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Beyond Balance: A Review of Anne Bogel’s Work Shift

My husband was running just a few minutes late, the church rummage sale having exhausted all the spaces in the parking lot. My office is just down the hall from our older daughter’s preschool classroom, so when I noted that it was time for pick-up, I quickly saved my document and stepped out to get the girls. On Thursdays, we baby-sit twin sisters before and after school. It was originally just Ben’s job. He is, after all, the stay-at-home dad. But then we discerned that it was finally time for him to enroll in a certification program to become an addictions counselor, and he started taking a class on Thursday nights. The babysitting has shifted to my docket of responsibilities so that he has time to study and drive to campus. We were doing the toddler/vehicle hand-off at church, which is how my narrow office, lined with theology books and biblical commentaries, came to be inhabited with three preschoolers, one toddler, one husband, and one seriously harried associate minister.

 

I had just looked at my to-do list. It would have been fine – full, but fine – if I hadn’t signed on for way too many extras. I am a sucker for extras, especially if they involve writing. Generally speaking, writing gigs are an easy complement for my pastoral work. For instance, I have a great head start on my sermon for the Sunday after Easter in 2014, thanks to a writing assignment for a devotional book. But I’ve learned that I can handle only so many writing deadlines in any given month, and I suddenly found myself staring at three in one week. Thankfully, one of those deadlines included a review of blogger Anne Bogel’s recent e-book, Work Shift: How to Create a Better Blend of Work, Life, and Family.

Turns out, according to Bogel, my patchwork calendar is not nearly the anomaly I’ve thought it to be. Bogel names the upending of the traditional categories, naming that the choice facing parents- and more specifically, mothers- is less frequently one of working full time or staying home full time. Rather, Bogel describes a spectrum of options. She writes, “In many fields, new technology and flexible work formats have rendered the work/home dichotomy a false one. Today it’s not a hard divide; it’s a continuum.” I found Bogel’s naming of this fundamental “work shift” helpful; it’s not that I didn’t already know that many women have continued to identify as stay-at-home-mothers even as they exercise their entrepreneurial spirits during naptime, building profitable businesses and pulling in decent incomes rom blog advertising revenue. I just hadn’t connected that trend with the one I’ve seen unfold in my own life as a full time congregational minister, in both the moments when my family shows up in my office midday, and the moments I am furtively switching back between my Pinterest recipe and my work emails as I hustle to get dinner on the table.

 

Bogel’s book is invaluable for those who have given up on the elusive goal of “balance,” and are aiming to achieve a healthy blend. Which isn’t to say Work Shift ignores the importance of boundaries. It simply names that boundaries have shifted. They aren’t as clean-cut as they used to be. And that’s okay- and potentially even far more enjoyable than yesterday’s alternative.

 

Bogel includes stories from women in different careers and family circumstances. I chuckled as I scanned the various vocations represented. A couple are explicitly church related- Bogel interviewed both a children’s minister and a discipleship minister- but any number of the other professions reflect the broad responsibilities that fall under the umbrella of parish ministry: professor, writer, accountant, teacher, therapist, speaker- even rental property manager! Even though Bogel’s book is not exclusively written for young clergy women (and, admittedly, her lukewarm assessment of feminism may very well make some of Fidelia’s sisters’ blood boil), I found much here that speaks to our varied experience as clergy, particularly for those who are also mothers. This will become increasingly more the case as more and more pastors are engaging in bivocational ministry.

 

Work Shift is available at Amazon.com, and through Anne Bogel’s website, Modern Mrs. Darcy.

 

 

 

 

Katherine Willis Pershey is the associate pastor of First Congregational Church in Western Springs, Illinois. She is the author of Any Day a Beautiful Change: A Story of Faith and Family, and a regular contributor to A Deeper Family. She is extremely fond of her husband and daughters, as well she should be.

 

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Comments

  1. “Ooh, I need to read this book,” she said, wrapping up her workday at 9:50pm, after coming home, answering a phone call from a distraught parishioner, feeding her child, reading bedtime stories, changing diapers, putting her toddler to bed, and editing and posting an online article.

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