I could never go and work in an office for a corporation again whilst my kids still live at home, and probably just never again anyway.
Working in an office
The relationship I had with my family (wife and two boys) whilst working in an office doing game dev was the worst it’s ever been. I basically saw them at breakfast and then went to the office and maybe saw them just before they went to bed depending on how late I worked (plus travel time). Occasionally I got to meet my wife for lunch because both my boys were at school and my wife is self-employed. Of course I got the weekends with my family but I was often tired and unmotivated to do much.
Also my wife was left basically bringing the boys up on her own during the week and I began to realise that they desperately needed me around more as a dad for a different perspective on things, plus I wanted to see them of course – something that amplified after my father passed away.
I’m sure that if you are not a parent then working in an office is probably fine as long as you can still find time to spend with your partner and to do your hobbies. If the company you work for is progressive enough to allow you to work at home sometimes/quite often and allows you to have some flexibility in your schedule to deal with family-related issues that regularly crop up then that would of course be great, but I wasn’t in such a company/culture (although they did help me out when my dad died.)
It can also be awkward working with people who don’t have kids who just don’t understand that your family comes before your work and what responsibilities you have outside of the office. Plus, and this is sad, I’m sure many dads think it’s normal and acceptable to go to work all day and hardly ever see their kids…Some would say they have no choice, but I disagree, there is always choice of some kind if you look hard enough. [EDIT] A friend has reminded me that in the US if you work for a company you’ll get health insurance and that without it you are screwed. This is certainly huge bummer and no doubt would put many parents off going indie as paying for your family’s insurance costs a fortune. Not so in Canada or the UK or many other countries fortunately.
TL;DR If you are a parent, working away from home sucks. Don’t do it!
Working at home as an indie
Before I worked in an office I worked at home as an indie. That was a conscious decision that I made when my first son was 3 and my second son was 6 months old (before that I was an IT consultant and spent lots of time at home as well). Whilst working in the office I remembered the good times of being able to see my kids, help my wife with stuff, and just generally being around. So eventually I left that company and went back to being indie again and it’s just so much better!
However, of course the flip side is that:
a) I get interrupted at home a lot
b) Income is variable and there is no certainty etc.
c) I seem to work best in the afternoons and evenings which is when my family wants to see me.
I’ve gone through indie crunches where I’ve hardly seen anyone, and I often work at weekends (due to being busy and also because I enjoy it), but then other times when my family really needs my help, like if they are all ill with the flu or something, I can be there for them.
It’s definitely not a good idea to set up hard deadlines as an indie parent because some poop will mostly likely hit the fan and force you to make tough decisions. For example: on the day I was supposed to be shipping Spring Bonus for PC/Mac (it had to come out by Easter Sunday) I’d had 1 hour sleep the night before due to testing and then my wife got super-ill and I had to rush her to hospital (it turned out to be cancer) and then go and get the kids from school etc. It was one of the most horrible and stressful days of my life trying to balance everything. Luckily she is fine now and the game shipped and has done well, but it was not easy at all.
I also like doing the school run. If you are a dad and have not dropped your kids off or picked them up from playgroup/school on then you are missing out on something really important. Don’t let your wife hog this cool thing that will give you memories you’ll never forgot.
Also my wife works at home and so we get to go out to lunch, for romantic walks, and to Ikea when we feel like it. This is obviously good for our relationship
Btw, sorry that I’m just writing from a male/dad perspective – I would love to hear more indie mums/moms posting their thoughts too!
TL;DR You still have to balance your work/home life when working at home as an indie, but it’s definitely better for parents.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments, thanks!