It’s been a chaotic couple of months for our household with church things like VBS and District Convention, traveling, and hosting friends and family. I finished off this busy spell with a back to my hometown for a friend’s wedding while my husband stayed home to prepare for a funeral.
I wish I could solely blame the fact that my desk looks like a paper tornado blew through, sections of our lawn looks like we’re purposely growing weeds, and the internet payment is late yet again on our swamped schedule, but that isn’t the full truth. No, it’s the fact that after 10 months of having Babykins around I still haven’t found that mystical unicorn called “Balance”.
I understand the theory behind balance. You prioritize some things and let other things go in order to remain healthy, happy, and out of the loony bin. But I haven’t figured out what I should prioritize and how I should do it.
I let the budget slide and we don’t know how much money we can spend on clothes. I ignore the household chores and Babykins starts eating dried spaghetti and cat fur off the floor. I put Babykins down so I can look at this week’s grocery ad and she cries or rolls off into mischief. I use naptime to wash dishes and return phone calls and I feel burnt out from not getting “me” time. And sometimes I look at everything I’m supposed to do, throw in the proverbial towel, and aimlessly scroll through my Facebook newsfeed because I just can’t get it all done.
(Note: As I write this, I’m ignoring the dirty dishes in the sink, the massive pile of receipts on my desk, and the odd amount of grass littering the bathroom floor).
So how do you do stop feeling like you’re doing triage on life and start keeping things under control? I know it looks different for every person, but how do you choose your priorities when there isn’t enough time to do the important things? How do you capture the unicorn Balance?
July 6 was my husband’s one-year anniversary of his ordination. Not to sound cliche, but this past year has flown by–it took my by surprise to realized that we are no longer in the first year of his ministry!
Obviously after only a year, I’m no expert at this whole “Pastor’s Family” thing. However, having gone through the first year has given me some unexpected insights.
1. I often don’t think of myself as a “Pastor’s Wife”. I spent the seminary years taking advice from many pastor’s wives on how to handle this vocation. I was prepared to build my “Pastor’s Wife” persona with whatever congregation called my husband. However, I now realize that I rarely think of myself as a “Pastor’s Wife”. If I were to tell people about myself, I would first say that I’m a wife and mother. I might even mention that I fancy myself something of a writer. But a “Pastor’s Wife”? At most, I might mention that my husband is a pastor.
2. The congregation members let me keep to myself. Again, after spending the seminary years learning about what the life of a pastor’s wife would look like, I was prepared to say no to many church activities. However, the people here mostly leave me alone. There’s been minimal pressure to join the LWML and no one has asked me to do anything like teach Sunday School or head up social events. I’ve been given my space, and I appreciate that.
Of course, having a baby during this first year probably help lessen the pressure. 🙂
3. It’s hard to adjust to the “forever home” mentality. During the seminary years, I became skilled at not becoming attached to places. Now that we’re not moving this summer, I realize that I still feel like an observer of the church’s and town’s going-ons rather than a member.
4. I’m still not sure what to call my husband when talking to other members. Prior to arriving at my husband’s call, I was very adamant that I would not call him “Pastor”. After all, I wash the man’s clothes, budget his paycheck, and bore his child–I would think that would prove that we have more of a relationship than just Pastor-Member!
However, I didn’t realize that people have a tendency to pick up on what I name I call him and use it in conversations with me. I still don’t refer to him as “Pastor” often, but I have become careful not to call him by his first name in front of members. Usually I call him “my husband” or tell something about “us” or “our family”. There have been instances that I opted not to include part of a story simply because I couldn’t figure out what to call him!
5. Learning to filter the questions I ask my husband is difficult. As a couple, my husband and I desire to share most things about our lives with each other. While I can freely tell my husband everything I do during the day, he cannot. Despite my inclination to ask for details about his daily work–after all, I care about him and what he does–sometimes vague answers are necessary. It’s not my business to know details if he only tells me he is “meeting with someone”. And when he has a bad day, sometimes the only reason he can tell me is “church stuff”. Asking questions puts him in the uncomfortable position of having to tell me I can’t know the details.
Of course, not all parts of his work is taboo. I can certainly ask things like how a Bible study went or if so-and-so is home from the hospital.
6. Trying to balance my husband’s needs and my needs on his day off is still a work in progress. In order to fully relax, my husband prefers to leave town because of the fishbowl issue. However, I’m a homebody and would prefer to stay home and do things around the house. We’re still working on finding a balance.
7. Nothing can fully prepare you for your husband’s call. It doesn’t matter how many pastor’s wives panels you attend or how many pastor’s wife blogs you read, you can’t know how your life will look like before arriving at your husband’s church. There are just too many factors: Your husband’s personality, your disposition, the experiences members have had prior to your arrival, the town’s dynamics, and so on. All you can do is trust that this is where God has called your husband–and consequently, you–and make the best of it.
The term “Fur Baby” has several different meanings attached to it.
First off, there are the crazy people who legitimately believe that caring for and loving their pets is just like caring for and loving their child (and while pets and babies have many similarities, they aren’t the same).
Then there are the people who do not yet have children or are unable to have children. They adore their pets, but they also realize that pets are animals and not human. Therefore, they don’t demand that their pets be treated like children.
Finally, there is us. We have 2 cats who shed constantly. Seriously, I think one of them sheds on a whim, specifically when she’s extremely cuddly. Likewise, we have a baby, so consistent vacuuming just isn’t happening right now. Consequently, our fur baby looks like this:
Yup, our current fur baby is just Babykins covered in cat fur. . .
It’s been a busy month in our household. A conference, district convention, day trips, and church business has kept us going, going, going. So after
I had a complete meltdown calmly asked my husband for some time to myself, he agreed to take some time off on Monday to care for Babykins while I caught up on things like the budget and my paid writing.
“So should I take the morning or afternoon off?” asked my husband.
I thought for a moment before replying, “Afternoon would be better since Babykins has been taking a good morning nap this week. I can work while she sleeps.”
*all experienced parents groan at this statement*
It’s Monday morning. Guess who slept for 30 minutes before waking up crying?
My husband told me the other day that I’m into competitive parenting. What he meant is that I’m determined to find the best way to mother Babykins, as well as become intensely focused on finding the perfect solution for any problem she displays.
While the desire to do what is best for my child certainly isn’t bad, the obsessive tendencies I display in this quest can quickly consume me. That doesn’t help either Babykins or me.
Unfortunately, people like me have all too easy access to information to fuel this parenting obsession. Browse a bookshop and you’ll find shelves devoted to keeping your child happy and healthy. Likewise, Google anything child related and you’ll easily have a hundred websites and blogs to peruse. Most of these books and websites have conflicting information, making the search for the perfect parenting plan even more maddening. But it’s also an addiction that I can’t seem to quit.
I’m finally starting to realize that obsessively researching all things baby doesn’t give me any perfect answers. Rather, it just slowly drives me insane (yes, Mom, I know you told me this months ago). So to help me take a proverbial chill pill, I’ve started to take up this mantra:
What is “WWMIS?” It stands for “What Would Ma Ingalls Say?” Because nothing can help you take a parenting chill pill more than thinking about a pioneer mother.*
For example, sleep is often an issue that tortures parents of infants and toddlers. Do you let them cry-it-out or do you cuddle them throughout the night? Is it okay to feed your 3-month-old during the night? What about your 9-month-old? What if your baby isn’t sleeping through the night by 6 months, have you failed at parenthood? What if your baby only naps on you? Will you emotionally scar your baby if you sleep train? Will you kill your baby if you co-sleep? WHAT IS THE RIGHT ANSWER?!
And then I imagine Ma Ingalls would say:
Food is another issue that causes great divides among parents. Is exclusively breastfeeding far superior to any other form of feeding? Is a little bit of formula okay? When should you offer a bottle? When should you start solids? Should you start with rice cereal? Purees? Finger foods? If you don’t give your baby organic produce and grass-fed meat, will they sprout a tail? WHAT IS THE RIGHT ANSWER?!
And then I imagine Ma Ingalls would say**:
Play is another hot topic issue among parents. How much time do you spend focusing solely on your infant? Are you hindering their budding genius if you skip over Kindermusik and don’t bother with the “Mommy and Me” classes? How much “free play” do you schedule into your day? If you let your baby watch a Baby Einstein DVD, will their brains ooze out their ears? WHAT IS THE RIGHT ANSWER?!
And then I imagine Ma Ingalls would say:
There are many more examples of things that parents get worked up about today that didn’t matter one whit on the frontier. Education decisions? You hoped there was a one-room school house within a couple of miles. How many children a your family should have? Well, contraceptive options were limited and you usually assumed a few of your children would die before adulthood. Parenting style? You went about your business during the day and hoped your children stayed close enough that they wouldn’t get eaten by a bear or a wolf.
So, if you’re a competitive parent like me and you find yourself becoming consumed by your quest to find the perfect solution for every problem, just ask yourself:
*Note: I realize pioneer life wasn’t perfect and that infant mortality was high. Likewise, I also realize that many pioneer families went back East because it was a hard life. I’m not saying I would do everything that pioneer family would do, I’m just trying to give myself some perspective on parenting options. Remember, I’m trying not to go insane here! 😉
**Another Note: I also realize that breastfeeding didn’t work 100% of the time even before the introduction of commercialized formula (even what is “natural” isn’t perfect because of a sinful world, blah, blah, blah) and sometimes babies were given something other than mother’s milk. Again, I’m not saying we should do everything a pioneer family would do, I’m just trying to give myself some perspective!