Musings of a Developer Dad
It always has and always will. That is especially true in your thirties. They are like the express highway of life, with so much going on: career, marriage, kids growing up, parents getting older. School, college, university all seemed to last for an eternity. But now, blink, and you are going miss something.
I turned thirty-five recently, and I’m about to have my second kid. I work full-time at a medium-sized software development and consulting company, specialized on web based spatial applications using open source software and open data. My day-to-day work consists of doing backend stuff with Kotlin and PHP and frontend using React. And I’m worried I won’t find more time to skill up, or keep up with the latest developments in IT.
Is that an irrational fear? Maybe, but maybe not. Please don’t get me wrong: My job is great, as are the working conditions. Getting time for parental leave was no problem at all, and it won’t be the second time around. Working part-time is also possible.
But what about professional development, trying out new frameworks, maybe even a new programming language? How do I find time for that, when I also really want to spend time with my kids. Is that even necessary, after more than five years of professional work in the industry, and ten more years of experience gained through small personal projects?
Recently I asked on Mastodon how other parents working as developers skill up. I was encouraged to not being “afraid of just install[ing] and us[ing] new things” (@email@example.com). Creating small projects and finishing them, even if it’s just a Hello World, will keep motivation high. Abandoned projects that were too ambitious will linger on in the back of your head. Marco Bresciani on the other hand “play[s] a lot of Lego with [his] kid” (@AAMfP@fosstodon.org), which is also absolutely legit and something I would also like to achieve.
Perhaps I shouldn’t be as worried at all as I currently am. In many ways, the developer in me can benefit from being a parent and vice versa. Gilad Shoham has written a very personal report on how it will boost your “creativity, persistency, responsibility, teamwork [and] logical thinking […]”. It still holds up, even after almost four years, and I agree with most of it. I would also add management skills to the list.
Writing this post and thinking about my personal aims as a developer brought me to the conclusion that there is nothing wrong with missing out on “nerdy things”. What really matters is to prioritize the right things. Stop worrying about dedicated learning time, because you’ll increase your skills on the go, while you are working. Parenting is a job as well, and you won’t learn it in your spare time.
Time flies. And while you’re reading this, another five minutes have passed. Did you blink?