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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