Rev Jules Middleton shares the realities of being a 'ministry mum' this Mothering Sunday.


It’s somewhat ironic that as I write this piece I can see last Mothering Sunday’s spa gift voucher, still stuck to the fridge, unused. Mothering Sunday is an interesting time to reflect on being a "ministry mum". Mums up and down the country will be experiencing breakfast in bed, chocolates, hand drawn cards, perhaps even a lovely family lunch, which they have not had to cook. Not so much for a ministry mum - the thousands of us across the country balancing a role in ministry with being a parent.

We might be starting Mothering Sunday sneaking out of the house at dawn for an early service while the family dozes on; or desperately trying to corral an errant toddler or two to be on time for the 9am; or perhaps dealing with a poonami that has exploded all over our freshly laundered cassock, right before we leave the house.

We might be trying to corral an errant toddler to be on time for the 9am or dealing with a poonami that exploded over our freshly laundered cassock.

In some ways, being a ministry mum is no different from other working parents, and yet so often the Church is behind the rest of society - equality, standards and expectations are rather different. Stories of misogyny, lack of provision, being labelled aggressive for simply being assertive, or a "snowflake" for wanting to be at home with a sick child, are sadly not uncommon.

In other ways being a ministry mum is vastly different, our roles overlapping, boundaries are frequently blurred. Asking a bunch of ministry mums recently about today’s challenges, their answers were varied. There was the humourous: What to do when you are launching into your sermon when the toddler hollers up from the pews ‘Muuummmmm, I need a pooooo’? Or how to hide from a parishioner while waiting at the doctor’s for a smear test? There was the very real and current: what on earth do I do about the rising cost of childcare on a minister’s income? And the mundane but necessary: trying to fit everything into the family diary from school plays and parent’s evenings, to getting in the food shop and doing the dog walk, plus three evening meetings and a visit to see the Archdeacon. And the heartbreaking: how do I navigate miscarrying while in such a public role? Or the desperate need for privacy while supporting a teen with mental health conditions. Not to mention single parents juggling everything by themselves; the needs of kids who are neurodiverse or disabled; sick partners and more.

So often the Church is behind the rest of society - equality, standards and expectations are rather different.

Perhaps the biggest challenge is the assumptions held about us by others. That we will variously be: assumed to be responsible for all housework and childcare and available to the church 24/7. That our partners, where we have them, will be automatically available as free church labour, and our kids will always attend church, but never get in the way of our ministry. Being asked to work long hours while also being told: "What you are trying to balance is impossible."

I expect many of us will be dreaming of a lovely family focussed Mothering Sunday when the reality is we’ll be at work - but we will probably be loving it too. Being a mum in ministry is a vocation. We feel called to be ministers and mums at the same time, bringing our own gifts, experience and intellect along with being a mother. Most of us are carving out a new way of doing this with flexible working hours that accommodate the school run and the PCC meeting; baby wearing Mums presiding at communion; toddlers bringing joy to the older generation at pastoral visits and so much more. I believe being a Mum in ministry brings beauty, blessings and gifts not just to our families but to our churches too. Happy Mothering Sunday to all!