My husband is a pastor in rural Minnesota and we just added our third daughter! My older two daughters are 8 and 4 years old. We are busy and have a lot of fun in ministry!
Our church is full of young families and there are a lot of babies. I have seen many moms disappear for a few weeks or even months after their baby is born, as they adjust to motherhood. We miss them at church, and they almost always rebound as they adjust to their new family routine and dynamic.
As a pastor’s wife, however, I didn’t feel like I had the luxury of disappearing for a while as I adjusted to parenting another baby. My husband got one week off, but then we were back at it, going (almost) full-force! I realized right away that I needed to first show myself some grace. I needed to focus on my family first. At the same time, I wanted to get back to serving in the church and ministries that God had led me to. So here is what I’m learning as a third-time mom, as I balance family and ministry.
- Your expectations need to adjust.
Truth be told, I just re-wrote that sentence three times. “Lower your expectations.” No, that’s not it. “Don’t expect perfection.” No, perfection was never the goal. It’s all about your expectations. If you have older kids, you know what you can handle. You know what a normal routine is for your family. You think that you can maintain that routine when you add another kid in the mix. But everything has changed! Adjust your expectations! Here are some expectations that I needed to adjust:
-My older girls may not be wearing cute, complete outfits. Shoes may not match. Hair may not be done. It’s okay.
-Meals may need to be simplified. Cereal may be an acceptable dinner. Forgive your self. It’s just a season. You’ll get back to your routine in time.
-Homework may be on the back burner. We had our third on the week school started, so I preemptively apologized to my girls’ teachers for our lack of beginning of the year paperwork and such. They were very gracious.
-You may be late or need to leave an event early. Yes, I know. As a ministry family, we’re always early for church events. I am sometimes even annoyed at latecomers. However, in this newborn season, give yourself grace. It’s better to show up ten (or twenty or thirty…) minutes late than not at all. People will understand. They just want to connect with you.
2. Jump back in, without feeling “ready.”
Honestly, you’ll never feel totally ready to jump back into church ministry. You’ll worry about nursing or blow outs or handling all your kids or whatever. Just do it. Just jump in. This again requires you to let go of worry. You cannot think through every possible scenario. You cannot plan through every disaster. Just go for it. It won’t be perfect, but it WILL be good!
3. Don’t be supermom!
You cannot do it all. You’re not MEANT to do it all. As your older kids are able, delegate. Give them responsibility. Praise them for their support and helpfulness. My bigger girls can do so much more than I think they can. In the months after baby, my girls helped me so much in getting back into our routine. My middle daughter learned how to buckle herself into her carseat. My older daughter learned how to make a bottle. My husband started taking one or both of the older girls to church with him early, so I could get ready with only one kid to take care of. We all worked together to make it a success.
4. Ministry is a family activity.
It’s time for a family pep talk. Dad is not the only minister. We are a team. We all have something to give. We all can pitch in to make Sundays and any ministry event successful. It’s a great time to reaffirm your family’s mission. Ask the questions, “Why are we here in this city? What is our goal? What do we want to accomplish?” Bring the kids into every conversation, and guide them into seeing ministry as the amazing privilege that it is.
5. Your pace will change for a season.
I know that after each of my children was born, I felt like I had to slow down so much. I felt like I was not as effective for ministry. But God will use you in new and different ways. Keep your eyes open. I have found that parenting and motherhood opens up so many ministry opportunities with other moms. Motherhood connects women like nothing else. Always remember, this is a season. You have years and years in the future to lead groups and studies and teams. This is a season of discipling your children that God gave to you. Honor that season.
Those are my current thoughts about motherhood and ministry, as I come out of the “newborn fog.” My daughter is 9 months old now, and I feel like I’m finally getting back to my new normal. It’s a process. Overall, pastor wife moms, give yourself GRACE! Jesus already did. He loves you. He chose you for your husband, your kids, your church. You are the perfect person for this season. Enjoy it. Find the joy in the craziness!