You may have come across acrobats performing the art of “juggling” in some tourist areas. The artist is usually able to juggle three or more items with two hands, performing in all different styles and levels of difficulty. This is indeed an art, not just multitasking, as it involves countless hours of practice to make it happen. Being a new father these past couple years, I have also felt like I am “juggling” all the time.
When my daughter Deborah was born two years ago, my wife and I chose to watch the baby ourselves instead of letting our parents do the routine childcare. Meanwhile, my wife had just begun her Ph.D. program, all while recovering from childbirth and managing her school work at the same time. I took paternity leave and tried to help. Being so used to a certain routine, the most challenging thing to care for Deborah was to get up every few hours at night to feed her. Struggling between her routine and mine, I had to learn and compromise. Every time I thought I managed to master her certain routine, she had already grown into another stage. Tiredness, perplexity and helplessness were inevitable.
A pastor once told me that raising a child is definitely not easy. However, in the midst of all the difficulties, always remember troubles and challenges will one day expire, and not last forever. Very soon, we will encounter our child in a very different way. His words were indeed so true. The nighttime feeding stage was over very soon. Then I had a new opportunity for my career. A medical facility wanted me to help two nights a week as a chaplain, mainly to handle the business of deceased patients by providing spiritual and emotional support to their families. My wife and I thought this was a good opportunity to help me move toward eventually becoming a full-time chaplain, therefore I gladly took the offer. I worked in a commercial company during the day, and was on duty at the hospital some nights. At times, when I finished the visits at the hospital very late and it was almost time to report to work in the morning, in order to save time traveling back and forth from home, I just slept in my car or rested in a coffee shop.
As my daughter grew, she needed to be attended to and needed more interaction with us. My busy schedule definitely affected the quality of our time together. This hectic situation had lasted for about a year until the outbreak of the pandemic. I was finally hired by a hospice care facility as a full-time chaplain and no longer needed to do night shifts anymore. I then had more time to spend with my daughter. I also got accepted to Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Chicago for their long-distance D.Min. program.
While the pandemic was turning the world upside down in 2020, we had come to a crossroads. During the pandemic, the hospice care facility I was working at was shut down and all the staff got laid off. The company wanted me to consider relocating to their NorCal facility. During this difficult decision-making process, my daughter was still young and didn’t know how to talk. Yet she always liked to jump around me with a smile and laughter. As soon as my eyes came into contact with my daughter’s curious round eyes, my fear and anxiety about the uncertain future disappeared. It seemed to her, daddy was always the strong and reliable tree trunk, the airplane that carried her around the world, and the teddy bear that kept pampering her. Cuddling daddy felt like embracing the whole world.
Quickly we took off and moved to a new location and left the city that I had lived in for the past 15 years. Since then, life has been extraordinarily simple during the pandemic. My daughter does not have any other playmates yet. Our companionship has become very important. I am very thankful that every time I need to go online for a class, she always says, “Daddy learns.” Then she will go back to her corner to read and play with toys. When the class is over, she just runs to cuddle me, excitedly saying “Daddy’s done.”
Parents of different generations face different challenges. I had witnessed how my parents, especially my mother, gave up their education and promotion opportunities for the sake of raising me. We have a lot more opportunities nowadays, along with more roles and responsibilities. Time has become very limited. We always juggle our work, family and school; and sometimes we may fail to find a balance. Yet grace is never absent when there is understanding and acceptance. I am learning together with my daughter how to respect one another’s growth and space. I strive wholeheartedly to care for my little one, passionately to do my job, and seriously to focus on my studies; I keep juggling as I move forward in my life.
The author of this article Judd Hu was born in Guangzhou, China. He moved to the United States during his college years, and was in the commercial management field in the early years of his career. Later he became a part-time staff member at Presence while he was in seminary for his M.Div. degree. He currently resides in Santa Rosa, California with his wife and daughter and works as a full-time chaplain there. He is also working toward his D.Min. degree, majoring in Spiritual Care under a Multi-Religious Context.
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