Pick your battles
Updated: Oct 22, 2022
One of the greatest challenges for parents is the societal expectation to parent like you don't have a full time job, whilst working like you don't have kids. The demand on your time, energy and identity requires a solid support system and careful maintenance of your own mental and physical health. Easier said, than done. "Sleep when they sleep" you are told, nevermind that they do not always sleep, or sleep on top of you in the most uncomfortable position. But giving yourself a break when rare, quiet moments do happen is important. The laundry can wait, the meal can come from the freezer, the email can sit in drafts.
Tell us a little something about yourself
I'm an assistant professor in cognitive neuroscience in The Netherlands
How old are your kids?
1.5 years old
What is your favourite parenting hack?
Pick your battles: I try to not be too restrictive (sure, you can put peanut butter in your hair) so that those times when I do say 'no' actually mean something. Let's see if it works in the long run!
What do you wish you had known before (either before you were a parent, or when your kids were younger)
When the baby sleeps, relax! My biggest mistake in the early days (and still now) is to frantically do chores during nap-time, and then find myself exhausted at the end of the day. Also: taking care of a sick child while suffering from the same daycare virus, and also trying to keep work going, is one of the most difficult and exhausting things to do - get sufficient backup childcare for those times (hi, grandma!)
What makes you feel most guilty as a parent?
It's quite common for Dutch parents to work part-time. I can feel guilty about happily working full-time after my maternity leave; it often does feel like the days and weeks slip away too fast. Then again, I strongly believe that multiple caregivers and other children are good for children, and our little one certainly seems very happy at daycare.
What do you find most difficult as a parent?
Constantly switching roles - from parent to friend, sibling, colleague, scientist, mentor. Especially as a new female PI, I struggle to present a coherent academic/parenting identity which indicates I take my career and also my family seriously.
What never fails to bring you joy as a parent?
Kids have a special ability to suck you into their moment. With their attention to detail, joy and all-consuming interaction, I've become more mindful and appreciative of those many small and beautiful moments during the day. Becoming a parent has massively helped with my academic guilt and constant absent-mindedness as I used to think about work 24/7. See also this short and powerful essay: http://www.paulgraham.com/vb.html
*These posts serve partly as therapy for me, and partly in hopes that the words will resonate with you and help build a community of parents and friends that can support each other. Take a look around the website, and join if you want to see more.