However, I think this is *not* the way to go. Ever since Dad has been able to walk 20 feet to his office, he has left it later and later. My advice would be to leave your work as far away from your kids as is possible.

On a seperate note, you will do wonders for your childrens' egos if you "don't notice" them ARP sniffing on you... (Hi, Dad! :-))

Re:As the (15yr old) son of a programmer... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9340477)

Nathan, you forgot to vacuum the hallway. Get down here. -His Dad

another persective (2, Interesting)

Anubis350 (772791) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340434)

I know you asked for a parents perspective, but perhaps a childs might be appreciated as well.

My father is a software engineer. Has been for his whole career. I dont think it detracted from his being a good father. To be honest I dont think its the field you're in that matters as much as its how much time you spend with your family. My father was/is a great dad, and I think he would have been one no matter what field he had gone into. If you can spend time with your family then there's no problem. If you cant perhaps you should seek a job with better hours, perhaps in a different field. But this is not a problem with the computer industry, its simply a problem with having a job, any job. to sum up, its a question of time, not profession.

just my 2 cents (and pardon the rambling tone, I havent slept much last couple nights because of finals)


There's no secret to it (4, Interesting)

Maury Markowitz (452832) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340436)

What, do you think coding is different than any other job? How about all those 18th century factory workers at Bolton's button-polishing plants who worked 12 hours a day (or more) and had families of 8? Get over yourself.

Here's how you do it: you go home at five. Every day, period. Wave goodbye to the boss, and say "well I'm off to see the kid". When they say "crunch time", say "see you". When they say "death march" , say "see you".

I told the boss I wasn't coming in till noon twice a week so I could have the kid mornings. Moan, whine, bitch... ok, see you at noon.

You will not lose your job. You will not lose your bonus. You might get a raise, and maybe even a promotion. If you're so insecure at your job that going home at 5 loses it for you, you lost it already.

Face it, you work long hours because you want to. Don't tell me different, I was there too. With a kid you just won't want to any more, so you won't. That's all there is to it.

grammatical nit-picking (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9340453)

How does a programming career jive with family life?
You mean to say "jibe" rather than "jive" (jibe = agree).

Orphans Preferred (3, Informative)

cratermoon (765155) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340454)

Steve McConnell wrote about this in his book After the Gold Rush, in a chapter entitled "Orphans Preferred" [] . He slams the heroic crunch coding style of programming and gives his ideas for a saner, more professional, development process.

The Truth... (0, Redundant)

Digitus1337 (671442) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340460)

The truth is, most coders and the like aren't very successful with the opposite sex.

my experience (1)

MattW (97290) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340461)

Since I left my last full-time job in september of 2001, I've been working as a contract programmer. I've enjoyed steady demand from the same few clients, and that's obviously a nice thing. But I've made as much money as I would working full time, and worked more like 30 hours a week and done so with complete and utter flextime. The panic fire-fighting calls tend to come far less frequently than they did at my full time job, and at worst my clients tend to apologetically ask if I can finish something urgently - they don't demand it, or simply assume it, which is what happened at my last full time job.

So, before you do something radical like changing careers, think about leveraging what you know and changing HOW you do what you do. I'm sure your ability to pull this sort of thing off depends a lot on your ability to soak some short time financial risk, your skill at what you do and the demand there is for it.

Parenting and coding don't go together (1)

teetam (584150) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340464)

It sucks being a coder and a Dad at the same time, so I am trying to move into management. The only problem is that I will have too much time on my hands and I have to learn golf now!

just don't freak out (1)

Cheeze (12756) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340469)

Just keep telling yourself you can handle it. There are lots of trials in life, and having kids is a big one, even more so than getting married (you can always get divorced, but your kids are forever). I have a kid and i've been on call for probably 5 years straight now. The good thing about being on call is if you get called out to do something in the middle of the night, you can usually make up that time by sleeping the next day. just don't sleep as much and you get lots of time with your kids.

As a programmer, you'll probably have deadlines and stuff like that. just pace yourself and you should be able to finish your tasks. If you do not plan ahead, you will probably have lots of problems. Plan on the unexpected. Plan on taking at least one day a month off for no reason, other than spending time with your family. If you have to work from home on a saturday, it's worth it.

risky career (1)

xedef (685544) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340474)

Parenting or not, programming for commercial software shouldn't be a career goal unless you've already hoarded enough cash during the doc-com years. The open-source movement is bound to succeed and I truely believe it. That is to say, openoffice will kill ms-office and eclips will kill jbuilder and etc. Programming is like painting: if you love it, do it;if you have a family to support, be prepared to be a hungry artist/programmer. The bottom line is I program for the fun not for the money.

Drop the "death marches" (1)

brauwerman (151442) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340480)

Most coders have stopped participating in "unplanned death marches" by the time they are responsible enough to start a family.

The better to enjoy the familial unplanned death marches...

Get better management (3, Insightful)

iabervon (1971) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340485)

If management is smart enough to plan ahead at all, the marathon coding sessions will be rare and predictable. (Release on this date means that the week two weeks previous will be long hours, and the week before will be chaotic; but you know this two months in advance). If you don't know when your releases will be, management is clearly insane and likely to be ineffective.

As far as long hours, I'm firmly convinced that no good software design gets done while someone is at work. All of the major breakthroughs are made while you're asleep. The only reason to go to work is to type them in and tell people about them. Of course, you'll make some progress on things you're not working directly on, so a 90-hour week once in a while (generally at the last minute before the testing cycle) is good to clean out all the bright ideas you don't know you've had. But a 90-hour week severely cuts into the actually generation of insight, so it kills the next week or two of work (which may be okay, if your next week or two is mostly sitting around waiting for bug reports). If you're doing regular 90-hour weeks, you're working part time and have an extra fulltime job staring mindlessly at a computer.

priorities change (1, Flamebait)

mabu (178417) | more than 10 years ago | (#9340486)

I had an employee's wife get pregnant about a year into him working for me. At that point, he basically became useless. He no longer had the passion for the job he once had. He slacked off and spent half his time researching things and creating goofy personal home pages chronicling the development of his child. I think having children is one of those fundamental things in life that creates a paradigm shift in peoples' motivation. As a result, I would always prefer an employee that doesn't have children over one that does, especially in a case where the family is about to have their first baby. I guess it depends upon the industry you're in, but I do agree, programming takes quite a lot of concentration and commitment and I'm not of the belief that one can maintain a high level of productivity when other areas of their lives are radically changing. This isn't any indictment of the value of having a family; it's just my opinion based on my own experience, and it just seems to make a lot of sense. Certain types of jobs require high levels of commitment that often cut into other social and interpersonal worlds.
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