Back to Grad School with a One-Year-Old — Spotlight on Hanne Steen
What do you do? What does your typical day look like?
I’m in graduate school working towards a degree in Counseling Psychology.
I am in a low-residency program, so I spend one weekend a month on campus and the rest of my work is done on my own time. I am also the primary caregiver for our almost one-year-old, and we have a nine-year-old too, so my typical day looks like a juggling act.
How has work changed for you since having a child?
I took a year off of graduate school after our daughter was born so that I could be home with her. I suffered from postpartum depression, so I’m grateful that I could take the time to work through that and be present for our daughters.
I almost answered this question: “I don’t work,” but that’s a huge problem with the way our culture views parenthood—as if it isn’t work when raising our children is the most important work that can be done.
Having children has changed what my work looks like. My work this past year has been parenting and keeping a home together, and helping a family thrive. Now that our youngest is almost one, I am turning back to the work of becoming a psychotherapist.
What is the most challenging thing about working while also nurturing your child?
For me it’s a battle between the distraction of trying to get anything done with them around versus the guilt of not having them around.
My husband and I interviewed lots of great nannies but every time I had to make a decision I felt this pit in my stomach at the prospect of having to be away from my daughter all day when she is so young. In the end we decided that wasn’t the route for us, because of both the financial and emotional cost. I know that’s not the case for everyone, but there is no one-size-fits-all in any of parenthood, and that’s how it felt for us.
How has Wiggle & Work impacted your ability to get work done?
Wiggle & Work is the thing that has allowed me to get work done.
At home I am distracted by laundry, strewn toys, house projects, not to mention my daughter. Here I can sit in silence with my computer and my books, without the guilt or sadness of being far from my daughter or not seeing her all day.
What is some advice or a parent “hack” you have for other working parents that helps you get more work done in a day?
The most important things I’ve learned since being a parent are how to prioritize and how to say no. I used to have a million creative projects going on at any given time and a busy social life and I would just keep going until I dropped. I can’t afford to drop now, so I just have to cut things out before I get too tired.
I tell myself I have a lifetime to write my book, to finish that photo project, to pick up that dance class. For these first years when my daughter is young, I have to keep things as simple as possible, otherwise I feel like I am failing in all areas of my life. We just don’t have enough time or energy to do everything! And it’s much more enjoyable this way. I can be present with the few things I choose to do.
Oh and there’s no shame in sticking them in front of the TV from time to time or handing them a phone for a few minutes to give yourself a break. I think we can take this perfect parenting thing too far and it’s far too much pressure.
Do you have any advice for new parents who just had their baby and are planning to keep pursuing their career?
Take as much time as you can off, and really TAKE IT OFF. Be as present as you can, soak up every moment, because it changes so fast. Then when you need to go back to work—or you’re ready to—let yourself really do that and know that your child is learning and growing in other ways when you are away.
If you’re lucky enough and flexible enough to have a job that allows you to be at a place like Wiggle & Work and be near your little one while you work, I highly recommend easing into it before you have to get any real work done. I brought my daughter about ten times in the months before I officially went back to school and I’m so glad I did. She was able to ease into it and my energy wasn’t stressed or hurried so she immediately felt at ease here, and now every time we come through the door she lights up.