Developing Dad - Tips for making the most of our little time with the little ones

Yesterday, it was father's day. It's a time for us father's to be appreciated for what we do, however, for me it's more a time to reflect on how I'm doing as a father, teacher and all round role model to my child. We all hope we're great fathers and that we do what is right for our kids but sometimes it's just plain tough - being a parent is hard. I understand what it's like for full-time mothers now.

I'm going to go as far as saying working is sometimes a holiday in comparison with looking after a 2 year old. We all know about the terrible two's - yep they're terrible alright!

I love my daughter to bits though so don't get me wrong and I wouldn't change her character for the world - she's unique. Every day I'm thankful that she was born and I remember the day she was born with vivid clarity and my elation at when she was. Appreciating what you have is surprisingly easy when you think for a minute what it would be like to have a world without them in it. I can't imagine that reality.

Flexible Working

As far as work is concerned, I'm quite fortunate in that I only have to work 4 days a week compressed hours at present (8-6pm Tues-Fri). Not many companies would put up with that but I'm so thankful to my company
for it. If you're a new father and thinking of dropping back your days to spend time with your child, I would absolutely say it's worth it. Investing the time now while they're young will build a strong bond that no amount of money in the future can make up for.

Again it's not easy though. For instance, trying to keep up with this blog on top of everything else is really hard (and to do it consistently each week on top of that). It takes at least 2-3 hours to write a decent quality blog post. Often this means making ~hard~ easy choices like not watching TV and delaying catching up on the latest TV series. If you want to be a parent and progress as a developer you've got to make that choice.

If you're a normal guy like me and you just don't have the disposable income right now to hire someone to mow your lawn, clean your kitchen and mop your toilets you also have those household some chores to do. I'm not a chauvinistic pig who believes that it's just the woman's responsibility to do the cleaning around the house. Well I'm sorry guys it's not - it's yours too.

So how the hell do you get anything done?

I've had to employ a few life hacks to squeeze every amount of productivity out of the little free time I have...

Multi-task where possible

You don't always need to engage your brain when doing tasks so when my brain is parked in “mind numbingly bored” mode (as it so often is when taking out the trash) I plug in my iPod and headphones and chew through podcasts or the latest audiobook. Treating moments like that as an opportunity to learn rather than the soul destroying task that it is will enhance your life no end. After all there's only so many times you can listen to Justin Biebers “Baby” song without wanting to claw your ears out while wiping down your toilet bowl, while you're at it though you couldn't flush his CD down there save one more hapless teenager could you?!

Wake an Hour Early

I get up at least an hour or two to start my morning routine - I find this helps me in a number of different ways. First and foremost, it significantly increases my productivity and creativity. I haven't started with the cold-showers yet but I've heard it can really do wonders for you - check out this wonderful article - 8 Things Every Person Should do Before 8am by Benjamin Hardy for more amazing early morning tips.

Meditation has worked wonders to reduce my stress levels even in a short-term. I've found it's helped me become more patient with my daughter when normally my stress levels would sky rocket and I'd lost my patience with her. Life can be highly stressful - especially with a kid so I'd highly recommend any parent practise meditation at least for a week to see if it helps.

A quick session using the 7 minute workout app in the morning has also helped me drop half a stone in a few weeks. I was conscious about my ever expanding “dad belly” so decided to sort it pronto. The great thing about the app is it requires no equipment, relatively little space and is just resistance circuit training with your own body.

Use Nap Times Wisely

I didn't realise quite how much babies napped until my child became a toddler. You can still get an insane amount of work done when you have a baby still (yes you can trust me!). If you rotate responsibilities between your partner and yourself make sure you both get enough sleep you should still be able to function like a well oiled machine that you are. That time when your child is napping is sacred - make sure you use it for something useful. If you used some of my tips for waking up early you should be in a fairly good condition for dealing with anything. Either spend it as quiet time with your partner or dive into some reading/projects - don't waste it!

Be Organised

There's nothing worse than having free-time and doing jack with it. It's even more criminal to use the free time each time to plan what you're going to do with that free time each time! Get organised, get a project plan and a high level plan and execute it. It'll make it much easier to get stuck into the projects you're working on and progress. I use the Momentum Chrome Plugin to help me focus on what I need to do now. A list on a sheet of paper is good too :)

A Good 6-7 Hours

Can't stress this enough - get enough quality sleep. I'm currently still only clocking 6 but I'm trying to extend it to 7 when I get a chance. If you're struggling to stay upright in your chair at work and you often wake with dribble all over your keyboard - seriously get some more shut-eye.

Back to the sprog

So, you might think I've actually just banged on about work practically the whole article isn't this supposed to be about raising a kid? Well, it is. To be the best father for your child you need to be the best person you can be for them to idolise. The best way you can be that, is to balance learning and progression with caring for them. If you get that balance right you'll make sure they're in the best place they can be. I'm a firm believer that children who have stable, loving father's turn out better - actually I have zero evidence for that I just like to believe it's the case.

I'd be really interested to hear from all you other developer dad's out there. What are your favourite activities with your children? What life hacks do you use?

James Murphy

Java dev by day, entrepreneur by night. James has 10+ years experience working with some of the largest UK businesses ranging from the BBC, to The Hut Group finally finding a home at Rentalcars.

Manchester, UK
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