In the midst of our shared parental experiences of exhaustion, a grateful stay-at-home father and licensed therapist shares his doable, practical and unique tips and truths to help Catholic parents thrive.
Editor’s note: Jim Otremba, M.Div, M.S., is a licensed independent clinical social worker and, with his wife, author of The Daily Dozen of Catholic Parenting. He will be contributing to Peanut Butter & Grace on an occasional basis. For more about Jim and his ministry, see the end of this article.
by Jim Otremba
As a part-time stay-at-home dad since 1999, I am tired! Can I hear an “Amen, brother!”? Really, I am seriously tired. In fact, I have been diagnosed with insomnia. I call it KIDS – “Kids Induced Dysfunctional Sleep.” My psychologist agrees with me.
Our son David was born in 2004 with Down Syndrome and only learned how to sleep through the night last year, so we are tired. But, David is amazing! He loves Mass, loves to pray and is a great kid! I LOVE being a part-time stay-at-home dad. I love the strong relationship that my children have with me and I with them, thank you Jesus (can I hear another “Amen, brother!”?)!
In the midst of the tiredness, I give thanks for the hundreds of families with whom I have been a privileged guest in their lives as a licensed therapist in Minnesota since 1996. They have taught me so much, and along with the Holy Spirit, have opened up my mind to tips and truths that have helped our own parenting thrive. I want to share four of them with you today.
1. Take the Plunge and Get a Spiritual Director
You have read about it, prayed about it, thought about it, talked about it, even talked to a spiritual director. Now it is time to act if you haven’t already. When we read the Scriptures we see that God only works one-on-one with a very select few (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, the Prophets, Mary, his son Jesus, St. Paul, St. Peter, the Apostles, etc). This is a highly elite group. After the resurrection of Jesus, Abba desires to use the Church as a means of sanctification — and this includes spiritual directors.
Spiritual direction has been a tremendous gift in my life since about 1988. It has really helped me with parenting! If you don’t know where to start, talk to your deacon, priest, or a local church staff member you trust, and know that the Holy Spirit will help you find the right person through prayer.
If you have a spiritual director, then our call is to pray for those who don’t have one. Pray to Abba to bless more parents with a good, holy, spiritual director. Abba works in trusted, close relationships. As parents we need spiritual directors to help us grow in sanctity (and sanity).
2. Set Aside Time for Retreats
When I was in the seminary for almost seven years (I decided to leave before I met my wife Maureen), we went on retreat twice per school year … in the seminary! We were in formation daily with morning prayer, daily Mass, evening prayer, Rector’s conferences, spiritual direction, studying theology and philosophy, and we still made time to retreat two times in nine months! I thought it was awesome, and it should also inform the laity of the importance of retreats. We won’t advance if we don’t retreat. So pull out your calendar today, talk to your spouse if you’re married, and set up one or two retreats for 2018.
If you have never done this, don’t let the fear of the unknown keep you away! Start simple, maybe a half day praying at your parish or a day at a local retreat center. Then, build up maybe to overnight retreats. God desires that we devote time to just sit and let Abba love us — retreats are awesome for that! Again, if you are a regular retreatant, praise the Lord! Our calling is to pray for those parents who have never been on one. Please do that right now — even before you move on to number three.
3. Start Tithing
On the bell curve, Catholics are weak in this area. The Lord has given us everything and we are called to be stewards of our time, talents and treasure. If you have never tithed in the past, I’m asking you to really think about starting it for this new year. Give 5 percent to your local parish, and the other 5 percent to a favorite charity that is doing God’s work (this is where I love Charity Navigator).
What people notice all the time when they start tithing is how good it is, and how much God honors and blesses it. If you are thinking that you can’t afford it, my invitation is to start somewhere. Maybe you start at 5 percent and give 2.5 percent to your parish and 2.5 percent to another good charity. God will bless our efforts and before you know it, you will be at 10 percent or more.
Once again, if you are a tithing Catholic — praise the Lord! Our calling is pray for those who are not, and never in judgmental way. Only a humble way that the Holy Spirit can move our hearts to give more as a Church. We are sorely lacking in this area, and we need much prayer and fasting to overcome this myopic vision that we sometimes have.
4. Pray with Scripture Daily
This is our daily bread, and we need to immerse ourselves in the holy, powerful Word of God daily. If you don’t know where to start, today’s technology makes it rather easy. In fact, I read the Scriptures more on my smartphone than I do on paper (I never thought I would do that, but I love the ease of it — and for eyes that are almost 50 years old it is really easy to make the font larger without the bifocals that my optometrist wants me to buy). It is easy to download the Relevant Radio App for free and click on daily readings.
No matter the format, I know that when we shut the TV off and open up the Word of God, Abba loves it! Abba desires to share his life-giving Word with us daily in the Eucharist, and in the Word of God. Some of us cannot make it to Mass during the weekday because of busy schedules. But, all of us can shut off our TV’s after the kids are in bed, and open up the Word and be refreshed. Once again, if you are doing this beautiful ritual, our calling is to humbly pray for more Catholic parents to devote time to praying with Scripture daily. It will transform our nation!
Jim Otremba, M.Div, M.S., is a licensed independent clinical social worker in Minnesota and owner of a state-certified clinic. He is working on his doctorate in psychology, is a part-time stay-at-home dad, and a regular guest on National Catholic Radio (Relevant Radio’s Morning Air). Along with his best friend and wife, he has appeared on EWTN, and loves facilitating Catholic marriage and parenting retreats around the nation. He and his wife are the authors of The Daily Dozen of Catholic Parenting: Improving Your Catholic Parenting in 20 Minutes a Day. Read more at www.catholicfamilyresources.com.