On the weekend I'm attending a conference for the wives of Anglican church ministers in the Sydney area. I enjoy it because I get to catch up with lots of friends who are scattered over a large geographic distance. It's also helpful to hear some teaching and reflection on coping with some of the pressures and challenges that come with being married to someone in this particular role.
I've been asked to be on a panel titled "My Dad's the Minister" because my Dad's an Anglican minister. It should be fun - the other women on the panel are all minister's kids too and great, funny women.
I am a little nervous about this topic. It's a very subjective experience to talk about. Everyone's families are different. Everyone's got a different personality. Everyone's experienced a variety of contexts. I feel reticent to say too much in case it sounds prescriptive (my pet hate).
Personally, I didn't love it and swore, quite confidently, that I would never marry a minister. Others I know, loved being the minister's kid and revelled in it. So we're all different. But what were the things about it that I do remember finding particularly hard?
The first thing I found hard was that people in the church assumed that I would know what my father thought about all church matters. I was keen to be involved in church activities, but I didn't like being asked at a youth leader's meeting 'well, what do you thing your Dad would think about that?'. Especially if I did actually say what I thought he might think, and no one liked the answer.
The second was that if people had a problem with my Dad, instead of complaining to him (way too scary), they'd complain to me (much less threatening and conflict-laden). Or just say "Can you pass a message onto your Dad ... ", followed by a complaint. Very hard to know how to respond. Do you say "OK, I'll tell him" and then you have to cope with your father's grumpiness? Or not agree to pass on the message and then feel the tension between you and the person complaining? Very tricky.
Third issue I thought of, was the assumption that because my Dad was the minister, that we were all then kind of working for the church. Like a small family business or something. This was never an assumption my parents made, but often others did. Which is, I'm guessing why the above two problems would occur.
It will be interesting to see what issues are raised in the panel. I'm sure they won't all be ones that I'll expect.