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Faces of A*STAR

Mother's Day: Balancing Parenting, Work, Play, and Self-Care

Dr Michelle Kee, Research Fellow at A*STAR’s Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences (SICS)

 

What I learn from work makes me a better parent, and what I pick-up from being a mother makes me a better scientist.

 

This Mother’s Day, we speak to Dr Michelle Kee, Research Fellow at A*STAR’s Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences (SICS) on juggling multiple hats as a mother, wife, and scientist.

Q: What are your motivations behind your research on parenting styles and its impact on children?

Dr Kee: Believe it or not, I actually graduated with a PhD working on zebrafish!

However, I had two kids while doing my PhD and discovered that my two sons had completely different personalities – one more fearful, and one more fearless. Hence, besides reading up on zebrafish, I found myself reading a lot more articles on fear and anxiety in children.

A*STAR Dr Michelle Kee and family

I wanted to understand more about my children, and this motivated me to explore a research focus on parenting and child development.

What I learn from work makes me a better parent, and what I pick-up from being a mother makes me a better scientist.

I am also very thankful that my Principal Investigator at A*STAR, Dr Michael Meaney, allowed me to pursue this path despite my research background being completely different.

Q: GUSTO is a cohort study of mothers and children by A*STAR’s SICS and multiple partners. Can you tell us more about your involvement in the study?

Dr Kee: The GUSTO (Growing Up in Singapore Towards Healthy Outcomes) study has spanned about 10 years now. The mothers were recruited when they were pregnant, and the children are close to 10 years of age now.

GUSTO is a cohort stufy of mothers and children by A*STAR’s SICS and multiple partners

We have continued to look at the mothers’ mental health and their interaction with the children, as well the children’s outcomes, in terms of socio-emotional behaviors and their performance in cognitive tasks, diet, lifestyles, and more.

The purpose is to understand how conditions in pregnancy and early childhood influence the health and development of women and children.

We found from the GUSTO study that a mother’s prenatal mental health actually has impact on both the mother and the child.

Yet, the differences in pregnant women’s well-being is unknown. Hence, we are starting a new study soon, called Mapping Antenatal Maternal Stress, where we will delve deeper into that area, looking at mothers from their first trimester.

Q: How do you balance your work and family time?

Dr Kee: One of the biggest hurdles of being a mother is achieving work-life balance, and more importantly, controlling our emotions.

Hence, my pro-tip for parents is this: self-care. It is important to take care of yourself!

It can be something as simple as getting enough sleep and being well rested. For some, it can be retail therapy! If we take care of ourselves, if we value our own needs, we feel better as a person, and therefore, can give better care to our children as a mother.

A*STAR Dr Michelle Kee's sons

A*STAR Dr Michelle Kee's cute daughter

We value family time as well, and we like to paint together with the children. We literally take out our picnic mats and do arts and crafts together.

Sometimes, it can be tough to just depend on yourself, or your husband, especially when you have young kids. But we are lucky to have strong support from our parents – the children’s grandparents – who are always willing to help us.

I guess you can call that the kampong spirit!


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1 Fusionopolis Way, #20-10 Connexis North Tower, Singapore 138632

 

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