Friday, March 20, 2009

The View From Inside the Fishbowl

When I was little, I lived and breathed to be the center of attention. I would do all kinds of crazy stuff - sometimes dangerous, sometimes embarrassing - just to be on center stage. You can practice armchair psychology on me (go ahead, I've done it to myself) and say that I didn't get enough attention from my parents when I was young. Really? I think I was just a ham.

As I grew up, my desire to be in the limelight didn't change but my methods did. As a school-age kiddo I tried to be the over-the-top-perfect student. When I realized there was always someone a little more perfect than me, I did a 180 and became the smart-alack slacker who misbehaved in class. Secretly I wanted to be perfect but just didn't have the time to put in the effort.

Then, in college, I realized that sometimes it's not so great being the person that everyone has heard of. The person that everyone has a preconceived idea about. The person who, upon mention of her name, has a judgment passed upon her simply because of the gossip that has preceded her. It wasn't so much fun anymore to be the center of attention.

Now, I am a pastor's wife. Well, not actually now because Texan Papa has taken another job with church ministry which has taken him out of parish work. But, this year has been the first year in as long as I can remember that my husband has not been my Pastor. And, being the leader of a congregation is like being a celebrity or an elected official in this way: everything you do, everything you say, and everywhere you go is analyzed under a microscope and discussed by people whose business is none of their own.

All the years that I was a "Pastor's Wife" and mother to the "Pastor's Kids" were different than anything I'd ever experienced. Some PW's talk about the pressure to behave a certain way, say particular things, and fit a pre-determined mold of what a "typical" Pastor's Family should be. I'm really blessed that my husband never expected me to be anything except myself. If I wanted to join or lead any church activities, it would be because that's what *I* wanted. I went on Pastor's Wives' retreats and listened to women talk about the burden of being the Choir Director, or the Preschool Superintendent, or the head of the Women's League. All that talk just baffled me... I kept asking myself, Why don't those women just politely say "No, Thank You" when that position is offered to them?

But, being inside the fishbowl I have to say that the view is pretty nice. People automatically treat us differently... in a good way. Upon moving to each new town, we found the fridge of our new home stocked with ready-made meals and fresh produce. People were eager to help us unload our moving truck. Folks always made sure to speak to us at church or out in public. And, speaking of public, all I'd have to say is "My husband is the Pastor of our Church" and it was like an automatic vote of confidence. No ID when writing a personal check? No problem! Don't have enough cash? That's okay, just take your things and bring back the money when you've got it. Need to borrow some tools? Sure, just get 'em back to me whenever you're done. In theory, we should ALL treat each other like this. But in the real world today, it's easier said than done.

Now that my husband is not in Parish Ministry anymore, I miss the fish bowl. When we go to church now, we're just another family among many. When Christmas comes around, no one gives us a plate of home-made cookies or a tin of fudge. No one invites us over to their house for Easter brunch. We're back to being just ... normal.

Which is okay. Normal has its benefits, too. I can correct my kids at the store and people just think I'm regular old white trash. They don't even waste their time gossiping about me during coffe hour anymore.


Lisa@verybusymomwith4 said...

I always wondered what it was like to be a pastor's wife. Ours is always smiling, so sweet, so in control--so NOT ME. Good thing my husband is a real estate agent ;)

sassy stephanie said...

How true. Our previous-before-moving church welcomed a new pastor about 2 yrs ago. Our congregation of 1500+ showered the family with gift cards to restaurants while they made the transition. You are right, why can't we do that for any new neighbor?

Jen said...

I am not a Pastors wife but I do have a need for attention, great amounts of attention. I know where your are coming from.

Jennifer said...

I wouldn't do good in the fish bowl.

I had to spank Baby Girl today in the batroom at Lowe's.

My OB was standing there when the fit started. he quuickly waled away... as did everyone else in our vicinity.

Chris said...

LOL @ sinful heathen.

I wouldn't do good in the fish bowl either. I hate being watched. Sure I do as I please anyways... but.. I try to keep attention OFF of myself.

People have preconceived ideas about me. Not because of anything I've done, but everything that my brothers have done.

Christine said...

I actually adore the fishbowl and love being the center of attention...reading you is so often like reading about myself that it is scary!
Anyway....once a year I behave like the perfect "financial advisors wife" and go get my nails done, and pull out my cute boutique clothing just for that time when I have to be a showcase wife for about three days for my husband's annual conferance....if only those people saw me the rest of the year....they would be horrified!

Wendy said...

I can't believe you are a pastor's wife after seeing your "Anonymous Doesn't Fly Here". But then again, we attend a variety of church that is known far & wide for its conservatism. Our pastor's wife in NM (who is from TX originally) nearly had a nervous breakdown every time her 2-year-old didn't act exactly like a Kid-Bot, Version 1.0. Two year old! I kept saying, "seriously, no one is judging you," but I stopped when I realized what a liar I was. Everyone was judging her. :-(

Another of my good friends there was a youth minister's wife. Her 4 kids were ROW-DEEE! The awful treatment & gossip that went around about her over those kids has done some serious damage to her kids. Her hubby quit the ministry over it. After seeing this, I don't think I could be in ministry. I don't even want to teach kids' classes anymore.