“I just don’t know how you do it all…”

“For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another.” – Romans 12:4-5

The author with her sons before worship

“I just don’t know how you do it all…” It’s a refrain I hear so often from the members of the congregation I serve that I thought I ought to share my great wisdom with a broader audience: I don’t.

Most mornings are a rush to get my two young boys ready to go for the day. The youngest eats breakfast once he gets to daycare, thanks to the kitchen staff and daycare providers who prepare, serve, and clean up for breakfast and lunch each day. Great thanks be to God for them. The oldest gets a choice of breakfast foods that can be taken in the car, and he’s usually still finishing it when we get to his preschool down the road. The other day his primary teacher and I watched him stuff 3/4 of a mini bagel in his mouth after I kissed him goodbye. Mom of the year.

Some days are harder than others, and sometimes there are tears at drop-off. I rely on the loving care of Ms. Jackie and Ms. Ginny who are ready to help improve his morning transition. I repeat my goodbye and head out of the door, knowing that all will be well. Sometimes I find myself in tears, and post in a facebook group of pastor mamas, “This pastor mama stuff is hard.” They quickly respond with love and affirmation, and I keep moving through my day.

I come to work in the context of a wonderful, active, and supportive congregation. I marvel at the volunteer leaders who give so freely of their time and talents in order to do the work of ministry together. Things get done, and often not by me, and yet I still hear, “I just don’t know how you do it all.” Read more

To Be Made Whole

I know that she is very happy at the day care. She loves her friends there; she’s having fun and learning things that I never could teach her. But still. When I leave on Sunday mornings, she asks me, “Why do you work today? Why do you work when I’m off?” The only answer I can give is: “Because I’m a priest, darling. That’s how priests work.” Sometimes she clings to me and asks me not to leave. That’s when I leave my bleeding heart on the floor, loosen her little fingers as gently as possible, and cry all the way to work.

I know I’m privileged. I live in a country where day care is subsidized; we only pay about $110 a month. I got to spend much time with my daughter Sofia when she was really young. I was on maternity leave (with 80% of my salary) for five months full time and three months half time. My husband then stayed at home on paternity leave (with the same benefits) for another seven months. I know this is unique. I know I shouldn’t complain. But I can’t stop my heart from bleeding. I can’t make my four-year-old daughter understand that this is the way it is and will be. I can’t understand why I’m actually happier working than being at home all the time with my beloved child.

So, there it is. My husband would disagree, but sometimes I secretly suspect that I’m a better priest than mother. Guilt is my constant companion. I wonder how all the clergy men of old managed. Didn’t they lament never seeing their children (and they had so many!)? Didn’t their children cling to them when they left? Did they ever feel guilty?

In the Church of Sweden, we have two female bishops (out of thirteen). The one that was elected last, the bishop of Lund (who used to be a professor at the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago), has a family – a husband and two daughters. I was so relieved when she was elected. The previous female bishops had neither spouse nor children.

I know I should not be such a prejudiced person, but it’s nice to know that now, finally, I have a bishop who knows all about feeling guilty when leaving on a Sunday, who knows how motherhood and priesthood clash and how they enrich each other. Truth be told, I would never, could never, exchange the one for the other. Being a mother, constantly longing for my child, gives me an understanding for God. Feeling constantly guilty reminds me that I’m constantly lacking, as mother, as human, as Christian. Only God can make me whole. Read more