Faculty Wife | Part 2

by Elouise

Corned Beef Hash Ad, untitled

Am I already pregnant? It’s mid-September 1969. We arrived at the Bible College several weeks ago. Classes have begun. We just found out that our health insurance, including maternity care, won’t kick in for at least a month.

We were super careful during August; we knew we had no health coverage. But September?  We completed and submitted the paper work weeks ago. That means we’re covered beginning the first day of fall term. Right?

Wrong! By mid-October it was clear. We would have our second child, but without maternity coverage. How will we pay for this?

My anxiety about not having enough money returns with a vengeance. It’s connected to not having enough money or sometimes enough food when I was growing up. My anxiety does nothing to help our little baby-on-the-way.

Then there’s D with his more relaxed approach. Everything will work out. You’ll see. We can always get help from here or there if we need it.

But it’s more complicated than pregnancy. Back then, the Bible College didn’t have a regular wage or salary scale for employees. They had an ‘allowance system.’

The logic was simple. Since the Bible College is training missionaries, we’re going to live as much like missionaries as possible. That means limited salaries and lack of financial security from month to month.

This wasn’t written down anywhere, but every employee understood up front how it worked.

  1. If money to cover faculty and staff allowances doesn’t come in on time, allowances will be reduced or delayed until funds are received. There’s no cash-flow fund set aside to cover the difference.
  2. Faculty are not ranked, so allowances don’t take into account things like teaching experience or seniority.
  3. Small (how small?) adjustments are made for key administrative positions. The rest of the staff is treated even-handedly.
  4. If you have another child, your allowance will be raised accordingly.
  5. Financial needs are not made public or conveyed via fundraising letters.
  6. Faculty members will be notified in advance if it seems there might be a shortfall.
  7. If and when the money comes in, back amounts will be repaid as quickly as possible.

What can we do about it? Pray and have faith. Perhaps have more children.

So here we are, already planning for our second child, with no health insurance to cover this pregnancy and delivery. We tighten our belts. I become more strategic about purchasing food items. Think lots of powdered milk, and big blocks (called ‘loaves’!) of Velveeta cheese.

I’m eating for two again, and begin following my first pregnancy low-sodium diet. Fortunately, D and our 1-year-old son aren’t fussy eaters. They’re just enthusiastic eaters.

The food choices we made in our first years of marriage becomes slightly more diverse. Additions include canned corned beef hash, homemade biscuits or cinnamon rolls with lots of grape and apple jelly, Cheerios for snacks.

For me, it felt like living with a survival mentality, especially as we neared the end of a month. Often we received our full allowance; other times we received a reduced amount or none at all–until later.

Is this what it means to be a Faculty Wife?

I didn’t give this a thought when I was a student. Yes, we had constant prayer meetings about money. When particularly large amounts were received, the administration called for praise meetings in the chapel. Come as you are, with a robe over your pajamas and a scarf over your hair-rollers.

Yet shortages of money never meant students had less to eat in the cafeteria. That honor went to faculty members and other staff hired on the allowance system. Most were men with families. Some were singles.

Faculty Wives and singles had to make it work one way or another. Some took part time jobs. Rarely did a faculty wife have a fulltime job. Too many children and other home responsibilities.

Were we modeling a Christian missionary virtue of ‘living by faith’? As a new Faculty Wife, it felt more like living on the edge of hunger, and having to keep it secret.

To be continued….

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 29 July 2015
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