I wear a uniform when I work. Black polyester shirt in a relatively unattractive cut (I could probably sew similar with my fledgling sewing skills), no darts, no attempt at a waist. A black suit skirt or slacks are clipped from their hanger and comfortable yet dressy black shoes are set next to me as I dress. I tuck in the fabric that billows a bit too much, an effort to give shape to the shapeless, and then a dash of color in the form of a pair of earrings. At the last, I snap the plastic collar I wear into place.
It is this collar that causes the tears. Because, when I am in the collar–my role as priest supersedes that of my role as mama. “Nogooo Mama, Nogooo!” A swift hug and a kiss, “sweetie, I have to go, the people are expecting me. Mommy will stay with you while I am at work”
We have learned, the hard way, that my wife and son cannot worship when I am celebrating. As a supply priest my Sundays are spent in the various Episcopal churches in the area. I go where I am called, to sub for a Sunday or two for the various clergy in the area. The last time we tried to bring my son to a church where I led on a Sunday, the screams of “Mama” that accompanied the opening acclamation threatened to drown out the congregation’s response. They left, my wife and son, swiftly–for his comfort and mine.
I am sure that eventually he will be able to sit through a service that I lead. But, I feel that this eventuality is a long way off. Right now, having me there but not there for him is far too difficult of an abstraction for anyone of the age of 2 and a half to understand.
And, as much as it is difficult for my son, these forays back into my other calling as priest keep me connected to the something that is bigger than me and bigger than us. While we have prioritized having a parent at home (me) I relish the reminders of what I hope to return to and what I still am capable of as a person outside of my role as Mama. Preaching and celebrating allow me to continue as priest when I am for the time being a stay at home mom.
And, I think that this notion of dual identity (or many identities) is one that is important for those of us who have claimed (or had thrust upon us!) the identity of parent. We are each many things, and have many roles. And, while the necessity of time or age or phase or happenstance may call us to operate primarily in one arena–this does not mean that those other arenas are empty.
So, who are you? What uniform do you assume in your callings (metaphorically, or literally as the case may be)? Beyond the calling of parent what summon the fullness of you?
And, do please remember I mean the plural of callings here…because there can be so many and I truly believe that having a calling is not exclusive to having other callings!
Heady stuff. But, sometimes Mama does, in fact, have to go.
(So, if you clicked through to the link I posted above, you will know that the collar I talk about is really just an inch (give or take) of plastic which encircles the neck. It’s not particularly comfie and I keep ruining collars by leaving them in my glove box in the summer–I tend to take my collars off as soon as possible when it’s hot.)