Becoming a parent is a life-changing event, and it also changes how one acts at work. For me, I clearly notice that becoming a parent changed me as a person, and also as a researcher and academic.
Today, I want to reflect on some of the ways becoming a parent in academia changed me as a researcher and academic. The first things that come to my mind are the following:
- I am more careful with my time. The first, practical impact is that I have more demands on my time. I have to be home at a certain time to pick up my daughter or make sure (in pre-COVID-times) that I am home before the nanny leaves. If I need more time to finish something, I need to do it at night, after my daughter sleeps – and that often leads to late evenings and not enough sleep, so I try to avoid working at night (not always equally successfully, but it’s a work in progress).
- I am more compassionate to others’ home situations. Especially as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, I understand much better what it means to not have the support you need to be able to actually work (as we experienced during the initial lockdown, and continued to experience as we lost our childcare and helped with virtual school). I think this shared experience also created the space for others to let me know that they are struggling – whether they are caring for children, elderly relatives, their partner, or themselves.
- I think more about the overall impact of my work. How does my work contribute to building a better world for the next generations? This question has me much more occupied now that I am a parent than before. My worry about climate change has increased drastically as well, and it motivates me to take on research topics that could contribute to a circular economy and net-zero future.
- My interests have become broader. In line with the previous topic, my interests have become broader. My interests in my research have expanded, and in addition I became interested more in parenting in academia and other related topics, which are not directly civil engineering related.
- My way of teaching changed. My daughter inspires my teaching. Seeing how she learned and learns everything in life as a child helps me to see learning in a different light.
For those of you who are academic parents, how has becoming a parent changed you as a researcher and academic?