My Wrong Reaction to Paternity Leave (now put right)

How could I have such a wrong reaction to paternity leave?
How could I have such a wrong reaction to paternity leave?
I’ve long been an advocate for working fathers. Then why did I have such a wrong reaction to paternity leave?

My son just started middle school. He’s taking it in stride but I’m finding it hard to believe that my baby boy is now in 6th grade.

Our school district is great. One of the things I like about our schools is their attention to detail. For example, the 6th grade guidance counselor will move with the students and be their counselor in their 7th and 8th grade years. In this way, the counselor really gets to know the students and there’s more consistency from year to year. Really smart.

We were excited to make an appointment to see the counselor. Nick doesn’t have any major issues, but we wanted to get some tips to help him get and stay organized as he juggles multiple teachers/classes/assignments for the first time.

But the guidance counselor is not there.

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Respecting the Rhythm of Work and Family

Even when promoting a book, you need to respect the rhythm of work and family
Even when promoting a book, you need to respect the rhythm of work and family

One thing I have learned about balancing work and family is that you need to take the long view. Work can take precedent sometimes. Other weeks, family can come to the fore. And it’s ok if you are temporarily out of balance. We need to respect the rhythm of work and family.

In the business world, we call this the difference between Episodic Overwork and Chronic Overwork. It’s ok, and probably necessary for career advancement, to have some weeks in which you burn the midnight oil. Accountants during tax season. Lawyers in the home stretch of a big case. A big client deadline. Passing a certification exam. Promoting a book. Even in nature, high tides and occasional forest fires are good things.

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5% More Fun. A Mother’s Day Salute to My Wife

A mother's day tribute to the best mom I know
A mother’s day tribute to the best mom I know

My friends over at City Dads Group just wrote a great Mother’s Day themed article “What Our Wives Taught Us About Parenting” on their blog. What a clever way to recognize moms and to promote the notion of shared-care parenting. I highly recommend you read it.

Their post gave me the inspiration to write about what I’ve learned from Amy about parenting as a way of recognizing her on this Mother’s Day. Of course, Amy and I became parents at the same time, and had no hidden reservoirs of prior expertise.  But, she’s an awesome mom and I’d be silly not to have learned from her example.

The over-riding lesson I learned from Amy is that everything in life, including parenting, is better with 5% more fun.

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“Let’s be good to each other” …and 14 more rules for me and Nick while Amy’s out of town for work

Nick and I just dropped Amy off at the airport- she’ll be in Birmingham and Chicago for most of the rest of the month with the cast and crew of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (thankfully, we’ll all be in Chicago together over Thanksgiving and then Amy will be back in New York for December). This leaves me and Nick home to take care of each other.

With Amy away for work, Nick and I have to take care of each other
With Amy away for work, Nick and I have to take care of each other

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Catch These Moments While We Can (on the end of “Nicky, the Skunk and the Dinosaur”)

…but then it occurred to me that never again would he be seven years, one month, and six days old, so we had better catch these moments while we can. -Bill Bryson

I'll miss fun times like these while Nick is little...
I’ll miss fun times like these while Nick is little…

My wife Amy was recently in a play in which her character’s family was, after many years, selling their family farm. In one scene, she’s reflecting with her teenaged son about the memories they shared in the house, and she dreamily reminisces about the bedtime stories she had made up for him when he was a young boy. She ends this scene with the line, “I don’t remember the last time I told you one of those stories.”

On this day, as Nick enters fourth grade, I found this line particularly profound. My son is growing up, and there are lots of things I “used to do” with him that he’s now grown out of. But, just like Amy’s character, I don’t remember the last time I did those particular things with him.

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Fathers, Work and No Family: What I Learned From My Week Alone

Amy and Nick are spending the week out in California, visiting her brother and his family. Because my semester starts next week, I had to stay home to ramp up my class preparation and attend too many meetings.

Home alone...
Home alone…

This means I am in the middle of a week with pretty much no family responsibilities or time constraints. As I most often write about balancing fatherhood with work and other life roles, I am finding this family-free time to be an interesting experiment.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far from this experience.

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How Paternity Leave Shaped Me As a Father and Strengthened My Family

I was fortunate to have been able to spend the first few months of my son’s life at home with him and my wife. How this experience shaped me as a father and husband.

 My paternity leave fundamentally shaped me as a person, parent and spouse, and I believe it contributed to the strength and resiliency of my family. I wish all fathers and families had the same opportunity
My paternity leave fundamentally shaped me as a person, parent and spouse, and I believe it contributed to the strength and resiliency of my family. I wish all fathers and families had the same opportunity

I didn’t exactly take a paternity leave. I’m a college professor and my son, Nick, was born three days after my last final exam of the Spring semester. Perfect timing (although we didn’t actually plan it that way). I was able to spend the summer on a “de-facto paternity leave” with my wife, Amy, and Nick as we all got to learn how this whole “baby makes three” thing would shake out.

Here are four ways I benefitted from the opportunity to be present during the first few months of Nick’s life:

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From Father to Son- Passing Along Life Lessons

I learned many life lessons from my father, and I sure hope I’m passing these along to my son.

Last week, the fun lifestyle website DailyPlatofCrazy.com ran a feature for articles about men looking back at their childhoods with their fathers. Please click on the screencap below for my contribution to the series. It’s about baseball, Star Wars, and the values I learned from my dad and am trying to model for Nick.

My contribution to the Fathers & Sons series at DailyPlateofCrazy.com
My contribution to the Fathers & Sons series at DailyPlateofCrazy.com

What memories do you have as a kid that you are now sharing with your kids? What lessons are you trying to impart? Let’s discuss in the comments section.

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On Preventing Work (and Blogging) from Stealing Family Time

(or, keeping my son from calling me “blah blah blah boring business work man”)

We need to prioritize family time and shield it from the creeping demands of work. How I resolve to do better in Year Two of writing Fathers, Work and Family, and a reminder for us all.

Here's me, hard at work on the blog. Nick hates walking into the living room and seeing me here
Here’s me, hard at work on the blog. Nick hates walking into the living room and seeing me here

Work-Family Balance is Hard, Even for “The Expert”

A few weeks ago, I celebrated the first anniversary of Fathers, Work and Family (a blogaversary!)

While I am grateful for all the blog, and especially you have given me this past year (see the recent “Thank you” post), my first year as a blogger and as a public advocate for fathers’ work-family issues has also been a lot of work. I now find myself balancing my actual career, my family AND this blog and its related ventures. More on my plate than ever before.

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What I Did Last Sunday Instead of Watching Football. A Photo Essay

I like watching sports as much as the next guy. But living life should always come first.

Nick and Jesse hamming it up on our visit to the awesome Storm King Arts Center
Nick and Jesse hamming it up on our visit to the awesome Storm King Arts Center

Being a New York sports fan, I have two football teams to follow. I’m a rabid Jets fan, but also follow the Giants. Last weekend, they both faced big early-season games.

So, when my wife said she wanted to take a family trip to the Storm King Arts Center (you should really go there if you are in the NY metro area), I was tempted to beg off to stay home and watch the games. I’m so glad I didn’t. Here’s why, in pictures.

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Thank you, Elvis, For Helping Me Raise My Son

How a conversation about my son’s favorite singer- Elvis Presley- helped me teach him a valuable lesson about drugs (and honest communication, and rock and roll…)

A cropped photograph depicts singer Elvis Pres...
Elvis is still the King. (public domain photo)

Resisting Pop Culture

In general I resist pop culture as it pushes our kids to grow up too damned fast. I do my best to shield my 8 year old, Nick, from the coarsening effects of pop culture, and I suspect you do as well. But it is really hard to do.

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How We Maintained Work-Family Balance During a Spike in Work Demands

About two months ago, I wrote about my wife’s new show, and how her work hours would spike for several weeks. I discussed our family’s plan for handling this time period, considering my work commitments and increased duties at home. The show is over, so now it’s time to see how we did, and what lessons we learned.

My wife's career as a stage actress has led to lots of cool experiences, funny costumes, and work-family juggling
My wife’s career as a stage actress has led to lots of cool experiences, funny costumes, and work-family juggling

(On Monday, I’ll be commenting on this week’s Pew Study’s findings on breadwinning moms and dual-career couples- SB)

If you’ve been reading this blog, you know that my incredible wife Amy is a musical theater actress, and, depending on the project, her work schedule is often demanding, haphazard, inconvenient and inflexible.

About two months ago, Amy began work on an excellent new play, “The English Bride”. The play was very well-received (see this review!), so much so that it will run at the 59 E59 Theater off-Broadway, NYC in the Fall.

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