I was introduced to new terminology—trailing spouse. This is the marriage partner that is uprooted from his or her job when their spouse moves for work. They are the individuals whose job or career is secondary to the other’s and willingly break what in some cases may be very rewarding work and relationships.
I have worked as a full-time ministry professional for many years as my wife has moved away from good jobs and potential advancement opportunities. The sacrifice for a ministry wife is not just in the disruption of career path, but the perks of the relationships that go along with any career. We have moved enough times to have experienced this. We never intended to do so, but planning does not always mirror reality. And, every season of life, from raising kids to empty nest, enjoys its own set of turns and forks in the road.
One of the awkward tensions in ministry life has been the expectations and role of the ministry spouse—especially of the wife. Women are still not appreciated as professionals in the standard ministry programming models where the important focus on child rearing is applied. A young mom is often expected or desires to stay at home, but if you live in California one income cannot cover the rent. Additionally, if a young dad is seen as taking too many nurturing duties he may be less available to the church’s expectations.
I remember once in an employee evaluation being told that “I was an amazing dad” with a frown on the face of my supervisor. During the potty training of my child, I arrived late a few times to work. My review reflected that period. I felt the tension from these types of encounters at times. A family that operates well shares the load from bread winning to diaper changing–I cook, another cleans, and all of it is a partnership. Being the male “spiritual leader” of my house to me has meant being a good partner, supporter, and friend.
In a reversal, we decided that I would be the “trailing spouse” of the family in this new season. My career as a full-time music and worship pastor has had a nice run. Now I can pursue other things and still serve a local church. This current season is where my wife has now a chance to pursue and enjoy her career as an educational leader. With her Master of Education degree in hand and years of teaching and leadership experience, the path is set for her to make her mark.
She is an amazing partner to me and mother to our children. In this season, I am already proud of who she is regardless of where this leads us. Her success means my success. So, if you are a guy wondering about your next season or a woman who desires to step up your career, I hope you and your spouse submit to one another as God takes you down the next fork in the road. Remember, life has seasons. And, we cannot do it alone.