Why take Paternity Leave?

 

 

27473585 - red heart made of gear wheels over white

27473585 – red heart made of gear wheels over white

 

    Not many fathers have the opportunity to take Paternity Leave so I want to share with you about my experience. Thankfully, the United Methodist Church which I work for is progressive in this area and fathers can take up to 8 weeks paid time off with their newborn.  I was not licensed yet when my daughter was born so I did not qualify for that so I took two weeks of my vacation time to be with her (one week was spent in the NICU).  For our newborn son Soren, I am taking 6 weeks paid off (it is a busy season so I chose not to take the full 8 weeks).  I am very fortunate because many fathers do not have this opportunity, but I want to encourage you that if Paternity Leave is available for you then take it!

    Paternity Leave seems to be this weird anomaly to people that they are not quite sure what to make of it.  When you tell someone you are taking Paternity Leave (especially 6 weeks) you get some funny looks and many odd or even rude statements at times.  So if you are a father contemplating taking Paternity leave be prepared for these questions or statements…

Enjoy your vacation“-Which is quite hilarious and ridiculous!

“So, you’re taking time off when the baby comes (asked confusedly)?  So, are you planning on using that time to study for work?”– While I have had to use some of my time to prepare documents and get ready for my DCOM interview this Thursday this is a minority of where my time is spent.

“Why do you need to take time off?”- This question can be upsetting, but I also realize it tends to come many times from the viewpoint of someone who saw the Father’s role as the person who “goes to work” and the Mother’s role was to keep the house clean and take care of the children …this is not my or many people’s reality today.

Those are just a few of the questions that you will be asked if you choose to take Paternity Leave, but maybe you are wondering what does a dad do on Paternity Leave?  In my first couple of weeks of leave, this is what I have been doing…

1.  Changing diapers…lots of them

Dads your wife for most of the day is going to have a newborn latched to them if they are breastfeeding, so you can get up and change the diapers.  Don’t give me this nonsense about not being able to do it right or you can’t stand the smell.  If your stereo system or your car was broken you would figure out how to fix it, so take the time to figure out how to change a diaper.  If you are saying it is the smell that keeps you from doing it go get some of those nose plugs swimmers use and get in there and change it.  I share a public restroom with you all and you can definitely handle disgusting smells.

2.  Cook the meals

I am not some kind of chef or cooking genius, but I have been the primary person to either cook the meals or go pick something up to eat.  Your wife’s body is recovering from a major event you can cook some meals.  Use google and find some easy meals to make you don’t have to be Bobby Flay.

3.  Keep my 3 1/2-year-old occupied

Wow is it different having two kids instead of one!  A 3 1/2-year-old will keep you on your toes on a regular day, let alone when you just brought home a newborn.  Our daughter loves to help and she has been very sweet to her new brother but she still requires a lot of attention and help and as a father I can help out in this way.

4.  Dishes

Fellas, whether you have a dishwasher or not you can step up to the plate in this way.  It is not rocket science to load the dishwasher, put in the soap, close the door, and start the machine.  If you can figure out the TV remote you can figure out the dishwasher. Oh…and when they are done put them away.

5.  Laundry

While your newborn will be going through diapers like Joey Chestnutt goes through hotdogs at the hotdog eating contest your dirty clothes will still be piling up.  Put a load in the washer, then the dryer, and then put them away.  I will fully admit I am not the greatest about putting them away, but hey at least they are clean and in a basket.

6.  Yard Work

Probably a lot of you do this already, but if not this could be a big help to your spouse.  I was pretty proud of myself yesterday because I just finished mowing before the rain came pouring down…yes I did have to jog with the mower the last 5 minutes but it got finished. Mowing Win!

7.  Get up

Sleep is a precious treasure when you have a newborn so you can help your spouse out when your newborn wakes up multiple times in the middle of the night.  I can’t breastfeed my child, but I can get up and change him.  This usually gives my spouse the time needed to do the things she needs to do and is much appreciated.  I hear many guys use the excuse, “I am just too sound of a sleeper so I just can’t wake up.”  Stop…just stop it.  I am a sound sleeper as well, but even if I don’t wake up initially when my child wakes up and my wife taps me then I get up.  I do not stay up the whole time she breastfeeds, but I do wake up and ask what I can do to help, I do it, then I lay back down.

8.  Take the baby

Last, but certainly not least is take the baby and let your spouse have a break.  My wife does the majority of holding our son, but I know she greatly appreciates it when I can take him so she can have a minute to herself.  Guys, use this time you have to bond with your child.  I like to get things accomplished so the above-mentioned things are easier for me to do than this last one, but this one is incredibly important.  It is ok to just sit and hold your child and look at that beautiful face.

So, what does a Father do on Paternity leave?  Alot!  So, if you can take leave do it!  It is important for your whole family!

 

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The Path of Fear


I don’t know about you but the picture above makes my palms sweaty just thinking about crossing it.  I love going on roller coasters, but crossing something on a high unsteady height makes my stomach feel funny and the hair on my arms stand up.

Fear can impact us many ways in our lives.  When we let it grip us it can keep us from having hope in the future or from living in the present.  It can cause us to freeze as we stand still as life around us keeps moving.  

For me this happened a couple of different ways recently.  One of my fears is never being good enough no matter how hard I try.  I felt this recently as my wife and I have a newborn and a 3 1/2 year old at home and it can be overwhelming to say the least.  

I also felt this recently as I prepare for my District Committee On Ministry interview on September 1st for commissioning.  While I passed my DCOM interview last year and I have made lots of good improvements to my paperwork I wonder, “Will I mess things up?  Will I ever get ordained?”

Fear can cause us to remain motionless as worry and doubt consume us.  Yet, when we let this happen it hinders us from being all God has called us to be and do all that God has called us to do.  

What fears are you letting grip you?  How is that impacting your life?  What would happen if you had faith instead?

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The Art of Letting Go

I was recently reading a book called, “Pray, Write, Grow: Cultivating Prayer and Writing Together” by Ed Cyzewski when he shared something that hit my chest like a brick.  Talking about himself…

“Anxiety and fear became habits that have worn their way into my life after years of practice.  I also suspect they are behind my desire to control my life circumstances and the rage I feel when circumstances don’t line up the way I want.  So many events in my early life felt completely chaotic and out of control, that I’ve made myself a nervous, controlling wreck trying to reassert control over at least a few things.”

As I said this was Ed describing himself but he easily could have been describing me even though he has never met me.  Many people don’t know this but anxiety can show up in someone’s life as irritability and that is definitely one way it shows up in mine.  When things don’t go the way I have planned or there are unexpected changes it can throw me for a loop. As with Ed, earlier in my life, things felt pretty chaotic.  I moved several times back and forth across states, switching schools, trying to make new friends all the while trying to adjust to not only my parent’s divorce but also my new surroundings.

I can remember when I moved back to Iowa with my mother and younger brother I was filled with a lot of anger and rage.  Not only was I dealing with the task of making new friends but also a drastic decline in finances.  While my mother did her best it still was not enough to make ends meet so we received food stamps and welfare.  My brother and I were two of the kids whose names were placed on the Christmas trees at Christmas time in need of gifts, I received free school lunches and free school supplies donated from churches.

I did not want to be the kid everyone picked on because clearly, I did not have the coolest clothes and many times I was overdue for a haircut, so I discovered if I could become a class clown and also be aggressive towards other people then I might just fit in and not be the target of bullying.  This seemed to work well so I continued to act up in class, cuss words pretty much filled every sentence of mine from a very early age, and I seemed to get in fights on a normal basis.  This attitude presented a front of strength, but in actuality, it was fear and weakness in disguise.  I was greatly in need of help.

My life to say the least was chaotic.  While my life now is much different there is still a temptation to exert control over my life.  I think the greatest way I feel this now is with my 3-year-old daughter.  She is a wonderful child that I love very much, but she is very strong willed and persistent (much like myself).  As I said before I like things to go as I have planned and 3 year olds are great at throwing a wrench in the mix whether that is dumping ranch dressing on themselves like mine did when we were getting ready to go somewhere yesterday, refusing to brush her teeth unless you let her do it while she pretends to be a cat, asking for something approximately 5,000 times, or singing the same line of song over and over again while you are trying to focus on completing a project.   These types of things definitely increase my desire to exert control over the situation.  It is in times like these that it is very easy for me to become irritable and not patient or gentle.  Why?  Why is that my response?  I think in some way it is because if I can control that situation then I have control over my life, but to understand that things are going to happen sometimes that I can do nothing about requires me to have faith.

So, while I am not going to be flawless at this all the time my prayer is that I will begin to exhibit more faith and gentleness.  I will seek to practice the art of letting go instead of holding onto nervousness and control.  As you reflect on your own life where might you need to do the same thing?

 

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Time for a Readjustment 


    As most of you know my wife recently gave birth to our son and currently I am on paternity leave.  Along with using this time to bond with my son and help my family; I am also using this time for some readjustment in my life.  I know with being married, working fulltime, trying to pursue ordination, and having a 3 year old and newborn at home time will be very precious…as well as sleep🙂

    One of the areas I am going to be making some adjustments is how I use social media.  For many people this is not a problem but I find it easy to get sucked into disagreements and arguments online.  Over the last 6 months or so I have greatly improved when it comes to not engaging posts that I know won’t be a beneficial use of my time; however, I know at times I still fall into that trap.  There have been many times I have read something political or religious that I adamantly disagree with and I have just continued scrolling but even then there are times that I have continued to dwell on them for far too long.

One of the reasons I think this is is because 3 of my top 5 strengths on the StrengthFinder test are Harmony, Consistency, and Belief.  Which basically means I greatly desire for people to get along and come together peacefully (also I hate conflict), I desire for people to be treated fairly and equally, and there are very strong core beliefs that I have that I hold onto very passionately.  We all know there are plenty of things online that would fuel these fires!  

Because of that I want to continue using this blog to dive deeper into issues that are important for our faith and lives. I will be sharing my blog posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumbler and I may share other articles that I find are spiritually helpful but I will be refraining from engaging contentious topics that others have posted.

On Facebook/Twitter other than my blog posts I will be sharing things going on with my family, pictures, funny memes, or other uplifting items.  While I think this will be a positive step for myself I also will need to make some other readjustments.  One of those being what posts from others I am inundated with on a daily basis.  So, while at this point I am not planning on going on a “unfriending” spree, I will be keeping a careful eye on whose posts for me tend to cause more irritation and frustration and then on Facebook (where most of my frustration comes) I will be un-following people.  

Why do I share this?  It is not because I think most people will care at all, because for most people I don’t think it matters to them if I “follow” them or not.  I share this with you because I think it is important at times to pause and reflect on our lives and then make the needed changes.  This is a needed change for me and I hope you may take some time today to reflect on your life as well and make some changes that will enable you to be more healthy.

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You are Welcome


You are welcome

You are wanted

You are accepted

You are loved

These are words we all desire to hear

We yearn for security, significance, and safety

So know this there is always room for one more at God’s table

There is a seat open for you

Whether you are…

Young or Old

Rich or Poor

Black or White

Gay or Straight

Or any other label we may try to assign people, know first of all that you are dearly loved by God.  Come to the table there is spot open for you.

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Step by Step

Stone path

When it comes to the Christian faith I think many times we are good are telling people the things they should do that will be beneficial for their lives, but we fail them when it comes to actually showing them how to do it.  We tell people, “you should pray.” But are we willing to take the time to actually show people how to pray?  We tell people, “you should read your Bible.” But are we teaching them how?  We tell people, “go and make disciples.” But do we teach them how to do this?

The short answer is no, I think many times we provide lots of topical studies where people show up, watch a short video, read a couple of verses, answer a few questions, then go home.  How is that teaching people to live in community? How is that teaching people how to make other disciples?  I don’t think it is.  I think we have over time begun to associate head knowledge about Jesus with being a disciple of Jesus.

I truly believe if we ever expect people to make disciples of Jesus, then we must show them how to do this.  This may mean we have less events at the church to fill up our days and more showing people how to reach out to their neighbors. I think it means instead of telling people to pray we give them a framework that is sustainable for their lives so they can teach others. It may mean less topical studies and more training around the essentials of what it means to be a disciple and how to go and make other disciples.

For us to actually make disciples of Jesus who transform the world it means we do less pointing people in the direction to go, and more taking step by step with them so they can not only see the way themselves, but be able to lead others down that path in the future.

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Don’t Be a Copy

 

CopyCat Pic

Picture by Franck Boston

There is a popular quote that says “imitation is the highest form of flattery.” Yet, when we make our focus trying to be the exact same as someone else the world misses out on something great, you!  You have been uniquely made and when you spend the focus of your time trying to be someone else the world is deprived of what only you can bring.

This does not mean that we shouldn’t learn from others or to grow in our abilities.  Being ourselves is not a license for laziness or complacency, but it is striving to be our most alive self so that we may impact the world in a positive loving way.  So often people’s time is spent wishing they could look like _______, or be talented like ________ and they miss out on today by focusing on what will never be.

Danish Philosopher Soren Kierkegaard says that “masses of mimickers, a crowd of copycats are wasted lives.  God has been merciful to us, demonstrating his grace to the point of being willing to involve himself with every person.  If we prefer to be like all the others, this amounts to high treason against God.”

When we spend all of our time wishing were someone else it is like we are saying to God, “You messed up, you should have made me differently, I am a mistake.”  You will hear many different messages today, but I pray this one sinks in, you are a dearly loved creation of God!  This is your identity!  Don’t try to be a copy, your life matters!

 

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