Thanks to Mother’s Day, May is the month when we focus on the women in our lives. It’s a time when women are served instead of having to serve. When accolades are extended to them for their service during the other eleven months of the year.

In honor of the women in our lives and in our churches, I surveyed a group of pastors’ wives for their thoughts on ministry and marriage to pastors. Whether they live in California or Virginia, New York or Florida, their responses are surprisingly similar.

It’s been said the world makes Christians feel as if they’re living in glass houses. But Christians often make pastor’s wives feel like they’re living in a fish bowl inside the glass house. Words and actions are examined as if under a microscope. Their motives are presumed, their children are evaluated, and even their wardrobes are critiqued.

Do you wonder what pastors’ wives think about all this? Here are seven things they wish you knew:

1. I am third.

Of course, God comes first. But all too frequently, the pastor’s wife and family are not even second. They’re a distant third, behind what often feels like the only mistress approved by Christians: the church.

One wife described it this way: “My biggest struggle is forever taking a back seat. Never having goals for us personally, always for the ministry. I would love to take a five-day vacation with no phones. I struggle with the fact that I never feel like [my husband] is just mine, I always have to share him. However, I am blessed by my husband’s love and admiration daily.”

2. I am the “pastor’s wife” but it’s not my only identity. 

One woman responded, “It's the greatest calling ever. I just wish sometimes it didn't have that title. We don't refer to the auto mechanic’s wife or the IT's wife.”

Every pastor’s wife who responded considered her position to be a privilege. Still, many longed to be viewed as individuals with their own giftedness. Pastor’s wives are regularly expected to be a blend of June Cleaver, Ruth Graham, and Beth Moore. Being a wife and mother isn’t enough. They must also lead the women’s ministry, children’s ministry, or both. And of course, they are expected to fill in for any ministry job in the church that no one else wants to do, whether they are gifted for it or not.

3. I know my husband isn’t perfect.

Congregants may believe it’s their duty to point out the pastor’s faults to his wife, as if she doesn’t already know what they are. Or church members may be convinced it’s their obligation to communicate criticism of the pastor to her, in the hope that she will pass along the information or because it’s easier than following Matthew 18 and speaking directly to the offender.

One wife said, “In most jobs your husband may be criticized, but you probably aren't going to know about it. This hurts so much…it must be hard for him to know that I hear about his work flaws more than his friends’ wives hear about their husbands work performance.”

4. I’m not perfect either.

Pastor’s wives are often placed on a pedestal high enough to trigger altitude sickness. But if the pastor’s family isn’t free to make mistakes and grow in church, where else can they grow?

One pastor’s wife shared, “I struggle with those who put us on a pedestal because we will always disappoint at some point.” For those who feel the need to look for fault in her family, she responds, “I promise fault is there. Unfortunately, lots of fault. But we ask God for forgiveness and pray that we too can grow in our faith -that we too can grow spiritually like those in our church.”