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

  • Anil Menon is a former SpaceX medical director, flight surgeon, and NASA astronaut.

  • But he said his most important (and most 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 a former SpaceX flight surgeon, but none of that compares to what he says is his toughest 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.

In addition, his wife, Anna Menon, is the chief engineer of space operations at SpaceX. She is also preparing to go to space, as a crew member on the Polaris Dawn mission.

Anil and Anna Menon hugging on the beach in their respective NASA and SpaceX astronaut jump suits.

Anil and Anna Menon pose together in their respective NASA and SpaceX astronaut jump suits.Anil Menon

Balancing work and family life is not easy for anyone. But when both parents work in spaceflight, unique challenges arise like hectic schedules and time management.

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

This is how Anil and Anna manage their demanding careers while raising two young children.

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 these jobs, it really helped with parenting,” he said.

Astronaut Anil Menon is kneeling inside the entrance to a spaceshipAstronaut Anil Menon is kneeling inside the entrance to a spaceship

Anil Menon uses the problem-solving skills he gained from astronaut training to help him solve parenting challenges.NASA/James Blair

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

Her flight simulation shifts may occur at various times of the day and last well into the night, and her NASA schedule in Houston may have very early start times.

But the couple did not 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,” said Anil Menon.

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

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

“As we get closer to their launch date, and we’ve just finished my training, we’ve found ways to get the kids involved in these things – bring them closer and make that distance smaller, ” said Anil Menon.

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

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

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

Encourage their children to shoot for the moon

They do not have the hope that their children will follow in their own 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 children will feel inspired to follow their own dreams, whatever they may be.

Mose Anna and Anil Menon with their children in front of a mountain range and open sky.Mose Anna and Anil Menon with their children 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 are exploring the SpaceX Dragon capsule or out for a walk.Anil Menon

Anil applied to NASA’s astronaut program several times before being accepted. Even though he thought “there was probably a 0% chance of it happening” it kept bothering him.

“They might not be interested in space, and they probably won’t be,” Anil Menon said with a laugh. “But we hope they see that it’s important to follow your passion. That’s the model we want to show them. Because you can tell the kids anything, but I think actions are higher than words.”

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

Read the original article on Business Insider

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