I know I am late in the discussion, but this is a subject that is important to me, so I wanted to add my two cents.
The Family Is Important
No one is denying that our families are important. However, some people seems to think that those who practice, and try to improve as developers are neglecting their family. This is far from the truth for me and for many more I’m sure. My family is very important to me. My girlfriend and my kids are what’s driving me to improve. I love them very much and I want to spend as much time as I can with them. Because contrary to what some would have you believe quantity is as important as quality in that matter. Quality time does not happen on a schedule, you have to be there to experience it.
Learning Is Important
As developer, self improvement is a must. There are lots of us who don’t make the effort of learning new things and practicing. They can have fulfilling career, but for some it’s not enough. Every day I try to learn new things. And every day I find things that I don’t know. I want to become a master in my profession and the more I learn, the more I find out that I have a long road ahead.
It’s possible to learn on the job, but it’s hard. In most companies, there is no time to experiment. There are deadlines to meet. At home, you can decide what you want to learn. You set the time frame. It doesn’t have to be all in one week. You can take your time, learn at your pace. Create toy projects and throw them when you’re done. And if you discover something great that could help you in your job, you now have some expertise on the subject. That should help you sell that new technique to your colleagues and managers.
We Can Have Both
No one have to pick between their family and self improvement. You just have to manage your time wisely. To me, it means leaving the office at 5pm. Then I can have a nice diner with the family. Give my son his bath, play with the kids and watch tv with them. Then after the kids are in bed, I have an hour or two to read, program and try new things. I also have some time early in the weekends.
Do I have to make sacrifices? Of course. Time is limited. When my son was born I had to give up the gym. It was a hard thing to do. I use to love going to the gym in the morning. But I picked my priorities and I had to let go of something. In the end I spend my time doing what makes me happy in life. Spending time with my family and learning to become a better developer.