Learning To Code Is Hard, Learning To Be A Dad Is Easy.
Don’t get me wrong, being a new parent is not easy because it certainly comes with its own set of challenges, but for me being a parent is more natural and feels somewhat easy. Coding on the other hand, not so much. It is far from natural and hard most of the time.
First, let me tell you a little bit about my situation. I am currently trying to learn how to code in my free time — “free” time is sometimes an overstatement because time really can’t be free, as it usually comes at a great cost. Since the beginning of time, men have tried to slow it down or extend it; nevertheless, I’m trying my best to get the most out of my “free” time. Currently, my time is consumed by running a small business during the day and caring for my 5-month old daughter at night (among other things). My girlfriend stays at home with our little girl full time, and while I’m extremely appreciative of my girlfriend for making that commitment, it also puts a burden on me to provide for my family. Having embarked upon this new role of becoming a father, I have learned a few things about undertaking a task such as learning to code.
Procrastination. It’s such a dirty word in our culture, but it doesn’t have to be if used properly. For the first few months of my daughter’s life, I didn’t get any coding done; my time was consumed with just enjoying her and establishing some sort of routine. At first it was come home from work and have dinner with my girlfriend, who would then go to sleep for a couple of hours while I stayed up with the baby and then somewhere in the middle of the night, we would alternate, and I would get some sleep before heading to work in the morning. This was a great routine for our lives at the time, but it left me with very little quality time for unnecessary endeavours, so I was forced to put coding on the back burner. While I didn’t like that I couldn’t code at all during those few months, I would do the same thing a million times over because that time with my daughter was most important; however, as time went on, and we got caught up on sleep, it was time for the next step.
Structure. I’m sure that most everyone has heard of Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule, but for those that haven’t, his theory is that if you want to be good at anything, you have to do it A LOT, and coding is no different. The only way to get better at coding is to code, so once my life began to get back into a normal routine, back to coding I went. This is where structure came into play. Admittedly, structure is not my strongest personality trait: a) my day job is not 9am to 5pm, and b) did I mention that I have a newborn at home. That being said, my baby girl really helped me find time because I truly believe that babies need and thrive on structure. My daughter was born premature, so she lived in the NICU for the first two weeks of her life, and let me tell you what, the NICU is militant (in a very loving way of course)! In those first 2 weeks, her temperature was checked, her diaper was changed, she was fed, and she was given a basic exam every 3 hours, all while her vitals were being monitored constantly. Due to that 3 hour structure, our daughter thrived and came home very quickly! Once home, we basically kept the same schedule until she told us it was time to change, and even now, 5 months in, we still try to keep some kind of eating/sleeping routine. Our structure now has afforded me some free time, but instead of my structure being set it stone, it has more or less become fluid — which might not sound like structure, but for me it is because I know that once little girl’s been fed, she’ll go down for a 3–4 hour nap, which equates to prime time for coding! Also, since I run my own business, I’m able to set my own hours, so when I decide to take a day off from work, I’ll code for 8 hours in my home office. While I may not have structure in the traditional sense of setting direct parameters, my new structure is using the time that I’m afforded wisely.
In the last couple of months, I’ve learned a lot about being a dad; I’ve learned how to change a diaper, how to clean spit-up so that it doesn’t stain, what makes my daughter smile, when she is tired, how to clean bottles the wrong way (according to my girlfriend), and how to love something more than life itself, but when I’m able to get some “free time”, and I’m back to being just “Dustin”, I’ve also learned a lot about objects, arrays, the DOM, specificity, scope, and just how hard a computer can be to communicate with, so here’s to a lifetime of learning how to make a computer bend to my will and to making my daughter smile!