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.
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!