My family and I have been anxiously anticipating the arrival of our second child this June. Giving our two-year old daughter Scarlett a younger sister or brother is a dream come true, and with all the excitement of adding a newborn to the mix, I’ve also started remembering the challenges of having a baby while juggling the responsibilities of the ranch.
I asked some of my fellow ranch parents for advice on how to find balance between raising kids and cattle. Here are five tips for ranching parents:
Getting things done on the ranch with kids in tow can make any task take a lot longer, so patience is key. Understand that bathroom or snack breaks will be necessary with kids even if you’re in the middle of doing something important.
2. Plan ahead
Are you and the kids going to be away from the home place for hours on end? Are you going to be on the road? Are you close to a place you can heat up food or do you need to pack a cooler? It’s important to pack items for any scenario. Make sure the diaper bag has extra clothes (layers for all types of weather), snacks, movies and DVD player to watch in the truck, outdoor toys and anything else that your kids might need if they are away from the comforts of home all day.
Even though you’ve tried to prepare to handle anything that comes your way when tackling jobs like working cattle or fixing fence away from home, it’s impossible to plan for every scenario. Kids are flexible and can have fun with simple things. Make up a fun game, play tag or let them play in the dirt or straw. Kids will find fun wherever they are, and if they truly get bored, put them to work. Responsibilities get kids involved and give them a sense of value and importance on the ranch.
4. Age-appropriate responsibilities
Speaking of responsibilities, whether your kid is six or 16, there are age-appropriate tasks they can handle on the ranch. When they’re young, they can watch gates, work with a good horse to gather cattle, or help feed and water stock. As they get older, they can keep records while working cows through a chute, sort (depending on the disposition of your stock), or run machinery as needed. They can also be the runner and bring food and coffee to the working crew or do odd jobs around the house while you work outside. Knowing the maturity level of your kids and keeping safety in mind are key when giving your kids responsibilities on the ranch.
Most importantly, safety is a key. Whether that means putting your toddler in an old playpen in the barn while you calve out cows or having a safe spot for them to watch on the catwalk while running cows through the corral, safety needs to be a top priority. It’s hard to eliminate all risk when having kids on the ranch, but being proactive in discussing hidden dangers of the task can help your kids recognize where they could get hurt or killed and help them to make wise choices even if you’re not always watching.
What other advice would you give to ranch parents? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Penton Agriculture.
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