For a few years now I’ve operating as a freelance software engineer specializing in front-end heavy full-stack work. It’s been an ideal fit for me most of the time, given my varied interests and how quickly I can get bored of something if I’m not truly interested in it. Of course, though, it also comes with the burden of finding work constantly and lots of context switching.
As my wife and I are preparing to welcome our first children (twin boys) later this year, I’m at a crossroads of thought about whether I should continue down this path on top of the added stresses and busyness that will come from suddenly having two screaming infants and toddlers running around, or whether I should get a normal salaried jobby job.
Basically, whether it might be a fair trade to give up some of my freedom and autonomy in exchange for not having to do the meta work of finding work while also working close to full-time.
An early thought I had was “Perhaps it is worth it because I would likely be less stressed and thus in a better mindset for others to be around me, particularly my wife, who will need me at my best.” This is not a completely unreasonable thought, after all.
More recently I’ve also had the thought that while that would be true, it would also mean that I would likely be gone almost half the day every weekday (accounting for commuting and work hours) and thus missing all that once-in-a-lifetime time watching my children grow up. Likely at first it’s not like I’d miss much, but over time the milestones would become more significant. It would be very frustrating to basically just get a nightly digest of my sons’ daily developments that I missed while I was at the office. I would be quite pissed to miss a major milestone because I was at the office 30 minutes away because it was “convenient”.
I know this is the status quo in America and many people, such as my father, would tell me “That’s just the way it is: one of life’s unavoidable trade-offs.” One of my biggest Autism-related struggles is accepting things like that: conventions and arbitrary rules. That part of my brain is like “Why? Why do I have to live my life according to ‘the way it is’?” The answer that most people aren’t brave (or maybe crazy) enough to respond with is that you don’t. It’s geeky and cliché but I think of that quote from Westworld, “This is the new world, you can be whoever the fuck you want.”
Privilege and all aside, if I have the opportunity to live an alternative lifestyle where I get to be there for my family twice as much, wouldn’t I be stupid to do anything else? I guess the real comparison is the quality of that family time: if I continue independently, perpetually working on building up a client base all the while stressed, is the extra family time it buys me worth more than the less but potentially higher-quality family time a full-time “conventional” job would provide.
This is a decision still in motion, for sure.