mothers of invention: maryann
current city: Springfield, VA (suburb of Washington DC)
living situation: I live with my husband Robert and my “blessed trinity” of children: Caroline (age seven), Margaret (almost five) and James (almost three). We have two geriatric cats, Maya and Willy, who’ve been with Robert and me since the beginning of our marriage 16 years ago.
Our neighborhood is classic suburbia in many ways—July 4 block parties and neighborhood yard sales. But it’s also wonderfully diverse. We see women wearing hijab pushing their kids in strollers in our neighborhood, and there are more than 100 languages spoken here in Fairfax County.
occupation: I am pastor of Idylwood Presbyterian Church, Falls Church, VA, and a writer. I just finished a three-year stint as a monthly columnist for Presbyterians Today, our denomination’s magazine, and am one of the founders of Fidelia’s Sisters, an e-zine which is by and for young clergy women. I’ve written for secular publications too; I even had a short piece published in the Washington Post Style section a few years back! And I am working on two book projects, although it fills me with anxiety to say that out loud, because I’m not sure whether they’ll ever get done.
how do you structure your time and space? I work part-time for Idylwood, which is a small congregation. When I tell this to fellow pastors, they usually look at me knowingly and say, “Oh come on, there’s no such thing as part-time ministry, right? You just get paid part-time for full-time work.” I am on a mission to prove them wrong! This is my second call at part-time status. I started out full-time as an associate pastor of a large church seven years ago, and when James was born I asked to move to half-time. The congregation was gracious to make the change. Now I work 2/3 time.
It’s a constant struggle to find the balance. I’ve had to make peace with being the “good-enough mother” and the “good-enough pastor.” But most days, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love the work I do, preaching, teaching and caring for this quirky congregation. Yet my schedule is flexible enough to take Margaret to “tap and tutu” class at the rec center and lead Caroline’s Brownie meeting from time to time. I work shortened days, which allows me to exercise in the mornings and still be homeafter the bus drop off in the afternoon. I work a lot of evenings too.
I have an office at the church, but I do a lot of work in my home office. It’s located in our dining room, which we converted into a creative space/study several months ago. In fact, I named my blog “The Blue Room” in honor of this room. You can read more about it here.
Our childcare situation is a dream come true. A neighbor who used to teach preschool began a daycare in her basement when her own daughter was born. She follows a curriculum but it’s more relaxed with the feeling of being at home. She’s half a block away, which makes mornings and evenings much less stressful. My mother lives downtown, which allows Robert and me to have date night a few times a month.
using the metaphor of seasons to describe the phases of women’s lives,
-what are the particular challenges and highlights of your current season? Our family is settling into what the church calls “ordinary time.” It’s not one of the high holy seasons, such as Christmas or Easter—things are just trucking along, and that’s OK. Green is the symbolic color of this season, implying growth, so I associate ordinary time with the summer months. We’re enjoying our kids at their current delightful stages of development, we like our jobs, our house feels like “home,” et cetera.
-what season(s) preceded this one? We’ve been through a lot of transition, which I associate with spring—planting seeds, watering and weeding, et cetera. There’s a lot of beauty in the spring but a LOT of work as well (so I’m told—I don’t garden, it’s enough to keep our kids and cats alive, and I can’t handle anything else!). I’ve been at my job almost a year, and my husband recently changed jobs as well, and that creates stress. Also, our kids manage to pick up every petty illness, fever and cold that’s out there, and they are NEVER sick at the same time. One gets better and the other one catches it. So our normally well-run household has been off the rails for several months.
-what season(s) might your future hold? Even as I live in the moment and try not to speed along my kids’ growing up, I admit I’m ready to get past the constant physical exertion of having young children—dressing them, feeding them, wiping their butts when they poop. I will not miss diapers and sippy cups.
That said, I know from parenting our second grader that the needs are still there as they age; in fact these needs only get more complex (homework, juggling activities, relationships with friends, et cetera). We don’t over-program our children but I’m a little freaked out to think about how I will get them from place to place. Even one activity a week per child adds up when there are three of them! However, I love watching our kids grow more and more fully into themselves. I guess I’m doing that too.
favorite family activities: We love to go downtown to do the DC stuff: museums, the zoo, pedal boating in the Tidal Basin next to the Jefferson Memorial. This summer we lived at the pool. We’ve started doing more hiking, with a recent trip to Shenandoah National Park. We eat dinner together most nights, but Sunday night is family night, which for us means a pizza “picnic” in the basement while watching a TV show everyone likes (currently Mythbusters).
favorite solo activities: Reading, lunch with friends, blogging, wandering around downtown DC, visiting a museum, getting a massage or pedicure. My morning walk is really important to me. I’ve recently gotten into the online courses through the Abbey of the Arts which is a great outlet and something I can manage with my schedule.
source(s) of inspiration: I am inspired by artists whose lives and work speak of simplicity, wholeness and authenticity. David Wilcox’s music never ceases to inspire me, and Carrie Newcomer has provided my life’s soundtrack for almost 15 years. Mary Oliver’s poetry is a great inspiration, especially “The Journey,” which is a personal mission statement of sorts.
best MakeShift moment: Parenting is one big improvisation, no? I call it parenting parkour. There have been many MakeShift moments, but the first one I thought of was seven years ago, when I was being approved for ordination. I had to attend a big meeting of the presbytery (local district of Presbyterian churches) and give a short speech and answer any questions. Caroline was six weeks old, and I knew she would get hungry right when I was supposed to be “on,” so I ended up pumping in the backseat of the car while Robert drove us down the Capital Beltway. I always wondered whether the truck drivers said anything to one another about me on their CB radios…
find maryann on the web at http://theblueroomblog.org/
[if you or someone you know would make a good “mother of invention,” please check out the nomination process and questionnaire located on the sidebar to your right.]
Tags: 2/3 time, abbey of the arts, balance, basement, blessed trinity, church, fidelia's sisters, half-time, idylwood, maryann, minister, mothers of invention, mythbusters, part-time, presbyterian, presbyterians today, pumping, sick, washington DC, young clergy women