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Supermom: Paola D. Vermeer

11/26/2013 07:01PM, Published by Hood Magazine, Categories: In Print, Family, Today


Paola and her son Ben



By Paola D. Vermeer, Assistant Scientist at Sanford Research

Image title

Describe your typical day.

My husband wakes me up at 6 am. I shower and get dressed. Then I try to get dishes put away and feed and water the dog and cats before Jake wakes up. He’s my early riser. He’s 6 years old and in 1st grade. If he hasn’t gotten up sooner, I go wake him up when I finish with those chores, get him dressed, walk to dog to the mailbox to take care of business, then give Sam (my 8 year old 3rd grader) and Ben (my 5 year old kindergartener) their 5 minute warnings. Neither one of them gets up as easily as Jake. I get Jake his breakfast and start a load of laundry. Then I get Sam up, help him get dressed, get him some breakfast, then get Ben up and do the same. While they eat, I make the beds. Then I get their shoes on, brush their teeth, get the dog and cats put away and it’s a race to school as we are always just a minute or two before the bell rings. How we make it there in time is a small miracle each and every day of the week! After I drop the boys off at school, I head to the lab. My husband, Dan, is also a scientist and has been in the lab since 6 am. We have this schedule so that he can get the boys from school early enough to get homework and studying done with them before they are too tired. I get to the lab at about 8:15 am and spend 30-45 minutes in my office dealing with emails, then get to the lab itself. I typically have several experiments either ongoing or ready to start, and I work on those throughout the day. Sometimes there are meetings during the day that I have to attend or I have to give a seminar. At 5 pm everything has to stop as it’s time to go home. Experiments that weren’t completed either have to wait till I come back to the lab at night or until the next morning. My husband picks up the boys from school at about 3:45 pm and by the time I get home, he’s done helping with homework and is getting supper ready. I set the table and we eat as a family. 

How do you balance work and family?

Basically, I don’t sleep very much. I work from 8 am – 5 pm in the lab and then head home to be with the family. We eat dinner together, then my husband does the dishes while I get the boys showered, get clothes set out for the next day, make sure their backpacks are ready and their snacks and lunches are put together, and then it’s time for bed. Once they are sleeping, I either go back to the lab and generally work till 2 am or work from home (again, till 2 am). It would be easier to stay late in lab, miss dinner with the family and get to bed around midnight, but that sacrifice is too great. I don’t mind working while they are sleeping as I don’t see that as time they would have been spending with me anyway. So I’d rather work crazy hours but have my time with them then stay at work late and miss that. Nothing is worth that to me.

Are you involved in the community? How do you choose what to participate in?

I am working very hard to get a new program up and running in the community that will help school-aged children with learning disabilities/differences. The program is called W.I.L.D. and it stands for Wisdom Inspired by Learning Differences. WILD is a mentoring program that partners school-aged children who have a learning difference (dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, ADHD, auditory/visual processing disorder) with a college student with a similar challenge. Through art and science projects, the mentor and mentee build a relationship in which they can share their struggles as well as their victories.

In the real world, learning differences are just that – differences, not disabilities. The truth is we all have our strengths and weaknesses. I know I do. Learning differences are just weaknesses that become disabilities in school and can affect self-confidence and self-esteem. I know because my Mom had a learning difference, dyslexia, so does my sister and so does my son Sam. I chose to start this community outreach program because of the struggles I see Sam going through in school. My sister went through similar struggles yet she went on to graduate from law school, get a Masters in criminology and now runs a successful business. She is proof that those with learning differences can and do succeed. There are so many examples like her, and I think that young children struggling in school need to see those examples as they serve as models of success for them. While my passion to start this program stems from Sam’s difficulties, this program will go way beyond Sam and hopefully impact many children in Sioux Falls.

Do you think it's possible to "do it all"? Why or why not?

I think it is possible to do it all, it just depends on what your definition of “all” is. Sometimes you have to ask for help. Until just a couple of months ago I was still cleaning the house on my own. That meant that Saturdays were basically my cleaning days, which left only Sunday for spending time with my family. For years my husband offered a cleaning service and I refused feeling that I had to do it all. Then, this summer I got a wake-up call from my son, Jake. I had just returned from England where I had been at a conference for the entire week. I got home late Friday night and the next day started my regular Saturday cleaning routine. The boys wanted to spend time with me, especially Jake. He kept asking when we would spend time together and I kept telling him “as soon as I finish cleaning.” Well, I didn’t finish till it was time for supper. I had wasted my entire Saturday cleaning as usual, only this time my absence was magnified because I had been away all week, too. When it was obvious to Jake that the day was lost on cleaning, he came to me crying and said, “I only wanted to spend time with you!” That’s when I decided I had to get some help, and I finally took my husband up on his offer. Now I have a cleaning lady come and clean the house and my Saturdays AND Sundays are spent with the family. I think it’s important for my boys to see that it’s not easy balancing work and family but that it can be done, and that it’s ok to ask for help.

I volunteer as much as I can in the boys’ classrooms. I volunteer one day a month in each classroom and usually sign up for driving on their field trips too. This means I take time out of my day in the lab to go be with them. They love it when I come to their classrooms and I love interacting with them in their environment. This also means I go back to the lab at night once they are sleeping to get my experiments done which otherwise would have been done during the day, but it’s worth it to me to be able to have that time with them. I know soon it won’t be cool to have their mom come to the classroom and these days will be over. I like to take advantage of them now while I can!

While I do think it is possible to “do it all,” nothing occurs in a vacuum. No one can be the superhero alone. Even Batman has Robin and Alfred and the police department, right? Is he a hero, and does he do it all? I guess the answer is yes, but with the help of other. It is no different in the real world. Without the help and support of those around me, it can’t all get done. This extends to every part of life. For example, in the lab, no progress would be made if I didn’t work with others. I am blessed to be surrounded by great minds, and we take a team approach to bringing new therapies and cures to the clinic. In the community, I am working with a team of people to get WILD off the ground. These people include teachers, lawyers, and mentors who volunteer their time and talents to get this program up and running. At home, my husband and children help me keep my priorities straight and my heart full. Is it possible to do it all? Yes, but with help from others.

How do you find time for you? What do you do with your "me time"?

To be honest, I don’t find time for me. I know that’s unhealthy, but right now it’s just the way it is. The days are just too full. If I’m not in the lab working, I’m home with the family (and that’s crazy busy no matter what we are doing). Once the boys are sleeping, I get some more work done or, if I’m just too tired, I sleep. When I travel for work, I usually bring along a book I’ve been wanting to read and I read on the plane. I love to read for pleasure but never get to do it unless I’m traveling. I guess that’s my “treat” when I have to go to a conference and be away from my family.

What rules do you have for yourself about using technology at home?

Well, I don’t have an iPhone or an iPad. My cell phone is as simple as it gets. I do check my email on the computer at home, but unless it’s really important, I don’t answer emails. I let them sit till the next working day and then deal with them. Generally, there just isn’t time to sit around when I am home, so I’m in no danger of getting caught up on the computer; there just isn’t time for that.

How do your children describe what you do?

They say Mommy is a scientist and she’s trying to cure cancer.

What advice do you have for other moms?

It’s good to be driven and dedicated to your work. I think kids see that and they learn good work ethic from the example you set. They learn that life isn’t always easy and it requires hard work and dedication…but that work isn’t everything. Family is by far and away most important. The balance between work and family is tough though. I don’t know if I’m doing it right or not. But my boys are happy, I’m involved in their lives, so I can’t be doing too bad of a job. I couldn’t do any of it if I didn’t have a supporting and loving husband. Without him, it all falls apart. Dan knows how important the family is to me…it is to both of us. He also knows I love my work and am very driven and he supports me in all I do. He helps me put the brakes on when it’s time to rest. He keeps it all in perspective. So my advice for other moms, keep your marriage healthy and strong…the rest will fall into place.



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  • Toddler Time

    04/04/2017
    09:30AM — 11:30AM

    If they can walk, they can jump! Toddler Time at Sky Zone is a special time just for the little o...


  • Storytime Tuesdays

    04/04/2017
    10:00AM — 10:30AM

    Bring your kids to a storytime every Tuesday at Child's Play Toys. It starts off with a few songs...


  • Into the Pit

    04/04/2017
    10:00AM — 11:00AM

    Into the Pit Quarry Tour arrives with another chance to go Into the Pit of a Concrete Materials q...


  • Lapsit

    04/04/2017
    10:30AM — 11:05AM

    Delight and stimulate your baby with songs, stories and playtime. Get to know other families and ...


  • Mommies Matter: A PostPartum Support Group

    04/04/2017
    12:00PM — 01:00PM

    Every 2 weeks on Tuesday


  • Baby in Our Family

    04/04/2017
    06:30PM — 08:30PM

    The Breastfeeding class is a one night class designed for those who are planning on breastfeeding...


  • Join local musician Steve McFarland as he introduces the soothing sounds of the islands on th...


  • Little All Stars

    04/05/2017
    09:00AM — 09:50AM

    -Ages: Walking - 6 years -10 punches per card -Cards do not expire


  • Get in the Garage Camp

    04/05/2017
    09:00AM — 02:00PM

    Join us for our FREE Transportation Camp on April 5, 2017 from 9-2 to find out more about three e...


  • Milk Monologues

    04/05/2017
    01:00PM — 02:00PM

    Join Shelly (CLC) or Sarah if you are the mom of a non-mobile nursing baby. One of them will be a...


  • Babywearing Basics (SF Babywearers)

    04/05/2017
    06:30PM — 08:00PM

    Monthly on the first Wednesday


  • Mother Courage and Her Childeren

    04/05/2017
    07:30PM — 10:30PM

    Location Details: Edith Mortenson Center Theatre on Augustana Mother Courage and her childre...


  • Great Plains Zoo CubClass

    04/06/2017
    09:00AM — 09:45AM

    Come discover animal body parts! This parent and child class will include a variety of learning a...


  • Toddler Time

    04/06/2017
    09:30AM — 11:30AM

    If they can walk, they can jump! Toddler Time at Sky Zone is a special time just for the little o...


  • Little All Stars

    04/06/2017
    10:00AM — 10:50AM

    -Ages: Walking - 6 years -10 punches per card -Cards do not expire


  • Toddler Art Out of this World!

    04/06/2017
    10:15AM — 11:00AM

    Toddler Art: Nature Creations  - 4/6/2017, 4/13/2017 & 4/20/2017 After a long winter indoors, i...


  • Toddler Art: Nature Creations

    04/06/2017
    10:15AM — 11:00AM

    After a long winter indoors, it will be nice to celebrate nature as the weather warms up. Create ...


  • New Baby & Me

    04/06/2017
    01:30PM — 03:30PM

    This group for new moms and their babies meets weekly. Moms can join in open discussion on topics...


  • Sanford PROMISE Community Lecture Series

    04/06/2017
    05:30PM — 06:30PM

    Science minded individuals in our community can learn about the science research being performed ...


  • One Glass Too Many Cake at Sugars

    04/06/2017
    06:30PM — 08:30PM

    Cake and wine go together...right?? On this fun cake, the wine glass has tipped right over and dr...


  • Playgroup for Toddlers and Preschoolers

    04/07/2017
    10:00AM — 12:00PM

    Play Groups are specifically for kids and their caregivers. Gather your friends at our “house” to...


  • Fun and Fit Day for children 6 and under

    04/07/2017
    10:00AM — 12:00PM

    Ride, run, jump, and jam! Join Sioux Falls Parks and Recreation and participate in fitness-relate...


  • Easter Bunny at Sioux Empire Mall

    04/07/2017
    11:00AM — 08:00PM

    IT'S TIME FOR EASTER BUNNY PHOTOS He'll be waiting for you Center Court. Simply go to simon.noe...


  • Free First Friday

    04/07/2017
    05:00PM — 08:00PM

    Join us for Free First Fridays, whether you are new to the area, new to the Pavilion, or even a r...


  • Pavilion Free First Fridays

    04/07/2017
    05:00PM — 08:00PM

    Join us for Free First Fridays, whether you are new to the area, new to the Pavilion, or even a r...


  • Little All Stars

    04/07/2017
    06:30PM — 07:20PM

    -Ages: Walking - 6 years -10 punches per card -Cards do not expire


  • Rodgers + Hammerstein's CINDERELLA

    04/07/2017
    07:30PM — 10:00PM

    Rodgers + Hammerstein’s CINDERELLA is the Tony Award®- winning Broadway musical from the creators...


  • Little All Stars

    04/08/2017
    09:00AM — 09:50AM

    -Ages: Walking - 6 years -10 punches per card -Cards do not expire


  • SFLS Craft & Vendor Fair

    04/08/2017
    09:00AM — 02:00PM

    Come on out for a day of shopping! Food Trucks, Craft Vendors, Gifts, Face Painting, Baby Gifts, ...


  • Super 2nd Saturday

    04/08/2017
    10:00AM — 02:00PM

    Super 2nd Saturday is a special new program for our patrons! Each month features new exciting, ed...


  • Super Second Saturdays

    04/08/2017
    10:00AM — 02:00PM

    Super 2nd Saturday is a special new program for our patrons! Each month features new exciting, ed...


  • Spring Party

    04/08/2017
    10:00AM — 11:30AM

    Hop on over to Morningside Community Center. We will be playing games, making friends and making ...


  • Tee-Ball

    04/08/2017
    10:00AM — 10:45AM

    Come to this intro class on tee-ball.where you can learn to play the sport or practice the skills...


  • Easter Bunny at Sioux Empire Mall

    04/08/2017
    10:00AM — 08:00PM

    IT'S TIME FOR EASTER BUNNY PHOTOS He'll be waiting for you Center Court. Simply go to simon.noe...


  • R is for Robot

    04/08/2017
    10:30AM — 11:30AM

    It's a robot party. Come join Chip, Sprocket, and all the other robots as we explore all thing ro...


  • Infant CPR

    04/08/2017
    11:00AM — 12:00PM

    Monthly on the second Saturday


  • Tee-Ball

    04/08/2017
    11:00AM — 11:45AM

    Come to this intro class on tee-ball.where you can learn to play the sport or practice the skills...


  • ATTENTION RETURNING CAMPERS! RECONNECT WITH YOUR CAMP FRIENDS! PLAY YOUR FAVORITE CAMP SPORT! ...


  • Saturday Cookie Decorating Days

    04/08/2017
    02:00PM — 04:30PM

    Call us by Friday 605-978-0991 and you can come in and decorate cookies on Saturday! We do cookie...


  • Rodgers & Hammerstein's CINDERELLA

    04/08/2017
    02:00PM — 05:00PM

    Rodgers + Hammerstein's CINDERELLA Mary W. Sommervold Hall Rodgers + Hammerstein’s CINDERELLA i...


  • Super Saturday's

    04/08/2017
    06:00PM — 08:00PM

    We are bringing back our Saturday night open gym! Every Saturday night from 6-8pm! Anyone ages 6-...


  • R is for Robot

    04/08/2017
    06:15PM — 07:15PM

    It's a robot party. Come join Chip, Sprocket, and all the other robots as we explore all thing ro...


  • Rodgers + Hammerstein's CINDERELLA

    04/08/2017
    07:30PM — 10:00PM

    Rodgers + Hammerstein’s CINDERELLA is the Tony Award®- winning Broadway musical from the creators...


  • Rodgers & Hammerstein's CINDERELLA

    04/08/2017
    07:30PM — 10:00PM

    Rodgers + Hammerstein's CINDERELLA Mary W. Sommervold Hall Rodgers + Hammerstein’s CINDERELLA i...


  • Archival Preservation Program

    04/09/2017
    02:00PM — 04:00PM

    Do you have important documents you would like to preserve? If so, the Old Courthouse Museum w...


  • Stained Glass Concert

    04/09/2017
    02:30PM — 04:30PM

    EVENT OVERVIEW: Join the SDSO for the sixth season of the Stained Glass Series. Experience the...


  • Little All Stars

    04/10/2017
    09:00AM — 09:50AM

    -Ages: Walking - 6 years -10 punches per card -Cards do not expire


  • Sensory Friendly Art & Adventures

    04/10/2017
    10:00AM — 11:30AM

    In honor of April being Autism Awareness month, the Center for Disabilities and Museum of Visual ...


  • Playgroup for Toddlers and Preschoolers

    04/10/2017
    10:00AM — 12:00PM

    Play Groups are specifically for kids and their caregivers. Gather your friends at our “house” to...


  • Latches

    04/10/2017
    06:30PM — 08:00PM

    Breastfeeding takes a village. Nourish your baby in a safe, comfortable place, surrounded by your...


  • The Ransom Church, located at 700 N. Main Ave in downtown Sioux Falls, is sponsoring an "After th...



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