The following is a somewhat edited version of a reply I made to a private communication from a reader of this blog a couple of years ago whose husband was contemplating seminary:
Dear Introverted soon-to-be clergy wife,
I have complete sympathy for your introversion and the need to get home from church sooner than your husband wishes. I and some other clergy wives I know are very much in the same boat.
We are a one car family and live 20 minutes drive away from the church. If I truly need to go home I do, and he either calls me to come back and pick him up later or gets a lift from someone else. Or I make a run to the store for needed things while he is seeing people who need to see him after church, and pick him up when he phones my cell. When the kids were the right age, and I could see people were just blathering on at him about nothing much, I trained them to go up to daddy and flutter their eyelashes and ask to go home (I am not kidding! 🙂 Parishioners love those cute kids and are willing to let the priest go, when they would not take the same thing from his wife!)
These may not be options for you at this time, but are worth remembering for the future…:-) . (If he gets a lift home from someone else, however, it must be arranged before you leave, and it must not be a female person!)
There is not only one way to be an effective church wife; your first priority is to do whatever you need to do in order to make your home a castle that he can come to, to be with you and your children when church is over. You can’t do that if you are depleted by too much church yourself.
The social conversations that ‘never end’ do need to be reined in or he will find himself burning out very quickly, as he cannot tend to the needs of many parishioners (including his own family) when too much time is spent on the one person who happens to be talking to him at the moment.
Being a priest’s wife does NOT mean being a single mother or pseudo-widow. On the contrary, the priest’s family is meant to be a good example to all of the congregation, and in this era of broken and dysfunctional homes, they need to see how good he is at taking care of his own wife and children and respect the boundaries. But he and you together will need agree beforehand what those boundaries are; and he will need to be the one to make clear pro-actively to the parish what those boundaries are. Remember– he picked YOU to marry before he got started on the seminary track! And remember that you and your kids are just as much parishioners as anyone else and just as much in need of the priest’s attention– in fact more so!
If you end up at a parish with a church house next door, this will simplify going home somewhat; but at this point it is more important that your husband understand and support your needs in this area and work with you to see that both of you agree how best to balance the church work with the family life.
I recommend you both read the book Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend. I understand this book has been used at some seminaries in preparing priests and their wives, and there are a number of related and specialized volumes such as Boundaries in Marriage.
It is important to deal with this before you get to seminary let alone to a parish assignment. My suggestions here may be useful, but ultimately only the two of you working together are going to be able sort this out so that it doesn’t come round to bite you later on. God bless and guide you on the road ahead!