Being asked what my hobbies are is always unsettling--just more proof that I don't really exist. Things I do that other people might consider hobbies are what I consider necessary work for the operation of our house. We do not live from scratch to the extent that we do because I have too much time on my hands. Doing things on-site as I am able is a priority for our family, and the products are desirable for thrift and/or quality. Some of them I enjoy; others, not so much. This blog is my hobby, but there's no honor in that. :D
But there is one other thing I spend a lot of time doing: church stuff. Dad has me subcontracted for a women's Bible study, I'm involved in various modest musical endeavors, I'm inextricably entangled with the school, I'm elbow-deep in every project and event, I babysit to make it easier for other people to do church stuff, I put up signs around town, I have clean underpants on hand for when a kindergartener next door needs a pair (something that happens enough that it doesn't surprise me any more), not to mention that I'm the main supplier of children to the cradle roll. Many of these things cause our house to fall into greater chaos than usual, but it's cool. It's for church, and everyone in our family gets that. Church operations are a "hobby" for all of us.
This, I think, is what pastor's wives used to do. They weren't co-pastors. They did for their church families the kinds of things they did for their families at home. But since wives don't do what wives used to do any more, pastor's wives don't either. Instead of spending the week making pies for the auction (what am I, a scullery wench? and who makes pies any more?), they won't suffer anything beneath the dignity of leading exegesis sessions in the original languages or organizing spiritual retreats where everybody has to sing stupid songs and cry. They're just as busy and tired from working as everybody else, so they're not going to spend their spare moments doing grunt work at church any more than anyone else from church is. Furthermore, the few who are home and are called upon for such tasks are likely to feel taken for granted, since anyone else would be getting paid for their work, and it does intrude upon household operations.
Contemporary pastor's wife angst is cut from the same cloth as contemporary maternal angst. Maybe we don't all play the organ or teach Sunday School or do those things we all love pointing out that we don't do to prove that we're "not the typical pastor's wife," but sheesh, can we please put this boring whine away? I know it would make my husband's life a lot easier if I did play the organ, so that's nothing to be proud of. :P
But the argument I'm more interested in making is that the traditional pastor's wife, like the traditional mom, is primarily someone who is available. Someone who might be able to answer your question, or if she can't, can make sure it gets answered for you. Someone who has the keys and knows where things are. Someone who is there when there's cooking or cleaning or calling of plumbers to be done. Someone who is sensitive to and patient with a parish's quirks and needs. Someone who knows who needs help when, and who might be able to offer it. Someone who can quietly take care of the stuff that other people don't even realize needs to be done. Someone who considers her special gifts an offering to the church rather than something she has a right to pursue and showcase on her own terms for her own fulfillment. Someone whose work stretches the church budget rather than eating into it. Someone who doesn't growl about how she's not getting paid for this and if she were in some other church she'd have a desk and a paycheck (thank you, Commissioned Minister roster).
And all this disregards the fact that there's a rather huge Christian tradition out there that's been getting along just fine without clergy wives and their important, important "ministry" for centuries. Perspective, girls.
Anyway, that's my hobby. And I like it. I love church and I always have and I'm glad I can do things for church because I'm home. Thank you, God.
UPDATE: That should be "pastors' wives," not "pastor's wives" in the third paragraph. How embarrassing.