On Wednesday, Babykins and I made our weekly trip to the local coffee shop. We usually go during its quieter hours, so the employees know our names and enjoy watching Babykins toddle around the shop.
Babykins started getting restless before I finished my mug of coffee. I encouraged her to look at the flowers in the cooler (because the local coffee shop is also the local florist shop, obviously). As I pointed out the daffodils and tulips to Babykins, one of the employees suddenly asked, “Are you going to have more children?”
She meant no harm by her question. Some news doesn’t spread, even in a small town. How was she to know about the baby that I only knew existed for a few days before he was gone? And I’ve been asked many forms this question both before and after Babykins was born.
However, my typical answer of, “We hope to have more children someday” failed me on Wednesday. It was the phrasing of the employee’s question–my mind processed it as a “Yes” or “No” question.
Am I going to have more children? I don’t know. Statistically, I’m not any more likely to have another miscarriage than I was before last month. But statistics are just probabilities, not certainties. I can’t say that I will definitely have another child now that I have experienced first hand the fragility of life. What I want isn’t always what I get.
Am I going to have more children? Only God knows the answer to this, I’m done trying to predict the answer.
Last June, my husband and I were looking for a used piano to buy. I perused Craigslist for a couple of weeks and found an ad for a piano that would meet our needs. I contacted the seller and found out that he was the activities director for a large Catholic high school about 30 minutes from our home. We decided to go look at the piano.
The day we arranged to look at the instrument, my husband had some visits to do in the bigger city. Consequently, he arrived at the Catholic school dressed like this:
Essentially, he looked like a Catholic priest. A Catholic priest who was bringing a woman with a young baby to look at a piano. We were an odd sight within a Catholic community.
At any rate, the activities director let us into the school and introduced us to the band director. We chatted about the piano for a couple of minutes. At some point in the conversation, my husband tried to subtly hint that I was his wife and Babykins was his daughter. He assumed this would let the band director know that he wasn’t a Catholic priest. However, the band director responded to the revealing that we were my husband’s family with this:
Which begs the question: What is going on with the Diocese up north?!
We did clarify that my husband is a Lutheran pastor. And we bought the piano from the school–it now makes a good table for miscellaneous things. Maybe someday we’ll use it as an instrument!
Some friends have asked me how life as the pastor’s wife is going. I tell them the truth: I hardly notice.
I hardly notice because I’m hardly at church. Aside from the few minutes before and after service (when I’m not running late or needing to dash out the door before Babykins explodes), I don’t see people from church. I don’t go to Bible study. I don’t go to the women’s group. I don’t even go to midweek services. Really, the biggest impact being a pastor’s wife has on my life is my husband’s energy levels (It’s Lent, he’s tired).
Most of this stems from the vulnerability of new motherhood. It’s hard to leave the house to attend extra services when there’s a good chance that it will end in tears. It’s difficult to find the motivation to go to Bible studies when it’s likely that I will have to bare my breast to feed Babykins. It’s darn near impossible to find the gumption to strike up a real conversation when my sleep-deprived brain is trying to remember how adults interact with each other.
So I keep my distance. I don’t try to get involved. I stay out of the members’ lives.
You might say that this is normal. New mom in a new town and all that.
But the disturbing part of all this is that I don’t care. Not knowing members doesn’t bother me. Aside from making awkward attempts at small talk on Sunday morning for the 10 minutes I might see people, I’m fine with not knowing anyone in church. Sure, I’m lonely throughout the week, but loneliness is easier to deal with than carefully figuring out how to develop any sort of relationship with members of my husband’s flock.
It’s that attitude that probably makes me a terrible pastor’s wife.
Between Babykins’s cold and the frigid temperatures last week, I hadn’t been leaving the house much. Consequently, I could count on one hand the people I talked to in a week and a half. I was getting lonely being cooped up in the house with a baby.
(“But wait,” you may say, “Aren’t you an introvert? How can you be lonely?” Actually, it’s fairly easy for introverts to be lonely.)
On Saturday I realized that church was the next morning. I would leave the house! I would see people! And then this happened:
It actually turned out to be a good Sunday for Babykins and me. We stayed in the sanctuary for the whole service and caught the second half of Bible study–something that hasn’t happened since she was a month old.
Open houses are unstructured parties with lots of people making small talk. It’s no surprise that most introverts dislike open houses. I’m no different. Unless I know the majority of people attending an open house fairly well, these shindigs are draining and stressful.
Despite my dislike of these parties, my husband and I decided to host our own open house. I have heard several pastor’s wives recommend inviting people from church into your home and an open house is supposedly a good way to do this. My motivation for hosting an open house was purely selfish: If I do this party thing once, then I wouldn’t have to worry about not seeming “inviting” to congregation members for at least a year.
Still, the prospect of flitting about my house socializing with people I barely know seemed daunting. However, I found the best way to survive hosting an open house came down to two steps:
1. Have a baby
2. Host the open house while the baby is still young so you spend most of the time either feeding her or trying to get her to nap in the peaceful sanctuary of your bedroom.
It worked like a charm. I spent over 2/3 of the time in our bedroom. Granted, this was because Babykins was having an anti-nap day. Still, dealing with a fussy baby was way better than small talk.
In a fit of severe loneliness a few weeks ago, I asked one of my online communities for advice to cope with being a new person in a small town. One of the suggestions that people mentioned several times was “phone dates” with close friends. *Cringe*
I finally had to admit that I suffer from phone aversion. It’s hard enough for me to get my act together and call people on a good day, it’s an impossible feat for me to do so when I’m feeling down. After I admitted my aversion, several other people commented that they also had a tenuous relationship with their phones. I wasn’t alone!
Then I remembered: Introverts typically don’t like phone calls. Don’t ask me why I always forget this, but it’s such a relief to know that my phone issues aren’t something unusual.
Why don’t introverts like the phone?
Marti Olsen Laney concisely describes introverts phone phobia in her book, The Introvert Advantage:
“Here’s how most introverts view the phone: It’s an interruption that drains energy and requires losing focus, which you have to gain again; it requires expending energy for “on-the-feet thinking”; it doesn’t provide innies with Hap Hits.* Introverts can have so many dips of energy during the day that they are not able to expend energy at the drop of a hat.” (Pg. 184)
That jarring ring-tone ruins the focus that introverts like to maintain. It’s a demand for a conversation that you’ve had no preparation for (when starting an impromptu conversation in person, at least you have a few moments to register that a person is coming towards you with the intention of talking).
Likewise, a huge chunk of non-verbal communication is taken away when on the phone. One introvert describes it as, “There’s no ‘text and subtext, body language. . .I can’t “place myself” properly (if that makes sense), when it’s not face-to-face'” (The Introvert’s Way, pg. 66). There’s no way for introverts to convey that their momentary silence may be that they are thinking about their response–there’s just awkward silence. This can lead to either the other person continuously chatting and not letting the introvert get a word in or lead to the introvert panicking and creating a nonsensical monologue. I find the latter usually happens to me.
How to cope with the phone
Fortunately for me, I actually don’t have many people that I feel I need to talk on the phone with–just immediate family and close friends (and even with the close friends, I’m pretty terrible at maintaining phone contact). Because I have such a limited number of people who call me, I’ll generally answer if I can (actually making a phone call is another beast to deal with).
However, for those who aren’t so fortunate to have limited phone contact, here are some common tips:
- Let your voicemail pick up the message and call back during a set time.
- Schedule phone calls with friends and family so you have the proper amount of energy.
- Don’t be afraid to end the conversation when there’s nothing left to be said.
- Try to keep yourself free to move around when on the phone. Hands-free sets can help.
- Encourage and utilize use of other forms of communication like e-mail or texting (realizing that sometimes it really is necessary to have a conversation over the phone!).
That being said, some tips don’t work for me personally, especially since I also have issues with technology. Many introverts don’t mind using video chat like Skype because it allows them to see the other person. I personally don’t like video chat, mostly because I find technology glitches incredibly frustrating and more distracting then dealing with awkward pauses on the phone. Likewise, texting isn’t a great way of communication for me. I still have a flip phone, so repeatedly pressing buttons to find the right letter gets tedious. If a texting conversation gets too long, I’d rather save time and talk on the phone. But I do love e-mail!
However, technology might be converting more people towards the introvert’s view on communication. Sophia Dembling explains in The Introvert’s Way:
“Interestingly, society may actually be taking a turn toward our way of thinking. According to Nielsen, we’re making fewer phone calls than we used to (we peaked in 2007), and in 2008 it reported that people were sending and receiving more texts with their mobile phones than they were making or receiving phone calls” (pg. 69).
Perhaps less phone chatting is in all of our futures!
How do you feel about phones? Are you an introvert who doesn’t mind phone calls? Are you an extrovert who abhors them?
*Hap Hits can be described as “hits of happiness”.
Almost every pastor’s wife has a story about when a member dropped by unexpectedly at a really bad time. We’ve only been here a month and I’ve already created my first awkward drop-by situation.
During the week, I’ve been trying really hard to make myself presentable by 9:00. This is to give me some semblance of routine and save me the embarrassment of getting caught in my jammies at 3 in the afternoon. Saturday mornings are a different story. It doesn’t matter that I don’t have a job so Saturday isn’t really a day off, it doesn’t matter that my husband goes into work on Saturday morning. I still haven’t lost the schedule that was ingrained in me since grade-school. Saturday means relax day. That means I don’t get dressed.
This past Saturday was no different. It was 9:30, my husband had already left for work and I was merrily surfing the internet while still in my PJs.
To be clear, I was 30 weeks pregnant, so pajamas at this point means a pair of sweatpants that stretch over my ever-expanding belly and one of my husband’s t-shirts. To be extra clear, my husband is over a foot taller than me, so his t-shirts are still enormous on me despite my pregnancy. It’s not flattering, but it’s comfy.
The doorbell rang. I glanced down at myself. Not presentable at all–I wasn’t even wearing proper undergarments. However, my husband had left the regular door open when he left for work, so pretending that no one was home wasn’t an option. Next tactic: Put on a sweatshirt to better cover myself up. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a sweatshirt in the living room, but my husband did. I put it on. It looked more ridiculous than the t-shirt. Add on my unkempt hair and glasses and I was a tousled mess.
Truth be told, I was hoping that the doorbell signaled the arrival of a package despite the fact it was Saturday. At least then the delivery person would have dropped off the package and wouldn’t see me. My hopes were crushed when I approached the door and realized that I congregation member was standing at the door. Feeling like a sloppy fool, I answered the door in my pregnant, pajama-clad glory.
It turns out that the congregation member was dropping off some sweet corn for us, which was nice. He also didn’t linger, which was also nice because I was feeling quite flustered by that point. I imagine it was awkward for him as well to have me answer the door while still in my PJs.
At any rate, the truth is now in the open: Sometimes the pastor’s wife lounges around in her pajamas. But it’s better to lower expectations sooner rather than later, right?
What is your awkward drop-by story?
My husband and I made it safely to Iowa a week ago today. We’re still trying to make the adjustment to our new life. There’s been issues with a wet basement, lots of phone calls and texts for my husband as he starts entering his role as Pastor (of course, he isn’t officially a pastor until ordination on Sunday), and just plain exhaustion.
There are some good things that have come with the move as well. Some of our family were able to make a daytrip to our new home to help with unpacking–something that wouldn’t have been possible while at seminary. We’re enjoying have central A.C. and a dishwasher. I met my new midwife a few days ago and I think I will be fairly comfortable under her care.
Overall, there’s nothing unexpected about this move. That is, until you take into account a congregation and the giant Fourth of July celebration.
Normally I would consider Independence Day one of my favorite holidays. Since kids aren’t in school, it hasn’t gotten ridiculously commercialized. It’s one of the few major holidays that celebrating with friends or family is acceptable. It’s laid back and fun.
However, this year it’s a bit of a bummer. We’re new in town, so we don’t have any friends to celebrate with (*sniff* Woe is me). Plus, our new town has an enormous 4th of July festival that draws people from all the area’s small towns. There are games, there is a parade, there are fireworks, and who knows what else. Being in a small town, it also means that the congregation members are involved with the festival. The church even has a float in the parade.
Consequently, my husband and I are in a bit of a bind. On one hand, we were told numerous times at the seminary that a good pastor (and by default, his family) is part of the community. That means doing things like attending the 4th of July celebration. On the other hand, we’ve been here a week and I’ve meet less than a dozen people in town. All I want to do today is hang our decorations while eating chocolate, not go out and mingle.
Consequently, I’ve started using the dreaded “O” word. I feel obligated to attend the festival because of my husband’s position. We went to a benefit dance last night because I felt obligated to go since someone had purchased us tickets (the dance was a dismal social failure on our part–I’ll probably write about it in the near future). I feel obligated to watch the parade since so many congregation members will be in it. Never mind that I don’t know them. People will ask if we attended and if we enjoyed it.
I know next year will probably be better. Next year we might even be excited about the 4th of July festival. But for right now, it’s tough to know how to balance unspoken (and, admittedly, perhaps imagined) expectations with our emotional health.
I hope you all are having a great Independence Day despite my melancholy post. Just to let you know, I’ll be rolling out some changes to my blog soon. I hope you enjoy them!
Earlier this week, my husband and I decided to go to Buffalo Wild Wings for dinner. My husband had been recently commenting that he wanted wings, it was a dreary day, and a weeknight. It seemed like the perfect time to go to a sports bar.
We arrived at the bar and were quickly seated. I then started scanning the menu for weekday specials.
A Facebook friend had posted this on her wall today. I was uncertain how this article about helping the pastor’s wife would come across, but his list actually proved to be insightful and clear. To be honest, I don’t know who the author of this blog is and what denomination he belongs to (or even if his other writings are complete rubbish), but he mentioned many of the stressors that pastor’s wives can face. #3 rang especially true for me:
No two pastor’s wives are the same. Some love having others in their homes. Some sing or play an instrument. Some love shepherding the women around them. Some are extremely outgoing. Interestingly, those tend to be the expectations that are placed on all pastor’s wives. The problem is that some pastor’s wives are very shy. Some don’t like large groups. Some find it difficult to build relationships. Pastor’s wives, just like every other group of people, are different. Have realistic expectations. Some people expect their pastor’s wife to be someone God never intended her to be. This is simply unfair. Have realistic expectations of your pastor’s wife.
I’ve heard over and over again that I don’t have to do anything I wouldn’t want to do as a layperson, but this is one of the few times someone has mentioned personality in relation to the role of pastor’s wife. It gave me a little hope during what is proving to be a fretful month. And hurrah, I’m not the only one who is shy, doesn’t like large groups, and find it difficult to build relationships!
Do you have a pastor’s wife who doesn’t fit the “traditonal” role? What do you like about her (I’m trying to be positive here)? Are you a pastor’s wife with a personality that doesn’t meet the “traditonal” expectations? How do you help congregation members understand this?