Leveling up while raising a family:
Recently I read a thread on Hacker News where someone asked “Developers with Kids, how do you skill up?” . I was a little surprised to see so many childless individuals and parents think it would be almost impossible for parents to really learn to code while they have little ones running around, keeping them up, sucking all the fun from their lives… Yeah some of these comments were a bit dramatic. So…
How do parents level up?
The short answer?
But in all seriousness, learning to code while raising a family is feasible. I would say the biggest step to learning any new skill while you are also keeping little people alive is figuring out your priorities. And my husband and I have made learning to code a priority for our family.
When do I find time to code?
This is something I get asked often. I really like what this person answered on the Hacker News Forum:
” Be honest.. before kids, how many nights did you
“stay up working on stuff and exploring new technologies?”
My bet is most of your time pre-kids was “wasted” on non-career things.
If you were actually spending many nights studying then having kids won’t
really stop you from learning. My anecdotal story: Before my kid, I spent roughly 80% of my time outside work
“wasting” playing video games,
watching youtube, twitch, going out, things like that. The other 20% was spent
learning and progressing my skills.
Since having a kid, I haven’t really touched video games nor really miss them,
though I may pick up a switch soon.
I tend to spend about the same time, maybe more now, on studying and picking up new skills.
What i did find is having a kid helped me sharpen my focus when I do study and helped me put
my life in perspective of his. *I use “wasted” as you used it, but I personally don’t think that time was actually wasted.”
I wake up early now. (My kids are up early anyway.) I spend my kids’ nap time studying instead of reading novels (no more Jane Austen stories for the 100th time), sewing, or watching Netflix like I used to. I keep articles of things I want to learn up on my phone so I can read them when I sit to nurse my youngest or finally escape to the bathroom. I stay up late studying. All those little moments where I used to constantly check Facebook or “waste” time some other way really add up and I try to use each of those moments to study. I am by no means perfect. My kids are still not sleeping through the night so there are many days I do just sit and check Facebook or do anything that doesn’t require too much thinking.
However, overall I have learned to manage my time more efficiently because I have made programming a priority. I have also learned to simplify all of the less important things parents often get caught up in.
How to simplify your life and learning.
Like so many moms I love Pinterest. I wanted to be a Pinterest mom. But after my 3rd was born, reality set in.
I cannot do everything. My kids don’t get reindeer-shaped treats (at least not often) but they do have a mom whose mental health is a lot better now that I am not trying to do ALL THE THINGS. As a side bonus, I have noticed that their creativity has flourished now that I am not telling them exactly what to do with my various Pinterest crafts. It frees up my time and allows them to learn how to enjoy their own imaginative play.
I have also learned to simplify my learning. I took Coursera’s Learning How to Learn Class early on in my programming journey. I have learned to study in smaller chunks instead of trying to cram. I often spend a good amount of time playing with my kids and then set a timer for 20 minutes and tell them that is my study time. More recently I picked one challenge to focus on to help me level up. See my previous article on #100daysofcode. Before I spent a lot of time jumping from tutorial to tutorial and trying to do to much without really focusing and deeply learning anything. Once I took the time to pick one challenge and stick with it I saved a lot of time and have progressed a lot quicker.
So can you learn to program while you have a family?
I would say yes. Of course you can. You may not live the hustle life while you have children but you can steadily progress and achieve your goals if you take the time to figure out your priorities, organize, and simplify your life.