What being a parenting researcher is like
In my bio bit on this page, you can read that before I became a documentary style family photographer, I used to be a parenting researcher. During my PhD (and later, in my post-doc), I watched truly hundreds and hundreds of videos of mothers and babies, visited countless new parents at home, and poured through thousands of questionnaires, with the help of fancy statistical software.
I was trying to explore what makes mothers different, and what makes them mother the way they do. Was it genetics? Was it their own early upbringing? Mental health? All of the above? (Hint: it’s always all of the above… and it’s ALWAYS complicated.)
I wrote several papers on the subject, and they were published in peer-review journals. I had three babies during this time.
Sometimes, I was breastfeeding, or pushing my daughter’s little baby rocker with my foot while analyzing videos. I brought her to the lab, where I set up a potty for her (we were doing ‘elimination communication’ with our kids) and a little play area for her. I lost a bunch of weight in those months, baby-wearing her around campus while trying to get work done.
It was all worth it, no regrets
It was tireless work, but I found no reason to complain. I considered myself lucky. Still do. I was grateful to have an interesting and quirky job, to have amazing flexibility to raise my children while going to grad school, to have incredible support from supervisors and peers alike. It’s not hyperbole at all to say that we were, for the most part, a big happy family in my lab. A certain free-spirited post-doc even taught my 4-yr old how to set a fire outside the grad pub at UTM.
One of the amazing and wonderful women who made it that much better during my PhD was Jen. She was doing her post-doc at that time, and we quickly grew close. (At first, I just talked too much, while she tried to get her work done efficiently so she could go home to her then very young daughter).
A few years later, we decided to start a parenting blog. It was called, ‘Naive Jar’ (an anagram of Viara and Jen). It was built with the the idea that none of us - not even parenting scientists like us - know exactly what is right in the parenting realm. So the jar was all about putting in a penny, taking out a penny. Sharing ideas and evidence-based research about parenting. Being open to new ideas.
Because we were both not experts at social media marketing, our blog couldn’t ultimately compete with others like “PhD in Parenting”, a blog which was all the rage at the time. The irony is that we actually both had a PhD in parenting.🙊Well, Jen did, anyway, and I was working towards mine.)
This was before the days of podcasts. A part of me wonders whether we would have fared better in the podcast realm. We LOVED talking about parenting, and could chat for hours. I think people would have been engaged to hear our banter. I often - as usual - played devil’s advocate.
Jen encouraged me to follow my new career as a family photographer, and she also inspired me to follow my gut. On my first year as a professional photographer, I visited her in Hamilton and took some photographs of a regular Thursday evening for their family: back-yard fun, homemade dinner which I still remember and it was delicious (Jen’s a total foodie), a walk on the beautiful Locke street where we met a man with many budgies, gelato, playground fun, and back home. It was an eventful three hours.
(Three hours are my favourite length sessions for documentary family photography, by the way. You can squeeze in so much in that time and no one feels rushed. There’s plenty of time for the kids to get TOTALLY comfortable with me and ignore me😜).
I hope you enjoy the photographs.
I also hope that if you are considering a career change, you let this give you some courage that things can work out, as long as you are willing to trust yourself and recognize the amazing and supportive people in your life.
Documentary family photography is a wonderful thing. It means you get to spend time together in any way you love. There are no rules! It encourages you to find activities that you normally enjoy together as a family, and gives you photographs of those very cherished moments.
If you are unsure whether documentary photography is for you, then email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we can chat about ideas, pricing, etc. There is really no wrong question - i’m here to guide you through anything you might need to ask me about documentary family photography and whether it’s right for your family!