Angie wrote a post that caused several comments about her vacation planning. I commented on her blog, but I didn't want to take over her post so I decided to blog about it myself. One of Angie's points was that for most jobs a week vacation includes the weekends before and after the week. This is not true for pastors, their vacation depends on how many Sundays they will miss.
Esther blogged that her husband had a week vacation (as long as there were no funerals) and she had quite the "honey do" list for her husband to get things done around home. I don't know if she wished that they could go somewhere, but I can't imagine being able to use vacation time to stay home without Ram having commitments for a whole week. Thankfully my dad is usually willing to be a handyman when he comes to visit or nothing would get done around here with Ram's schedule as a pastor!
Ram has a tri-parish and it is very difficult to find a substitute to do all 3 services. Plus our churches don't really have the money to pay a substitute stipend or mileage. There are a few retired pastors in the area (if you count a 3 hour drive as in the area) but they are really too old to do all 3 services. A few times Ram has written a sermon and asked the elders to read it. One of the churches doesn't have any elders or members willing to read a sermon. Once one of the elders read the sermon at two churches so Ram could have a Sunday off. One of our friends, his church felt bad they couldn't give him a raise so he was given an extra Sunday off instead. That would never happen here! Sometimes my dad comes and preaches for Ram as a retired LCMS pastor. But last year when he did that, we went to CA to see Ram's mom's side of the family and we weren't even home when my dad came and preached. When we want to take vacation to visit my parents then my dad doesn't want to come here and preach!
So technically Ram gets 3 weeks vacation and I think the churches would be generous and give him extra than that, as long as he didn't miss more than 1 or 2 Sundays. So here's what we have done in the past- a little more than 1 week to IN driving to my parents, usually missing one Sunday; 1 week flying to CA and Ram's parents meet us there, not missing a Sunday; and 1 week driving to a conference like CCA in WI to see friends, not missing a Sunday. Every other year we try to drive to ID, not fly to CA, which takes 2 weeks and we miss a Sunday. On the ID years then we don't get to see friends at something like CCA and we don't get to miss a Sunday to go to IN, we have to make IN a really fast trip. My parents are 15 hours and Ram's parents are 19 hours driving without stops. We can drive to my parents in 2 days and Ram's parents in 3 days if we really push it.
This year Ram went to family and friend funerals in both January and February. He didn't miss any Sundays but he missed Ash Wednesday. He is also going to Synodical Convention and will miss 1 Sunday and be tired for the next Sunday. My parents are coming to help me with the boys while he is gone and my dad will preach while he is gone. We are going to CA for a week without missing a Sunday and we hope to go to IN this fall and possibly miss one Sunday for that trip. I was really worried about our vacation until we got this figured out. We haven't been home to IN since June 2008 and I was homesick for my town and friends there. My parents have come to visit here but it's not the same as going home.
I have a friend that the family goes to her parents and then the dad flies home to be pastor and the mom and kids stay at her parents for about a month. I can't imagine the logistics of that as we live 3 or 4 hours away from the airport. Nor do I want to be apart from Ram for a month. I doubt we will ever work out vacation like that.
One of the comments on Angie's blog reminded us pastor's wives that everyone doesn't get to take a vacation every year. I have a couple of points about this-
1. We asked to be sent to any state bordering IN or ID and we got sent to MN. Many (I know not all) jobs, you could pick to live close (one day's drive) to at least one set of parents or family. So unless our parents come here, we never get to spend any holidays with our family. When I was little my dad would do church on holidays and then we would drive the 3 hours to my grandma's. That's not an option here.
2. I realize that this is true for many jobs, but when Ram takes vacation he has a lot of work to do before and after his vacation (writing a sermon for the elders to read, making up shut-in visits for when he was gone, etc.). When his younger brother died he had to have a sermon ready the day after we got back from the funeral.
3. The only job that I can think of that is similar to a pastor is a doctor. They both get phone calls in the middle of the night, sometimes have to spend long hours with a family, and get phone calls during vacation for emergencies. But doctors have someone to cover them while they are on vacation. Doctors can schedule appointments around their vacation. Yes, Ram has an area pastor to cover for EMERGENCIES while he is gone, but not for all the other pastor duties. I know that doctors use all their vacation because sometimes I have a difficult time getting an appointment!
4. The ones I feel sorry for are the cantors and organists and musicians of the church. They can't really miss a Sunday as it is part of their job and even if they aren't volunteer then they don't get paid nearly enough.
I'm glad that Ram is a pastor here and our members are generous and take good care of us. But I hate living so far away from both sides of the family. My way of coping with the distance is vacation. Ram's vacation time is precious to us and we only use it to visit family. Since we moved here, my sister has come to visit us, but we have never gone to see her. SC is just too far. It would be so nice to use some vacation time to go somewhere to see friends (like New Orleans where Ram did his vicarage) or just an educational trip to see something for the Lambs. When my college girlfriends got together a few years ago, they had to work around my not missing a Sunday.
So this post was not nearly as organized thoughts as Angie had, but I just want to say that even with all that goes into planning a vacation, I was truly relieved to figure out our vacation for this year. Just figuring out the vacation makes me a better SAHM and pastor's wife and homeschool mom. I'm also so thankful that Ram has a job as a pastor right now, as there are very few Calls and even the Seminary graduates weren't all placed this year.