- Who you are and what do you do for a living?
I’m Chris Zoladz, 36, a father of three from Rockford. I work in public relations at SeyferthPR in downtown Grand Rapids, specializing in media relations and social media. I’m a metro Detroit native and Central Michigan University graduate and I’ve lived in Grand Rapids for 12.5 years.
- What is your family dynamic?
My wife Emily and I have been married 12 years and we have three kids: Nora (6), Isaac (4) and Ari (4 months).
- What has been the biggest challenge of being a Dad?
Patience. Bath and bed time has been challenging lately. Emily puts Ari down for bed, and I now have to get Nora and Isaac ready and tucked in on my own. Some nights, it’s hard keeping them on task without losing my cool when my own patience and energy has dwindled by the end of the day.
- What has been fatherhood’s biggest reward ?
Seeing how much Nora and Isaac love their baby brother warms my heart every day. And baby smiles and Ari’s first giggles and laughs make everything worth it.
- What is the most memorable Dad moment you’ve had? Positive or negative – what moment of fatherhood stands out to you?
It’s hard to choose just one, but Father’s Day 2018 provided a memorable, teachable moment on-the-spot. We spent the afternoon at Muskegon State Park — our first big outing after Ari’s birth. After swimming, Nora and I took a daddy-daughter hike on the sand dunes and at the top of the ridge, we spotted a large symbol someone had made from dead wood. I recognized it immediately as a hate symbol, but wasn’t sure I wanted to point it out to Nora. When she asked, I told her it was a swastika and having recently watched The Sound of Music, she instantly made the connection to Nazis and the holocaust. We decided to dismantle it and rearrange the wood to spell ARI, transforming a symbol of hate into one of love for her new baby brother.
- How do you balance your work/family life?
Admittedly, this is something I struggle with and am working on. It’s difficult not to check emails and be “plugged in” when I’m at home and the kids are awake. Lately, I’ve been trying to leave my phone in the bedroom so we have no distractions during dinner, bath and bedtime. When the kids grow up, I want them to remember me being present with them, and not with my face in my phone.
- What “Dadvice” would you give a father with daughters?
The best professional decision I made was to take paternity leave when Nora was born. I opted for the full 12 weeks under the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and began my leave when Nora was 12 weeks old, just as Emily was returning to work. That time with her, one-on-one taught me so much about patience and how to nurture her. It was wonderful and hard–especially when she went on a bottle strike for a month, forcing me to spoon feed her milk throughout the day. I knew parenting was hard, but this made me realize how much effort it takes, 24/7. I have such respect for stay-at-home moms (and dads.) I realize I am one of the fortunate dads who could afford 12 weeks away from work, unpaid. But I would say to any new father: take time off work–even if it’s two weeks–to bond with your child. Paychecks and bills come and go, but that bonding time is so critical and those early memories last forever.