When I started this blog, I quickly discovered that I wasn’t the only one who felt the need to write about life as a Vicar’s wife. Some fellow bloggers were enthusiastic; others reluctant- or even resentful; and others perhaps a little indifferent. It seems there are all sorts of ways that one can approach this title, role or description; but that clearly, it is a kind of identity that inspires a decided approach.
For me, the prospect of being a Vicar’s wife was always an exciting one. I simply saw opportunities- shortcuts even- to active service in the church and community. A unique path into people’s lives, with the time to discover their needs and discern ways to meet them. I mean, seriously, with approval from the boss and an entire building to utilise, there’d be no bounds to the kind of work someone with my imagination could devise!
“The church roof is the limit!”
(Isn’t it always?!)
The point is, I never really worried about struggling with my own identity or feeling like a spare part; because in my head I was always going to be busy. I’d be using my own God-given gifts, skills and creativity to compliment my husband’s. I’d be helping, hosting and being hospitable to others, as well as being readily available and attentive to my own family. I’d have voluntary job satisfaction, complete with stay-at-home Mum satisfaction; all without the restraints of contracted employment. What could be better?!
As such, I spent best part of my time at college preparing for such a future. I did online courses in disciplines that I imagined could be useful. I organised skills sharing workshops, which utilised the training and past lives of others in the community, aiming to improve our understanding of things like Vicarage parenting, pastoral issues, people groups and projects. All of which were intended to prepare ‘us spouses’ for a fast-approaching future; one in which we would find ourselves highly unqualified, yet perfectly positioned and in high demand.
That was my expectation.
That was my approach.
Unfortunately, however, ambitious as it was; it is an approach that didn’t prepare me for right now. For the time inbetween that strange missional fantasy and its slow-burning reality.
For now, to be quite honest, this 2-month-old Curate’s wife feels… disconnected. Lonely. A little bit useless, and yet still unbearably exhausted.
Now is nearing the end of the summer holidays, during which all of our new routines have been out of order, and either we, or the people I was beginning to get familiar with, have been out of town. In this time, we have driven hours to see both sides of the immediate family, confirming just how far either of us now are, from our long-stretched roots. Last week, I called into our old neighbourhood and found the place already full of strangers; making me instantly aware that I now no longer belong there. Driving home however, to the place we’ve lived for barely two months; I was not entirely convinced that I belong here either.
Here, Husband is getting gradually busier and more acquainted with church and community. Here, even though we agreed I’d let him settle in first, I can’t help comparing our experiences and worth. For here, he is just about getting his feet under the table, and I am feeling increasingly unsettled and lost.
Which brings us to last week; when a stranger unwittingly tipped the iceberg.
I was attempting to mingle at a church event, when a man asked if I was “just a wife, then?” He apogised immediately for the way it came out, but asked again if I was also in training, or if I was just, you know, there with the husband? I laughed it off but, already feeling fragile, thought about it more and more throughout the week. Because, although I’d had similar experiences before; this time, all I could say was “yes”. There was nothing to be indignant about; nothing to fall back on; no defense about all of the things I was personally doing for the good of church and community.
Currently, presently, I am just a wife.
And, (dark as it sounds), in that moment, I wasn’t entirely sure that was enough justification for my life.
The following day I took the kids into the local town for the first time, and tried to remind myself that I’m also a half-decent mother. This plot royally backfired, however, when I stupidly found myself pushing the pram around Poundland, rubbing shoulders with a bunch of other stressed-looking Mums with multiple kids and growing bumps, and feeling so panicked that I had to leave.
I’m just a wife. I’m just a Mum. And outside of our family… that means… schtum.
It’s sad to admit, but as we got back on the bus and I searched hopelessly for my lost day ticket, I felt so worthless that I cried. Right there on a crowded bus, as my kids pressed their faces, blissfully unaware, against the window.
All of these visions I had about us being ‘in it together’; saving the world, one wet shoulder and one walk-in lunch at a time…. Right now, they feel like a lie.
I feel like a lie.
I think I’m having an identity crisis…
And it’s probably right about time.
See, for as long as I can remember, I think my identity has been rooted in what I do. More than that, I realise, it has been rooted in what others think of what I do. Interestingly, I’ve always worked or volunteered for charitable organisations; always been attracted to things that make a difference. Largely for the right reasons, (I hope!); but also because I feel a worrying need to justify my existence to the world. And it is only now, when these things have been fully stripped away and I’ve found myself supporting someone else’s call from behind the scenes; that I’ve realised how much pride I have derived from this, and how much shame I feel underneath.
Without what I do, I don’t know who I am.
And without others’ approval; I don’t know where I stand.
Which begs the question: if you need to serve, or be seen to serve, to feel good about yourself… Then who are you really serving?
And if you’re constantly trying to justify your life, with works and deeds and actions; then how can you really be rooted in Christ, who frees us from such distraction?
I have no doubt, when I sit down and think about it properly, that the very best thing for my family, right now, is to have my full and undivided attention. For my Husband, barely 2 months in to an all-encompassing, unstructured new role; and for my kids, who’ve left neighbours, preschool, family and home. For my growing child, the welcomed surprise, sapping what’s left of my energy; and you know what, even for me, who wouldn’t change any of them for the world.
I just have to let myself accept that investing in them now is alright; even though it may hold no social worth, or others think I’m “just a wife.”
I have to remember we live for One who sees in whole, and not in part; that though we look at the outward appearance, God looks at the heart.