Since I only needed to get milk, I didn't even bother with a basket as I entered the store. From behind chilled glass doors I grabbed a jug of nonfat and began to head back to the check stand when I remembered that we were out of bananas, so I made a quick detour to the produce section. With a gallon of milk in one hand and a ripe bunch of Chiquitas in the other, I thought I was good to go until it dawned on me that we were also getting low on toilet paper, the batteries in the remote had died, our cat was nearly out of food, and I still hadn't picked out a card for my friend's birthday.
I scrambled through the aisles, still without a basket, attempting to balance the growing number of items between the reach of my arms and the stretch of my chin. But by the time I stood at the wall of greeting cards, I was struggling to hold it all together and one-by-one items invariably began to slip out of my grasp and topple down to the floor. To anyone who noticed, I must have looked like an idiot, but all I could do was laugh at the hodgepodge assortment of items gathering at my feet and think how it all seemed an apt picture of my life at the moment.
It has been nearly a year since my wife first went back to work and that I embraced the role as a stay-at-home dad. Well, "embraced" is not exactly the right word as originally I was reluctant, a little embarrassed, and very scared of caring for a baby on my own. Yet it's been an amazing year-- perhaps the hardest and best year of my life-- and looking back I wouldn't exchange this opportunity for anything in the world.
But now as I enter the second year of parenthood, it seems my role as a stay-at-home dad is changing dramatically and I'm struggling a little bit to hold it all together right now.
Some of this tension comes from the fact that Gregory is changing. At 15 months, he's still adorable and a lot of fun but he's also beginning to show a little attitude and can throw a serious tantrum if he doesn't get what he wants (like my cell phone). Kids are a moving target and clearly my role as a father will need to keep in step with his growth as a child.
But the big change in my life is that I have a new job as an Associate Pastor at our church here in South City. It's a part-time position with very flexible hours which allows me to continue take care of my son during the day. And while I'm excited about the job and really enjoy the work, I'm also a little apprehensive about how this added commitment will effect my daily routine with Gregory. Will being a stay-at-home dad, a guitar teacher, and now a pastor feel like I'm shopping without a basket?
Perhaps if I were offered the job a year ago I would have jumped at the chance as it would have been a convenient "out" for me. When people ask me what I do, I could safely say that "I'm a pastor" rather than have to admit that I'm primarily a caretaker for our son. But something has changed in me and now being a "stay-at-home daddy" has become the most important job title I could ever have.
And it's this conviction that makes me vigilant to make sure I don't try to carry too much and instead aim for a healthy balance in my life. These days with Gregory are precious and I don't want to miss any of it.
I've learned the hard way that ministry, if left unchecked, has a way to sponge up all my spare time and energy-- sort like the way curry sauce poured over a bowl of rice will fill in all the gaps and drown out any space that was there before. It's possible to be so occupied with things and to fill every moment of the day with activity that you become drained of the emotional energy to just be present with people. And it's this freedom to be truly present with people in the midst of everyday life that I think is the job of a pastor, a father, and a husband.
I know the second year of daddy-hood will be different in many ways from the first with its own unique challenges and joys, but my hope is that this blog will continue to be a kind of "basket" that will help me carry it all as I go. Thanks for reading.