Why I Go Home: A Developer Dad’s Manifesto

TL;DR I love my job, I love my career, I love solving hard problems, and I love crafting great software. Just not as much as a I love my daughter.

When I was younger, i was one of the developers who would get to work early, code all day, leave the office after everybody else, and then get back online and code at night. It didn’t matter what I was coding on, I just wanted to be coding. Then a funny thing happened. My wife and I had a baby.

When I found out that Jen was pregnant I was ecstatic. Not only because getting to that point was a difficult process, but because I have always known that I wanted children. I wanted to be a father. No, I wanted to be a great father. I made a promise to myself and my unborn child that I would, at the very least, be a father who was present, and around, and available.

At this point you may be thinking “How is that going to work? The caffeine-fueled, crunch-time, death march prone careers of developers don’t exactly jive with being home for dinner.” This is true. For me this came down to priorities and a simple realization: If you screw up at your job you can always get another one, but if you screw up your family, especially your relationship with your children, it will stay with you and stay screwed up forever.

So I made the choice that I would be home to spend time with my daughter everyday, even if it was going to adversely affect my career. So I get to the office around 6:30-6:45am every day, I put in about 9 solid hours of work, and I take off to head home around 4pm. The hours between 4:30 and 7:30pm are sacred. They belong to my daughter. The hardest part about this is that I work with a lot of people on the west coast (who, as a function of culture tend to start their days later) and its very natural for them to schedule meetings at 2pm or 3pm PST. This directly conflicts with the time I have set aside for playing with my daughter, so I try to reschedule or decline most of these meetings. Of course, I try to be pragmatic and if something incredibly important comes up on the job I will be here, no matter what the time. The bar is pretty high though, and the reason for that goes back to my earlier realization. Once my daughter is in bed I am free to spend time with my wife, code on something else, or work if its necessary. Calling into an 8pm or 9pm meeting with west-coast teams is not unheard of.

At first I had a lot of guilt about leaving my comrades behind to suffer during hard times. That was reinforced during my performance appraisal when one of the pieces of feedback I got through our peer review process was that as a team leader, it would be nice if i was around when the team had to stay late. But if you look at the breakdown of my time, I spend 9+ hours working each day, and only 3 with my daughter. If that’s unfair to anyone, its unfair to my daughter.

By doing this I’ve actually discovered that I can be more productive when I get away from the code for a while. I drive home, play with my daughter, eat dinner, bathe her, read her books, and put her to bed. All this time my brain is still spinning. My subconscious is still tossing problems around and searching for solutions. There is plenty of research that shows the benefits of taking breaks from hard problems if you want to solve them. Plus, few things keep you on your toes like playing with a precocious two year old.

Sure, I don’t pump out the same sheer volume of code that I used to partly because these days I spend more time mentoring, but also because the lines of code I do write are better.)

Another ancillary benefit I discovered is that I don’t feel as burned out. Death marches and late nights take a lot out of you. As a result you . Nowadays I come into the office energized with my thoughts organized and ready to put in solid hours at work. When you work crazy hours you yo-yo between 20 hour days and 8 hour days that really only have a few hours of productivity (or none at all!) Decision making suffers when you are overtired, and you fall behind on everything else outside of your job that needs to get done. To make matters worse, this trend is self-amplifying. You go crazy trying to finish one project because the demands were unreasonable or it was poorly scheduled or estimated (or other legitimate stuff came up, but schedule didn’t budge) and so you necessarily go easy at the beginning of the next cycle or project because you are burned out. This causes you to fall behind and dooms you to another round of late nights and misery.

Even if you don’t have a great reason like I did, kick the death marches to the curb. You may even find that prioritizing a few hours to spend on some worthy pursuit outside of work will make you even better at your job. While you’re at it, pick up a copy of Rework from the guys at 37signals. It covers a lot of this stuff.

Time well spent

Time well spent

Update 9/15/2011 8:20pm

Some great discussion on my post on Hacker News too: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3001783

  • http://dyn.com DynData

    Great thoughts Schep!  I am sans family and hence still at those death march coding benders, but to your point about taking a bit of a break – I’ve certainly learned that value of that.  Stepping back and getting some exercise or just hanging out with my folks (I spent the summer living at their house) has been great for keeping me fresh and motivated.  Sleeping once in a while can also be restful I’ve found! :)

  • steve

    Awesome. My wife and I are expecting a child. I’m planning to stay home for 6 months. In Germany you get paid 67% from your net salary if you stay home in 12 months after the birth of your child. I hope I can use my time wisely during that time. I’m thinking also I’ll work for the next 37 years. So the 6 month staying home for my child is nothing compare to 37 years working for somebody else. Respect…

    • http://adamschepis.com Adam Schepis

      Wow! I’m jealous!  I took a month off when my daughter was born (2 weeks paid paternity leave, 2 weeks of vacation.)  To be able to take 6 months off is really great! Enjoy it and good luck!

    • Vusal Zeynalov

      bist du frau oder mann? :) ich meine gibt’s wirklich so was für männer?

      • Sebastian Edelmeier

        Elternzeit nennt sich das, und ja – das kann jeder in Anspruch nehmen (bis zu 13 Monate)

    • Vusal Zeynalov

      bist du frau oder mann? :) ich meine gibt’s wirklich so was für männer?

    • Philipp Kratzer

      Staying at home on 67% of your salary is granted to both parents. The time can be shared, if both stay home at least 2 months the period is extended by two extra month. I like this concept very much.

      • Joe

        The concept is nice, but how is a small company supposed to handle losing a key person and still be responsible for paying 2/3 of his salary for six months?  It’s great if companies want to offer something like this as a perk, but to be required by law is horrible.

        • Guest

          the governament pays that money, not companies.

          • Sw3090

            haha where do you think the government gets the money? The answer is to not hire people in germany.

  • http://ganbarugames.com Nathan

    It’s too bad that a lot of developers only make these sorts of changes in their work/life balance after they’ve had children. 

    • http://adamschepis.com Adam Schepis

      I completely agree. It is one of those cases of “I wish i knew then what i know now.”

    • kjmclark

      That’s one of the major frustrations of this field.  You get a constant crop of new developers that don’t have a life and just think the older developers *with* lives are “burned out”.  Management is typically more than happy to encourage younger developers to push out the ones who are being human. 

      And the worst part is the new developers are smart, but not smart enough to see that they’re shooting themselves in the foot. 

      At the same time, a lot of our work is writing systems that put other people out of work.  It’s an ethical dilemma that most developers never give a thought about.

      • semley

        Absolutely. If a company can’t get it’s work done by paying its workers to do an eight hour day, either one of two things is happening:

        1) It’s badly managed or
        2) It’s deliberately lowering its per hour wages.

        Developers need to get smarter about how many hours they work for someone else. Love coding and don’t want to stop in the evening? Fine, go home, code something for yourself. Don’t give your work away for free, as you’re lowering your worth in the marketplace, and far more importantly, mine too!

        Idiots.

      • http://www.justaprogrammer.net Justin Dearing

        I am unapologetically proud of the one time I helped write system that actually put an entire call center out of work. Jobs were not shipped overseas, they were made completely unnecessary. A few people were kept around to answer the calls that came in, but the website I wrote allowed most people to get the answers they needed quicker.

        I do feel bad for the individuals placed out of work, some of which undoubtedly had to take lower paying replacement jobs. However, it was a net benefit to the efficiency of mankind. A certain amount of labor was made unnecessary, which allowed for more necessary labor to get done.

  • Toto

    She’s very cute congrats ! 
     

  • Aleksey Tsalolikhin

    Very well done, thanks for sharing!  You’re an inspiration!  (Father of a 4 year old.)

    • Prasanna

      Same for me too!

  • Sebastien

    So true, working in a startup and having 2 daughters, I made the same choice as you and can see the same positive effects on productivity (plus of course enjoying the relations with my daughters)

  • Ed Castano

    Your daughter is lucky to have you.  These changes in work are better for kids and society at large. 

  • http://dave.kinkead.com.au Dave Kinkead

    Great post. Work will always fill up the time available and for some reason, the less time spent at work, the more productive that time is. Nice to read about someone with their priorities straight.

  • Kaarlo

    > one of the pieces of feedback I got through our peer review process was that > as a team leader, it would be nice if i was around when the team had to stay late. 

    Did you tear them a new one for that? 

    • http://adamschepis.com Adam Schepis

      Haha, actually no.  The review process is anonymous so I don’t know who wrote it.  A bunch of guys on my team don’t have kids yet, so they probably just don’t understand why i’m not there.  My boss is amazing though (the type of manager who fights and advocates for his guys and helps them to get where they want to be.) He has a family and I think he understood when I explained my position.

      In all fairness, when the team is staying late and doing dinners I could spend the morning with my daughter instead of the evening once a week then come into work and be there for dinner.  If I can make my peers more effective by being present then shifting my hours sometimes to spend more time with them is worth it if I can do it without sacrificing my time with my family.

      I have come to think that with good planning its never really necessary to work crazy hours to hit a schedule, but the fact of the matter is that these times do occur from time to time (for whatever reason.)

    • http://adamschepis.com Adam Schepis

      Haha, actually no.  The review process is anonymous so I don’t know who wrote it.  A bunch of guys on my team don’t have kids yet, so they probably just don’t understand why i’m not there.  My boss is amazing though (the type of manager who fights and advocates for his guys and helps them to get where they want to be.) He has a family and I think he understood when I explained my position.

      In all fairness, when the team is staying late and doing dinners I could spend the morning with my daughter instead of the evening once a week then come into work and be there for dinner.  If I can make my peers more effective by being present then shifting my hours sometimes to spend more time with them is worth it if I can do it without sacrificing my time with my family.

      I have come to think that with good planning its never really necessary to work crazy hours to hit a schedule, but the fact of the matter is that these times do occur from time to time (for whatever reason.)

      • KarenJ

        Hi,
        I think this is a really good post about work life balance so thanks for that.
        I too am striving for a work life balance but it is much harder for me for the following reason.

        I am an infertile female.
        Given that it will never be for children, but to spend time with my parents/brother and friends. I see that as just as vaild and important as time spent with a child.

        Please do spare a thought for those of us who are (and always will be in my case) childless. Managers often expect the likes of me to pick up what you drop at4pm simply because I don’t have child care responsibility, making it much harder for me to achieve balance.

        I know having children is a major milestone in life, but it is simply one of manyvalid ways to spend a life. This all comes down to prioritising what you want and then making the choice that is right for you AND others too.

        If you want to spend 4 hours a day guaranteed on childcare then you need to step back from some of the higher pressure leadership roles and perhaps accept a cut in pay as opposed to whining about how naive and uncaring your fellow childless workers are. Believe you me you don’t have to have had children yourself to understand what a precious responsibility they are.
        Many women who work part time to take care of children accept this as a fact of life. (I suspect most who posted here are male.)
        Karen

        • Kenneth Kinnison

          I would make the argument that those that are childless (childfree?) need to consider their work life balance as well. I believe study after study shows that productivity takes a nose dive after a certain point… regardless if that person has a spouse and kid waiting or an xbox.

      • KarenJ

        Hi,
        I think this is a really good post about work life balance so thanks for that.
        I too am striving for a work life balance but it is much harder for me for the following reason.

        I am an infertile female.
        Given that it will never be for children, but to spend time with my parents/brother and friends. I see that as just as vaild and important as time spent with a child.

        Please do spare a thought for those of us who are (and always will be in my case) childless. Managers often expect the likes of me to pick up what you drop at4pm simply because I don’t have child care responsibility, making it much harder for me to achieve balance.

        I know having children is a major milestone in life, but it is simply one of manyvalid ways to spend a life. This all comes down to prioritising what you want and then making the choice that is right for you AND others too.

        If you want to spend 4 hours a day guaranteed on childcare then you need to step back from some of the higher pressure leadership roles and perhaps accept a cut in pay as opposed to whining about how naive and uncaring your fellow childless workers are. Believe you me you don’t have to have had children yourself to understand what a precious responsibility they are.
        Many women who work part time to take care of children accept this as a fact of life. (I suspect most who posted here are male.)
        Karen

      • KarenJ

        Hi,
        I think this is a really good post about work life balance so thanks for that.
        I too am striving for a work life balance but it is much harder for me for the following reason.

        I am an infertile female.
        Given that it will never be for children, but to spend time with my parents/brother and friends. I see that as just as vaild and important as time spent with a child.

        Please do spare a thought for those of us who are (and always will be in my case) childless. Managers often expect the likes of me to pick up what you drop at4pm simply because I don’t have child care responsibility, making it much harder for me to achieve balance.

        I know having children is a major milestone in life, but it is simply one of manyvalid ways to spend a life. This all comes down to prioritising what you want and then making the choice that is right for you AND others too.

        If you want to spend 4 hours a day guaranteed on childcare then you need to step back from some of the higher pressure leadership roles and perhaps accept a cut in pay as opposed to whining about how naive and uncaring your fellow childless workers are. Believe you me you don’t have to have had children yourself to understand what a precious responsibility they are.
        Many women who work part time to take care of children accept this as a fact of life. (I suspect most who posted here are male.)
        Karen

      • Guest

        You must not work at Amazon…

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NLJZCYZ35OBHAQEKPWHP5BOO4I Wondering

          Time to band together as brothers against Amazon…

  • http://veryvito.myopenid.com/ VeryVito

    It’s weird how the coding mentality has surrendered many of the basic niceties of the modern world — 8 hour days, vacations, etc. — and in the process, ruined a good thing for many modern workers.  I’ve interviewed with companies who have no issue with telling prospective workers “We work hard, at all hours, and we seldom leave our desks because we love what we do.” Good for them, but since I’m able to get the work done within reasonable hours, I have no ambition to wear myself out for bragging rights. And yes, it took a child to make me realize this.

  • Chad

    Beautiful.  I’m a father, a developer, and a Mormon.  Mormon’s have a popular saying (quoted from a leader long ago in the 1920s).  It goes: “no other success can compensate for failure in the home.”  I think of it often when work starts to imbalance my life.

    Thanks for sharing, made my day!

    P.S. – the only thing more fun than having a child is having more!

  • http://twitter.com/rooomansanchez Roman Sanchez

    “ If you screw up at your job you can always get another one, but if you screw up your family, especially your relationship with your children, it will stay with you and stay screwed up forever.”
    Well put! 

  • Mark

    THANK YOU. I’m another developer-dad trying to make a difference in my infant daughter’s life, while simultaneously trying to get into the startup scene here in the valley… I work just as hard as my peers, but without punctuating the workday with three-hour super smash bros sessions. But somehow the culture just doesn’t see it that way..

    • http://adamschepis.com Adam Schepis

      I’m probably fortunate to be living on the east coast and not in the valley. The cultural expectations seem to be amplified there. Hopefully you can find a great startup with founders who share the same values as we do. They are out there.

  • Anonymous

    Right on.

  • Brian Swiger

    That is why I’m proud to work where I do.  They understand this core concept of family first.  Life is precious and you’re only around for a short time.

  • Rob

    I’m not there yet and my son is 4.5.. However, I do work at home so I am around and do spend more time with him than most fathers I know.. I am pretty happy.. I believe the number one thing you can do for your child is be happy. That’s not easy in this society (I’m in Ireland though, pretty similar).

    I try to be open.. I’ll admit, I’m not a fan of organised religion, but I love the Mormon saying: ”no other success can compensate for failure in the home.” – Good words

    Great post, best of luck to your family unit!

    Rob.

  • Maarten

    Amen to that. I agree fully.

  • Maarten

    Amen to that. I agree fully.

  • Yaroslaff Fedin

    As a result you… accidentally the whole sentence

  • Yaroslaff Fedin

    As a result you… accidentally the whole sentence

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KWFV747T7LQCOKQI47GNGD2EIY Jojo

    Same as here…. my daughter changed me…. for good :D

  • Misha

    What sort of developer starts their day before 7 am? I am lucky that I essentially work from home and do my own hours. My preference is just to take breaks when required (I have 3 boys under 7) and work at night if necessary. To be honest I would be lucky to ever do any work before everyone is off to school/day-care and I find that my best work is done between 9 pm and 1 am when I don’t have any interruptions from anyone ;-)

    • http://twitter.com/_jared Jared

      You question the early hours, but I question your later hours.   I start work at 5am for the same reason you get your best work in late.    I have no interruptions before 8 am, and I get the benefit of seeing the sun rise while I’m working (most of the year).   By the time most people get into work, I take a break so I’m not bothered by the usual interruptions while people are saying their good mornings.    With a gym break and a lunch break, I usually end my day 3:45pm with plenty of sunshine left to spend with my family.   

      • Misha

        Some are morning people, some are evening people. My comment was more that I have rarely met a developer who starts early. I think it’s a European influence from my parents. If you go to Spain it’s difficult to get a meal much before 9 pm – my sort of hours ;-)

    • http://adamschepis.com Adam Schepis

      I’ve always been more of a morning person.  It also works out because i can spend the first few hours in the office really working on hard problems and coding and then i spend the afternoons in meetings, calls, and working with/mentoring other developers.  I’m not the type of person who is bothered by the noise when i’m sitting in a cubicle but i still think you need a few hours of uninterrupted work each day to really dive in.

    • bubak

      I am most productive at morning. I usually get up around 5 AM, hack till 9AM an opensource stuff and arrive to work around 10 AM. My colleagues thinks I am lazy fart who just woke up, but I already worked  for 4 hours :-)

  • http://twitter.com/precisioncoding Random Precision Ltd

    While I can’t agree more with Adam that the time spent with your children is more precious than any rock or metal that costs loads, I also have to agree with everyone else that if you’re able to set your own hours you tend to “make” that special time happen more! I find I do some of my best work later in the evening when everyone else has gone to bed, but not before I tuck my kids, and wife, into bed!

    More companies should realise the importance of the family and allow those of us that wish to work partially from home or split the daily grind …  if the role and responsibilities allows it of course!

    Thanks for the great post!

  • Fabrulana

    Good to see someone discussing this. It is a problem I had to to balance as well for the last 12 years (age of my oldest son). I had to do a serious decision between supporting my family and an important project as well in my previous job. I chose my family and the company was not happy about it. But I made the right decision as the project didn’t make it anyways(due to lack of infrastructure from the client). Family first and then career – it will pay of in the end as there are always more jobs – but you get only one shot at a happy family. 

  • Philipp Kratzer

    Well said :) . Thanks for sharing your story.

  • Peter Monks

    Well said. I’ve got a 4 month old boy and have come to realise that when I’m not at work I’m always with him. During the work week my time with him is basically the early mornings before I go to work, then from the moment I get home (I leave work at 5:30pm on the dot – I never do overtime unless absolutely essential).

    I feel like I’m still trying to achieve a proper balance but I’m determined to be there for him as much as I can.

  • Sebastian Edelmeier

    Very well put. I have always put my wife and three kids in the first place, which is only possible when you’re physically present. Time gone by is,…well, gone! With every year you age, you feel the wheels spinning faster, and then suddenly your kids are adults and nobody and nothing can give you back what you didn’t take while it was there. Same goes for what you say in your last paragraph : You need quality time besides your work, otherwise all you are is a functional body filling a job description…If you lose that job, you lose your identity. Also, if your company has a hard time and needs you, you need to be there with full strength – which is where balanced people can deliver and burned out people crack.

    It’s also true that kids need both parents PHYSICALLY, meaning : not one to cook the meals, one to earn the money (or, as happens often these days : both earning money and the nanny to cook).
    3 Hours with your daughter is a good deal these days, I think. In the end, it all depends on your lifestyle. If you live a rather simple life and your material needs are low, you can work less and spend more time with your family. If you chase each and every iPod version out there, that’s bought from time you stole from your kids…graphically put ;)

  • Sebastian Edelmeier

    Very well put. I have always put my wife and three kids in the first place, which is only possible when you’re physically present. Time gone by is,…well, gone! With every year you age, you feel the wheels spinning faster, and then suddenly your kids are adults and nobody and nothing can give you back what you didn’t take while it was there. Same goes for what you say in your last paragraph : You need quality time besides your work, otherwise all you are is a functional body filling a job description…If you lose that job, you lose your identity. Also, if your company has a hard time and needs you, you need to be there with full strength – which is where balanced people can deliver and burned out people crack.

    It’s also true that kids need both parents PHYSICALLY, meaning : not one to cook the meals, one to earn the money (or, as happens often these days : both earning money and the nanny to cook).
    3 Hours with your daughter is a good deal these days, I think. In the end, it all depends on your lifestyle. If you live a rather simple life and your material needs are low, you can work less and spend more time with your family. If you chase each and every iPod version out there, that’s bought from time you stole from your kids…graphically put ;)

  • Sebastian Edelmeier

    Very well put. I have always put my wife and three kids in the first place, which is only possible when you’re physically present. Time gone by is,…well, gone! With every year you age, you feel the wheels spinning faster, and then suddenly your kids are adults and nobody and nothing can give you back what you didn’t take while it was there. Same goes for what you say in your last paragraph : You need quality time besides your work, otherwise all you are is a functional body filling a job description…If you lose that job, you lose your identity. Also, if your company has a hard time and needs you, you need to be there with full strength – which is where balanced people can deliver and burned out people crack.

    It’s also true that kids need both parents PHYSICALLY, meaning : not one to cook the meals, one to earn the money (or, as happens often these days : both earning money and the nanny to cook).
    3 Hours with your daughter is a good deal these days, I think. In the end, it all depends on your lifestyle. If you live a rather simple life and your material needs are low, you can work less and spend more time with your family. If you chase each and every iPod version out there, that’s bought from time you stole from your kids…graphically put ;)

  • http://twitter.com/SQLChap Andy Clark

    I do something similar and have a split day on Mondays and Fridays when I can spend more time with the family by working from home and doing some work very early and some after my daughter goes to sleep

  • AlexK

    The interesting point you make is that stepping back and relaxing brings up solutions to problems.

    Some clients do not understand when I say that

    (1) Family comes first, then Friends, then Work

    (2) If I  try to fix this now it will take 4 hours. If I leave it till tomorrow it will take ten minutes.

    (3) Regular exercise takes two evenings a week. It is part of my lifestyle that helps me do my job more effectively.

    If they do not,  or say they do but  I think they lie, I look for the next contract right away.

  • AlexK

    The interesting point you make is that stepping back and relaxing brings up solutions to problems.

    Some clients do not understand when I say that

    (1) Family comes first, then Friends, then Work

    (2) If I  try to fix this now it will take 4 hours. If I leave it till tomorrow it will take ten minutes.

    (3) Regular exercise takes two evenings a week. It is part of my lifestyle that helps me do my job more effectively.

    If they do not,  or say they do but  I think they lie, I look for the next contract right away.

  • Will

    Great article. I struggle with this very problem. I find it very hard to stay focused after burning the midnight oil, so the cycle starts again. Interesting to see comments from our EU friends on parental leave. I had to take two weeks as holiday when my daughter was born. We’ve got it all wrong in the UK.

  • Dannz

    Thanks for the very wise advice and great example, wish I had learned it sooner. Dan

  • TheIlliterateMessiah

    Very well written. We had a son 6 months back and with working harder at work and being on time at home makes a huge difference. I do tend to pick up the laptop to finish some of the work after dinner, but seeing my son smile every evening when he sees me is absolutely priceless. Do not wish to miss it.

    Respect to you.

  • semley

    The problem is the american culture of your work being your life leading to very long hours, and the economic naiveté rampant amongst technically brilliant but socially clueless developers. When I interview for a company that asks for very long hours, I generally tell them that they are a bunch of overworked morons and then go work for someone who doesn’t exploit their workers enthusiastic naiveté.

  • http://www.computerassist.com Barry

    It may be just the focus of your article, but you really need to focus on your wife, too.  As a father, husband, and senior developer, I’m totally on board with you.  Good article.

    • http://adamschepis.com Adam Schepis

      Barry — you are absolutely correct. I’m definitely a better father than i am a husband.  My wife should get more time and that’s something i work on too. Fortunately, I married one of the most straightforward, down to earth women on the planet and she will tell me “you haven’t been spending enough time with me.”

      There is no easy answer to juggling a wife, kids, and career aspirations. I only hope to put them all in the right order.

    • http://adamschepis.com Adam Schepis

      Barry — you are absolutely correct. I’m definitely a better father than i am a husband.  My wife should get more time and that’s something i work on too. Fortunately, I married one of the most straightforward, down to earth women on the planet and she will tell me “you haven’t been spending enough time with me.”

      There is no easy answer to juggling a wife, kids, and career aspirations. I only hope to put them all in the right order.

  • Ibrown540

    Right on!

  • Amourgh

    Why not to do what you are doing when you wtill were single.As it has benefits:

    “Another ancillary benefit I discovered is that I don’t feel as burned out. Death marches and late nights take a lot out of you. As a result you . Nowadays I come into the office energized with my thoughts organized and ready to put in solid hours at work. When you work crazy hours you yo-yo between 20 hour days and 8 hour days that really only have a few hours of productivity (or none at all!) Decision making suffers when you are overtired, and you fall behind on everything else outside of your job that needs to get done. To make matters worse, this trend is self-amplifying. You go crazy trying to finish one project because the demands were unreasonable or it was poorly scheduled or estimated (or other legitimate stuff came up, but schedule didn’t budge) and so you necessarily go easy at the beginning of the next cycle or project because you are burned out. This causes you to fall behind and dooms you to another round of late nights and misery”

    I’m doing it now and i’m still single.I take time three times/week for workout and it has made a big difference in my life.Two years ago,i was doing like what you did when you were single,but i realized after experience that sleep and shape are good for a long term endeavors .

  • Wahabkotwal

    geart atricle.. :) im a whole lot of unmanaged guy… but after reading ur atricle.. i’ll try to put some scheduling on my plans :)
    Jazak Allah

  • Wahabkotwal

    geart atricle.. :) im a whole lot of unmanaged guy… but after reading ur atricle.. i’ll try to put some scheduling on my plans :)
    Jazak Allah

  • Wahabkotwal

    geart atricle.. :) im a whole lot of unmanaged guy… but after reading ur atricle.. i’ll try to put some scheduling on my plans :)
    Jazak Allah

  • eugen.nw

    Very good points. Actually, I did not wait to become a dad in order to realize that there’s more to life than The Next Release.

  • eugen.nw

    Very good points. Actually, I did not wait to become a dad in order to realize that there’s more to life than The Next Release.

  • eugen.nw

    Very good points. Actually, I did not wait to become a dad in order to realize that there’s more to life than The Next Release.

  • Gen

    Very good article. I had to face the same situation 8 years back when my daughter was born and still today as a single mother. In Quebec we are lucky to have 1 year parental leave (or 6 months for each parent) and still, the father and I being both developers it wasn’t easy to adjust. In the end, I may love my job but I love my daughter even more ! It really helped me have a balance between work and personal life, a thing I didn’t have in my early years as a developer.

  • James Nakamura

    I highly commend you with your observations. Being a dad with two grown daughters (one just got married) I highly advise you to cherish that time as you will never get that “Time well spent” back. I also got a lot of flack for putting family first and I assure you it is worth it!

  • Dan McLeran

    You’ll never look back on this time and think, “I sure wish I missed more of my daughter’s early childhood so that I could write more software”. You’ll have plenty of time once she’s a teenager to work more and assuage your guilt ;) I can’t wait to get to work this morning cuz I’ve got some cool stuff to work on but, I am taking off work early today to watch one of my sons play football!

    • Troxel Ballou

      Actually, she’ll need you at least as much when she’s a teenager as she does now. She may not make the time for you, but she will still need you in her life. We chose to homeschool our kids exactly for this reason, foregoing what we might have otherwise had. The poster who recommends having a simple lifestyle and preferring people to things had it right, I believe.

    • Troxel Ballou

      Actually, she’ll need you at least as much when she’s a teenager as she does now. She may not make the time for you, but she will still need you in her life. We chose to homeschool our kids exactly for this reason, foregoing what we might have otherwise had. The poster who recommends having a simple lifestyle and preferring people to things had it right, I believe.

  • Samuel Santos

    Congratulations for your lucidity!!

    Make the work the most important thing in life is, almost always, a tremendous stupidity and waste of life itself.

    I have 3 kids and this is very, very clear to me too :)

  • Brandon

    Great thoughts. It’s called work/life balance. And companies that don’t respect it shouldn’t be resepected. Work to live, don’t Live to work.

  • Brandon

    Great thoughts. It’s called work/life balance. And companies that don’t respect it shouldn’t be resepected. Work to live, don’t Live to work.

    • Edward

      My thoughts exactly! I’m not a father, just a man who loves his work but is not consumed by it.

  • Brandon

    Great thoughts. It’s called work/life balance. And companies that don’t respect it shouldn’t be resepected. Work to live, don’t Live to work.

  • Jaco

    Will I guess I agree with what you’re saying, I don’t like the premise that you can’t be a good developer and a good father.  Having said that – most software companies will either expect or allow you to work yourself into the ground and have no life outside of work – which is obviously silly.  I got into coding because that’s what I love doing.  It pays the bills, but I also enjoying checking out new things some a few times a week – and unfortunately it’s also quite necessary to keep your skills sharp.

    It’s all about balance I recon – you shouldn’t spend every night of the week on work, or pet projects – it’s about doing what you love.

  • Jaco

    Will I guess I agree with what you’re saying, I don’t like the premise that you can’t be a good developer and a good father.  Having said that – most software companies will either expect or allow you to work yourself into the ground and have no life outside of work – which is obviously silly.  I got into coding because that’s what I love doing.  It pays the bills, but I also enjoying checking out new things some a few times a week – and unfortunately it’s also quite necessary to keep your skills sharp.

    It’s all about balance I recon – you shouldn’t spend every night of the week on work, or pet projects – it’s about doing what you love.

  • http://crisdelvallelife.blogspot.com/ CoreAn_Crack3rZ

    Very passionate programmer and father. Congratulations for a wonderful life! :D

  • Plenoir

    Good for you!  She’s a real cutie and is sure to benefit greatly from your engagement.  I’m way past your stage, with a granddaughter who is 2. It’s what life is all about and, actually, more fun than programming :) , especially for a granddad!

  • Plenoir

    Good for you!  She’s a real cutie and is sure to benefit greatly from your engagement.  I’m way past your stage, with a granddaughter who is 2. It’s what life is all about and, actually, more fun than programming :) , especially for a granddad!

  • Plenoir

    Good for you!  She’s a real cutie and is sure to benefit greatly from your engagement.  I’m way past your stage, with a granddaughter who is 2. It’s what life is all about and, actually, more fun than programming :) , especially for a granddad!

  • Plenoir

    Good for you!  She’s a real cutie and is sure to benefit greatly from your engagement.  I’m way past your stage, with a granddaughter who is 2. It’s what life is all about and, actually, more fun than programming :) , especially for a granddad!

  • Somewhere

    Great article. I manage a team of developers  and I always tell my team, family first. Its family that keeps the drive. I’ve seen too many co-workers end up with divorce because they put careers first. At the end of the day family is all you have and all you need.
    I went through the same guilt cycles when I became a family man.
    Enjoy every moment with your daughter.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1061281064 Manish Singh

      You must be a good manager my friend. Keep it up.

  • John Doe

    You and I did the same thing.  When my son was born, I forced a change in my work schedule from 7am to 4pm.  I will not answer the phone or emails until after my son goes to bed.  That is his time.  It is the highlight of my day.  Son #2 arrives in a few days so it will be even more fun.  Too bad I only get 3 weeks off and I had to save up 2 years of vacation to get that.

  • John Doe

    You and I did the same thing.  When my son was born, I forced a change in my work schedule from 7am to 4pm.  I will not answer the phone or emails until after my son goes to bed.  That is his time.  It is the highlight of my day.  Son #2 arrives in a few days so it will be even more fun.  Too bad I only get 3 weeks off and I had to save up 2 years of vacation to get that.

  • Zooloo

    Damn parasites!  Another one has arrived and robbed us of the chance to have software delivered in an unreasonable time-frame!  I wonder if your wife appreciates the 2-3 hours you _might_ spend with her in day? :)  

    Anyhow. Congrats on the rug-rat.

  • http://openid.begriffsschrift.com/ Joe Nelson

    Sounds smart. Most software has such a short life when you step back and think of it, building software is like filling a sieve — soon you have nothing to show for it. Your daughter on the other hand will most likely outlast you. She will care about you long after you’ve been deleted from the contact lists of those “people on the west coast.”

  • nickels

    cool.  Its called having a life.  Something places like microsoft and google don’t understand.  Places like national labs and aerospace do, though.
    No kids, but still good to have a life!

  • http://www.ericleeclark.com Eric Clark

    Excellent post and thanks for sharing. This is a good reminder to focus on the lasting things in life. Jobs come and go. Code comes and goes. Family is constant and precious.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1386621796 Gavin Haubelt

    I couldn’t agree with you more! I have three young daughters and you have to make them #1! :) Good job dad! :)

  • Jeff

    Steve – Way to go.  Your commitment to your work seems to indicate you’re a great programmer.  You’re a better father.  Our work is very important.  Our relationships with our children and family is more important.  We invest money and am glad for the return later in our lives.  Your investment in your daughter will yield much, much more.  Be honest, have integrity and be consistent and she will follow.  Pray for wisdom to guide her as she goes from stage to stage in her life.  I’m an old programmer (47) and love programming as much as you.  I’ve got 4 kids (boy, girl, girl, boy).  First 2 are married off, third is getting married and the youngest needs a good girl…We’ve worked at our relationships with our kids over the years.  The one’s that have moved on love to come back.  Nothing better.  Keep it up.  And wow, it is way easier now. – Jeff

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001696691961 Keith Cromm

    I failed to do this in life with both my daughters. I’m in tears over this beyond “regret”. Exceeding remorse is but the tip of the ice berg.

    This reading needs be the first requirement of any programmer about to become a father or mother.

  • Misha

    Interesting thread. Having read the comments I cannot help but be amazed at the difference between the US and Australia, where I come from. I have been a software engineer for about 22 years, worked in Australia and the UK, for over 10 different companies, and not once have I been pressured to put in ridiculous hours to finish the project, nor have I not been granted a large amount of flexibility in my working arrangements.

    My first job, in R&D, had no set hours nor any set dress code. I used to rock up about 10 am. We put in hours when required, but also had 2 hour pub lunches every Friday. As long as you met deadlines, set by your team (not marketing), you could do what you liked. Another job I had from 1996 to 1999 allowed me at least one day a week working from home and also had reasonably flexible hours.

    As a result of this I have never burnt out and have no problem putting in long hours if required, but can also take time off when I want. I am kind of glad I never had to work for the ogres that many of you seem to work for ;-)

  • http://www.facebook.com/YeremiLoli Yeremi Loli

    Grate article,
    Regards from Brazil

  • tj65

    Great article. I am 65 years old now and made a similar decision very early in my career. Here was how I broke my time down, outside of normal work hours. 25% family, 25% investing in something other than my career (real estate, investments, etc), 25% career enhancement (working extra hours, education, etc.), and 25% ME, what ever I wanted (hunting, fishing, garage). Weekends were reserved for family time. I always avoided jobs or commitments that would take away my weekends. 

    • Smitty

      How did this work? Post a follow up blog post….Was this the right formula? What would u change?

      • tj65

        For lack of a sophisticated life balance algorithm, 25% was quite arbitrary, and has changed over the years. Each individual should evaluate their own lifestyle. Dont make it too complicated, just make sure you take care of your career, family, religion if applicable, and self. We have been married 45 years, 3 kids, 10 grandchildren. I still design and code (as a retired consultant). I am up this morning at 5:00 AM looking at my email connected through my Droid. I still do real estate, the time has never been better. I do not hunt anymore, sometimes fish, and ski Jackson hole and Grand Targhee in Winter. Still carving out time for career, family, and self. When boys were younger I participated in Boy Scouts or attended most sports events (family time). I have never stopped learning what I was capable of, although I read less about technology and more about carpentry and woodworking (career enhancement). My wife plays more golf than I do (her HER time). I too have worked all-nighters and have stepped up when required. I once left a very good job when I found myself away from my family up to three months a year. I had to re-center myself using my old trusty formula.
         Is what this manifesto thread says is to balance your life.  I would suggest to the originator of this thread, publish your manifesto along with the thread comments. You will have a best seller. This is clearly a topic of interest to everyone.

  • Jim

    The article was great, the comments were great also.  With so many people supporting your views, why is it that management still tries to make us feel bad for doing our most important job (being a parent).  I’m the father of seven, with only one still at home.  I still feel the need to be there to help with homework, hang out, or work around the yard toghether.  The kids are important, but the spouse is just as important.  After 30+ years of marriage, working to keep/improve our relationship is just as important as ever.  The one thing that has helped more than anything else was when I worked at home.  I could go to all the ball games, help at school, and get my work done any time I felt like it.

  • http://echostats.com Ryan Schmidt

    Thanks for this. My wife and I brought our first baby home yesterday: a little baby girl. I’m thrilled to be a dad. As a developer working with multiple startups, I spend most of my time in front of code. This post came at the perfect time. I’m not going to miss my baby grow up.

  • Patty Hooper

    As the wife of a coder who has spent the entire summer working tons of overtime on a big project, I can completely relate to this post!  My three kids have seen very little of their dad the last several months and it has taken its toll on the entire family, not least of all, on my poor husband.
      After reading this blog, my husband’s boss forbade the team from working this weekend, despite a looming deadline.  So, thank you, thank you, thank you!  My kids will get their father all weekend uninterrupted, and I might even be able to have a conversation with him!  Pure bliss!

    • Bob

      Good for your husband’s boss. Thank you for caring about your most valuable asset, your people.

  • Roger Larsson

    Take time to read some books too…
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Mythical_Man-Month
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peopleware:_Productive_Projects_and_Teams

    In my experience a short crunch – at most a few weeks – works.
    But it might as well be related to concentration of effort: Lets do THIS now.
    Long crunch does not, they are counterproductive!

  • Andreas

    Anybody who thinks that 8 hours of work a day are not enough should google for “ford 8 hour workday”: Even in 1914 Henry Ford learned through efficiency analysis of his workforce that working more than 8 hours a day, 5 days a week reduces worker productivity.
    And I’m sure anyone who’s ever put in a couple of all-nighters or worked on a high-pressure project for a few weeks will agree: You lose concentration, you easily get angry with co-workers (and friends and family and customers and just about anyone who’s talking to you), and coding isn’t a joyful experience anymore but only drudgery.

    I spent most of my evenings and weekends with my son since he was born (he just turned 8) and never regretted it.  It also made sure that I see enough of my wife to keep our marriage alive … :-)

  • Jeff S.

    Family is forever.  Jobs aren’t.  Where do you think I’ll be at 7 p.m. tonight?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Greg-Bishop/764961542 Greg Bishop

    This sounds like good advice.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Darren-Cauthon/794060172 Darren Cauthon

    I totally agree with what you’re saying.  I’ve had similar feelings for quite a while.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that working extra hours is an incredibly lazy thing to do.  It doesn’t look lazy, since those extra hours are spent working instead of sleeping, watching television, etc.  However, when the extra hours become a recurring pattern, they are a sign that nobody’s trying to fix the problem.  Heck, they’re often a sign that nobody’s even acknowledging that a problem exists.

    Think about it this way:  Imagine if our jobs were to dig ditches, but (for whatever reason) we thought spoons were the best tools for digging.  So project after project, we do the long, painstaking work of digging ditches with spoons.  Everybody’s working incredibly hard, putting in extra hours, and then… a worker suggests that a shovel might be more productive. The shovel guy works less hours as a result, which leads to resentment from the “hard-working” spoon team that just don’t want to change.  

    Programming is much more complex than digging ditches, of course, but it’s still a method of achieving an end that can always be done better and faster.  Perhaps 60-90 hour weeks are not as productive as a steady work week.  Perhaps testing our code as we write it will lead to us writing things once instead of five.  Perhaps constant communication between coworkers and clients will cause issues to be handled faster than “busy” people hiding from one another.  Perhaps adopting a more agile method of handling project scope and features is a better way to management expectations and maintain a regular work cycle.

    Or, perhaps whenever problems come up, programmers should put their heads down, grunt, and chant “GOOD PROGRAMMERS WORK MORE!”  Instead of using our heads to solve the system problems (a task that people hire us to do), we choose the option that requires the least amount of long-term thinking:  We throw extra hours on it.

    And what’s more pathetic about this:  Programmers take pride in this type of work.  If we took a serious look at ourselves, we’d realize that we’re no different than the common office worker typing the same numbers into the same inefficient Excel spreadsheet over and over and over and over.  

    I’ve been as guilty of this as anyone (for years), but I’m trying hard to stop.  I have two sons, two-and-a-half and four-months, and I can already see big problems down the road if things don’t change.  I don’t want to be the father that’s always trying to squeeze things in and around and over time I should be spending with my family.

  • N�s-Galter� Samf�llighetsf�ren

    That’s the best investment you have made. Take my words for it. Re-scheduling your life to prioritze your daughther (and your wife) is what many dads should do. It’s the daily care that moulds your child and makes and impression. It’s not the day at the zoo or the toys. It’s what you do every day. The stories told at bed time and so on. I am impressed that you dare to do this.

    I spent 6 months full-time at home with both my boys. I haven’t regret a second. Living in Sweden this is possible for dads as well as moms too. We get to keep the job and we get money from the government, not much but enough to stay alive. Sure we had to cut down on spendings but I invested in my kids instead.

    I hope that you can set a good example for more over-worked american dads to follow.

    Keep it up!

  • 大宝SOD

    向你学习

  • Ayobami Adewole

    As a developer who is still a bachelor, I think I just learnt another lesson, instead of just glueing my eyes to the screen all day, I got to nourish my relationship as well with my family and with my fiancee

  • http://www.sethholloway.com/ Seth Holloway

    Right on! Working more hours isn’t a scaleable solution.

    Your family (and your company) is lucky to have you.

  • Michael Lang

    I am with you. Work will always be second to family. I have 3 young kids. But I love to code and learn in the time leftover for me.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dkalemis Dimitrios Kalemis

    I felt very sad when I read your post. And you are team leader, as you say. The honest thing for you to do is to resign. You write: “I spend 9+ hours working each day, and only 3 with my daughter. If that’s unfair to anyone, its unfair to my daughter.” Good fathers say such things. Good team leaders do not say such things. In your situation, it is incompatible to be both a good father and a good team leader. Actually, at this point you are neither, although you might erroneously think you are both. Let me put this another way, with all due respect: Speaking as a team member, you are a team leader I can do without.

    • Amir Barak

      The only bad example he’s setting as a team leader here is spending 9+ hours at work. A good leader should know that people are more important that deadlines, not to mention the fact that nobody should spend 9+ hours at work, from juniors to seniors. If the deadline can’t be met without crunch then you’ve got bad management and bad leaders on your hand, the solution is to change the deadline and not the people…

      I’ve got a five year-old as well, I’ve actually quit my job and everything when she was born and we moved to a smaller apartment and lived as minimal as possible so that both me and my wife could spend the first two or three years of her life together; there is nothing more important in life than the people who love you and you love back.

      • http://www.facebook.com/dkalemis Dimitrios Kalemis

        Amir, I agree with you 100%. You are absolutely right. Of course the root of the problem is bad management and bad leaders and their unrealistic expectations. They are the ones that put people’s souls above deadlines and, thus, create family dramas.
        Now what should Adam Schepis have done in this situation? In my opinion, he should have stood up for his team members and subordinates and fought in order for them to be able to “go home” as he says in the title of the post. Instead, he did that for himself and himself only.
        Doesn’t Adam have a right to have a happy family life? Since he is a team leader, he has a right to a happy life only after he creates the conditions for all members of his team to able to “go home”. Solving the problem only for himself and not for his subordinates is what made me feel sad.

        • http://alexk2009.hubpages.com/_aayawa/ Kashkoa

          Now that makes sense. However it seems the other developers do not realise that long hours are  not good either for the worker or the work.

          Now, having got his breathing space I hope Adam is reeducating his team to work fewer hours.

          Some of the clients for whom I work have stated that if you cannot get the work done in 40 hours you are not good enough for the job. I presume they think their managers can  manage well enough to  ensire work can be don in 4o hours.

          I think the problem lies in the  notion that work is intrinsically good, the Protestant Work Ethic.

          I wrote a series of articles on the work ethic  and here is one

          http://alexk2009.hubpages.com/_aayawa/hub/The-Flaw-in-the-Work-Ethic

          I also write about the risks of long hours here

          http://alexk2009.hubpages.com/_aayawa/hub/Health-risks-of-Overtime-part-one

          As I had suffered the long term consequences of long hours.

          My own feeling is that for mental work like coding 40 hours is too much to maximise productivity. 40 is OK for PHYSICAL work but not mental,  as mental is more tiring

        • http://www.facebook.com/dkalemis Dimitrios Kalemis

          AlexK, thank you for your input. I read your blog posts and I agree with your point of view. In your blog posts you raise some very important points about the dangers of long working hours. In my opinion, a person should work for two hours each day at the most. Of course, a surgeon may not leave the operation in the middle! During a major computer virus outbreak, security response teams work around the clock. And so on. So, I would say that a person should work for two hours each day at the most on average.
           
          I would also want to clarify a few points about my comments. While other readers judged Adam Schepis as a working person, I judged him as a team leader. A team leader leads her team. That is what the term “leader” means. A team leader leads her team, but where to? That depends. It depends on the members and the composition of the team, on the particular circumstances, on the job at hand and so on. To keep things simple, I will just say that a team leader leads her team depending on her vision. You see, she has to have a vision, a purpose for the team.
           
          Hopefully, this purpose may be to provide every team member with a perfect work-life balance. But, unfortunately, sometimes, this purpose could be to help the company out of a difficult spot, where every team member has to make sacrifices.
           
          No matter what vision the team leader has, she has to try to make the team succeed. Now, what was Adam Schepis vision? Nothing that had to do with his team. What did Adam Schepis do? He just “went home”, as the title of this blog post states. Adam Schepis went home. He went home and wrote a manifesto. An apologetic blog post would have been more appropriate, because he certainly did not function as a team leader. I am sure that, by creating a great family, Adam will benefit society. It is just that his manifesto, coming from a team leader as it does (and this is where I want to put emphasis on), does not benefit any of us.
           
          Now, your blog posts, AlexK, benefit all of us by explaining the wrong notions about work ethics and the dangers of long working hours. My comments have nothing to do with these subjects. My comments to this blog post have to do with team leadership and its corresponding ethics. The point I am trying to make is that there is no “I” in team, especially for the team leader.

          • AlexK

            Thanks Dimitrios.  I agree my blogs may be tangential to the topic but I think (hope) they show some of the roots, in Western culture,  of the problem. I agree with your final point and  it will lead me to  think about what leadership entails rather more than I have done so far.

          • http://www.facebook.com/dkalemis Dimitrios Kalemis

            AlexK, you certainly have very important things to say. I would like to discuss more with you in the future. I have a lot of input I can give you on such matters. At the risk of infuriating Peter, I would like to give another army analogy. Alexander the Great was in the desert with his troops and there was no water anywhere. At some point, somehow, a cup of water was found and was given to Alexander the Great. He spilled it, saying that he would not drink water, if the rest of his troops were not able to do so. Now he was a team leader, if there ever was one.

          • KN

            Alexander the Great was a wanker? What does this have to do with being a software development team leader? Sheesh.

          • http://www.facebook.com/dkalemis Dimitrios Kalemis

            KN, this story shows that Alexander the Great was not selfish, that he cared for his subordinates and that he did not put himself above his subordinates (all traits of a good leader). A software development team leader correspondingly should say: “I am not going home to see my children, until everyone in my team is able to do so”.

    • Geoffrey Knauth

      I couldn’t disagree more (with Dimitrios).

    • Peter

      Dimitros, this is typically the kind of macho attitude we need to get rid of in the this business. In fact, you’re restricting team leadership to singles, since in your perspective one  is not permitted to spend time to a partner, or to children. That’s not a job, that’s slavery. And it’s a myth you produce better software, if you spend more than 9 hours a day writing it. I must say I’m happy not to have guys with your attitude on my team.

    • http://www.facebook.com/dkalemis Dimitrios Kalemis

      Thank you for your comments and constructive criticism. I also want to thank you for your tone, which is way more lenient and civilized than mine.
       
      Perhaps you realize that the small length of your comments do not let them contain all the necessary arguments for me to change my opinion. But from them and their ‘likes’, I do realize that there is quite an opposition to my point of view, and I certainly take that into consideration.
       
      Having said that, there is one thing that I want to point out: Never hire me, condemn me to a life of poverty, but leaving your employees, co-workers, subordinates hanging (for whatever reason) is something I can never accept.
       
      And another thing. I learned many things in the army (as a Greek, I had to go to the army; army service was mandatory for me, it was not something that I chose or liked) and one of them was something that I think should also apply to management: you must never give orders, unless you are standing in attention.

      • Peter Laman

        Διμιτριος (right?), your last sentence implies a team leader should be present in the office first and leave last. Why? I’m working in a large international company and teams are at different locations, even in different countries. The teams vary and the team I’m currently part of even has members in two different countries. As a developer, I certainly don’t need to have my manager around all the time. He really doesn’t have to hold my hand. I wouldn’t compare this to the army and I certainly don’t want to regard the army as a good example of how things should be.

        Bottom line: do you work to facilitate life, or do you live to enable you to work?

        • http://www.facebook.com/dkalemis Dimitrios Kalemis

          Peter, thank you for your input and for your point of view. Your arguments are very reasonable and I certainly agree with what you are writing, so I will just concentrate here on your question: “do you work to facilitate life, or do you live to enable you to work?”
          Indeed, this is the right question to ask. Why do you work? While the answers may vary, I will have to say that you work to create a better world than the one that has been “handed” to you. So, you work to facilitate life. But this is not the end of the story. When you work, you accept responsibilities and obligations. As an employee, you have to face the fact that your employer trusted you by hiring you and you should not let him down. And as a manager, you are also responsible for the souls that you manage.
          A manager should work to facilitate the life (not only the work life, but the full life) of the people that she manages. By accepting a managerial position, a manager has this obligation.
          Thus, a manager works to facilitate the life of her subordinates. And a parent “works” to facilitate the life of the members of her family. And these two roles do not have to be incompatible.
          Now, in the case you are describing, everything is fine. You do not feel a lapse of management and things progress nicely. But in the case Adam Schepis describes, nothing is nice. Not only his subordinates feel a lapse of management, he also feels that his work arrangement is unfair to his family. Both as a manager and as a parent, Adam finds himself unwillingly letting people down.
          While I view his situation as a sign to him that he should drastically change his life, he views his situation as something that can be fixed with a little compromise here and there. And he thinks that he fixed everything and now everything is fine and so on. It is not. Nothing is fine.
          As a manager or as a parent, you should make no compromises. You cannot make any compromises, because you are dealing with people’s souls. There is a great phrase that goes like “It is not over, till the fat lady sings”. I will say: it is not over till every subordinate and every member of the family sings (I mean, is totally covered and content). When you are dealing with human souls, accept no compromises.
          What stroke me as odd (to say the least), was this post’s upbeat tone. I found nothing upbeat or nice about Adam’s situation. I have seen situations like this where there is lapse of management and things turn out ugly. Since you did not like my army analogy, I will just say that situations like this end in subordinates having to resign or being fired. Either way, subordinates’ lives end up being destroyed.
          I hope that it is clear that what I am discussing has absolutely nothing to do with the amount of hours one has to work or having to be present in the office. All my life I have been saying that a person should work for two hours every day. I consider two working hours a day to be a lot, but we have to work hard to make a better world. Hard for me is two hours a day. I do not know who came up with 8 (or more) hour work days. Some invention they made! And being present in the office is irrelevant. A manager has to be able to support her subordinates. If she can do so without being present, that’s perfectly fine.
          Now, if a manager finds that to support her subordinates, she needs to be working 20 hours a day, 7 days a week, then that is what she should do. No compromises. Either you are up to the task and you do not leave anyone down, or find a job that you are able to meet its corresponding responsibilities and obligations.

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  • Mauricio Gracia

    Great article, my daughter has 17 months and lives with her mom (i am divorced) so to me every minute with her is even more precious…thanks for such a great article

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_4BXOJY6YTXXKD2FCY7MEI2V7W4 Mark Fernado

    I’ve felt so sorry for my daughter for what you’re dealing with your little one, with your time and all your attentions with her…you know as a programmer most of my time spent with this work.

    I think it’s not too late for me start anew…thanks fella so much…

  • http://techarch.pip.verisignlabs.com/ Your Name

    Great post – I totally agree. I did the same in 97 when my son was born although I stayed in the consulting world still traveling off an on until my then 4 year old asked me “I know you travel for your job but why do you have a job where you need to travel?”. Boy what a punch in the stomach! I changed job within a few months and we moved from the Chicago suburbs to a small community in the mountains west of Denver in Colorado. I do start early as well but started to make a change 3 years ago so I could make my son breakfast twice during the week. He is now a teenager but finding ways to connect and spend time is crucial more than ever.

  • Rwatson

    Software ‘fiddling’ can become an addiction. I remember a young man saying to me years ago “I would rather programs than have sex with my wife”.

    He wont be having any daughters ! :-)

  • Rob

    Good for you…

    I did the exact same thing 9 years ago, and have never looked back.
    I simply put my priorities upfront to the business… (they soon figure it out)

  • BackSeat

    What are you doing coding if you’re a team lead?  You need to give away the coding to your team and work on ensuring they have a clear runway to perform.  If your brain is wrapped around logic problem solving you’ll find that dealing with the nuances of team management just takes a back seat (and will bit you in the a** from there)

  • Larry Sumuri

    The article is spot on! Am currently undergoing similar work/family balance with the birth of my daughter who is 4 months now and will definitely take some of the points mentioned into consideration when adjusting.

    Thank you for the article.

  • Mike

    Bravo!  I have 5 kids, and I used to feel guilty about not staying as late as some of my co-workers when I first “broke into” IT a few years ago.  It makes it more difficult if you report to a manager who doesn’t have kids, or whose kids are grown.  But the only thing I have found that is more of a pressure cooker than being a coder is being a father.  And I agree: I love my job, but I love my kids more.

  • Peter

    Yes sir!! People are complaining about making long days, but it’s a matter of choice. Nobody is able to work around the clock, so there ARE limits. And you are the one to set them. I’ve you’ve been coding for 8 hours, your productivity and accuracy drops dramatically, and coding in today’s overtime will probably lead to additional debugging in tomorrow’s overtime. It simply doesn’t make sense. Software is not essential to life, your spouse and your children are. I don’t want to find myself alienated from my children once they’ve grown up.

  • http://www.lukegerhardt.com/ Luke G.

    Nice thought: ” If you screw up at your job you can always get another one, but if you screw up your family…”

    In this economy, such a concept seems pretty difficult to embrace.  That, however, does not dimish its value.

    Thanks for the reminder!  :)

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  • Njulia

    Being a fellow programmer with a baby on the way, this is exactly what i need before the big moment. 

    Good for you!  I strive to find this balance!

  • Nobody

    I have a suggestion for you and you aren’t going to like it:  Maybe try to devote your entire life to your daughter and not just the hours between 4:30 and 7:30.  Being career driven will get you places, but when you get to them, you’ll find out they weren’t places you really care to be.  No amount of wealth is more valuable than that little girl’s smile.  Take more time off.

  • Geoffrey Knauth

    You are so right.  The most productive programmer I ever worked with, Ray Tomlinson at BBN, kept very regular hours.  He came in a little early, left just slightly early, and was awesomely focused and productive all day long.  When I think of how to do things right, I always think of Ray.

  • Geoffrey Knauth

    I had a boss in the late 1980s who had worked in Japan.  He told me that after “normal” closing time, people would hang around and try to keep working just because the boss was still there and no one wanted to lose face.  He said very little actually got done in those extra hours.  Finally the boss would leave and so would everyone else.  Then, some of those poor suckers would get on a train, not quite make it home, stop halfway and sleep in a mini-beehive kind of hotel at the station that looked like luggage lockers or like a morgue with beds and a reading light.  Then the next morning they would return to work and do it all again, and again, and again.  Well, it didn’t do them that much good in the end.  You, on the other hand, have seen the light.

  • http://twitter.com/derrickgrigg Derrick Grigg

    Great post. Same reason I decided to work for myself from home many years ago. When work is done and long gone my family will be still be around. Investing in them means they will want me to be around. My kids are my legacy, not the projects I worked on.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sridhar-Surpanini/1761086663 Sridhar Surpanini

    Since my son came to my life I have shifted my office timings… now I work from 7:15 am till 4:15 pm and I reach home by 6 pm… this gives me a good 3 hours with my son everyday and I really cherish these moments… what I have also noticed is that people around you in office tend to accommodate these changes although it takes some time.
    Another benefit of this changed timing is that I do not get stuck in traffic as the travel in not during peak hours.

  • Bubbles

    Well done, sir, well done indeed! And I gotta say it, you’re daughter is so adorable! 

  • Anonymous

    This could have been written by me! :) But I “only” work 8h+, and leave work at 14:30, then work a couple of hours after my daughter has fallen asleep. The code I write has more quality, and I am more focused at work. “Work is work, play is play”
    Also, on my death bed, will I be thinking “Gee…I wish I worked more than I did?”. Don’t think so.

  • chrisb

    Great post.  I too get to work early, and try to leave at around 4pm so I can spend quality time with the family.    When we have the inevitable mad rush on projects, I just get in even earlier (I think that  the earliest I’ve been in is 3:30am) – but I still make sure I’m out the office by 5pm at the absolute latest.

  • Sigmund Lundgren

    so true

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for sharing, I am finding that the only time with my boys is when I drive them to school in the morning.

  • Ashley Leonard777

    Thanks for the message … I am 46 still coding and work mostly from the home office.  

  • Spinspace

    I subscribe to what Bertrand Russell proposes in his essay “In Praise of Idleness”.
    A 4 hr workday!

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  • Trinity

    good man, yes you really understand what is important. As a mother, i myself have to do the same thing with my job. While everyone around me is doing better, I’m refuse to even take my computer home or even have internet at my home because i want to focus on my children while at home. My job can wait till i enter the office!

  • http://twitter.com/sargassotrio Sargasso Trio

    As a coder and dad (and Musician!) I completely agree. Coding is a beautiful and creative pastime – but what do we do it all for?

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  • Hilerchyn

    Beautiful girl !

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  • Achieve_lfm

    我来自中国一名程序员,在中国的一个博客中看到了这篇翻译的文章,还有几天就当爸了,看了很的感触,需要向你学习

    • Achieve_lfm

      Sorry, My english is pool!

      • Wu

        take it easy…

      • http://twitter.com/leejaen

        translation: Hi poster, I am a coder in China, I read the translation in a China blog, And there are a few day I will be a father, I got a lot of thoughts and feelings, learning from you.

    • Qin

      I’m a programmer form China, and I read your posts translated into Chinese on someone’s blogs. Happy to say I’m going to be a dad in a few days.

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  • http://androidtrainningcenter.blogspot.com/ Sameer

    Situation are sarcastic and painful here in India. We have a lot competitive world as people are  more in compare to Job in Software industry with no security of job and future. In this scenario it would be rare possible to be practical. But we have to be, as i agree with author that if you screw your job you will get another but if you screw your family, you will repent for life

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  • Frank Wei

    Good for you!

  • fkait0u

    I saw a gread father and a lucky girl who has a bright future!

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