A NASA astronaut, former SpaceX flight surgeon, and father of 2 says parenting is by far his hardest job

A NASA astronaut, former SpaceX flight surgeon, and father of 2 says parenting is by far his hardest job
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Astronaut Anil Menon wearing his space suit poses for a photo next to his young son and his wife, Anna Menon, who is holding their young daughter.
NASA astronaut Anil Menon with his wife, SpaceX lead space operations engineer Anna Menon, and their two children, Grace and James.

  • Anil Menon is a former SpaceX medical director, flight surgeon, and a newly minted NASA astronaut.
  • But he said his most important (and challenging) job is being a dad to his two young children.
  • Menon encourages parents: If you can be a parent, you can be an astronaut, he said.

Anil Menon is one of NASA’s newest astronauts and former SpaceX flight surgeon, but none of that compares to, what he said, is his hardest job: being a dad.

“I would say that parenting is probably the most challenging thing that I do, because it requires so much emotional intelligence,” he said.

On top of it all, his wife, Anna Menon, is a lead space operations engineer at SpaceX. She’s gearing up to go to space too, as a crew member on the Polaris Dawn mission.

Anil and Anna Menon hugging on the beach in their respective NASA and SpaceX astronaut jumpsuits.
Anil and Anna Menon pose together in their respective NASA and SpaceX astronaut jumpsuits.

Balancing work and family life isn’t easy for anyone. But when both parents work in space flight, unique challenges arise like conflicting schedules and time management.

Together, Anil and Anna Menon have crafted a specific approach to parenting. Above all, they work to show their children, ages 3 and 6, that it’s important to follow their dreams — even if those dreams are not the same as their parents’.

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Here’s how Anil and Anna manage their demanding careers while raising two young kids.

Astronaut-level problem solving

Astronauts are constantly juggling a bunch of different problems under high pressure, and solving them in real time. Funnily enough, so are parents.

As a dad, Anil Menon uses his astronaut problem-solving skills all the time, he said. Especially when the demands of his job present logistical challenges.

“When we took on these jobs, that helped tremendously with parenting,” he said.

Astronaut Anil Menon kneels inside the entrance to a space craft
Anil Menon uses the problem-solving skills he gained from astronaut training to help him juggle parenting challenges.

For example, when he was training to become a NASA astronaut in Houston, his wife was called away to LA for a month to act as mission director for NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 launch.

Her flight simulation shifts could happen at different times of the day and last well into the night, while his NASA schedule in Houston could have very early start times.

But the couple didn’t dwell on their challenging circumstances and instead focused on finding a solution together. Ultimately, they decided to have the kids stay in LA with mom for a month and hired a nanny to travel with them.

“We were lucky to have the extra support and the kids had fun,” Anil Menon said.

This is just one example where Anil and Anna have been pulled in one direction or another. During astronaut training, Anil spent two months away from home in Florida learning how to fly a T-6 aircraft for pilot training.

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And once Anna Menon was selected to fly on SpaceX’s Polaris Dawn mission, scheduled to launch no earlier than this summer, both she and Anil were busy with space flight training. Yet, despite the time commitment, their children are still central to their lives.

“As we’ve gotten closer to her launch date, and we just finished my training, along the way we’ve discovered ways of involving the kids in these things — bringing them closer and making that distance seem smaller,” Anil Menon said.

For example, he brought his two kids, James and Grace, to his spacewalk training. And at SpaceX, the kids got to explore inside the Dragon mission capsule. Plus, the couple said they love going to their kids’ school to discuss their careers.

Overcoming logistical challenges like these is why Anil believes that parenting is the best astronaut training there is.

“I certainly encourage parents to apply to this new astronaut program,” he said. “If they can do that, then they can be an astronaut.”

Inspiring their kids to shoot for the moon

Their hope isn’t that their kids will follow in their footsteps and become astronauts themselves. Rather, Anil and Anna Menon hope that by showing James and Grace how passionate they are about their careers, their kids will feel encouraged to chase their own dreams, no matter what they are.

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Anna and Anil Menon mose with their kids in front of a mountain range and open sky.
Despite their busy schedules, Anna and Anil Menon always find time to spend with their kids, whether they’re exploring the SpaceX Dragon capsule or out for a hike.

Anil applied to NASA’s astronaut program several times before getting accepted. Even though he thought “it probably had a 0% chance of happening” he kept applying.

“They may not be interested in space, and they probably won’t be interested,” Anil Menon said with a laugh. “But hopefully they see that it’s important to follow your passion. That’s the model we’re trying to demonstrate to them. Because you can tell kids anything, but I think actions speak louder than words.”

Setting that example is what motivates Anil and Anna Menon to keep saying yes to new opportunities, even if it means learning to adapt to new challenges, Anil said.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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