I read this in the WSJ Online this morning and looked at it from a couple of perspectives. My early childhood was spent as a preacher's kid, so my Mom had the role of clerical wife. I don't remember much of that time, but Mom has told me about doing many of the things mentioned in this piece. Recently also, at their church, my Mom had the opportunity to help their new pastor's wife get settled into her role. Working with a woman who was willing to do the work, but not...gifted...in dealing with people was a challenge. So there's that aspect as well.
But it was when I got to the final paragraph that I saw this gem-
The problem with a facile feminist critique of the role of clergy wife is that it misses the real beauty of the collaboration sometimes found in clerical marriages. There is something wonderfully seamless about their lives--their work and their marriage is all of a piece. Husband and wife are profoundly knitted together, and their shared calling offers something of a rebuke to the hyper-individualism that characterizes so many American marriages. Indeed, they may set a nice example for the flock.(emphasis mine)
You see, I don't think it's just pastors or rabbis and their wives that this should be true of, I think it applies to ALL marriages...or should. It's the 'oneness' that we talk about in Christian marriages. Not that women should lose themselves in what their husbands are doing, but that marriages are strongest when they do share a calling, whatever it is. It could be as simple as being supportive of a career change or working together when a move is needed to advance one's chosen vocation. (This is not to say that husbands don't need to be supportive of their wife's careers, but men tend to do that in different ways)
In my case, it's been the occasional struggle while my husband decided to re-enlist in the Army and I became a military wife. I think being a military wife is much like being a pastor's wife. My job, in addition to anything else I want to do, is to support him and make it easier for him to do his job. I know the perception of 'wifely duties' is something that officer's wives in particular have to deal with too.
But I think that ALL marriages could benefit from the sort of teamwork that has been required of clerical and military families, and the breakdown we have seen of so many of those marriages is due (in part) to the resisance of this sort of 'oneness'. It's hard, because it IS giving up part of your autonomy, part of your self, but the rewards are so much greater than what is given up.