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23 February 2022

Alice Boyes Q&A: “I wish people didn’t constantly talk about how exhausting parenting is”

The former clinical psychologist speaks about the value of thinking differently, border restrictions in New Zealand and her experience of IVF.

By New Statesman

Alice Boyes was born in Greymouth, New Zealand, in 1980. A former clinical psychologist, she is now the author of books including The Anxiety Toolkit, and is a blogger for Psychology Today.

What’s your earliest memory?

When I was five, my mother told me she was in labour: my youngest sister was on her way. She then proceeded to make my school lunch.

Who are your heroes?

I’m very much a “be your own hero” type of person. I’m home-schooling my six-year-old and we’ve been learning a lot about scientists from history and how discoveries have been made. I love those stories. But we all have the capacity to be heroic in our own way.

What book last changed your thinking?

Todd B Kashdan’s The Art of Insubordination. He talks about how being willing to be the only one who thinks something is predictive of success. In clinical psychology training, it was drummed into me to always consult supervisors to make sure my thinking about clients wasn’t off base. The idea of thinking differently from others felt reckless to me, but the book helped me see the value in it.

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Which political figure do you look up to?

As a same-sex married person, I have loved to see the Buttigiegs being same-sex parents in the top echelons of government.

What would be your “Mastermind” specialist subject?

Infertility. Over the last two and a half years I’ve been through multiple rounds of IVF and I feel like I’ve almost got a second PhD in it. I’ve read so many studies.

In which time and place, other than your own, would you like to live?

The future. I think about what it would have been like to die before the electric grid, long-haul air travel or the internet was invented. I want to see the next human invention that’s on that level.

[See also: Maxim Q&A: “Prince once said to me: Own your own music”]

Who would paint your portrait?

My daughter is probably the only one interested in that. 

What’s your theme tune?

It’s clichéd, but if I need to pump myself up then Eminem’s “Lose Yourself”.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

“Finish each day and be done with it.” It’s part of a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote that a mentor had on her email signature. I relate it to letting go of rumination, and recognising that we’re imperfect. 

What’s currently bugging you?

A section in my book. I deleted one example and kept another and I regret it. On reflection, I wish I hadn’t cut the other example. Come to think of it, I should publish the example I cut on my website.

What single thing would make your life better?

The border restrictions in New Zealand ending. I live in the US but I’m from New Zealand. My spouse and I haven’t seen our mothers in more than two years. We want to hug our mothers.

When were you happiest?

Every day with my daughter. I put off becoming a parent until I was 35, partly because everyone said how hard it is to be one, but so far parenting just gets better and better. I wish people didn’t constantly talk about how exhausting parenting is. I wouldn’t have left it so long.

In another life, what job might you have chosen?

A real estate investor. I like work that’s project-based, that has busy and quiet periods, rather than jobs that require consistently showing up every day. 

Are we all doomed?

Eventually.

[See also: Sian Conway-Wood Q&A: “On climate, there’s too much talk and not enough action”]

“Stress-Free Productivity” by Alice Boyes will be published by Ebury Edge on 3 March

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This article appears in the 23 Feb 2022 issue of the New Statesman, Darkness Falls