To me, there is nothing better than working side by side with my husband and our kids in tow. Not without its challenges that’s for sure, but you have to take some bad with the good.
Being raised on a family farm and growing up surrounded by hard workers, the idea of farming with family never scared me. The amount of work it takes, the determination and drive, and the sacrifices that have to be made at times in order to keep things on track were all par for the course. Motherhood is very much the same way…but the two combined is something that I never could’ve been prepared for. Luckily, I always welcome a challenge.
When we first got married, 12 yrs ago, I didn’t work on the farm. I was doing data entry at a local poultry processing plant and filling in a leave in the Accounts Payable department. I liked the job well enough, the people and the interaction that the day-to-day brought but my heart wasn’t in it. Shortly after we got married I gave notice for that job and started working for a horticulture research business that is owned by a family member. I began to feel more like that’s where I belonged. Hands in the soil, watching the process of growing things from start to finish and seeing the outcome at the end of the trials. During the winter I substituted as an Educational Assistant in a few of our local schools, this kept me on my toes, it was always interesting and I loved the interaction with the students. I wasn’t officially qualified to apply for a fulltime position and by this time my mind was on other things…tiny pink or blue things. Deciding that we were ready to start a family, I left the sub world for a full-time position as a receptionist at a local radio station. Within the first few weeks of working there, I found out I was pregnant with our first child. While I enjoyed the time I worked there, my pregnancy was not easy. Plagued with morning sickness that caused me to lose weight, and then once that was over my blood pressure sky rocketed. Needless to say, I was much more comfortable home on the couch, or during a portion of this time – at my parents on the couch (did I mention that we were also doing a total home reno?…and it was January….talk about timing….) I loved being pregnant, and the anticipation of starting our own little brood was very exciting, so in June of 2008 when out first son was born I knew that cued the end of me working away from home.
That first summer with a baby is all a blur to me. I know I enjoyed it because I have a ton of pictures to remind me. I didn’t really have a role on the farm yet beyond making sure my husband was fed (don’t get me wrong…that job is just as important as any other job we do, a hungry, over tired farmer, male or female, is nothing to mess with) so I was able to come and go with the baby as much as I wanted, sleep when I wanted and manage to stay on top of things. I am sure it was very much like what other first time moms go through, the adjustment of life with another being who depends on you for absolutely everything. I was 21yrs old, so the adjustment in the social life situation was a bit hard for me. Not that I was a bar hopper, or anything of the sort, but I liked being able to just get up and go with the flow. I was a young first time mom and none of my friends were having babies yet so while he was a bit of a novelty to them to come cuddle and play with, instead of going out to lunch, or out to a movie when the cuddles were over, they got to go and I’d hunker down with a little one. Looking back I realize how special that all is, but it was an adjustment at the time.
However, when baby #2 came along 4yrs later, I was working full-time on the farm, 4yr old in tow fairly often but he also spent a lot of his time at his Oma’s, who lives next door. Given that #2 was also a summer baby and we were in full haying/wheat harvest mode, it felt like I went months without seeing my husband. We were also dealing with the loss of someone very special to us, so it was a harder time all around. I remember being home about a week from the hospital when our 4yr old had a total meltdown and I had called for back up. Hubby sent his father. I was a week postpartum, in PJs, and not in a state I wanted anyone to see, let alone my father in law. I think this is where the “when I say I need you – I need you – don’t put anything else first or send someone in your place” speeches started. Transitioning to a mom of 2 was a little more challenging during harvest season than it was with one baby. Twice the juggling, twice the interruptions, twice the work. I remember loving it but also being a little jealous that my husband could go to work and get away from it…or us, depending on the day. Not that he saw it as running away from us but he could escape more often than I could, or felt I could. I probably go an hour or two here or there for a lunch date with a friend, or when we had tractor trailers come pick up square bales of hay or straw, and a day in the fall or spring for a cattle sale date but the days between all seem now to have run together in a stream of toothless grins and baby coos, adorable but exhausting all at once.
Then…baby #3 came 2yrs later. By this time, having been pregnant all through the summer months and then on hospital rest for 2 weeks before his birth, I was done. But shortly after bringing him home I felt more confident in my role. Not only as a mother but as a wife and a farmer. Knowing he was likely my last, I took more time to enjoy him but also started to look beyond life with babies. 2 weeks after he was born I cleaned out our pig pen with a shovel and it felt amazing being back in a barn, doing something physical and I was reassured that yes, I am where I need to be. That little reminder was all I needed to push forward and carve out my role on the farm from that time forward. He spent more time as a baby in the tractor than either of the older two, and he was totally fine to be along for the ride. Some of this had to do with the fact that while my chief babysitter at the time, my mother in law, was overwhelmed by the other two, and having all 3 was just too much to ask of her but a lot of it was my own confidence. Being a fall baby I had time to ease into things because we had less going on, but I really believe I matured as a mother at that point and just learned how to balance everything a little bit better. (I use “balance” as a very loose term…because I’m not sure I believe that we ever achieve it, we just get better at juggling)
One thing I am ever so thankful for is that I have an amazing friend who was pregnant at the same time as I was for the last 2, and our boys are like cousins to this day. It made my days brighter knowing she was in the same boat with her children and farm family as I was with mine. We could send each other a message for support and get a response right away, no matter what time of day or night, and we could drop anything for a visit at a moments notice. We didn’t care, and still don’t, that we may walk in to 3 piles of laundry and a weeks worth of dirty dishes piled up at our respective houses. We helped distract and encourage each other through those long days when the baby bliss had worn off but the fatigue and isolation of young motherhood had set in.
While I am sure most of that seems pretty normal to any new mom, the part that separates us a bit is how much I did alone, yet knowing my husband was so close. During the peak of the season, there were days that hubby would come in from work and the boys and I would all be fast asleep, and he’d be gone again in the morning before they’d really had a chance to see him before a new day began. (Again, that’s sacrifice, he made up for it on the down days and it wasn’t easy for him either having not spent time with them during those long days) I got used to lugging the kids by myself to family events, spending 12-14hrs a day with no other adult interaction, not being able to go to the grocery store because someone was always sick, or cranky (most of the time that was me 😉 ) When I look back on those early days with babies, I do think of it with a kind of melancholy feeling of loneliness. Not that I would change a thing, that was part of the package, and while I still do a lot on my own with the kids, as they get older it is much easier for me. I’ve come in to my own as they have grown. Also, I have a ton of family support, someone is always around willing to lend a hand or when they were tiny, snuggle a baby almost anytime I’d ask. I tried not to ask to much of people, but they were always there when I needed them, and still are.
Now at ages 4,6 and 10 we’re entering a new stage. The independence has created a whole new aspect of parenthood. We find we’re able to leave the older one in the house for longer periods of time, or let him have some more freedom to roam around the farm and putter away at jobs of his own, he and our middle man are also both in school, and the youngest in part-time daycare so I have some freedom to get back to the things I love outside of being their mom. I have time to appreciate them more than feel like they depend on me 150% of the time. Plus, I’ve realized that although I always wanted to be a stay at home mom, I’m a much better mother when I have some space from them. That used to cue up the ol’ “mom guilt” but I quickly learned not to let it. It only benefits them more if I am happy. As the saying goes “when momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy” is true. If I didn’t enjoy my farming lifestyle, or whatever job I ended up doing, it would in all likelihood run down to their happiness as well. And that’s not fair to any of us.
This summer, even though it had other challenges, I found it was the best one I’ve had since having kids. And I think they would all agree that it was also their best yet. They were old enough to go to overnight camp and take part in a few day camps they were interested in. The oldest started working on projects around the farm and stayed busy with mowing around barns and a few smaller tasks that we knew he could handle. Plus mid summer is a busy 4H time with our county Achievement Days, which he had several projects in. Our middle man played baseball twice a week. And our youngest went to daycare 3-4 days a week depending on how busy we were (Insert here how thankful we are for a flexible daycare! We are soo appreciative for their understanding of our lifestyle) While reading that back it almost says “I enjoyed summer because my kids weren’t here” That is not at all accurate. They were occupied. That makes the difference. They were able to be stuck with us working later at night, or during their days in between activities, because they knew the next day they would be having fun with their friends. It allowed them time away from the farm and to experience things that they often miss out on because the timing of it often coincides with a great hay day. While they understand our priorities of work over fun, we don’t expect them at their ages to set that same expectation for themselves, they are kids after all!
While I often get praises for being a “supermom”, or comments on how I ever do it all, I don’t believe I am anything close to super, and I do it all because its my life. It’s normal to me. Mixing parenthood with a full-time farm is hard. When one thing throws a wrench in the day, it effects not only our work, but our home as well. Luckily I work well under pressure and I do better tackling things head on then I do to trying to pick and choose whats next. I bite off more than I can chew, I lose my temper, I am halfway through 100 projects that I may never complete, I haven’t finished a book since 2013 and I can’t remember where I left my coffee cup. That is pretty normal for motherhood in general, no matter what the occupation so I feel in good company with all the mothers of the world.
With all that said (phew, I think I broke a sweat!) I wouldn’t change those years for the world. They weren’t as gloomy as they sometimes seemed and they shaped me into the mom I am at this point in time. As the kids grow I am sure I will continue to grow and morph in to all kinds of different mothers but the goal will always remain the same. To be there for them no matter what. To make sure they grow to be kind, respectful men. To instill in them that hard work will take them where ever they want to go in life. All I ask in return is for them to know that I did the very best I could as their mom, for them to do what ever they are passionate about no matter where life takes them and that there will always be a hot meal waiting for them anytime they need a reminder where home is.
Here’s to my future. Forever thankful for my yesterday.