Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Times, They Are A-Changin'

I've known this on a cognitive level for some time now, but the past few weeks it has begun hitting me on a heart-level that MY LIFE WILL TOTALLY CHANGE after July 1, which will be my first day in my new appointment.

Currently, I am a stay-at-home mom to two young children, and I moonlight as a hospital chaplain. That usually just involves overnight on-calls and the occasional day shift. Nora and Walter are used to spending lots of time with me, and I with them. They are used to having me tuck them in each night, be home with them when they're sick, Nora is used to me dropping her off and picking her up at school, etc. Don't get me wrong; they're fine with baby-sitters and Harry is a wonderful and involved father. But the lion-share of the child care has been in my camp for the past three years, because I've been at home.

Come July 1, all that will change. I will be serving as a full-time pastor. I do not yet know where I will be serving (and won't know until March or April), and while I am hoping and praying that I will be appointed to a church in this area, there is no guarantee that I will be. Essentially, my entire life is going to change, and I don't know what it will look like. And that scares me.

I am realistic enough to know that the idea of a full-time ministry position being 40 hours a week is a joke. Sure, it might happen here and there, but I'm pretty much expecting to work 50-60 hours a week, especially in the first six to twelve months, as the church and I get used to each other. And even with solid boundaries and efficiency, I know there will be weeks (such as before Christmas, Easter, and when lots of pastoral stuff comes up) where I will be struggling to even keep my hours close to the 60-hour a week level. Pastoral ministry is not a 9-to-5 job, so I know that I'll have evening meetings and weekend events. I know I will get the occasional phone call in the middle of the night or on my day off because someone has died or is dying.

I have "been around the block" enough to know (and will put in place) self-care strategies and philosophies such as a consistent day off, a general understanding and practice of "God first, family second, church third", a clergy support group, a therapist/spiritual director, continuing education, and time for spiritual disciplines.

Here's my question: How the heck am I going to balance my family and professional lives? How am I going to be a mother to my two young children (who will be 5 and 2), a wife to my husband, and a pastor? I am realistic enough to know that I will never be able to balance all three roles perfectly, but I'm hoping to balance them well enough...I'm just not sure how I'm going to do that and what it's going to look like.

So far, Harry and I have figured out that:
  • We will cough up the money for a cleaning service twice a month (one of only two lifestyle changes we will make).
  • Both children will be in part-time preschool and then part-time daycare. 
  • We will have several people "on-call" to baby-sit on evenings and weekends when both Harry and I have to work, or he's out of town, or sick.
  • Depending on my setting, I may be able to "push" for childcare at evening meetings or simply bring one or both of the kids. 
  • We will utilize the flexible schedule of parish ministry to our advantage. 
Oh, and our philosophy for Harry's role (and ultimately, our childrens' roles) in the church is this: the role of the pastor's spouse is to love and support the pastor. How that is done is decided between the pastor, the pastor's spouse, and God. Note that I do not mention the Personnel Committee, the congregation, or any judicatory officials.

What I would greatly greatly appreciate from my clergy sisters and brothers is concrete advice on how to balance family and congregational life. Specifically, I would love to know how YOU do it, or have done it in the past. Please don't give me book suggestions (I'm currently reading this one) or give me general encouragement like, "you can do it!" That's not what I'm asking...I'm really asking people to give me two or three ways that they "make it work."

I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you!

1 comment:

Terri said...

By the time I was a full time assisting or solo pastor my kids were in school full time. So I went to work when they went to school. I met them at home after school and stayed with them (and then my husband when he got home from work) until after dinner. Then, if I had too I'd go back to work for meetings. I tried to not have more than one or two evening meetings a week. I usually did not work Sat. mornings so we could have some leisurely family time. Sat. afternoons my husband would do things with the kids while I finished my sermon or did other prep work for Sunday. He took care of getting the kids to church on Sunday, and I tried to not have many pastoral visits after church on Sunday so we could have family time - a movie and dinner or something. Mondays are my day off - so when everyone goes back to work/school I have a day to recharge.

I also tried to take time off when the kids were on break or off of school so we could chill out - but sometimes that would not work and we'd have to arrange for other kinds of child care.

Overall my husband picked up a lot the slack - especially laundry - until recently he was the primary person to do laundry in our family. And he got pretty good at general cleaning - vacuuming or sweeping or dishes. And, best of all, he spent more time with the kids.

Mostly you just need to be creative, flexible, and a team with your husband (and he with you!).

And, work to find balance across the spectrum of a year rather than a week or a month...keep track of your busy hours so you can justify to yourself (or others if need be) when you take extra time off later. Make sure you take that extra time. Once the kids have a relatively predictible school schedule and you have a relatively predictable work year schedule you will be able to anticipate the busy times and the flex times and the down times....knowing that there will be occasional nuttiness - sick kids or sick parishioners that throw it all up for grabs...but that too will pass.

And lastly, be gentle with yourself and your family and your parish when it feels like it is nutty or you feel like you have been less than you expect of yourself.