It's been almost eight months since my husband's ordination and while I think that it will be several years before I feel comfortable assessing what life is truly like as a spouse of a deacon, I've gained at least a partial perspective of what it's like being the significant other to a clergyman.
What I have been most surprised about is how well Deacon Joe has adapted to his role as a deacon. By that I don't mean that we have mastered scheduling. I don't think that will occur until sometime around the time of our three year old child's graduation...from college. But what I mean is how it seems that his gifts have matched almost perfectly with his assignment.
I always felt that Deacon Joe would be great working in men's ministry. Never during formation did he get the impression that he would end up in prison ministry, but that's where he is and it's been going extremely well. The men there really want to reform their lives and feel that someone cares about therm. His ministry is sparking interest within our own parish and community to serve the needs of those imprisoned. He also seems to be doing pretty well within the parish. He has a voice made for speaking and I can't count the number of times that someone has said that they like his voice or thought that his homilies were insightful.
We had gone through a rough patch for several months before his ordination because his job was eliminated. Wondering if he should proceed with ordination, he discussed it with his formation adviser and knew that the job setback would be minor. In fact, a month after ordination he found a new job for slightly less pay with very little travel and more fulfilling work. Amazing how it seems that everything in his life led up to this point in his life.
So what about me? This has been a major transition time for me. I think that the job insecurity stressed me and the uncertainty of what would happen jobwise and where he would be assigned weighed on me so much that when the dust cleared and everything was in place, I found myself numb. Coupling that with reigning back on my commitments so that my husband could focus on his ministry and picking up most of the domestic responsibilities, I felt like a new mother stuck at home with an infant thinking "what am I supposed to do?" Maybe the analogy isn't the greatest, but I'm not sure how to explain it. For many deacon's wives, they are older and their lives aren't marked by the daily demands of young children. I'm certainly not complaining, I believe that our family is giving witness to living out our faith but it has been a challenge to meet the demands of his diaconate ministry when older children need a car to get to work, I am begged to substitute teach a CCD class and someone needs to watch the little children at the same time.
So do I think more is expected of me now? Yes, but only that I give up my husband more. He's asked to attend more gatherings, meetings, and functions, and well, someone has to be home with the little ones so that falls on me. Once again, I'm not complaining, if anything his ministry actually seems less of a commitment than I expected. But sometimes I worry that my older children get stuck babysitting too much when I'm expected to also attend but so far they've been wonderful especially my 14 year old 'go to' babysitter. My children have remarked that they are often called the 'deacon's kids' and seem to be expected to know all the answers of a religious nature. I don't think that's a bad thing, it's allowed us to dialogue about a lot of subjects. Of course, as I've told my children, being the deacon's kids mean that they are being held to a higher standard. I have to tell myself the same thing all the time when someone cuts me off in traffic or I find myself about to yell at my boys in the grocery store. Chances are that someone there knows that I'm the deacon's wife and boy would I hate to hear someone say, 'did you hear what the deacon's wife said?!"
Which brings me to one last thing that I'm trying to get used to: people knowing me because of my husband but me not knowing them. They may not know my name, but they know who I am. I was a competition baton twirler in high school and back then I loved the limelight. I parlayed that into a career in public relations where I felt very comfortable speaking in front of people. But I admit that I'm not used to the attention that we receive within the parish. I really would rather blend into the background, I guess that's why where the children and I used to sit in the front of the church, now we sit close to the back.
So as I navigate through this unchartered area, I have a more heightened awareness of protestant minister's wives and what they go through. This is my husband's ministry, but it's mine too because I live it everyday. As time goes by, I hope that I can write more about my experiences. Although in the rest of the world, the average age of a deacon is significantly lower than in the United States, I think that in the future, we'll see younger deacons here and as a result younger and very probably larger families who have very different needs when there are young children involved.
So I look forward to sharing some of those experiences, but not now, Deacon Joe needs the computer to write a homily.