When Designers Become Parents

How parenthood has shaped myself as a designer

When I was single and childless, I see the world in a linear way — that I would try to fix all the things in the world, that I am the smartest person in the room, and I won’t stop until I die to pursue perfection. At least, most of the time. Of course, I had my down times, but still, that optimistic feeling is there.

When I became a father in 2015, things change quite drastically. My point of view no longer is confined to myself and my career, but to life. It’s not even about the child per se, it’s about how to see life in balance. I learned to be “enough” — accepting of lives as they are, and lowering my standard of “good”. I learn to be happy faster, or in a smaller scope, or in smaller causes.

What do I mean? Here are some examples:

In parenting: There’s no perfection.
In UX: There’s no perfection, either.

You notice that pixel perfection is exhausting, especially in continuous product design and development, and you start to think more iteratively, and flexibly. You rely more on communication, validation, intuition and just moving things along and learning along the way.

In parenting: You start to think about the kid, not only yourself.
In UX: You start to think about the team, users, and other people, not only yourself.

You notice that in order to achieve success, openness and transparency are crucial. Empathy is a staple. You can’t move forward alone. You need others. You need to take care of others, address issues, and while you can’t make everyone happy, at least you considered multiple perspectives.

In parenting: You think long-term. You play the long game.
In UX: You think about ethical design. You think about long-term impact.

If I design this the way I think today, will it be relevant in the next year? Will it be benefiting the users in a great way? Will it be ethical? If I am craving for a burger at 11pm at night, and a stall is open 15km away, would it be okay to ask a delivery partner to deliver it to me? How do I contribute to make their lives better?

In parenting: Quality time with your kid matters. So much.
In UX: Quality time with your team matters. So much.

Work life becomes less of a work life. You see things less about business perspectives, but more about personal relationship as well. Jobs and companies come and go, but personal relationships don’t. You get laid off, but your friends won’t just dump you (except if you’re a jerk, of course, now that’s a different story). Do not hesitate to have coffee, lunch, social time and everything else outside work if you can.

In parenting: Every kid is different.
In UX: Every designer, process and approach is different.

I start to see things not only within hard-coded frameworks. I start to appreciate how different designers see things differently, and process things differently as well. They love fiddling in Figma? That’s fine. They love talking to stakeholders all day long? That’s fine too. They sulk a lot? Maybe not so much, but that’s okay too sometimes! Every problem should also be approached differently.

In parenting: You can be wrong. In fact, you’re always wrong.
In UX: Yes you can be wrong too.

“You can have opinions, but hold it loosely,” that’s what I learned from one of the companies I worked for. Have strong opinions, but if you’re proven wrong, then by all means admit it. As a parent, you have preconceived ideas and opinions, probably inherited from your parents or environment or culture, but then you come into different scenarios and companies, be ready to start learning all over again.

Now, are you a parent? What have you learned from parenthood that you can apply to your job?