22 May, 2008

My TODAY Show Obsession...

I blame my mother.

In my case, there aren't very many things I'd use the words "blame" and "mother" for in the same sentence, but I think even she would have to accept fault for this one.

I am a TODAY Show junky!!!

That's right! I'll admit it. A morning is not complete without a hour or so of the TODAY Show.

I wake each morning at approximately 6:30.

Out of bed at 6:45 to make Kevin his instant oatmeal and lunch and pour his coffee. I typically toss a Toaster Strudel or a bagel in the toaster and reach for my share of the coffee (nowadays I reach for luxury of the top-shelf orange juice bottle...) I pad my way from the kitchen to our living room couch and coffee table. I dig, sometimes frantically, for the missing remote, longing for the familiar warm buzz of the TV warming up. As I flip closer to my favorite channel, I catch fragments of other news shows and balk at their punny, childish attempts to sway my loyalty with witty "millenial" batter and snazzy graphics. I land on NBC26 and settle comfortably into the first 15 minutes of news and updates while munching away at my solid sustinance. By the time the vitals are over, I cast aside my slippers, tuck my feet up underneath me, pull the fleece blanket across my lap, and begin the beverage portion of my flight service. For the next 45 minutes I move in and out of current events, entertainment, health updates, stock reports, and political exposes with my favorite morning people Matt, Meredith, Ann and Al. By 8:00 I am prepared to truly begin my day.

And the only person I can imagine blaming for this is my mother. She branded me with countless mornings of Katie, Bryant, Matt, Al, and Ann all depending upon the year. I don't remember a single morning that started with *gasp* Good Morning America *gulp*.

Now, I know how product marketing works. If your mother used Tide regularly, you are likely to do the same. If your father used Dial soap, you are likely to buy it for your husband. Do networks realize how this works to their advantage??? Did I actually fall for a generational marketing scheme??? I mean, seriously. I am the same with my news. Doesn't matter the market, NBC always seems to have the best news for me.

Either way, I am hooked. Way to go NBC. Here is your props. Take it and run because I am a fickle friend and the whole political campaign coverage issue is biting at my ankles...

Maternity Leave - Expansion

Sorry for the delay..."tonight" apparently meant something else to my brain.

Kevin and I have had several conversations about maternity leave since my last post. We've concluded 2 things.

#1: Men and women are both equally deserving of paid parental leave in order to best fulfill their callings as father and mother.

#2: I can only talk about my frustration for so long before I need to do something or become like every other whiny American.

In regards to the second point, I've made the first step beyond talking. I mentioned my concern to my boss, the pastor of our parish. I don't think he was really even aware of the situation or even the possible need. I simply expressed a concern that our maternity policy practice does not align congruently with our moral and doctrinal stand on family life. I acknowledged that I certainly have leave, and am grateful for it, but that I have additional concerns for and beyond my own personal situation.

I also mentioned that although the pattern of employment on our parish staff is that of older women beyond their maternity years, both myself and the newest addition to our staff are and very easily could be eligible for this type of benefit over the course of the next few years. This needs to be considered as more than a current employee issue, but also as an issue of attracting more young and fresh blood to this career that is Catholic ministry. It is hard for any young person to consider working for the church when they consider the hours, the minimal pay, and the expensive benefits. A benefit like this paired with the job-flexibility that many parish jobs provide might just be enough to sway some otherwise elusive candidates.

I don't anticipate any significant movement on my concern before our baby arrives. That being said, it sounds like the issue may come to light at our next human resources committee meeting. I can only hope that this is the first step in a powerful witness to putting our collective Catholic money where our large Catholic mouth is. I'll keep you updated.

On a more inspirational note, I came across this beautiful quote the other day that brought further meaning to my cause, but more importantly my vocation.

"A mother is the most important person on earth. She cannot claim the honor of having built Notre Dame Cathedral. She need not. She has built something more magnificent than any Cathedral -- a dwelling for an immortal soul, the tiny perfection of her baby's body."
-- Joseph Cardinal Mindszenty

As for the continued conversation on feminism, there is a great article about the phenomenon of feminism in the Catholic realm called "Is it Time to Dump Feminism?" here: http://insidecatholic.com/Joomla/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=3324&Itemid=121&ed=3

15 May, 2008

Maternity Leave - Talkback

I typically post my reflections both here and on my facebook page and these are some of the comments I have collected through that page. They provide some interesting reading. A follow-up/expansion is in the works for this evening...stay tuned.

That's absolutely MAD! Across the board women in Ireland get 26 weeks statutory paid maternity leave... and get this... Northern Irish women get 39 weeks statutory paid! The organisation subsidises our entitlement so women in Ireland can get the same as Northern Ireland. Can't believe you have to make that choice!

You should send this to the Bishop or The Compass. We ran into this same problem when Joseph was considering working for Church and we looked at the insurance plan (in GB) and found that is was crap and would run a family into the ground. I do think, however, some Churches do give some paid leave--it is just not required by the diocese. It is so important for our Church to have leaders who show good example to the masses. When you create an enviorment where the only people who can work for the Church must be those who are not the family breadwinner, but those bringing in a supplemental income, you disqualify so many gifted people who may be called to lead the faithfull:( I remember when I was in my first year of working for the Church, with a masters degree mind you, and Joseph and I were dating--he had to pay my rent some months because I was not making it. If we believe motherhood is the spiritual gift of the woman, we must start acting like it!!

the sad truth is that on issues of just wage and fair treatment of employees the Churches stance is basically, "Do as I say, not as I do." It sucks, but there you have it.

My response to the previous comment:
And that's okay with us? I guess my point is, we, parishioners, are the church. We as members of the Body and members of our parish committees, staffs, and ministries have the power to raise the questions and the issues. Not only that, but we as members of the parish have the ability to contribute in idea and finance to causes we feel are important by way of our contributions both monetary and intellectual. In fact, in our parish it would be a great question of stewardship. To a certain extent if we don't voice a dissatisfaction with the lack of hierarchical congruency between word and deed, why should we expect anything to change?

04 May, 2008

Unpaid Maternity Leave...To Work or To Work?

So, I have a bit of a soapbox...it is one that has been rolling around in my head for weeks now.

Kevin and I are expecting our first baby in November...and I have NO paid maternity leave. Given, I am entitled to up to 12 weeks of Family/Medical Leave, but need I remind anyone that it is UNPAID??? Now, my salary is far from bread-winning, but it is certainly a supplement. Yes, I have 3 1/2 combined weeks of vacation and sick days, but that is only if I don't take any between now and then...

Need I mention that I work for the Catholic Church? The Catholic Church is by most standards the organization at the very top of the moral high ground when it comes to fertility and family life. It is an organization whose values, to even the least educated, include no artificial birth control and marriage vows that include a commitment to "willing accept children and raise them in the faith."

"The family is the cornerstone of the Church," the documents read.

And, "parents are the primary educators of their children."

And yet as an organization we have no PAID maternity leave?

If the the Catholic Church as an organization does not support paid maternity/paternity leave how are we to expect any secular organization or government to do so?

Some of you may be saying, "Wait, several European countries have paid maternity leave and even special incentives for bearing children." Let's be clear. This has nothing to do with the church and everything to do with their plummeting birth rates. True, the US and Australia are the only two developed nations in the WORLD that don't have some form of a paid maternity leave. However, it is also no coincidence that we haven't seen significant decreases in our birth rate. Don't worry, we will. And as soon as we do the government will decide what a fabulous idea maternity leave and child-bearing incentives are. We're so progressive...

Companies that have independently planned and funded maternity leave for their employees have seen great responses. They see more men and women returning following their periods of leave which means less turnover. They've also seen an increase in women in their higher level positions because women stay...what a concept!!!

I have to wonder though...did we women bring this upon ourselves? I think our lack of maternity leave and to be quite honest, the lack of effort toward it, was carved into stone during the feminist movement of the former generations. For years we women tried to tell society that we were equals and that there was no difference between men and ourselves.

In my opinionated reality, we don't want to be equals. All we wanted was a fair chance at voting, jobs, wages, benefits, and opportuties to advance. That does not equate to equal. It equates to fair chances for inherent dignity and a job well done by woman or man, black or white, Muslim or Christian.

But really, whatever happened to, "I am woman, hear me roar"? I am woman. I am beautiful. I have curves that no man could ever bear presence to. I have a thought process that few men or computer can master let alone understand. I can carry a life within my womb for 9 months and then give birth by shear will and strength. No man can ever do that.

Why would I want to be considered his equal? Why wouldn't I want the special treatment that is due to me after pushing something the size of a watermelon through something the size of a lemon? Why wouldn't I want 3 months of nourishing my child and bonding with it to be considered "my job" and be paid accordingly? Ladies, in some ways we are simply superior and deserve to be treated as more than an equal. And this is one of them.

I am not equal. I am different. I will work hard to earn my keep, but I believe that my work, especially for the Church, is not simply what I do from 9-5, and should be compensated as such when I am a part of an organizaton that values my contributions both as employee and (at least according to their documents) as a mother.

I'm not the only one with eyes on this issue...here's the blog post from BBC News that inspired me to actually move from thinking to writing on this topic...http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/nickbryant/2008/05/baby_bonus_blues.html

And ladies, you may not have a "bun in the oven" yet, but I guarantee you that when your time comes you will be wondering many of the same things.

So let's step up. Let's ask our government and our companies to dance. Let's claim our femininity and its rights. These curves can take whatever you throw at them.

11 Words of Vocation

Our vocation is “to respond fully to the spiritual fullness in our immediate situation.”

These words were shared with Kevin and I at a recent business dinner. Our pastor stopped in the middle of dinner, quoted these words, and asked for our thoughts.

These 11 words could merit an entire dissertation.

And yet, somehow, it spoke to the very thing Kevin and I have been struggling with. Both of us have a tendency to get caught up in the "what ifs". We also get caught up in what we need to do next.

Can you imagine what it would truly mean to "respond fully to the spiritual fullness in our immediate situation"??? Let's just evaluate a few pieces...

"Respond fully..." That means that we turn our complete attention to the moment or issue at hand. There is not room for a half-hearted effort. We cannot be distracted by our other issues.

"Spiritual fullness..." We must be aware of and respond to God in each situation. This means forming a discerning conscience and spirituality that is prepared to identify the spiritual fullness of a given moment or situation. Spiritual fullness is also not a quantitative statement...meaning that spiritual fullness may be obvious or it may require additional prayer and discernment.

"Immediate situation..." Doesn't this mean completely re-ordering our lives in order to respond to the immediate situation? I believe it would mean a severe simplification and discipline of living in order to have the emotional and mental wherewithall and presence of mind to respond to the immediate situation. You don't get to "think about it" or "take a minute". You must clarify your life and your priorities ahead of time and then trust the movement of the Holy Spirit.

How prepared are we to live this definition of vocation?? I am pretty sure I am not as much as I might like to be. It certainly seems like the way I want to live. It sures seems a lot simpler and less manic than our current pace of life in the long run. I suppose the question now is, how do I get there???

The only answers I can come up with are prayer, trust, and the very grace of God. Probably in the reverse order...

Long Time...No Blog...

I guess I've just been busy...March and April virtually disappeared in all of the planning and execution of our parish's Stewardship Month.

But...I'm back now! With a vengence! And a baby-on-board!

So that is the topic of this first long-anticipated diatribe...our baby!!!

Before anyone asks, natural family planning (NFP) worked just perfectly. We used the standard days method for the first 9 months of our marriage and decided this spring that we were ready to welcome a baby into our marriage. And if you know anything about NFP, once you've determined your fertile days it is pretty straightforward when you start trying to conceive...as long as everything is healthy. Many health professionals are now recommending NFP methods as methods of conception not just prevention.

So no, NFP worked great! We still swear by it and I have every intention of going back to it after this baby.

That little soapbox aside, the next question is, how do we feel about being parents?

We are thrilled! We feel so blessed. I think we were both surprised at how easy it was with all of the stories of infertility floating around us. We can't wait to welcome our new little life.

We are anxious...what is it going to feel like? Why did that happen? Is the baby healthy? All sorts of questions are swirling around us and causing constant thoughts and conversations.

We are thoughtful. What does this mean for our marriage? How will it change our relationship? Did we make the best of our time as a couple? What kind of marriage do we want to have after the baby comes? We love each other and want the best for our family and our marriage.

I am sick. There are days when I wonder if I will ever want to have another baby. I feel like I am in an alien body. There is no rhyme to my rhythms. There is no way to prevent my all-day sickness. There is no way to anticipate my teary responses to the slightest comment. I have sore hips and I am constantly using the restroom. AND I'M NOT EVEN SHOWING YET!!! I am beside myself just wanting to get back to some semblence of normal. And then I realize that my estimation of normal is never going to measure up again...cue teary response.

And yet, we are grateful. More than anything we are SO grateful. God has given us an amazing gift to care for. He has given us the great joy of loving and guarding this child of His on this earth for however long He intends. He has given me the strength and the breath to nurture this child for the past 11 weeks. He gives us each beat of our baby's heart which is strong and beautiful. God gives us our wonderful family who is showering us with love, support and affection.

And our heavenly Father has given us each other. Kevin is a gift for which I cannot even find the words. Our marriage is a foundation that will sustain us through anything. My vocation is first as humble daughter of the Most High, second as loving wife to my husband, and third as dedicated mother of the child in my womb.