Next-Gen

Christine Corbett Moran Plans to Go to Space One Day—But First, Breastfeeding

6 min read

Essential Takeaways

  • Christine Corbett Moran is a jill-of-all-trades in the realm of science and engineering, and currently works at NASA—in addition to being a new mom. Her biggest life goal? To travel to space.
  • "In the first six months, [I breastfed] for more than 500 hours or more. Imagine if that was a job that I was being paid for."

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Christine Corbett Moran isn't one to say no to a challenge. That much is pretty obvious with just one look at the NASA engineer's CV, which boasts projects that span so many different genres of science, technology, and engineering, it's hard to imagine how anyone has the brainpower, let alone hours in the day. In 2016, she spent most of the year in Antarctica studying electromagnetic radiation. She has developed an app to help protect women from assault, Circle of 6, graced the TEDx stage, and regularly writes science fiction short stories. In 2017, she was one of the top 50 finalists in a pool of over 18,000 applicants for NASA's newest class of astronauts—and doesn't plan on stopping until she makes it to space. Oh, and did we mention that she became a mom last year?

Below, she shares a peek into her fascinating life—including her very practical approach to parental labor, the truth about breastfeeding, and why she thinks women are the future of STEM.

In the realm of science and engineering, you’re kind of a Jill of all trades. Where do you see this skill set taking you in the future?

My dream—something that I’ve thought about since I was a young child—is to become an astronaut. I got very far in the interviews in the past selection round and I’m hoping to apply again the next time they do a selection in one or two years. Barring that, I have historically started software businesses, and I may start a side business in the future doing software products for consumers.

Why do you think emphasizing STEM education is so important, especially for young girls?

I think for a lot of young people and young women in particular, they may also be fantastic readers or fantastic orators and have a variety of different interests and skills, and then they’re pushed towards those skills or not even given the opportunity to explore science and engineering and figure out if it could also be for them. So I think it’s a risk especially for young women who are extremely talented in a variety of different things to not even get the chance to see if science and engineering could be for them. The earlier you get exposed to those sorts of concepts, the earlier you can see what works for you and what doesn’t.

At the bare minimum, these STEM skills do provide excellent skills no matter what career you go into. So having that fundamental computer literacy, in addition to skills in math and science, can help you no matter what career you end up going into—whether that’s art philosophy or ultimately science and engineering.

With your hands in so many projects—and now, including a newborn—it almost seems like there aren’t enough hours in the day.

I’ve always wanted to be a mom, even freezing my eggs before meeting my partner and I had plans to eventually do the single mom thing if I didn’t find someone who I was happy spending my life with. But I'm lucky to have found an excellent partner, and one of the first things we read together was a philosophy book called Justice, Gender and the Family—it’s about how women historically, even if they’re working just as much or earning more, are still doing more of the family labor, the unpaid labor. We made a commitment very early on to try to distribute that workload, so both my husband and I have done parental leave. Of course, there are some things that are biological like pregnancy and breastfeeding that you can’t split 50/50. But having the support of a partner has been very helpful.

Like me, my partner has lots of wonderful, crazy projects and we try to give each other space to do those. Sometimes on weekends I’ll watch the baby for a couple hours while my husband works on something else and we’ll just trade off. And of course, it's also about not working sometimes and spending quality time together as a family!

What do you think motherhood means in 2019?

I'm lucky in that I had lots of friends get pregnant and have babies at the same time as I did. And we are all accomplished career women who waited to find the partner we wanted to have kids with. Each of their partners are also highly involved in the child-rearing process. Motherhood has started to mean negotiating and talking about the fact that it’s not just the mother raising the child, but the family, including the husband, partner, wife, or friends in the circle. That I think has been a change even from ten years ago that I’ve seen. My friends who are having kids now are really at the top of their game and have also chosen partners who are very present for that child-rearing process.

There are also so many resources now; things that help mothers who potentially have the resources because of their careers to outsource some of the domestic labor to other small businesses. I’ve tried to support those businesses. For example, my diaper service is a female-run business. I try to in my consumer choices to pick businesses that help make my life easier and make my family’s life easier, but through which I ultimately feel like I’m supporting other women and helping make their lives successful and wonderful. I think that’s one of the unique things about people who have these opportunities to perhaps lean into their careers for awhile before having children: They might have the extra resources necessary that they can outsource some of that labor so that they can then focus on their careers in that small amount of time that they have outside of being a parent.

What advice do you wish you could have told yourself at the start of your motherhood journey?

I always wanted to have kids but I had no idea if I would be maternal or not. My husband is very paternal but I never before thought I was that good with babies. It turns out I was very maternal from the get-go with my baby, and had I known that I would be that way at the time I would be less anxious. I think it would have been okay either way, but I was delighted to figure out babies were wonderful and snuggly and all this sort of stuff that I didn’t realize in the abstract.

The other thing I didn’t quite realize: Breastfeeding has been really wonderful and I’m so glad I’ve had the ability and opportunity to breastfeed my baby. It’s such a special relationship. But it also takes a lot of time. For the first six months, I tracked the amount of time I spent breastfeeding or pumping. It’s about 500 hours or more—imagine if that was a job that I was being paid for. It’s a big commitment and it was really worth it for me to breastfeed, but I don’t even think I knew how much time it would take, and it’s really hard to distribute that labor, because even if you’re pumping, that takes time. Beforehand, I knew other people who were moms who were breastfeeding and I feel like if I had known [how much it entailed] I could have been even more supportive—even mentally—of the logistics it takes to maintain that breastfeeding relationship.

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