Chicagoland

Fathers take advantage of archdiocese’s parental leave

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
February 7, 2018

Brian Brach with his wife, Maureen; sons Anthony, 9, and Nicholas, 7; and daughter Charlotte, 1. (Photo by Erin Olson)

Brian Brach and his wife, Maureen, had two sons already when their youngest child, Charlotte, was born Dec. 27, 2016.

Brach, a producer and editor in the archdiocese’s radio and television office, knew he was eligible for paid parental leave under a policy that was implemented earlier that year. He wasn’t sure whether he would take it — or if he did, for how long — until his supervisor, archdiocesan radio and TV director Jim Disch, encouraged him to take all the time he could.

He spent most of his time away from the office caring for his sons Anthony, 9, and Nicholas, 7, so that Maureen could concentrate on Charlotte and on getting much-needed rest.

“To be able to help getting them up and to school was so important,” Brach said. “I was doing everything but feed the baby.”

Brach was one of 19 men to take paternity leave in the first fiscal year that the archdiocese offered paid parental leave to both male and female employees, according to Christopher Cannova, who was senior director of human resources operations until Feb. 9. 

In the same period of time, 111 women took maternity leave, Cannova said. While the archdiocesan work force skews female, that’s not enough to account for the difference in the number taking parental leave, Cannova said, but he couldn’t give a reason for the discrepancy in numbers.

“We’d have to study that more,” Cannova said. “It might be that the men who work for the archdiocese are older and not starting families now, or it could be something else.”

Much like Brach, Jesse Weiler wasn’t sure he would take leave when his son, Isaac, was born June 7. Weiler is now director of marketing and communications for the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary, but when he took leave, he was in a similar position for the Liturgical Institute at Mundelein, and he didn’t want to leave his coworkers to cover for him or cost the institute too much in having to hire a temporary replacement.

He said his supervisors also encouraged him to take the full 12 weeks, telling him that the archdiocesan policy calls for the salaries of people on leave to come from an archdiocesan-wide benefits account rather than being charged to their specific agencies or parishes.

In his case, since the institute did not replace him when he was on leave, the institute actually saved money from its budget.

To help make it work, he did as much ahead of time as he could. Then, when he was on leave, he was able to concentrate on being present for his family.

“It allowed me to decide what was best for my family based on what we needed,” Weiler said.

Weiler and his wife, Kimberly, also have a daughter, Agnes, 2.

Weiler was the first person on the Mundelein campus to use it paternity leave. Kimberly, his wife, loved it, he said.

“For her, just being able to focus on the new baby was really important,” he said. “It was a lot of work being at home and helping her.

But it also helped him get closer to his daughter and help ease the transition of having a new baby in the family.

“I just think about waking up with my daughter, when my daughter woke up, and making her breakfast every day,” he said. “It was great to be 100 percent with my family and not having to worry about work responsibilities.”

Brach said it was especially important for him to be available because Nicholas has Down syndrome and is non-verbal, Brach said, so the family rarely uses outside babysitters, and the boys have a variety of activities that keep everyone busy.

“Evenings are always chaotic,” he said. “Whether it’s Cub Scouts or baseball or therapy.”

Having three months at home after Charlotte’s birth helped draw the family closer together, he said, and helped ease the transition for his sons.

“They got a lot of one-on-one attention,” he said.

Brach said he’s energetic and driven, and he thought it would be hard to give up his work while he was on leave.

“It was something I never would have thought I’d want to do,” he said.

He did keep the creative side of his mind working, taking the opportunity to do a couple of photo and video projects for his own parish, St. Joseph in Manhattan, Illinois.

Brach said he also did as much work as he could ahead of time, and he knows that some projects were put on hold until he returned. Because the office works with parishes, schools and offices across the archdiocese, that means his absence was felt in many places.

“It was patience not only on the part of my department, but across the board,” he said.

Topics:

  • family life

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