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Programming IT Technology

Parenting and a Career in Coding? 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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Parenting and a Career in Coding?

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  • by Skyshadow ( 508 ) * on Friday June 04, 2004 @06:22PM (#9340246) Homepage
    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 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by stoolpigeon ( 454276 ) <bittercode@gmail> on Friday June 04, 2004 @06:27PM (#9340289) Homepage Journal
      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 (Score:3, Informative)

        by red floyd ( 220712 )
        Ditto. I worked for Litton for 17 years (before it became part of NG), and never had an issue.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        In the modern market, there aren't many big, stable companies that hire large programming departments and yet don't give them mission-critical work.

        There are some, but they are few, far between, and already full of talented programmers who aren't planning on leaving any time soon.

        While the goal is great and I agree with it, the fact is that it is very, very difficult to find this sort of IT work, and you may be left looking for years (during which time you will need to deal with family issues, of course).
        • by captain_craptacular ( 580116 ) on Friday June 04, 2004 @07:07PM (#9340677)
          Who said anything about mission critical work? Just because larger corparations don't have asinine deadlines and DO have realistic schedules that don't require 90 hour weeks doesn't mean the above people aren't supporting mission critical systems.
          • by lucabrasi999 ( 585141 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @12:21AM (#9342476) Journal
            larger corparations don't have asinine deadlines and DO have realistic schedules

            Ah, what corporation are you working at? As a consultant, I have seen many, many organizations, both large and small, with asinine deadlines and unrealistic schedules.

            My present client (Fortune 500 company) doesn't just have asinine deadlines, they change the criteria of success to meet the missed deadlines.

            I travel for a living. I only see my 10 month-old son on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays. But, I see him all day long each of those days. I would suggest that the soon-to-be Dad not focus on the size of the company he works for, but he focus on what kind of benefits they offer and what kind of balance they have between work and life.

        • by stoolpigeon ( 454276 ) <bittercode@gmail> on Friday June 04, 2004 @07:16PM (#9340728) Homepage Journal
          That's just looking at the situation from one perspective and forgetting the original options.

          Yes easier said than done- but easier than finding a whole new career? I think so. Especially if one accepts that this career must provide for a family and allow for a decent amount of time with the family. Switching careers and becoming entry level in almost any field tends to carry with it a drop in pay and less desirable hours.

          Is switching employers 'simple' and gauranteed? No- but compared to dropping 5 years of experience and starting over- it just might be.

          Finally- I don't work for a big company. I work for a small company. There are 2 developers- we are a financial business and I do internal stuff. Mission critical: yes. Crazy hours: rarely. I have 3 kids ages 4, 3, and 1. I spend a lot of time with them and my wife. It is more than doable. I do make a little less than those working for a large company. But enough for a house, food on the table and a car. (Not a big fancy SUV - but we get where we need to go).

    • Changing where/how you work is very important.

      You could also teach....
    • 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 am....at my desk at work.

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

    • by psycho_tinman ( 313601 ) on Friday June 04, 2004 @06:40PM (#9340432) Journal

      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..

      • by Doctor O ( 549663 ) on Friday June 04, 2004 @07:04PM (#9340653) Homepage Journal
        > 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).

        I know you've written you don't have kids, but as a father whose son turns two just today and whose wife is pregnant, I can tell you that you're missing an aspect you can't know.

        I don't want to be at home with my family because I think my son might be somehow "damaged" by me not being there. He'd be just fine, he's a strong personality. I want to be at home to be with my family - be with my wife and see my son and the soon-to-come grow up. Kids grow up only once, you know, and watching videos isn't the same thing. I thought I could imagine how intense it is, but I had no idea. If you plan on getting kids sometime in the future, look forward to it! It's great. Stressful most of the time, but *very* rewarding.

        And there's something else. I personally don't need a job, I only need *money*. Working is a pointless waste of time if you look at it objectively. You only go there for the money, and overtime isn't usually paid for, at least where I work. So why spend more time there than necessary while the family has fun at home?
        • by b-baggins ( 610215 ) on Friday June 04, 2004 @07:31PM (#9340829) Journal
          -I think my son might be somehow "damaged" by me not being there. He'd be just fine, he's a strong personality.-

          This is just plain wrong. Your children WILL suffer psychologically, emotionally and developmentally by not having a father around.

          I work to support my family. I don't have a family to support my work.
          • by Feanturi ( 99866 ) on Friday June 04, 2004 @08:11PM (#9341146)
            Your children WILL suffer psychologically, emotionally and developmentally by not having a father around.

            Depends on the father. My father wasn't around much when I was a kid, and I would thanks the gods for that on a regular basis. Maybe I've suffered developmentally anyhow in some way, but hey, I'm sure it would have been much worse if he was around more.

        • I don't want to be at home with my family because I think my son might be somehow "damaged" by me not being there. He'd be just fine, he's a strong personality.

          I'm sorry you think that way.

          As a former teacher, with years of experience working with learning disabled and emotionally disturbed (those are the actual names of the classifications of the students), I can tell you that he's already "damaged" in ways you can't see. It could be that it's something he doesn't show, or that you're just too busy. I
      • by Tackhead ( 54550 ) on Friday June 04, 2004 @07:56PM (#9341037)
        > 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.

        Dude, you just touched a nerve with that "discrimination" concept. I grok where you're coming from -- but please understand that the "discrimination" feeling cuts both ways.

        It doesn't matter whether a team is pulling 80-hour weeks or 40-hour weeks: If Paul Parenthood starts leaving work undone so he can be with Paul Jr., you just suggested that Joe stack the workplace deck with kids who can also leave work unfinished, all for the noble purpose of enabling management to shovel all the work down on those of us who don't have kids. Nice to have you out of the closet.

        I realize that's not what you meant, and it's certainly not what you (or Paul Parenthood) intends, but it's what happens.

        The common line (usually from a manager with kids) is something like "Well, we're asking you because you don't have children, you don't understand how much harder it is now that Paul has kids now, and because you don't, well, you obviously have so much more spare time than he does, well, we'd like you to do Paul's work."

        If asking Paul Parenthood to keep up his productivity is "discriminating against him because he has kids", then so is asking Sam Singleton to pick up Paul's slack when he says he can't.

        If there's any advice to the new parent here, it's to be aware that your single, childless, and/or childfree co-workers may feel just as shafted by management as you do!

        If there's a silver lining behind this cloud, it's that the friction between parents and single/childfrees is caused to lousy management, not some evilness inherent to breeders or kid-haters. The two camps don't have to hate each other -- nor should they.

        I'm lucky to work at a place where I, as a childfree employee, can say "Dude, I need to take care of Geeky Stuff [LOTR comes out, supplies for a LAN party] this afternoon", and he'll say "Go for it, I'll hold down the fort while you're gone." Likewise, my co-workers can say "Dude, I need to take care of Parental Stuff this afternoon", and I'll say "Cool, I'll hold the fort while you're out." More importantly, we're just as comfortable asking those questions in front of -- and sometimes to -- our manager.

        It's rare, but there do exist managers who are sufficiently clued to realize that as far as Sam Singleton is concerned, seeing LOTR or setting the weekend's LAN party is just as emotionally important to Sam, as setting up the kid's birthday party is to Paul Parenthood.

        If you're in management: Go thou and do likewise. For the sake of all your employees.

        • by Geekbot ( 641878 ) on Friday June 04, 2004 @10:16PM (#9341862)
          That's pretty lame if you or someone else has to take it out on their co-workers for having the balls to say that they have a life.
          It's management's problem if they can't adequately staff the workplace. If you are choosing to work a bunch of overtime hours to impress Supervisor Schmuck that's up to you. But it's not fair to blame that on the guy who can stick up for himself and tell management that their family comes first.
          If your project requires people to pick up co-workers overtime on top of their own in order to meet deadlines, either it is understaffed or mismanaged. By sticking up for yourselves instead of giving into management it will leave them in a position to either manage their project better or re-evaluate their profit margins on the project. On the other hand, they could replace you with someone who will put in a bunch of overtime hours and burn themselves out in 5 years.
        • by cheezit ( 133765 ) on Friday June 04, 2004 @10:23PM (#9341892) Homepage
          Every hour you are working beyond Paul Parenthood is *your* choice. If your boss allows his/her expectations to be colored by knowledge of personal commitments (not requiring flexibility, but total contribution of effort), they are a bad boss.

          If you allow your time be sucked away because you don't have a hard commitment that pulls you away...don't blame those who can't make the same choice.

          I have 3 year old twins, a father first and a coder second, and I don't work ridiculous hours. But you know what? I actually work when I am there. It's amazing how productive a regular day is when you don't spend your time at the watercooler or bitching about their workload (like many around me). I'm happy to look hyperproductive when fellow team members put in more hours with less visible results.
        • by poppycock ( 231161 ) on Friday June 04, 2004 @10:30PM (#9341913)
          If asking Paul Parenthood to keep up his productivity is "discriminating against him because he has kids", then so is asking Sam Singleton to pick up Paul's slack when he says he can't.

          True enough. A competent manager should strive to allocate work fairly according to professional -- not personal -- concerns. Though a competent manager also must realize that people are humans, and their personal life infringes on their professional life (and vice versa).

          as far as Sam Singleton is concerned, seeing LOTR or setting the weekend's LAN party is just as emotionally important to Sam, as setting up the kid's birthday party is to Paul Parenthood.

          Poppycock! As a father and a manger, as well as a dyed in the wool geek, I can tell you without equivocation that the emotional attachment you may feel to LOTR is in no way comparable to the emotional connection a parent has with his or her children. Parents quit jobs routinely to spend time with their children. I would die for my daughter. If your child is seriously ill, functioning normally enters the realm of the courageous.

          There are social and personal consequences involved if you neglect your parenting responsibilities. If you miss the opening of LOTR, who gives a fuck?

        • If Paul Parenthood starts leaving work undone

          It doesn't matter why somebody leaves work undone. If you aren't doing your job, you need to change jobs. Hopefully you'll do it by choice. I've never worked anywhere or heard of any place where having kids can consistenly be used as an excuse to not do your job.

          as far as Sam Singleton is concerned, seeing LOTR or setting the weekend's LAN party is just as emotionally important to Sam, as setting up the kid's birthday party is to Paul Parenthood.

          It is ab

          • It is absolutely ridiculous to try and equate a movie with a child. Until you have had children, you cannot possibly understand their emotional significance to their parents.

            The point that you are missing that they are YOUR kids, not anyone elses, YOURS. You have NO RIGHT to use them as an excuse to impinge on anyone else's life - no matter how trivial their life might seem to you. Why should someone else have to pick up the slack because you overcommitted yourself and are now flaking out or your professi
        • we'd like you to do Paul's work.

          It's not that parents want to get out of doing our work, it's that we don't want to do more work than we signed up for.

          I became an employee after 12 years as a consultant literally days before my son was born. A big part of the reason I did so was so that I could work *only* 40 hours per week. Unfortunately, Management's desire to get six month projects done in a month hasn't helped that.

          It doesn't help, either, when the kids *do* work 80+ hours a week, grumblin

    • by bigman2003 ( 671309 ) on Friday June 04, 2004 @06:45PM (#9340489) Homepage
      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.
    • I've been a software developer for 20+ years, and a father for 18. I've worked at startups and big companies both, and never had any major conflicts.

      My basic rule for surviving is simple: refuse to be exploited. I work very little overtime, and I never work on weekends (except when there's a very serious problem, which happens almost never). My career has gone quite well, and I've actually never been accused of being a slacker or anything like that (probably because I produce a lot).

      Just say no to routine overtime; if you're a good worker during your 40-hour weeks, no sane boss would make a big deal about you wanting to have a life outside of work. If your boss does make a big deal about it, look for another job (or just ignore the unreasonable requests and keep doing good work; you'll probably outlast the bad bosses if you're a good worker).

      By the way, I've found that hourly contracting is actually a good way to avoid unreasonable requests for overtime. If they ask you to stay late, just point out that it's costing them $75/hour extra (or whatever) and they'll probably back off.

      • >If asking Paul Parenthood to keep up his
        >productivity is "discriminating against him because
        >he has kids", then so is asking Sam Singleton to
        >pick up Paul's slack when he says he can't.

        The solution to this dilemma could be to give Paul a two-year (paid) leave, during which he is replaced by an employee with a limited-time contract, and giving a guarantee to Paul that when he's over this very important period he can have his old job back.

        No employer would perhaps subscribe to such a system

        • Much as this is good for Paul Parenthood, what about Tom Temp? He gets hired on knowing his job will disappear in two years, gets minimal training (he's gone in two years) and has no career prospects. As much as I sympathize with Paul Parenthood, your proposed fix is worse than the original problem! There is a very good reason the United States wants to stay as far from socialism as possible. - in attempting to be nice to Paul, you're exploiting Tom even worse.
  • by th1ckasabr1ck ( 752151 ) on Friday June 04, 2004 @06:22PM (#9340247)
    Am I missing something?

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

    • by Anonymous Coward
      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.

    • by Skyshadow ( 508 ) * on Friday June 04, 2004 @06:28PM (#9340303) Homepage
      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.

      • As I too rapidly approach 25 years as a working engineer, I have found this to be invariant: If a company mismanages itself into one crisis, there will always be another. Management that repeatedly over-extends their development capabilities and habitually over-works their "exempt employees"(*) always encounters another "emergency", often before the current crisis ends. They consider this to be a sign of management prowess, rather than proof of ineptitude!

        Experience shows that true emergencies are few and

    • by KalvinB ( 205500 ) on Friday June 04, 2004 @06:33PM (#9340349) Homepage
      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.

    • by BrookHarty ( 9119 ) on Friday June 04, 2004 @06:33PM (#9340357) Homepage Journal
      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)
  • Hrm... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Trillan ( 597339 ) on Friday June 04, 2004 @06:23PM (#9340258) Homepage Journal

    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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 04, 2004 @06:23PM (#9340259)
    ... for the first 3 years:, but then my kid learned vb and started writing windows security patches.

    • Re:It was tough (Score:5, Insightful)

      by XaXXon ( 202882 ) <<xaxxon> <at> <gmail.com>> on Friday June 04, 2004 @06:41PM (#9340444) Homepage
      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.
    • Re:It was tough (Score:5, Interesting)

      by techsoldaten ( 309296 ) on Friday June 04, 2004 @06:48PM (#9340522) Journal
      My daughter (who is 8) has her own blog. She was concerned about security, articulated to me a permissions system she would like to implement, and we wrote that system together.

      Surprisingly enough, I brought that system to work with me today and we are using an expanded version of it for an enterprise system.

      • by Anonymous Coward
        Congratulations. You've prepared your youngster for several awkward and sexless years of highschool.
        • by techsoldaten ( 309296 ) on Friday June 04, 2004 @07:59PM (#9341063) Journal
          I'm doing my best, but the possibility that a boy may try to touch her someday persists. For my part, aside from educating her in how to write code, I am also investing in dental braces, science camp, violin lessons, tae kwon do school, and tutors in several languages. I plan on making this girl so smart and self-confident she will be 21 before any of that stuff happens.

  • ...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.
  • Try a non-profit (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PIPBoy3000 ( 619296 ) on Friday June 04, 2004 @06:25PM (#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.
    • by queequeg1 ( 180099 ) on Friday June 04, 2004 @06:50PM (#9340531)
      I also worked for a large non-profit health care company (as an attorney, not a programmer, but the observations are still applicable) and I'll tell you that the sisters could drive a harder bargain business-wise than many MBAs. There was nothing more relaxed about that work environment compared to a for-profit corporation. Plus, you always had to worry about your increased chances of going to hell if you forgot to put the cover sheets on your memos.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 04, 2004 @06:26PM (#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".

  • by gfxguy ( 98788 ) on Friday June 04, 2004 @06:26PM (#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.
    • 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 t
  • nonsense (Score:5, Insightful)

    by selderrr ( 523988 ) on Friday June 04, 2004 @06:27PM (#9340292) Journal
    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.
    • 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
  • +5 Married (Score:2, Funny)

    by EnsilZah ( 575600 )
    Was i the only one thinking "el topher (Score:5, Married)" when reading this?
  • by Chairboy ( 88841 ) on Friday June 04, 2004 @06:28PM (#9340301) Homepage
    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.
  • by autopr0n ( 534291 ) on Friday June 04, 2004 @06:28PM (#9340305) Homepage Journal
    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.
    • by demachina ( 71715 ) on Friday June 04, 2004 @07:21PM (#9340765)
      I'm pretty confident you've never worked in a place that develops real, big commercial software, especially a version 1, or if you did you didn't last very long. Death marches are a near inevitability unless the software you are developing is trivial stupid or your company is willing to ship buggy software.

      You could dream the product is going to be perfectly engineered and the bug count is going to taper off perfectly on schedule (only time I've seen this happen is when the management team just futures enough bugs every night to keep the slopes on their bug graphs on projections. They usually start supressing tracking of futured bugs at the same time.

      If you think manager take the bullet for missed schedules you are working on a different planet than me. If the manager sees his project's timeline slipping past then end of a make or break quarter he is going to put you on a death march and you are going to march or get laid off at the next opportunity. If you are lucky the manager will give you time off after you ship equal to the extra time you were forced to work though this is usually a small fraction of the amount of extra time you probably did work. You might get a little stock or a bonus if the product is successful. Meanwhile the manager and the executive team who were probably missing in action most of the late nights and weekends, probably busy partying, will get a shit load of options and huge bonuses.

      Welcome to capitalism, ain't it grand.
      • by eraserewind ( 446891 ) on Friday June 04, 2004 @09:49PM (#9341728)
        Well, I have worked in plces that develop big commercial software, and I agree 100% with the grandparent.

        There is almost no excuse for death march projects in modern software development. It is just poor management and/or a team not experienced enough to tell management that they don't know what the hell they are doing (in a diplomatic way naturally).
  • 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

  • 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.
  • It's easy (Score:3, Informative)

    by bahamat ( 187909 ) on Friday June 04, 2004 @06:30PM (#9340327) Homepage
    Just write a UNIX compatible OS like Linus did. He's got 3 kids and handles it very well.
  • by JasonEngel ( 757582 ) on Friday June 04, 2004 @06:31PM (#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).

  • ...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.
  • by Supp0rtLinux ( 594509 ) <Supp0rtLinux@yahoo.com> on Friday June 04, 2004 @06:31PM (#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.
  • by frodriguez ( 527375 ) on Friday June 04, 2004 @06:32PM (#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.
  • As a Single Father (Score:3, Interesting)

    by techsoldaten ( 309296 ) on Friday June 04, 2004 @06:33PM (#9340355) Journal
    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.

  • 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 li
  • I do it (Score:3, Informative)

    by 4b696e67 ( 670803 ) on Friday June 04, 2004 @06:34PM (#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.
  • 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?"

  • Telecommuting Helps (Score:3, Informative)

    by Ralph Spoilsport ( 673134 ) on Friday June 04, 2004 @06:35PM (#9340374) Journal
    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 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by programic ( 139404 ) on Friday June 04, 2004 @06:35PM (#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.
  • by MythoBeast ( 54294 ) on Friday June 04, 2004 @06:36PM (#9340386) Homepage Journal
    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.

  • My Story.... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by borgheron ( 172546 ) on Friday June 04, 2004 @06:39PM (#9340415) Homepage Journal
    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

  • 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?

  • by RyLaN ( 608672 ) <satH4n@@@gmail...com> on Friday June 04, 2004 @06:40PM (#9340430) Homepage
    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! :-))
  • by Maury Markowitz ( 452832 ) on Friday June 04, 2004 @06:40PM (#9340436) Homepage
    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.
  • Orphans Preferred (Score:3, Informative)

    by cratermoon ( 765155 ) on Friday June 04, 2004 @06:42PM (#9340454) Homepage
    Steve McConnell wrote about this in his book After the Gold Rush, in a chapter entitled "Orphans Preferred" [gamasutra.com]. He slams the heroic crunch coding style of programming and gives his ideas for a saner, more professional, development process.
  • by iabervon ( 1971 ) on Friday June 04, 2004 @06:45PM (#9340485) Homepage Journal
    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.
  • Family Time (Score:3, Insightful)

    by NeedMoreSleep ( 780925 ) on Friday June 04, 2004 @06:49PM (#9340530)
    The whole situation definitely depends upon YOU. If you can create a clear separation in you life between work and family, everything will probably be copacetic.

    Although you will want to attend all of the birthday parties, school plays, and sports events you may not be able to attend them all. Choose your battles wisely.
  • by ChaoticCoyote ( 195677 ) on Friday June 04, 2004 @06:55PM (#9340579) Homepage

    I was married seven years, an in my mid-20s when my first daughter. Fifteen years later, I now have three daughters. And I've had mixed experience with jobs and kids.

    The most important factor is: Do you work for people who have kids? If not, there will likely to be problems. People who do not have children do not understand the complexities involved; if the school calls with an emergency, a parent has no choice but to respond, even if they're in the middle of a meeting.

    Finding a family-friendly employer is difficult; I know this from both personal and friends' experiences. It isn't just a matter of split loyalties -- although that certainly is a factor. Families require insurance and other benedfits; people with kids tend to catch more minor illnesses. Given a choice between a family man (or woman) and someone equally qualified and unattached, the latter often wins. Long ago, families were considered a sign of responsibility and maturity -- today, family is often seen as a burden.

    Families are not the only subject of workplace rpejudice. Beyond the obvious "color" and gender issues, religion, hobbies, and even the kind of car you drive can be cause problems in getting hired or staying employed.

    I've handled these problems by going solo; this also allows me to homeschool my daughters, and lets me wear shorts in the gawd-awful Florida heat. Not everyone has that luxury, and I'm grateful that my situation allows freedom.

  • Working from home (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TheViewFromTheGround ( 607422 ) on Friday June 04, 2004 @06:57PM (#9340596) Homepage

    I'm do free-lance web design to pay the bills while I'm in grad school. I don't have kids, but the neighbor kids have flunky parents and I'm basically like a second dad.

    What I've found is that working from home actually makes it harder to deal with competing demands. When I was working in an office doing database development last summer, I would go there, work from 8 to 5 or 6, and then come home. The kids and I could play, watch a movie, go to the public pool, whatever. Now, because there's no clear line between work and being at home, it takes a lot more discipline to make sure I'm spending enough time with the kids, because when I work from home, I can shut the door my bedroom/computer room and work and work and work. It's great in its way, but I think if I had a family, it would be hell for them.

    A few friends when I was in high school had moms and dads that did the home office thing when I was in high school, and I noticed the same thing. The kids hated their parents being around all the time, and at the same time, the parents didn't actually seem to spend that much quality time with their kids.

    Perhaps other people have better experiences or thoughts on this.

  • by fee^ ( 94129 ) on Friday June 04, 2004 @06:58PM (#9340609) Homepage
    my wife and I decided to procreate while i was a DOD security admin. Because that job entailed about 75-100% travel, the physical restrictions on procreation had me re-evaluate my current employer and search for something that would allow me to be a bit more local. Luckily, I was established enough in the town we were living in that I was able to find a job that required zero travel, and from there, beautiful sophia [maninthebox.net] was born on April 11th.

    Because we chose a method of childbirth that required me to be my wife's sole coach during the entire birth, I was glad that my employer gave me the time and dedication to be there for her during the entire term.

    Bottom line, don't let your career stand between you and your becoming a father. In the grand the scheme, nothing is more important. When all is said and done, the computer and the code may be gone or obsolete, but your son or daughter will still need you. As I type, little Sophie, now over a year old, is grooving to some reggae and "helping" me type. My little hax0r.
  • by Jason1729 ( 561790 ) on Friday June 04, 2004 @07:17PM (#9340732)
    If employees are willing to put in the hours, the company doesn't value the time anyway. If they cared about their employees, they wouldn't put such demands on them.

    When I worked for a start-up, I was willing to put in extra hours as needed, but it was generally only needed to compensate for the gross mis-management of the company.

    For example, we were developing a set-top video device, and there was only 1 test-model for the whole company. At one point, I needed to test some code on a wednesday morning, and my boss literally had me sit and watch for a chance to test it until friday evening. I wanted to do other work, but he explicitly said I was supposed to sit there and wait. On friday afternoon, he "authorized" me to come in on the weekend to do it, and acted like he was doing me a huge favour by letting me go in for no extra pay. Of course, I refused, but it also meant I was first on the chopping block when the company downsized a few months later.

    When I was there, a typical work week was 70-80 hours (these people could have had a higher hourly wage at McDonalds), after the downsize, I kept in touch with some people there and it was closer to 100. 100 hours a week at a $50k/year (canadian) job; it's insane. It comes out to $10/hour for an exhausting an emotionally destructive job. Obviously these people have no life at all; the only people bringing dates/spouses to the christmas party was senior management.
  • by Anonvmous Coward ( 589068 ) on Friday June 04, 2004 @07:28PM (#9340808)
    ...how did you take a career in software development and become a parent?
  • by hardaker ( 32597 ) on Friday June 04, 2004 @07:55PM (#9341034) Homepage
    ... you have the right job/responsibilities and the right boss.

    I've been working at home for the last 3.5 years starting shortly after my daughter was born (I now have a son as well). Though I miss aspects of the office environment, I love being close to the kids and seeing them more than many Dads get to. I does mean I spread my time out over the day a lot more, however, and it can be stressful to get the work actually done.

    But, the only reason this works is because I'm a programmer with a lot of flexibility in what I do, very few on-this-hour deadlines and one of the best bosses ever. It's hard to find a boss that lets you put family first at all times, but there are some like that out there. And if you find one, hang on to them and don't let them down! That's the tricky part. Flexibility is only granted to those that have shown the ability to handle it well. I try to get everything I'm asked to do done on time if not earlier, and with exceptional quality. IE, the more you preform efficiently the better you'll be able to get the flexibility you need.

    Effeciency is by far the most important benchmark in my mind. If you are not efficient, you won't do a good job. Concentrate on what you need to get done and try to eliminate as much waste and you'll be amazed how much you can get accomplished.

    Now, having said all that, do put up a gate between you and the child(ren) and teach them early to understand what "working" means. But at least you can step back over that gate frequently.

  • by John Courtland ( 585609 ) on Friday June 04, 2004 @08:09PM (#9341132)
    ... I feel I have some insight that may aid you.

    My dad is currently a programmer for a large insurance firm. Prior to that he worked for National Gas Pipeline, and before I was born, he worked various other places (Bell Labs, in particular). He's not too aggressive about his job, and I'd even go so far as to say he's very passive. He doesn't go for the promotions, nor does he try to work his way up the chain. That's fine, because he likes what he does, but it also makes him a target for dickheads. Like making him work long hours. In fact, I bet he's doing more work right now, on his home machine. He worked long hours, and while most of the time he managed to be home for dinner, he wasn't really "there" for much of anything. In fact, the only things I can remember us doing were going to 2 major league baseball games, and playing catch. All the rest of the time, he was at work late for some new deadline, orreading more bullshit printouts from the IBM S/370.

    Something you may not have thought of, I have a nice little anecdote for:
    Now, this may be an atypical situation, but in his last job, during a massive round of layoffs, they gave him the choice of quitting, or moving to Houston. If he chose to stay, they would deny him his severance pay. He chose to stay. Well, unfortunately, that severance check was not a small one, and it REALLY damaged our ability to do simple things like replace the boiler, or fix the falling front wall. And now, at his current job, he's looking at being outsourced. It affects him as a person, and therefore affects the whole family. I realize that layoffs and underhanded corporate tactics are a part of any job, but as I mentioned before, he's so passive that he just sits there and takes it. Now, you have to decide on your own whether you are aggressive enough to not put up with shit like that and have your own life outside of work. His passive nature also keeps him from going for opportunities. Just last week, I managed to eventually talk him into applying for the city of Chicago as a Systems Engineer. He has over 20 years of experience, and a Masters degree. He would be a good candidate, plus being a steady government job and a nice pay raise it seemed good. Well, the amount of time it took me to convince him was one day too long and he missed his window. Don't be like that, because it'll get you roped into working long hours with no compensation and no family time.
  • by sipy ( 602638 ) on Friday June 04, 2004 @08:13PM (#9341154) Homepage
    I was one programmer in a three-person startup company. I had two kids, both under 5. I was a single dad. I had to work 15-20 hour days, at times, to get the company off the ground. I had no problem - I left at 5:24pm when my train departed downtown, and got home by 6:15pm to pickup the kids from daycare. I fed them, bathed them, got them ready for the next day, and got them off to sleep. After that, I resumed my coding until 1-2am, then got up to do it all again. THEY never knew what I did after they were asleep - only I did. They came out just fine.

    Don't code when they're around, don't ignore them for the CRT - don't ignore them for the boob tube, either, for that matter. DON'T IGNORE THEM. And when they have a recital/play/sporting event, GO HOME AND TAKE THEM.

    Forget the boss. If they don't get it, get a different job. Pick one - family or career - to be numero uno. Once the other becomes secondary, it all works out just fine, and you will never look back.
  • It's not so bad (Score:3, Insightful)

    by AGTiny ( 104967 ) on Friday June 04, 2004 @08:54PM (#9341441)
    Heh, just the other day I was hacking a Perl script while playing with my 9 month old son on the floor. Wireless laptops are great. ;) It can be done, just don't burn yourself out on coding. Make sure your employer knows you only want to work a normal 40 hour week, and if you do any side coding on your own time (open source, contract, etc), make sure your wife knows what the deal is and understands why you're spending time doing that. It helps if the coding brings in much-needed extra money, but I still manage to find time for open source.

    I also find nothing puts a baby to sleep better than laying on your lap while you are typing away on the keyboard. Well... when he's too tired to bang as hard as he can on the keys that is. :)
  • by fzammett ( 255288 ) on Friday June 04, 2004 @08:56PM (#9341455) Homepage
    I've been a professional coder for over 10 years, and and programmer in general for more than 20. I've also been a parent for 4 years, one 4-year old (obviously!) and a 1-year old. The answer to your question is probably the answer that goes for most any job: depends on the environment you are in.

    Some companies do actually care about your home life, and some companies don't. Some panies understand that employees with the ability to spend time with their family is important, others do not.

    I am fortunate that, while my company isn't the greatest in many respects (i.e., advancement possibilities, technologies in use, creativity always appreciated, etc.), one thing they are utterly fantastic in is that if I need to take time off because my kid is sick, no problem. If I want to come in late some that I can go to a class picnic, fine. If I want to work at home so I can play old ColecoVision games with my son, that's fine. All of this is regardless of how much vacation or personal days I have left. My boss understands, his boss understands, and as long as I do good work and do what is asked of me, it's all fine.

    Fortunately I tend to do much more than asked and am very highly-regarded by most everyone in the company, but I see the same attitude towards those that don't have my record of success or my proven abilities. Everyone enjoys the same atmosphere.

    Now, there are times when I have to stay late, and there are times where I have to put in a little extra effort and time, but frankly everyone tries their best to avoid these things, and these situations are few and far between, and when you are generally treated well all the others times, it doesn't bother you as much to work one Saturday every few months, or work a 45-hour week every so often (when people go out of their way to make sure 40 is the norm).

    So, find the right environment, and it works fine. It's tough to do, and you sometimes have to give up some other things like working with all the latest and greatest, but I think you'll overall be a much happuer person. I am. I've been with this company for almost nine years, and I've passed up at least five opportunities just about every year, even with a bad economy the past few, jobs that would have paid me more and probably been more exciting from a purely geeky point of view.

    But when you have a family involved, things look a little different, and this company has treated me right in the areas that count, so I've stuck around. I suggest looking for something like that, and I think you'll be glad you did.
  • by mitchy ( 34242 ) on Friday June 04, 2004 @09:32PM (#9341658) Homepage
    Look, here are a ton of great ideas in these responses, but I'd like to add one more that I haven't seen yet.

    I have a 5-year old, and a 2-year-old, and they (with the wifey of course) are the absolute center of my existence. When we relocated from Switzerland to Manhattan, I went without work for 9 months. In that span, I spent a tremendous amount of time looking for the desk job in big companies here on Wall Street - Goldman Sachs, Guardian, etc.

    But it was a complete waste of time, and I would have never known it.

    I also contacted several smallish companies (less than 20 staff) that had minimal-to-no IT staff. They also happened to be financial research firms, and needed desperate help building business systems that were proprietary, internal, and provided competitive advantage. It is these companies that I am making a relatively good living from today, and I DO IT FROM HOME.

    I'm paid (and trusted) because of my experience, multi-talented background, and that I have a network of folks I can contact in a pinch to get anything done. I'm not asking for the big bucks, just enough for a family of four to live in comfort and some reasonable financial safety.

    I see my kids every day, I am home for lunch every day, and we all love the setup more than you would ever believe.

    A VERY important addition to this little tale: my 5-year-old was recently diagnosed with epilepsy - not the hollywood-version where she flops around like a fish on the floor, but the type where she just stares off into NeverNeverLand, and has no idea that the conversation has moved on (when she comes back to you) - in short, this little girl is fighting a battle for control over her mind, a battle that she frequently loses.

    Now, realistically, be the wife here. You got a 2-year-old who has 'defensive lineman' written all over him, and he is a handful... On top of that, you have a 5-year-old that you are now homeschooling - there's no rational expectation that she will get patience and understanding in a room with 30 other kids, and an overworked/underpaid teacher that is pressured over the big numbers, not over the quiet little girl sitting in the back...


    Understand that becoming a parent is not always the perfect picture - and always being gone is a recipe for disaster, as not only are you spending all your time making someone else rich, you are also committing to not being there for your family when they may need you the most.

    If you really have been at this for some years, and have been successful at it, then you should be able to find two or three smaller companies that need your expertise, and take on projects with all of them. None of the projects will be grand on an individual scale, and none of these companies could afford a large-scale project anyway! You take the three projects, and add the income up to a very good 'salary' with the ability to stay home with your family, and you also get the challenge of solving a diverse array of problems for different people.

    You will have fun! No whiners because you stop work to have dinner with the kids, as you will be home anyway. You are a grownup now, and can(should) set that schedule yourself!
  • by CryptoEngineer ( 755293 ) on Friday June 04, 2004 @09:52PM (#9341743)
    The first up-modded response is excellent.

    Both my wife and I are very senior engineers, with over 20 years programming experience each. We have two kids, 13 and 9 (both girls).

    It really helps to have understanding managers - ideally, managers who are parents themselves. I would not want to be at startup where the life of the company depends on deathmarch mode work - in fact I turned down several such jobs during the bubble specifically to avoid that.

    One thing that helps a lot is that we're both pretty damn well paid (~$250k total). This means that we could buy very good day care when that was needed, and hire sitters/minders to stay with the kids during summer vacation.

    Try looking for a situation where the boss doesnt care what your actual hours are, so long as the major milestones get hit each month. This works better when you are not in a big team - you can pretty well set your own hours.

    In sum, it can be done, but not at a startup which expects to own you 24/7.

  • by Grimster ( 127581 ) on Friday June 04, 2004 @10:43PM (#9341966) Homepage
    You should have limits you set and abide by, with your job, if you're CONSTANTLY pulling overtime then you should put your foot down about the understaffing. There's no real excuse for being railroaded into working overtime week after week after week by your employer, if they're that damned busy they oughta hire some more help!

    And this coming from a business owner, not an employee, I've been in jobs where I was constantly asked to work overtime/etc managing servers, I just put my foot down and said "ok fine get me business class DSL in my house, and I'm gonna work from home a couple days a week", so I'd go in Mon, Thurs and Friday, and work from home the rest of the time over VPN, they were happy, I was able to work "overtime" (salaried of course) and I was happy, I spent much more time at home so I could at least see the wife and rugrat.

    Now I work my business from home full time, heck I don't even have offices, why bother... everyone who works for me works from home on a performance based pay system.
  • by jdz ( 105853 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @12:58AM (#9342628)
    I'm a software engineer. The demands of the job vary- at times, I've been called upon to put in 60+ stressful hours every week. At times, ~40 non-stressful hours has been plenty.

    Bear in mind that your employer does not necessarily have your best interests in mind. This isn't a knock at any current or past employer of mine, or of anyone else. It's simply a fact- they will always welcome you working more hours (salaried folks, you know what I'm talking about). It's up to you to set limits. Many employers will respect those limits. They may limit your career advancement (either in terms or raises, or promotions, or both) - keep that in mind, but set priorities. How important is your family versus your current (or potential future) rewards at work? If you don't think that this is a difficult question, you may not be thinking hard enough.

    In December of 2002, I found myself stressing out that I was spending too much time at work (over the last ~2 years) and not enough time at home. I kept thinking, "I must do something about this soon!"

    At that time, my step-daughter took her own life. She was going through a lot of troubles. The brutal truth of the matter is that I was spending so much time and energy at work that I was often not home, and when I was, I was not interacting much with my wife or step-daughter.

    I believe that my inattention and lack of commitment to my family at that time was a primary contributor to that situation. I don't believe that it was the sole cause, but I do believe that it was a primary factor. I'll never know for sure. No one will.

    Had I quit my job at that time, I would have sacrificed my family's primary source of income. We could not have paid our bills, including the mortgage on our house. We'dve lost our home, our car, and our livelihoods. Clearly, that would not have been a good situation.

    I believe that I could have found a better balance than the one that I did.

    All I can do for others is suggest that they seek a balance.

    While I'm on the soapbox (I very rarely post on slashdot), I'll also mention that she was on Accutane. I have no evidence that this was a direct cause of what happened, but I firmly believe it to be true. If you have children, I strongly encourage you to learn more about accuatane before you allow them to consume it. Check the PDR, periodicals, the web, or whatever other resources that you feel comfortable with. Also, ask yourself the same question that I (implicitly) encourage you to ask above: Is this issue worth it? Is your child's life/well-being worth this risk?
  • by pennystinker ( 548132 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @02:09AM (#9342859)
    I've personally found that programming and parenthood it VERY difficult to balance:

    - Every place I've worked, both big and small, impose unhealthy expectations of developers.

    - As a community we are often our own worst enemies because we often "volunteer" extra time by staying late on our own, especially when single and not yet with children. The pattern of behavior is easy to understand: usually we're young, eager to learn and produce, but it then sets the bar very high regarding what kind of commitment a developer is supposed to have towards work.

    A few of things to keep in mind:

    - It's only a job, if you love programming, then they cannot take that away from you. Save your fun programming for yourself.
    - It's only a job (yes, I said it twice), if your current employer is a prick regarding expected commitment, leave. I really mean it: leave. A-holes who expect gratis death-march labor without giving back in a big and meaningful way deserve to be put out of business. Period.
    - As far as is scientifically known this is your ONLY LIFE. The extra time you put into work and not spending time with your loved-ones WILL NOT COME BACK! Always keep this in the forefront of your mind.
    - Stand your ground: DON'T do weekends, DON'T do extra hours. Even if you get paid hourly, this financial situation is no license to assume that all of your free time is up for sale. Commit extra time, but place limits. If found that if you behave as if your time is valuable people will respect that. If they don't: leave.
    - Whining a-holes that are in a situation where they can "freely" donate ridiculous quantities of their "free" time that bitch about "Paul Parenthood" going home without "finishing their work" can talk to the hand. Grow up: until science provides (scary) alternatives to continuing our species though procreation we are responsible for RAISING OUR CHILDREN. You are someone's child, think from the child's point of view does this make sense: "Ok Daddy/Mommy stay at work late or on the weekends because the 'project's gotta get done' and you don't want all the shit to flow to the D.I.N.Ks. and singles, besides, why would you want to spend time with me?" The first time one of you mal-adjusted idiots complain to me about folks going home after business hours are over will find your sorry asses on the unemployment line. Seek professional help.
    - If your managing programmers (and I did this OFTEN as a engineering director) CHASE PEOPLE OUT OF THE OFFICE. You won't have whiny a-holes because you make it clear that your EMPLOYEES are there for REGULAR BUSINESS HOURS. IF you REGULARLY expected people to put in long hours than PAY THEM HOURLY! I'll say it again PAY THEM HOURLY!!! It is the ONLY ETHICAL THING TO DO. Any argument to the contrary is self-serving rationalization.


    Personally, get out of the software business. DON'T stop coding if that is your calling, just code for yourself and others. Spread the fruits of you labor.

    If you only went into programming as a job, then continue because you don't really care, but there are better ways to make a living.
  • by This Is Ridiculous ( 234241 ) <.gro.napc. .ta. .xadtnerb.> on Saturday June 05, 2004 @02:42AM (#9342936) Homepage
    Disclaimer: I have not yet entered the work force.

    I'm the child of a programmer. (Yeah, I've ended up as a programmer too--or will end up as one, once I finish school.) I don't really have a baseline to compare it to, but I think my father does fairly well.

    He's technically a consultant, although he's been working eight-to-five at the same job for several years. Being a consultant gave him the flexibility to find time to coach most of my sports teams (a couple years of Little League and AYSO, plus nearly a decade of roller hockey). The few hockey teams he didn't coach, he was involved at the school or even league level.

    Consultancy doesn't give you the benefits--health, retirement, etc.--of a normal job, but it makes the trade-off more explicit: each hour you take off from work has a specific dollar amount attached to it. The decision is simple: is it worth $30 or $60 or whatever it is you make per hour to see your kid sing or play or do whatever (s)he is doing? Your schedule is yours to determine, as long as you make sure you get your contracts done.

    My father's division used to belong to a large non-technical corporation; recently, some of its employees bought the division from the corporation it belonged to. My father was one of the investors, so he's changed from a consultant to a salaried worker. (His job duties have also changed--they're having him dabble in managing other programmers while still doing most of the design work. He isn't a suit--yet--as most of his time is still consumed by interacting with the computer and designing various parts of the program he works on.)

    Since that change, he's been spending more time at work; he still seems to find time for actual events, but he's been missing dinner more often, and stuff like that. I can't tell if the change is because he's working for a salary now, or if it's because he's now working for a small company instead of a large corporation, or if it's because of his new job duties--there are no control groups in life.

    I get the sense that my father's situation was somewhat unusual, so you may want to take this whole thing with a bit of NaCl, but it's something to think about.

    I will say this, though: if any of your kids are technical types, they will idolize you. And even fi they aren't, they'll be glad to have the kind of dad who can fix all the gadgets around the house.
  • by fishbot ( 301821 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @06:07AM (#9343313) Homepage
    I was working in software development when both my children were born, and I did wonder about changing career. However, the more I looked into it, the more I realised that the career I have built up so far would take a long time to match if I did something else, both financially and stability.

    In the end, there is some trade off. Yeah, I might need to work longer hours during major project roll outs, and I might get stressed by the apparent ineptitude of our project planning department (you know the story, 3 months work, 2 man days) but in the end it's what I'm good at, I get paid well for it, and it provides the necessaries for life.

    I still see the kids for at least 3 hours a day if they're bad (no going to bed when they're supposed to) but I see them all day on the weekends.

    When I was young my dad worked as an electrician (actually, he still does), and he worked a lot of nights. The problems programmers have with not seeing their families is nothing compared to what working nights does for family life! I could spend a week and not see my dad because he was in bed when I got up, busy when I got home from school and then he went to work before I went to bed.
  • Not a programer (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Wildkat ( 774137 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @01:54PM (#9345039) Journal
    but a dad. When my wife and I had our first child, a good friend advised us to become a single income household. he gave lots of reasons but the impact on children was the single most important. We are fortunate that my job (Army) pays well enought for us to be able to do that. Our life is not lavish - we average 9 years per car, 4 years per computer and it will be a long time before all our furtunature matches. On the other hand our children are healthy and well adjusted. You cant put a price on that. Another friend told me to abide by the rule of God first, family second and work third with the understanding that sometimes they will be out of balance but as long as you maintain a long term balance, you will be OK. Long hours in the Army tend to last months so when I can spend time with my family I do. My boss has always understood when I left for doctors appointments, soccer games and PTA meetings because they have alwasys known that somewhere down the line will be 90+ hour weeks. We both know that if we say its important, it really is (it has to work both ways and your family has to know that sometimes work is important). I count myself lucky in that respect becausee many of my friends have had bosses that work them for sport. Some things I have learned about time with my kids:

    Doctors appointmnts are more important than I thought. Go if you can.

    30 minutes of reading to your kids before bed is worth hours doing almost anything else.

    Bring them to your office once in awhile if you can. I never knew how important this was until I changed jobs that did not allow any outside visitors and my kids couldnt see where I was when I was not home.

    Show up for lunch at their school twice a year and they will talk about it all year and be the envy of 90% of their friends.

    Make parent teacher conferences. If the teachers know you are involved, 50% of the normal issues never even happen.

    include your family in any work related recognition. It lets them kow why you were gone and reminds your boss how important your family is to you.

    Someday I intend to retire. I plan on having a family to spend time with. Your company will not show up at your funeral, your family will (ok, turth in lending, my company will!).

    Good luck!
  • Our company (Score:3, Informative)

    by Ratbert42 ( 452340 ) on Saturday June 05, 2004 @05:46PM (#9346333)
    ... parents who have been coding for a while ...

    I work for a failing software company. We missed our IPO by about 2 months when the bubble popped. Now we're down from 500-600 headcount to under 80. What's nice about all the cuts and slowdown of business is that the hours are back to roughly 40 a week instead of the insane pace we had back in the boom.

    That said, we have a COO and CEO that fly in every week from their homes and a CIO that sacrificed her family life for her career. So they don't have a lot of sympathy for a developer that needs to stay home with a sick kid 2 days a month. Still, our whole development organization is made up of about 75% guys with kids under 6 years old. I wouldn't change careers or companies any time soon.

"The Avis WIZARD decides if you get to drive a car. Your head won't touch the pillow of a Sheraton unless their computer says it's okay." -- Arthur Miller