​​​​​​​​Juggling so many different roles proves both a challenge and a privilege

08 April 2024

I feel very lucky that farming and ‘mum’ life complement each other quite nicely – at certain times. There is the idyllic picture of taking the children down to feed the calves and enjoying the morning sunshine then coming home and having your husband join you for lunch. Or even sharing an afternoon picnic in a back paddock beside the river.

There is also inevitably the flip side, where you take the child to feed the calves and 10 minutes in, they plunge their arms into a freezing cold water trough and cry because their sleeves are wet for the remainder of the calf-feeding session. Or they eat calf poo rolled in shavings from the barn floor because it resembles the bliss balls rolled in coconut that you had at the previous evening’s picnic.

Hmmm …. With all its ups and downs though, motherhood and farming still make a great combination. Idyllic or not, it’s the ability to have your kids with you at work and navigate through the tasks that need to be done at your own speed that makes it so rewarding – again, most of the time.

Like so many other women on the land, I also have other hats I wear within the community. I’m a practising vet, which in its part-time capacity brings a good amount of balance to my life and contributes to my sense of weekly achievement (while also contributing to my bank balance more so than farming at present).

As a mum, I’ve found the hardest part is striking that sense of balance. Finding a place where you feel you are spending enough time with your kids and being the best version of a mother you can be, while also engaging in activities that stimulate the mind in a different way so you can maintain some sense of sanity. There is also that sense of wanting to maintain your own identity in amongst all that. While being a mum is hugely fulfilling, sometimes you need that little sense of something extra.

I am lucky in that farming ticks a few of those boxes. I can spend time with my son, Beau, by having him with me at work and I can still find that sense of purpose outside of being a mum, contributing to the family business and engaging my brain in other ways. I also see that spending this time with him when he’s so young is an opportunity to start showing him how the farm works and most importantly, why we love the land so much and the lifestyle we’re so privileged to have.

It comes with its challenges though, as most things do, and I’ve found keeping children safe is always the biggest concern I have when we’re around the farm. Beau is so quick on his feet these days he can be gone in a totally different direction by the time I turn around to grab the shaving-covered poop out of his tiny fingers just in time.

There are a few ways we have adjusted our farming life style to accommodate having Beau with us at work:

1) Good things take time! Although without Beau I can complete a task in half the time, the reality is that like most women I often don’t have any other option but to have him with me. It’s always worth taking a breather when things are getting frustrating and remembering the bigger picture – it doesn’t matter how long it takes as long as it gets done and we all go home at the end of the day.

2) Invest in a hi-vis vest! It’s much easier to see an escaping toddler when they are dressed in bright yellow! Beau wears his down the farm almost every day and it has already prevented a few close calls.

3) Take the time to set up for success. Every time I try to rush a job with Beau it always ends up taking longer. The best and most efficient jobs are when I pack a bag full of snacks, nappies and toys and take it with me down the farm. This way his needs are met and it prevents the job from being cut short. Food is always a winner! Use screen time if you have to! Some days when we have had long sessions in the calf sheds I have parked him on a haybale with his favourite show playing on my phone. Sometimes that can buy you 15 minutes where they actually sit still, allowing you to get something done with two hands for once.

4) Always remember – my top rule is that no matter what, I am a mother first and a farmer second. My job is to keep him safe and then complete the farm tasks.

Overall these ‘rules’ to live by may mean you need to re-adjust your definition of success on the job, but it’s obviously worth it. Yes, it may mean jobs take longer to complete - as he stops to examine each stone we find on the ground – but the pay-off is peace of mind.

It’s sometimes a nice reminder, too, that by taking the time to slow down a little and see the world through the eyes of a toddler, you can find a renewed appreciation for what’s around you and that certainly brings its own rewards.

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