The value of a moment (in PhD Parenting)

Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment, until it becomes a memory – Dr. Seuss

My children were only 3 years and 18 months old when I began my journey as a part-time PhD student in Feb 2013.

First day of preschool
First day of preschool

In fact, I began my PhD on the same day that my eldest started preschool. I look at her now, approaching the end of her first year of school, and can’t believe the explosion of learning that has taken place before my eyes.  I’m sure I must have learnt a lot as well, but sometimes it is not always easy to see your own growth.

Hence this blog. I hope that by documenting my thoughts and readings I’ll be able to see my own explosion of learning; maybe it will even spark some other explosions too.

But I wanted to start with something that has been resonating within me for some time about appreciating the moment. There have been many times to celebrate in my PhD work these last 3 years, but if I’m honest, the biggest joys for me have been seeing my kids inspired and engaged with my progress. Its these little moments that I want to remember…..

Like when my youngest came to university with me and happily sat under the computer desk making a cubby house, playing with some figurines, whilst I madly tried to analyse some neuroimaging data. He doesn’t always come on campus with me (I normally work around their preschool hours or go in at night when they are asleep), but this particular day I was needing to meet a deadline and he knew that. At one point while the code was running I sat back and watched him happily playing with a smile on my face. He looked up at me with a stern face and said “get back to work mummy”. There was value in that moment.

Or, when I first showed my daughter my Three Minute Thesis video, her first reaction was to say, “mum, I want to do one too – do you want to watch it?” Then she stood up in front of me and said: “Today I am going to talk to you about the ear. The ear has three parts: the inner ear, the outer ear and the ear can-out”. Whilst she was no doubt quoting from some episode of Operation Ouch! and making up bits she didn’t know, the fact that she saw me sharing my science knowledge and that it inspired her to do the same, is really precious to me. There was value in that moment.

Just last month as we were getting ready for school my daughter wanted me to sit down while she practiced her school ‘news’ (think show ‘n tell except they have a specific topic they have to talk on each week). Afterwards as we were doing the final brush teeth / hair before leaving, I described how that day I would be giving a talk a bit like news at a university I don’t normally go to (my first real 10 min presentation at a university outside of my own). She suggested that I practice my talk as we all walk up to school. So we start walking and I launch into my talk ..

“I want to know what’s going on in the brain when people are imagining music. The reas-…”

and promptly get cut off by my 4 year old son who says

Little did he know that Brainman actually already exists!

“I know how I can know what’s going on in your brain – I can be Brainman and I can fly into your ear and see inside your head and see the music”

….to which his sister then says “I’m thinking of Let it Go” and starts twirling around whilst singing it in her head (actions and everything – as any parent of a Frozen loving child can appreciate).

“Do you want me to keep going?” I ask. “Yep” she responds but after 2 more sentences she interrupts “actually no, its quite boring mummy”… made me laugh. There was value in that moment too.

So if there is one point to this post that I want you to think about – especially if you are a parent who is studying / working in academia it is this:

Never underestimate the impact your love and passion for learning is having on your kids

You may only realize it once it becomes a memory, but its the everyday moments we share with our kids that are passing on a love of learning – and there is great value in that.


4 thoughts on “The value of a moment (in PhD Parenting)

  1. I absolutely agree with your one point to take away from this post Never underestimate the impact your love and passion for learning is having on your kids. I recently lost my dad, he lived a long good life and it was only when I bade him farewell that I realised how much of who he was has made me who I am today. I also realised how much of who I am is so much of who my kids will turn out to be. I find we think of parenting as sacrificing for our kids. Maybe it is sacrifice but most importantly I think its living a full life that teaches them to also live a full life.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We have alot in common! I lost my dad almost 2 years ago and I often think how happy he would be seeing me doing my phd (he had always wanted me to do one). I’m glad he got to see me finish my first year of it. I too see alot of him in me and I love the idea that parenting is so much more than sacrifice. I’m sure your dad’s legacy will also be seen in your kids 🙂


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