How to balance your life as a parent and full-time coding Bootcamp student.
Before I started attending the Flatiron School Software Engineering Bootcamp back in February of this year I had many unanswered questions…
- Is it possible to attend a full-time coding Bootcamp and still be able to fulfill my responsibilities as a parent and a spouse?
- Can I also keep the other commitments in my life that are important to me, like church, family, friends….relaxation!?
- How much time will a coding Bootcamp take out of each day? Will I have the energy to spend time with my family at the end of a 10-hour day?
For those of you reading this because you are considering attending a full-time coding Bootcamp, I will answer these questions by first giving you some context into my life up until the point I started the Bootcamp and then go into detail answering each question after having been in the Bootcamp for 7 weeks and feeling like I am starting to understand how to keep a school/life balance.
In October of 2020, my wife,10-month old son, and I took a trip to Austin, TX to attend a friend's wedding. We currently reside in Houston so a trip to Austin is a short 2.5–3hr drive (with a pit-stop at Buccee’s of course!) and the trip itself would make for a good time for my wife, and me to talk about of families future.
At this point in my career, I was a full-time financial advisor with a career that was stagnating a slowly dying. I needed to do something drastic to change my circumstances and be able to provide for my family…It was time to learn something new!
I have always been interested in reverse engineering how things worked, especially computers and cool tech. I can remember as a kid sneaking my dad's handheld Sony TV into my room with a few screwdrivers and taking it apart piece-by-piece and then seeing if I could put it all back together and get it working again.
It was this childish or perhaps instinctual curiosity that led me to teach myself some basics on how to code, or at least work with code that might help me revive my career in financial services.
Long story short, out of my curiosity I was able to create an “integration” through a few online platforms that could communicate through various APIs and do some basic web-scraping and puppeteering (mimicking human interaction on websites) so that I could build my network of potential clients. Once I had this platform I had Frankensteined together, I was hooked on coding!
Naturally, at this stage in my life, I need to have a conversation with my wife about this newfound discovery I had made with coding. My desire at this point was no longer to be a struggling financial advisor but to be a coder!
So, after a few hours of conversation on the trip there and many hours more during our stay in Austin, we came to the conclusion that I would apply to several coding boot camps that I was interested in and go through the interview process.
However, excited as I was to have the full faith and support of my wife I still had some pretty daunting questions in my mind that I needed to answer. Unfortunately for me and for anyone starting a full-time course like this, there is just no way to know the answers to the questions I was asking myself.
At this point, I am 7-weeks into the Bootcamp and can now come back and answer some of these questions for anyone else out there who is a parent or spouse or someone with a lot of outside responsibilities.
Is it possible to attend a full-time coding Bootcamp and still be able to fulfill my responsibilities as a parent and a spouse?
In short, yes….well, most of the time. Before you see out on this journey you need to think about what you are willing to sacrifice to see your desire to be a software engineer become a reality?
It’s likely that whatever you imagine you will have to sacrifice be will twice, maybe three times as difficult a sacrifice as you initially thought!
For example, on a normal night after work, I would get home and have a few hours with my son before he goes to bed and a few more hours after that to enjoy time with my wife.
Before Bootcamp, I could get in some QT (quality time) with my wife and son and still have time to spare to do things around the house or just spend a few hours gaming or working on one of my hobbies.
This quality time no longer exists. At least not in the way it used to…if you are in a relationship and or have children you need to make it abundantly clear that this will be a sacrifice of “quality time” for everyone in the family until you graduate.
You will be in classes from 9a-6pm each day and then will have more homework, reading, and practice labs than you will be able to handle in one night. Get used to being behind. Get used to being TIRED! I know that sounds cynical but it's true. However, the good news is you can still pass and understand the material without doing all of the labs.
The one caveat to this is that if you are the type of person that can shut off from the outside world and have next to ZERO interaction with your family and friends for the next 15 weeks. This type of person could probably keep up with the pace and not get behind…but it’s likely anyone would burn out at this pace.
Here’s my advice to anyone with a family that wants to attend a full-time coding Bootcamp
First off, does the coding Bootcamp NEED to be full-time?
If you don’t feel absolutely certain that expediency is your primary concern and you can continue to work your 9 to 5 job while taking classes at night, then TAKE THIS ROUTE!
You will thank me for the extra time you have to understand the concepts you are learning as well as the extra quality time you will get with your family along the way.
Now, I know what your thinking…expediency is important to everyone. If you are like me and in a situation where you feel you MUST take the full-time course then what you MUST do first is be honest with yourself and your family.
All of you will make sacrifices each day that you just simply cannot anticipate before you get neck-deep into the course. Take the time to make a good old-fashioned Ben Franklin “Pros vs. Cons” list.
Name out each pro and con you can think of and do this as a group activity on a giant post-it note or whiteboard and let everyone brainstorm what they anticipate will be good and bad to come when you are attending Bootcamp.
This is a great exercise to bring out everyone’s feelings about you attending school in a constructive and supportive way. I was able to do this with my wife and we uncovered some things that were cons that were additional challenges we did not originally foresee and we agreed to set out on this journey on those fateful days in Austin, TX.
You will also have a great opportunity to “sell” the family on your newfound desire. You can tell them all about the things you will learn, the person you will become, and the types of careers that you can pursue once you graduate. This is a really exciting thing to get your head and heart prepared for the long a difficult days ahead…
Trust me, the long days will be very long but the fun days, when things start to click and you get to apply the coding language you just learned into an actual application, those days will go by so fast that you blink and they are gone!
It’s a long road ahead for you on this journey but the best advice I can give you upfront is, to be honest with yourself and your loved ones by telling you and everyone around you this is not going to be easy but that despite what happens you will have each other backs!
After all, your family is likely the sole purpose for you starting off on this epic journey, to begin with. You might as well get them all on board with you!
One final tip: You WILL need encouragement in some from or fashion from those who you care about. Tell them so….when they see you are you trying your hardest and you hit a roadblock or challenge that seems immovable, they will be there to pick you up! 🙏