A blog for Catholic men that seeks to encourage virtue, the pursuit of holiness and the art of true masculinity.
Fathers, Fight for Milk
September 1, 2020
I’ll never forget the night my first child was born. I was racing down the freeway before dawn, clutching the steering wheel.
“Look out for deer,” Brittany moaned.
I glanced at her sideways.
“You’re in labor, and you’re worried about deer?”
“Just watch out for deer, okay!”
I squeezed the steering wheel until my knuckles turned white.
Nothing changes a man’s perspective on life like becoming a father. At least this was the case with me. Those first months went by in a blur, and slowly I realized that life as I had known it had burst into a thousand little pieces. My story is fairly normal, but I remember the first time I had to make the decision to “find my fight.”
I wasn’t Catholic yet. In fact, I was about to become an Anglican priest when I discovered Catholicism. It was wonderful and horrible all at once. Right when I graduated seminary (and right when our baby was born) we were received into the Church—and because married men don’t usually become Catholic priests, I had no career prospects.
I was a new dad, and I was broke, and to make matters worse I didn’t have a job—or any prospect of a job. Even more, our son had an intense dairy allergy but we didn’t know it yet, so everyone was a crying mess, and my wife Brittany was struggling with post-partum depression, and I knew no other Catholic dads, and I have to admit, I felt unprepared and alone.
Quickly, I came to grips with the fact that the plans I had for my life needed to change. Confused, I remember asking God: “What were all those years of seminary, prison ministry, fundraising, chaplaincy, and parish internships for?” And his answer was powerful: I wasn’t actually called to be a priest…but a father.
I didn’t know what that would look like, but from then on all of my interests, talents, ambitions—all of it was now focused on this one thing: I needed to fight for milk for my family.
If you are a man who wants to provide for his family, become a stronger husband and father, and grow personally and professionally, it’s time someone told you straight: this is exactly what you should want. Fatherhood is a vocation. And when men reach their full potential, the world has more happy marriages, kids have their moms and their dads, businesses have more virtuous leaders, and you have the health and virtue necessary to be the best possible version of yourself.
I have great news: the vocation to fatherhood is alive and well! And success isn’t only possible to men who were fortunate enough to be born with great dads or raised in healthy families. No matter where you’ve been or what you’re up against, you can become a father who fights for milk—and wins.
Why “Fight for Milk”?
There’s this great scene in the film “Cinderella Man” where boxer Jim Braddock (Russell Crowe) has been on a losing streak until suddenly he’s not losing anymore. He’s winning.
So a reporter asks him, “What are you fighting for?”
Jim answers, “Milk.”
Jim wasn’t fighting for medals or answering some distant call of the wild. Jim was fighting for milk for his kids.
“Milk” is all of father’s responsibilities, everything he must fight for.
But our culture faces a crisis of fatherhood. And for many of us, it’s personal. We just want to do right by our responsibilities, to win at work and succeed at home. For me, this ended up being a lot more challenging than I thought it would be.
After my first child was born, I needed to push myself professionally so I could provide, I had grow my communication skills with my wife, my priorities were changing fast, and I had to fight for milk.
When a man becomes a father everything changes—his marriage, his friendships, his relationship to work, his role in society. That’s why the new apostolate called Fight for Milkhas been formed—to invest in men with resources to become more competent breadwinners, communicators, and leaders in every domain of life—because fatherhood is their calling!
The problem is, one way or another our culture often marginalizes or mocks a father’s role. In all likelihood, no one has invested in you in a very long time…even though it’s your job to invest in others! So the Fight for Milk Apostolatebrings men together with live conference calls, daily videos, online resources, and a four-step framework (the F4M Framework) to help you win at work and succeed at home—and we have fun doing it!
Imagine your kids becoming more confident, or seeing their mistakes and failures as learning opportunities, or practicing greater self-control. Imagine your wife becoming even more fully alive. Imagine a more positive culture in the workplace, or your colleagues becoming more cooperative and creative. You can’t change anyone else.You can only change yourself.
No room on the bench
Fatherhood is impossibly hard work, and you can’t delegate. You can’t find enough soccer coaches or write a check big enough to replace you.
Your job doesn’t boil down to product or a service but to YOU. So personal and professional (not to mention spiritual!) development is key. You simply can’t give what you don’t have.
Think of it this way: if a man feels God is calling him to be a missionary in France he would need not only a theological education, but also an education in the French language and culture. The Fight for Milk Apostolateis not only an education in the theology but in the language and culture of fatherhood—because fatherhood is your calling.
Don’t get me wrong, it would be life-changing to endlessly study the theology of dadness. God’s reputation is at stake here, after all. In the path of the saints and the Holy Trinity, a father can become a kind of snapshot of God the Father, “who is rich in mercy” (Eph. 2:4). Dads reveal and relive on earth the very fatherhood of God himself; men “relive and reveal on earth the very fatherhood of God” (cf. Pope St. John Paul II, Familias Consortio, #25). Over time, the best of them will be able to say with Jesus Christ: “He who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). This is heavy stuff.
But, because a father has “divided interests” (1 Cor. 7:32), the fight for milk is also practical and hands-on: you need to develop professionally and personally in order to provide and lead where you are needed most. Knowing what’s at stake—God’s reputation!—it’s time to zoom in and study the craft and customs, how to think and what to say, “the French of fatherhood.” Comprenez vouz?
Are great dads born or made?
I believe fatherhood is not a talent; it’s a skill.
The job does not measure your basic, underlying capabilities. The skills you need to learn at work and home can be developed through practice, and every day will give you a fresh opportunity to cultivate these skills. Your mistakes are not a measure of your abilities. All you need to do is look directly at the problem, use the feedback, alter your strategy accordingly, and keep learning.
But the good news is, you have what it takes. You can do this. The fight for milk is, after all, you’re your vocation.
Fatherhood is not a talent that men are either born with or without, it’s a dynamic skill that be cultivated and developed over a lifetime. So the question is not, “Can I do this?” but, “How can I do this?” It’s not “Can my children learn?” but, “How will they learn best?” It’s not, “Will I be able to provide financially?” But, “How can I provide financially?” When dads learn to ask How? questions they persevere through the rough spots and stalemates to gain more favorable outcomes.
With the fight for milk mindset, I believe you can grow professionally and personally, renew your family, and become a better man. You can also motivate those you lead, teach, and love to become more fully alive, to grow closer to God, to own their successes and failures, and to become better versions of themselves—and that’s worth fighting for!
Tyler Blanski is a Catholic father, the author of An Immovable Feast, and the founder of the Fight for Milk apostolate. He lives in Minnesota with his wife and three children. Learn more at www.fightformilk.com
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