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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