How We Parented Through High-Pressure Careers

Hansen, Jeremy &

Written by: Where Parents Talk Staff

Published: Nov 19, 2023

by Katherine Martinko

If you have ever felt overwhelmed by the task of juggling parenting and work, you should listen to Jeremy and Catherine Hansen speak about their experience. The married pair has raised three teenagers while continuing to pursue high-pressure jobs—she, as an obstetrician-gynecologist and menopause practitioner, and he, as a fighter pilot, astronaut, and member of the Artemis II mission.

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This is 1059 the region where parents talk and explore practical, proactive and evidence based solutions. This is where parents talk with Lianne Castelino.

Thanks for joining us here on 1059 the region, I’m Lianne Castelino. Welcome to where parents talk. Long distance parenting features a special range of challenges. If you travel regularly for work, or live in a different city from your child for any length of time, things can get more complex when both parents have high pressure jobs, where remote parenting becomes par for the course. Our guests today are living that precise reality as parents of three. And they’re poised to enter a whole new dimension in their parenting journey in the coming months. Colonel Jeremy Hansen is a physicist CF 18 pilot, and an astronaut with the Canadian Space Agency. He will become the first Canadian to travel to the moon in November 2024. As part of a 10 day Artemis mission, his wife, Dr. Catherine Hansen, is an obstetrician gynecologist, a menopause practitioner, a coach and speaker. They are parents of three teenagers. Thank you both for being here.

Yeah, thank you for having us. Looking forward to it.

So the two of you are parents of three. And I wonder had you always wanted to become parents?

Yeah, it was always in the cards for us right from the very beginning. But it is something I make sure to tell my patients that takes a lot of courage to decide to prioritize other things and not become parents. But for us, it was always a hope and a dream that we had.
Yeah, for sure. You know, it’s one of those things that I didn’t really know where it was going to fit, I had these big ambitions. But I always sort of had this sense that that was something that I would would like to have as part of my my life journey. And so yeah, really just thinking you know that your question makes me think about it. I’m just really grateful that that all worked out.

Going hand in hand with the desire to have children is of course figuring out how to parent them and determining your style or approach. Dr. Hansen? Did you think about that at all prior to having children?

Yeah, I definitely hadn’t given that a lot of thought before having children. And so it was kind of live and learn and learn trial by fire. Jeremy is obviously military. So there’s a lot of hierarchy involved. And I think we became a really, really good team very, very quickly, when the kids were really little.

Yeah, we, I look back on it. We, you know, we did sort of like the trial run with the dog. So did the dog first and thought, Okay, we did pretty good with the dog. So maybe we’re ready for kids. But, of course, I think is all parents realize it’s I mean, you’re just in over your head. And it’s more of a more of a survival game. Or at least, we I did not feel equipped, or that I had a good plan for it. I think we were just adapting the entire time.

It’s interesting to hear you say that, because you had three children in sort of quick succession. You’ve got an 18 year old now and 17 year old twins. And you’re both in extremely demanding high intensity careers. It must have been a unique challenge.

Yeah, it’s extremely unique. I think there were for me a few times, I thought, are we really doing this? And do we really want to be doing this. And once you have kids, you, you have to figure those things out. I’m very organized. So as soon as I feel a little bit out of control, I start to go to lists, schedules and a lot of patterns. And I still have lists from when the kids were really little about all the things that had to get done through the day. And that just somehow made me feel a little bit more in control. But I must say we had a lot of help around us and we pulled in a lot of support to

And I think you know, the other thing, looking back on it that is that, you know, Katherine i are complementary. And you know, we are very different in our approach to things. Katherine is that kind of detail orientated and, and does keep track of a lot of things. And I’m a little bit more laissez faire with things. But there’s a balance there. The strength in both of those approaches left on their own, it’d be tough, but the fact that we had one another, to get through these times, I’m just grateful for that. I see a lot of the flaws in my approach to life. Sometimes when it comes to keeping three kids on a schedule.

What would you say has surprised each of you most along your parenting journey?

I often tell people having we had an 18 month old son and then twin girls and that it was like a social experience. And then going on in our home where we had these, you know, these three children who are really close together with all the same stimuli and inputs, and then like two twin girls with the exact same life experiences. And we really, I mean, our survival technique for getting through twins with three kids in the house was routine. And, you know, if one woke up and needed to be fed, then they both got fed at the same time. And so like they really were having a similar life experience. And it was so obvious the whole way through that these children arrived with some pre existing wiring going on in their brain, I mean, they were not the same, not at all, they were very different from day one. And just to see that So concretely, this whole nature versus nurture aspect is just been a really fun social experiment, to kind of witness firsthand. And what I’ve kind of come to the conclusion of is that, you know, there is this preconditioning that they arrived with, I can’t explain it, but they just do. And then the nurture part is, you know, teaching them to use that their approach their viewpoints, their perspectives, how they interpret things, how they see things differently, is teaching them how to use those gifts in the world. That’s the nurture part. So you do definitely influence their their life journey. But there’s, each one of them needs a very different approach, very different parenting approach to it. And it’s really fascinating to me, when I think about it,
yeah, to truly, truly fascinating that we had to kind of re invent many things we did for each of them individually. And I think what was what has been most surprising for me, I see a lot of people who say, Oh, my children are growing up, how sad. And of course, it is bittersweet. But for me, it just gets better and better and better and better. And I’ve been constantly surprised at what they teach me, and how even at a very young age, they were able to really be in engage in conversations, they became little adults very quickly. And there’s many, many mature things that we can talk about, and especially now at the ages that they’re at, they’ve really become friends, and we will always be their parents. But they’ve really become, you know, friends that we can interact with on that level. That’s fascinating and really fulfilling.

It’s interesting to hear you describe your twins had either of you experienced multiples in your family prior to knowing that you were going to have twins?

No, I have one set of cousins that are twins. But they’re identical. Ours are fraternal. And so very different mechanism of of coming into the world as those different types of twins. So no, we were surprised at that we had our children a little bit later in life, and that actually contributes to having twins. So I can’t say it was it was a complete shock. But looking back at it, it’s not surprising.

It was not a complete shock. Because Catherine being obstetrician gynecologist had kind of, you know, warned us about this, but it was shocking. And how they witnessed the whole thing, I often joke and I think this is a design flaw and humanity that, that you can, you know, as a human being have to carry multiples, it just seems, seems insane to me looking back at it.
You know, one of the things in terms of talking to a doctor and an astronaut that jumps off the page is the idea of how do you parent in a high achieving family? What kind of strategy did you adopt, especially in the Uber competitive world that we live in today?

Yeah, for me, it it really became, like I said, pulling in support, it really became about leaning on the people that we knew would be able to help us and willing to help us and desiring to help us. Or when the children were little, we lived on a military base. And so we had a lot of other families going through sort of similar spouses traveling similar, professional lives. And we really leaned on a lot of people. And I think that, for me, was the biggest survival mechanism that we had available.

Yeah, it’s interesting to look back on it being, you know, fighter pilot in the Air Force. And just like, like, I literally would call Catherine sometimes and just say, I’m not in Cold Lake anymore. I can’t tell you when I’ll be back. But like, maybe, you know, that you normally meant like two weeks, no notice just gone. And her being, you know, on call, and still having to do all that. I mean, we really relied on a lot of help. And you know, for as much demand as was put on Katherine, she still had to be the, you know, the really stable reliable one that kind of got us through that. And so, I would not say we had a good strategy. We just didn’t have a lot of choices. You know, our choices were stop our careers, one of us stop our career full stop, or just do the very best we can or we could at the time and and just accept that’s what You kind of look at life, you know what makes you happy, you’re happiest when you just accept where you are. And you just do the very best you can with it. And that’s sort of how we got through all of that we accepted that we had made these commitments to these careers, they were important to both of us. You know, I was serving my country, Katherine was like serving a whole community. I mean, they were really leaning on her. And so we could have changed at either those things, but we really didn’t want to, and we used to say things to each other. Like, this isn’t the you know, the parenting journey for everybody to emulate? It’s tough. And it’s, you know, it. I don’t know how it calculates, and whether it’s good or bad for the kids, it certainly didn’t at the time. But we used to say things like, Well, we are going to show them what it is like to pursue your dreams. And when we all say we want our kids to pursue their dreams. But when does that change too, as soon as they become a parent, they should stop pursuing their dreams. We used to think about things like that. And then in hindsight, you know, for people who are still parenting grappling with this, I would, you know, I’d say the same thing to them, as I would say to young kids I’ve talked to in schools these days is just follow your passions, do your best. And then for parents create a loving environment. And I, I’m just amazed at how resilient our kids are, and how independent and strong they are. But they were always loved and supported, I think we made a lot of mistakes. I know we’ve made a lot of mistakes as parents, but you know that those simple things, just pursuing our passions and loving and supporting and respecting them, that seemed to like smooth over all the little errors we had along the way.

Yeah, event eventually, for sure. You know, Jeremy speaks of acceptance. And there were many, many times when that didn’t feel like acceptance was possible. In some of those situations, for sure, there were some tremendous challenges that will say solo parenting three babies and going into the hospital on call and sometimes having to take three with me and nurses having to watch them while we did rounds. And I was the only OBGYN in our small town in northern Alberta. So there really weren’t a lot of a lot of options for us. But that’s one of the things that continues to surprise me about the children is as they grow, they’re able to really articulate the things that they value. And our children have been really vocal around how much they are inspired by my work even. And, of course, by their father’s work, and how much they see the role modeling and how much they they really respect the ways that we have continued to pursue those dreams. So although it hasn’t always been a smooth road, it’s so nice to see them as young adults being able to share those things. And I will say, you know, even when Jeremy was a way he would dig in there were times we set up some traditions that would keep me sane, you know, pancake morning breakfast, which I could do slowly. And pizza night on Friday nights, because that was easy. And there were times when Jeremy was around the other side of the world and actually ordering our pizza delivery. Because for him being able to contribute in those ways and make just a few things easier. Just kept him engaged and kept us kept us moving forward as a as a unit.

It is really inspiring to hear you describe that because taking three children to work when you’re an obstetrician gynecologist, I mean, it’s just a sentence that you uttered, but it could not have been easy on multiple levels. So I wonder, you know, when you think back on it, you talk about, you know, you had support, which is fantastic. But was there anything else that you really relied on? To get you through some of those really challenging times, and a lot of the time you’re on your own as a parent?

I have to say, I really relied on Jeremy, a lot of times, and of course, all the other people in our world that were in our orbit, you know, literally helping us. But when push came to shove, I would just let them know, you know, this, we need some help here. And we’re going to have to find a way and we would problem solve it together.

Yeah. And you know, I think, you know, as I’m listening to us to describe this, you know, are somebody who’s not on this call with us, but as EREMA who is live in nanny through some of those really, really tough times just to give us the consistency that we needed, you know, for Katherine to be able to get up at one in the morning and drive to the hospital to deliver a baby. And so we definitely owe a lot of great debt of gratitude to Emma for sure.

Yeah, many times we would drive by I would have the kids and we would pass them into her car and I would continue on to the hospital at full speed. There were there were many situations like that, that we were just in the moment trying to figure things out.

Time now for a short break when we come back the impact of their own childhoods and how to parent from space where parents talk returns in a moment.

Want to learn more about the show? email info at where parents Stick around Lianne Castelino. And where parents talk we’ll be right back on 1059 the region. Welcome back to where parents talk. Listen Live at 1059 the Here’s Lianne Castelino.
Welcome back. We are talking about parenting through high pressure careers. And from a distance. Our guests Colonel Jeremy Hansen, Canadian Space Agency astronaut and his wife, Dr. Catherine Hansen, an obstetrician gynecologist.

Let’s talk about how each of you was raised. How would you say your childhoods impacted the way you parent? Or have they?

Yeah, for sure. I mean, I had a very positive childhood, positive upbringing, a loving family supportive family. And I can’t think of anything, you know, along the way where I just wasn’t supported to, you know, to grow and play sports, I grew up on a farm, where hard work was valued and, and modeled for me. And so that was just a part of my life. I mean, for me, that is just how you got through life as you worked hard. You respected others. And so I mean, those, that’s, that’s probably one two is like I was really taught by my parents to respect others. And you know, to understand that it takes a community and to, you know, value the contributions of others, those are really important things. And, you know, Katherine and I, we believe that and, you know, the depths of our souls as well. And we, we communicate that into our children, I think, and we try to model that for our children, we certainly try to, you know, we have tried to help them understand, and we see them in the world with these values, too. And I think, you know, even with the ups and downs of parenting, and you know, I want to highlight this couple of times, like, we look back, and we see lots of things we did wrong, and wish we’d done different. But, you know, putting these kinds of these really kind of core values into your children like that being a priority, a shared priority for both parents like treating one another with respect, you know, modeling, to parents respecting each other, even though there’s lots of stress and disagreements, sometimes modeling that really starts to like pay long term dividends, when you get to these teenager years and young adult years, they, it really starts to show up and make it make it manageable.

Yeah, my parents have been married 61 years, and so incredible role models. And we’re both the Jeremy and I very blessed to have our parents still with us, and still married and still role modeling, still contributing very, very much to our children’s lives. So I as well had parents who really taught structure and discipline and ways of bringing opportunities and exposing me to many, many things. And I was just talking to the kids about this recently, how, you know, when you’re exposed to all these opportunities, and these diverse activities and things that you can do as children, it really helps you hone in on the things that you really love and enjoy. And as our children are at the stages, that they’re trying to figure out what to do with the rest of their lives, or at least the first stage of the rest of their lives. I think back to a lot of the ways my parents influenced that for me, and and hopefully, I’ll be able to do that for them as well.

You know, when you talk about values, and instilling values from a young age, as a family, we live in a world where there’s so much noise around that very point, and people can get lost or confused, or have that noise drown out some of those values. How do you go about continuing to instill them in your children as they approach young adulthood?

That’s an interesting question. You know, I think it really just comes down to, you know, leadership by example. And it’s something we talk a lot about in the military. And both Katherine I just fundamentally believe these things. And we, we amplify them in our, in our speech, when we talk about road events around the dinner table, you know, these are these are things that we amplify. And we hear them coming back from our children, I think, you know, the, the messaging may be complicated for people, but the real the gist of it is not complicated, like everyone has equal value and brings value to the world and deserves respect. It’s not it can be spoken about very simply. And there are you know, there are lots of complicating aspects around that, but it never changes the core value of everybody has equal value and deserves respect.

Yeah, and use and you speak about the noise and this is one of the major ways I’ve evolved my work. There’s a lot of soulful work that I do with women as well, it’s actually my real passion. And I think we can, we can calm the noise when we really make intentional effort to be present in our lives. And so with the children, it’s, it’s the same, I mean, they, they’re like all kids, they’ve got their devices all the time, but we really make an effort to quiet the noise and come together in conversation. So I can’t say we have every dinner together, but we certainly try we share, we share meal preparation, we share meals, whenever we possibly can, we have FaceTime very, very regular with Lee when we’re not together, and, and we make those opportunities, quiet so that everything else around us can just be set aside. And we as a family can realize that above and above all, we have each other. And we say that to them a lot, you know, this is the most important team you will ever be on. And as Jeremy takes core culture into some of the work that he does at NASA, he does the same, you know, for the family. So we have the whiteboard meetings, and we have dinner conversations, and we watch, you know, documentaries, or, or skill related shows together. And we have those types, or we go back country camping together, where there is no noise, you know, we make those efforts. And while we still can with the kids at this age, we’ll continue to do those things, because it really does make sure that our family remains there. Their focus.

It certainly sounds like communication is at the core of your blueprint and success as parents, especially where it concerns parenting from a distance. So Colonel Hansen, wondering, have you given any thought to how you’re going to parent from space.

It’s interesting, a bit of a shift for me. So getting into a little bit of the specifics of the mission that we’ve sort of been preparing as a family for a six month mission to the International Space Station. Now I’m going on this 10 day mission around the moon, and it’s a test flight. And it’s first time this vehicle flies and just the capabilities are vastly different. And the timeline is vastly different. So Space Station, we could have a conversation like we’re having right now could have that with my family. From Space Station, I could do that every week, and I could call them on, you know, their cell phone any given almost anytime a day, I could call them and reach out to them on the way to the moon is not going to be like that. So I’m going to be a bit of an absentee parent, for those 10 days that I’m going on all the way to the moon, I’m sure I’ll have you know, but I may only have one opportunity to speak with them from you know, during that journey. And so, you know, as always, it’ll be Katherine who picks up the slack. And she’ll be the one telling the line during that time. But the thing I would say to you regarding you know, regardless of the mission and how long I’m gone, it’s just to make some time to leave some space for the things that you don’t know they might need during that time, or they have the conversation that they need. It’s not really any more complicated than that. So when I’m gone for a long period of time, we just have to be intentional about, you know, reaching out to them individually, from time to time and just checking in with them and seeing how they’re doing. And it’s sort of like naturally flows where you know, one vote just could use more than the others. And there seems to always be enough time to do what needs to be done.

Yeah, that’s a very key piece of I think what we’ve really tried intentionally to do is to have individual time with each of them. And I think for that 10 days, we have no idea what it’s going to feel like it’s not the timeline, but it’s the duration, the the distance, that that he’ll be a way that I think will be sort of the hardest part for us. And we don’t yet know what we’re going to do in that 10 days, but I can assure you, we’ll be together.

Now, along those lines, you’ve had this intense international spotlight on yourself, Colonel Hansen, and certainly on your family as an extension, what has been the impact on your children in the last several months, as this historic mission was announced. And as we move forward to that day, in November 2024?

Have been super proud of all three of our children, just their response to it is it’s been really, really heartwarming for me one, they’re really excited, which I knew they, you know, they would be like, Oh, that’s cool, but I didn’t know they’d be quite as excited as they are. So that’s really fun to see. I also noticed that they really, you know, buy into some of the things that are important to me about this work. And that is, you know, uniting people, you know, creating solutions for the world. And so it’s not just about getting four humans to the moon and back. It’s about much more than that. You know, it’s about the work of 1000s of people who, who come together, you know, at the can Space Agency and NASA come together to this international collaboration to accomplish huge things and they really seem to get that and I love the fact that they think it’s worthwhile work that’s really rewarding for me. But most of all, I’ve just been super impressed with how they respond to, you know, a little bit of the spotlight. You know, right now a lot of it is focused on on the crew. But there is already been some Focus on the Family, this interviews and example, but also on the kids, and they really, they really make me proud when I hear them talk and the things that they say to people and how they represent this endeavor. I’m really proud of them. And I feel like somehow magically were seen, I’m very grateful for that they are truly ready for this challenge. It is a challenge for the family, it shouldn’t be underestimated. There are challenging aspects to this. And they seem really ready to take into those channels or take on those challenges and into acknowledge that one will be easy one, I’ll be roses, but that we’ll get through it together as a family
with respect to challenges, one of them is certainly the dangers inherent in a job and a profession, like the one that you’re in, and about to undertake with this mission. How do you go about managing that with your children?

I see this as a as a challenge that’s coming for the family, because we’re sort of in the honeymoon phase of the idea of this mission. And there is, you know, there’s a bit of a reckoning, I think, with respect to the risks, the real risks, understanding what that’s going to feel like emotionally to see, I mean, this, this, this rocket, my, Catherine, the kids have not seen this rocket flag before, it’s only flown, once I watched it live, I mean, it is a big, powerful rocket. And this will be the first time humans are on it. And they’re just I think there is going to be a bit of a reckoning with respect to this risk, and the feelings and the emotions of that event, watching the launch. And then that just the distance and the understanding of how far away it is. And, you know, even as I go through training, you know, some of the things that I you know, I’m picking up on that work as a crew, we’re looking at, you know, the risks and how you get out of a certain situation and other situations you just can’t get out of, if you end up in them. You know, that’s that’s our business, we manage risk as a business. But we can never make the rest of your own. So I think there’s a lot to a lot of work to do there with respect to just equipping them to have a realistic but very optimistic outlook. Obviously, we have a very optimistic outlook on everything the can space agency from NASA, we really feel like we have a high probability of success. And we’re willing to take the risk that something could go wrong. But I want to make sure that they have that. And I just don’t feel like it’s time. This will come as we as we move through the mission preparation, take them on a trip to back to they haven’t been to the Cape in a while, take them back there. Hopefully, they’ll see a rocket launch with or without people on it while they’re there. But just to sort of get a feeling for what they’re going to sense and feel during that very acute high risk moment.

We’re very optimistic, and we’re very excited and we anticipate things will go very well. But we’ve we will continue to have those conversations and as their worries and fears start to come up. There’s really an open dialogue and an invitation for them to always be able to ask those questions. And like I said, we can’t possibly imagine it but we will have talked about many of those scenarios many times with our kids.

Dr. Catherine Hansen, Colonel Jeremy Hansen. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your lived experience with us today.

Thank you appreciate you having us.

Be sure to catch the full video interview with Colonel and Dr. Hansen at where parents I’m Lianne Castelino. Thanks for listening.

Sign up for Lianne’s parenting newsletter and so much more at where parents This is where parents talk on 1059 the region

Despite the almost unimaginable pressures of their respective careers, the couple has approached parenthood in a deliberate, conscientious way that offers valuable lessons to families in every situation.

In a recent interview with Lianne Castelino, host of Where Parents Talk, the Hansens said they have drastically different approaches to parenting, but that these complement each other. Catherine is highly organized, reliant on lists, schedules, patterns, and small weekly traditions to ensure everything gets done, whereas Jeremy is more laissez-faire, but both matter greatly to creating the right family atmosphere.

When asked what surprised them most about raising kids, Jeremy described the “pre-conditioning” of each child from birth. They came with such different personalities, despite having the same inputs, and it’s been a “really fun social experiment.” He sees the nurturing component of parenting as teaching each child to “use those gifts in the world.”

Hansen, Jeremy.headshot.Canadian-Space-Agency-AstronautThe pair both emphasized the importance of seeing the family as a team—“the most important team you will ever be on,” Catherine said. Despite their demanding schedules, they make a conscious effort to carve out time to be together as a family, whether it’s having whiteboard meetings, watching documentaries, having dinner, or going backcountry camping.

They have worked hard to instill core values in their children, learned from their own parents, such as respecting others, valuing hard work, and recognizing the contributions of others in a community.

Treating each other with respect has also been a basic rule. As Jeremy said, “Parents [modelling respect for] each other, even though there’s lots of stress and disagreements … really starts to pay long-term dividends when you get to these teenage years.”

Jeremy is preparing for the Artemis II mission in 2024, an enormous honour that will make him the first Canadian to travel to the moon and present new challenges for his family.


Dr. Catherine Hansen.HeadshotHe will be absent for 10 days, but he plans to spend time engaging with each child ahead of time and ensuring that continued dialogues happen about the risks and rewards involved.

He told Castelino, “I have been super proud of all three of our children [and] their response to it… They really buy into some of the things that are important to me about this work—uniting people, creating solutions for the world.
It’s not just about getting four humans to the moon and back. It’s about much more than that. It’s about the work of thousands of people who come together to this international collaboration to accomplish huge things. They really seem to get that, and I love the fact that they think it’s worthwhile work that is really rewarding for me.”

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