One of the Diocesan Counsellors that I interviewed said this:
There is a great deal of stress on the families, the priest has a vocation but did their spouse and children sign up to this life? Ministers will in all likeliness have a working spouse in order to make ends meet. Juggling becomes a particular issue as their days off are unlikely to align
I haven’t experienced this particular problem myself as my husband and I have the same day off. However I do sometimes have to juggle my day off for a funeral or special event. One clergyperson said this, which I completely agree with:
A six day week is brutal. I barely get time to catch up on rest and maybe do something creative occasionally. I am very, very tired and just don’t catch up with just one day a week. That day off often has to move because there is only me who is ordained and no admin help. If the diocese puts a training day or a funeral comes in on my day off, I move the day off which means I can do 9 or 10 days without a break.
A related issue that I struggle with how out-of-kilter I am with the rest of society – I dislike my twitter feed on a Saturday evening because others are watching Strictly or going out and hanging out with their friends and I’m worrying about my sermon. Sunday lunchtime I’m wibbling while others are spending time with their family. Christmas Day, after the services, I’m in a coma; Mothering Sunday is not lying in bed being pampered… Easter Day I have no interest in chocolate eggs. Of course these times are very special to me in a different way, but I feel like an observer of society rather than part of it. And that hurts, somehow, I feel like an alien.
I understand this difficulty better having read this brilliant article in the Guardian by Judith Shulevitz (it is well worth a read). She writes about Stalin who introduced a form of shift working so that people worked four days then had a day off. In the factories, the teams were divided into five groups and so on any given day four of the teams were working and one had a day off, meaning the factories could run seven days a week. Shulevitz writes:
It proved massively unpopular, though, not least because it made communal life impossible: families and friends with different rest days couldn’t coordinate social time together. (“That’s no holiday, if you have to celebrate by yourself,” one worker complained.) Stalin didn’t mind – undermining the centrality of the family was part of his plan, after all – but the new week didn’t boost production as planned, either, so it was phased out.
Of course it is not just clergy that suffer from this juggling of the day off, many people do, but with clergy we miss every Christmas, Easter, Mothering Sunday and almost every Saturday Night or Sunday Lunchtime, the traditional dates and times of our communal lives together.
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