How to make the most of your maternity leave

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Our baby is 10 weeks old, it’s hard to believe that if we lived in the States I would have been back to work for 1 month now (average maternity leave in the US is 6 wks). Yikes. My heart seriously goes out to everyone with short maternity leaves. We are spoiled rotten in Canada to get 1 year off and even then many of my friends really struggle to go back to work.

The thought hit me a couple of weeks ago that I’m so very blessed to get a year off with my baby. It’s truly a gift. My philosophy in life is that we are blessed to be a blessing (it does us no good to hoard). With that in mind, I want to make the most of my time while off on maternity leave. I want to give back and be a blessing to others as a result. I gave myself the first 6 weeks as “survival” weeks. Nothing expected or required of me. Just keep baby alive. I then decided that if women in the States were returning to work after 6 weeks, I had better start doing something. It was time to challenge myself to make the most of maternity leave.

Now, don’t get me wrong. It’s still very hard to do much of anything while taking care of a young baby. She doesn’t have a regular schedule by any stretch. But by 6 weeks, I figured I could start adding little things to my week that may enhance my life and bless others. At 10 weeks, I’m still figuring this out. I haven’t arrived and will have to do an updated post at the end of my maternity leave. But for now…here’s what I’ve been attempting:

1) Make time for my spiritual health each day. Instead of reading a children’s book to our baby, I’ll read a very short devotional (Our Daily Bread). It’s starting the process of reading to our child and making time for my batteries to be re-charged. Every so often, I’ve also watched a Christian or motivational on youtube while feeding her and been encouraged.

2) Encourage one person per week. This is the minimum. This can look like going to visit someone with our baby, writing someone a card, sending someone a “thinking of you” text that’s meaningful.

3) Journal. I have a personal journal in addition to blogging. Between the two, I hope to capture this time and to grow personally as a result. Some days I don’t get to write at all, other days I jot down a thought really quickly, and other days I have the time to write. I feel it’s important to write both as a means of remembering, processing, sharing, and growth.

I’d love other ideas in regards to how to make the most of maternity leave. Please leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Being a Pastor’s Wife is HARD: Then and Now

Disclaimer: while I don’t like the term Pastor’s wife for several reasons, I’ll be using this title in this post. 

While visiting my grandmother earlier this week, she reminded me of some of the difficulties of being a Pastor’s wife in her day and age. Today, while being married to a pastor can still be hard, I remember my grandmother’s generation and how much more difficult it was then.

Being a Pastor’s wife THEN (1950’s to the 1980’s):

1. Church members would state their opinions at society meetings and other places re: what they felt the pastor’s wife should be doing. She would be told where she should serve and where she should not serve in the church. This was done without asking her thoughts or opinions and with no regard to her comfort level or giftedness. She was often given the jobs that no one else in the church wanted to do. She was not compensated in any way, nor did a pastor with a wife get paid more than a single pastor.

2. It was quite common to be given mixed messages back then re: appearance and being a pastor’s wife. Many in this generation were told not to wear jewelry, not even their wedding band, for fear that they may be seen as vain. Yet, at the same time, they were expected to dress up for every church event, to create an image that they were well off even when most were dirt poor.

3. The church came first, the family second. No exceptions. Dad was always gone. He often knew far more about his parishioners than he did about his own wife and children. And church members often had a key to the pastorate and stopped in unannounced to “check on”things. There was rarely respect shown for family time and privacy.

Being a pastor’s wife NOW:

1. Some congregants continue to have strong opinions on what the pastor’s wife should be doing. The mentality re: getting a 2-for-1 package deal when the pastor is married still exists in some congregations today. Many churches still ask the pastor’s wife to be present during the interview process and sometimes interview her.

2. There continues to be a preconceived notion re: what the pastor’s wife should dress like. How sad that a woman said to me, “I could never marry a pastor, I could never wear dresses and skirts all the time!” This was said in 2010!

3. In regards to priorities as a Minister, family time has begun to take higher priority in recent years. There’s now been generations of PK’s (pastor’s kids) who have left the church as a result of their father devoting his life to the parishioners while neglecting his family. In scripture it says, “what good is it to gain the whole world yet lose your soul” – Mark 8:36. In a similar regard, pastors are wrestling with making family more of a priority these days. For what good is it to gain the congregation while losing your family?

There’s more that could be said re: the challenges of this non paid, no training role (Pastor’s wife). It was hard in my grandmother’s generation. It remains hard today but there are glimmers of hope, evidence of change. There’s still a long way to go, but change is a process. It takes time.

P.S. We are happy at our church, fyi! 🙂 This post was inspired from the conversations that I’ve had with pastor’s wives over the years. It’s remarkable just how common these themes are despite the different contexts.  

The problem with the title “Pastor’s Wife”

Besides being married to the President and receiving the title of First Lady, there aren’t many professions where the spouse receives a title by default. The professor’s wife? Nope. Open Heart Surgeon’s wife? Never heard this. Even CEO’s wife has not graced my ears. Yet, there is one title that I hold simply by marrying a man who is a Minister – I’m often referred to as “The Pastor’s wife”.

“Pastor’s wife” is a title that carries with it certain expectations. Here are some (just to name a few): homemaker, hostess, piano player, children’s ministry worker, women’s ministry leader, dresses up often (but not so much that she seems rich or conceited), etc. Interesting that she is assumed to hold so many positions and yet the “Pastor’s wife” has never received any training to give her that title. She hasn’t been to school for pastor’s wifery. She also will never receive a paycheck for being “The Pastor’s wife”.

These days, many a “Pastor’s wife” works outside of the home. Often they are working 40+ hours a week and expected to fulfill their role as “Pastor’s Wife” at church. It’s understandable why “The Pastor’s wife” often feels as if she is failing (Why the Pastor’s Wife is the Most Vulnerable person in your church). She is given a title with no clear expectations, no support for it, and is supposed to thrive in making everyone happy.

I wonder if the title “Pastor’s wife” was no longer used if she’d feel less pressure to perform as a result. Instead of, “this is our Pastor’s wife”, what if people said, “this is Sally”. What if instead of, “our pastor’s wife is great”, people said, “Claire is a great person!”

I love being married to Derek. He’s my best friend. He’s also a pastor. I desire to support him, cherish him, and cheer him on. I also enjoy serving in the church, although I ask myself the following before committing: “would I do ________ if I wasn’t a Pastor’s Wife?”. I try to make decisions based on personal convictions and passions rather than what others may expect of me.  But it’s not always easy.

Maybe the wife of the pastor would feel less pressure if she was referred to as “Sally” instead of ” Sally the Pastor’s wife”.  Maybe the title “Pastor’s wife” holds more weight than we realize. Maybe it’s time for a change.

Ministry: not ideal to raise a family?

As some of you are aware, my husband is a pastor. When thinking about starting a family, thoughts of the many challenges of being in the ministry + having children come to mind. Now, let me explain, I’m not saying that those in ministry shouldn’t have children. I’m also not concluding that we shouldn’t as a result of my husband’s profession. I’d just like to write out/process some of the observed challenges that being in full-time ministry and raising a family seems to present:

  1. It’s pretty much the only profession where there are spoken and unspoken expectations on the children. The only thing close to being similar re: spotlight is being a politician or celebrities child. Sorry, PK’s (pastor’s kid), you get all the spotlight with very little dough 🙂
  2.  Speaking of dough, while Pastor’s make more now than they did back when my Grandfather was in the ministry, there are few that receive good work benefits. As a result, the pastor’s spouse may be forced to work outside of the home for the salary & benefits.
  3. Children who grow up with a parent in the ministry rarely experience going to church together as a family. In our case, I would essentially operate as a single parent every Sunday morning.
  4. Pastor’s kids have no choice in the matter. While being a Pastor’s Wife isn’t always easy, I at least had some idea as to what I was getting into. In recent years, the number of PK’s who have left the church as adults as a result of hating the experience of their father being a pastor is scary and very sad.
  5. Most are aware that the Pastor’s work schedule is challenging. He or she works every weekend (forget last minute getaways with the family!). In addition to working regular office hours, the pastor often works evenings as well. And don’t forget holidays! 🙂

For the reasons above and others, raising a family in the ministry presents its unique set of challenges. Sadly, what I have found is that very few PK’s would choose to raise children in the ministry as a result of their experience. But times are changing. There’s a new emphasis in many denominations and churches regarding pastoral health which includes things like self-care and family time. Maybe raising a child while in full-time ministry is not ideal (keep in mind that life is rarely ideal). But maybe, just maybe,  it’s becoming more (& not less) ideal with the passing of every year.

As always, I welcome your comments! If you are a PK, or are raising a family in the ministry, it would be especially neat to hear from you. Whoever you are, it’s great to hear your thoughts whether you agree, disagree, or just have a thought to share.

Pastoral Ministry: the Best and the Hardest

Being in pastoral ministry has its great moments and its challenging ones. Here’s my thoughts on the best and the hardest of them all.

The Best: Getting to know so many different people. Being a pastor’s wife gives me opportunities to meet new people (yay!) and our social network is greatly increased as a result.

The Hardest: Getting to know so many different people.

In regards to the hardest, I’m not talking about those with personality disorders or even the complaints people make (although these aren’t a walk in the park either). Rather, I find the hardest part of being a Pastor’s wife is that we are regularly  exposed to the sadness and suffering that others face. When your network is greatly increased by your husband’s profession as a pastor, you end up knowing more people who are diagnosed with cancer, marriages that are on the rocks, those dealing with childhood trauma, unexpected deaths and you attend funerals more frequently.

As a social worker, I can no longer live in naivety towards human suffering. My profession reminds me of the brokenness of this world on a regular basis. Also, as a pastor’s wife, I also can no longer live in naivety towards human suffering as there’s rarely a week that goes by where someone that we know (as a result of pastoral connections) isn’t heavy on our hearts.

You may be able to appreciate why the best thing about being a pastor’s wife for me is also the hardest. Being in ministry means that we trade some naivety for additional tears and sadness in this life. To know more people (the best) also requires to know more suffering (the hardest).

There you have it, that’s my answer to what’s the best and the hardest part of pastoral ministry as of July 11th, 2013.  If you have a thought, don’t be shy, would love to hear from you in a comment below.

Real Life Pastor Funnies

While being a pastor or a pastor’s wife isn’t always fun or funny, there are times when its just priceless! Here are two of the funniest things said to us to date:

1) After we bought our house but hadn’t moved yet, the children next door were having a conversation with their grandfather. The youngest boy said to his Grandfather, “we’ll have to be very careful when we go fishing”. When Grandpa inquired as to why he said this the boy explained, “we need to be extra careful that we catch and release properly because the ministry is going to be living next door soon!”. He had heard that a minister had bought the house and assumed it was the Ministry of Natural Resources!

2) A couple told their non-churched neighbour that their minister was coming over for dinner. The man said with his girlfriend present, “oh, we could get married when he comes over!”.  Funny that he thought he could just pop on over during dinner and get married by the minister. But then he went on to say,  “shoot, no we can’t, I’m not divorced yet”.

Never a dull moment! 🙂