What's it like to be the bishop's wife?

Photo by Rachael Nelson
The Apostle Paul said that anyone who desires the office of bishop desires a good work.  My stake president said that anyone who desires the office of a bishop should have a psychiatric examination.  I certainly never hoped to be the bishop's wife.  But here I am, and now people are asking me "What's it like to be the bishop's wife?"  Followed by, "I don't know how you do it."

My husband was called to be an LDS bishop in August of 2009--two months after our sixth child was born and one month after my father-in-law passed away.  I thought things couldn't get any busier, but they certainly have.  Being the bishop's wife is kind of like riding a surf board.  You have to be constantly watching and preparing for the next wave.

People often assume that I know just about everything that goes on in the ward.  On the contrary, I know very little.  My husband keeps confidences and rarely tells me much of what goes on in the ward.  He especially doesn't mention anything that would reflect poorly on others.  He would rather have his own reputation compromised that ruin anyone else's reputation.  I don't ever recommend people for callings or releases (as some have assumed.)  Also, we don't sit around talking about people in the ward unless they've been in the hospital or are in need of prayers or service.

One thing that has surprised me about being the bishop's wife is the phone calls.  I guess I thought I'd answer a lot of calls from people I know in the ward.  On the contrary, most of the phone calls during the day are from people I don't know.  There are a lot of tragedies that go on around us that few people know about.  People are struggling with finances and illness all the time.  Sometimes we don't find out about it until it's too late to help much.

So, how do I do it all?  What's my secret?  When my husband was called, I felt very overwhelmed. I realized that if I didn't take care of myself, I would get sick and my husband would have to take care of me instead of doing his calling.  So I try hard to get enough sleep, do some scripture study, keep up with my prayers, get good nutrition, and get some exercise.  I have tried to let go of perfectionism.

People have high expectations for me, but I've tried to lower my own expectations for myself.  I live by the principle of "good enough."  I often hear people make excuses that they can't do things because they can't do them as perfectly as they should.  Yes, you can exercise without a treadmill or a gym membership or a babysitter.  You can do family home evening without preparing ahead of time.  You can say a family prayer in the car.  For me, good enough is great. 

I also try to have the same lower expectations for my children.  I tell my kids they need to be good examples, but I also try not to go overboard.