In just a few days, my husband and I will be traveling to China to adopt our little girl; finally turning the page on a chapter in our life that has been nine years in the making. She is fourteen months old, and as her caretaker describes, “she is tiny, but fierce.” The last few months we have been getting ready to bring her home, painting her room, hanging the curtains, and putting up the baby bed.

Getting ready also means planning leave time from work once we return home. When our son, now six years old, came home from the hospital, I was able to take seven weeks off of work. At that time, I was serving as a community minister in another church. Honestly, I would have taken more time off, but it would have been unpaid, and we learned quickly that babies are very expensive. Now, as the senior pastor at First Baptist Church of Columbia, Missouri, I am blessed to have the opportunity to take a longer adoption leave, but in the early days of planning my leave, I struggled to give myself permission to take the time away.

I am a Type A person. I am competitive, and I am an achiever. I like to work, and I love being a pastor. It is hard for me to let go. On top of that, as a vocational minister, I’ll admit that there are times that I fall prey to thinking that what I do is more essential than it really is. I know that God is not scrambling to figure out how the church will survive if I’m not in the office, but I worry about what might happen (and what my congregation might think) if I take too much leave. Regretfully, those fears are compounded by the fact that I am a woman. I will admit that I have never wanted my congregation to see my gender as negative. My gender was a barrier in my finding a pastorate, as several search committees made very clear to me along the way.

First Baptist of Columbia is an amazing congregation, and honestly I have never felt any push back about my gender from within my church. I’m happy to say that most of the time, I don’t think about it. But for some reason, thinking about taking parent leave was different. I wondered: What will people think about me being on leave? Will they wonder about my commitment? Will they question my ability to parent two young children and pastor at the same time? Will they think about the fact that if I were a man, I might not take as much leave? After all, a research study conducted by Boston College found that the majority of fathers take roughly one day of leave time to bond with their new children for every month the typical mother takes. Knowing that most of my peers are men, perhaps, sometimes I do feel the pressure to “prove” myself.

Traditionally, it has been mothers who have taken time off to care for new family members, and I don’t think we should give this up. Interestingly, the same Boston College study also found that fathers want to take time off when their children are born, but because of workplace pressure, they don’t feel like they can. So, it seems important to me that woman continue to take time off, and when we find ourselves in positions of leadership, we should help pave the way for men to take more time off too.

Fortunately, here at First Baptist, my covenant with the church already had a very generous policy in place. I didn’t have to fight to get leave; I only had to fight my own anxious insecurities. Thankfully, the way our personnel committee handled my leave helped to alleviate my anxiety, instead of adding to the stress. They have been very gracious through the whole process. Our personnel chair put it this way in our church newsletter, “As a congregation, we are pleased to provide this bonding time to give the very best opportunity for the McEntyre family to be as one and find new patterns of living together.”

This is our plan. My husband (who also works at First Baptist Columbia) and I have decided to take advantage of the parental leave that the church has offered to us. We will both stay home initially, then we will trade off time with one of us at home and one of us at the office for several months. We know this is only possible because we work at a church that believes in giving both moms and dads the opportunity to take time off to care for family members. Now I just have to work on not being upset when I return to the office and realize that the congregation did amazingly well without me.

Carol McEntyre is pastor of First Baptist Church, Columbia, Missouri.

You can read the entire Boston Globe study here.