As a working mom of three, I’ve long given up the idea of achieving balance.
It seems like when things are really rolling on the ranch or I’m booking a lot of speaking engagements, it’s exciting and fulfilling, and I feel accomplished in my agricultural career. Yet, at the same time, I feel sad and guilty for being pulled away from my family and quality time spent with my kids.
On the flip side, when I carve out one-on-one time with the kids, plan a family outing or sneak in a rare date night with my husband, my cup is filled, and I feel grateful to be able to spend time with the people who mean the most to me. Yet, in the back of my mind, my to-do list nags at me, and I know that I’ll be busier than ever once I get back to my desk.
I feel like that constant tug-o-war will never actually go away. When I set out to do something, I always intend to do it really well. So, when my attention and focus has to jump from one thing to another, it can be frustrating and honestly, quite stressful.
But, that’s just a part of life, I suppose. I think what comforts me the most is that once my kids get a little bit older and more independent, our work and family time will blend more cohesively together. They can hop in the car and come along to a work meeting with me. They’ll be able to help us outside on the farm more. And we’ll be able to attend cattle sales or shows together, without also having to worry about packing a diaper bag.
This is just the season of life that we’re in, but I think in a year or two, we’ll really hit our stride as a family. And together, we’ll be able to work on shared goals and teach our kids the fundamentals of life through the projects we accomplish together on the ranch.
And maybe that’s the best kind of balance I’ll be able to accomplish. Regardless, I hope to find a better balance than what we have accomplished so far in 2019. In a year of hard, our family and work/life balance has struggled.
As I reflect upon this year, it has been particularly tough on many ranching families, including my own.
From the constant barrage of difficult weather events to the markets being in the dumps to ongoing trade wars and an uncertain future, this has been a stressful, challenging year, and I know I’m not the only one who is looking forward to 2020 and hoping it’s a little bit better for the ranching community.
Because of the weather, we are weeks behind in everything from weaning and working calves to winterizing the ranch to hauling hay home to preg-checking cows to marketing show heifers. The days are short. The free time is non-existent, and I spend a lot of evenings as a solo parent while my husband tries to frantically catch up on things outside when the weather permits.
Can anybody else relate to the madness of 2019?
When things are stressful in the ranching community, achieving work/life balance can be especially challenging. And because your work is also your home, it can be difficult to “turn off” and just enjoy each other with so many projects on the to-do list.
I recently read an article titled, “Boundaries,” written by Dave Pratt, of Ranch Management Consultants.
In his article, Pratt writes, “When most ranchers are at work, they are also at home. When they are home, they are still at work. There are no boundaries.
“You might wonder, what’s wrong with that? In her book, A Short Guide to a Happy Life, Anna Quindlen writes, ‘You cannot be really first rate at your work if your work is all you are.’
“Anna isn’t suggesting picking up a hobby, but rather recognizing that we have several important roles in our lives. We are friends, parents, children, neighbors and community members. if we want to live a full, happy life and excel in our work, we need to show up in these other roles.”
In the article, Pratt lists 10 things in a quiz to help you recognize whether you’re working too hard and forgetting to live and enjoy your loved ones. As examples, the quiz asks if you have clear boundaries between your work and your personal life, if you are tired constantly or have an unsustainable work load.
Beyond trying to simply achieve work/life balance, I think praying for farmers and ranchers during stressful times is always a good idea.
A recent article by Amanda Davison, blogger for the nonprofit, “A wife like me,” calls for a prayer for farmers. The post really hit home for me as Davison calls for folks to join together to pray for farmers, to pray for trust, for protection, for faith, for health, for strength, for love and for prosperity.
She writes, “Thank you Lord for our farmers. And thank you for praying for them.”
Are you achieving a good work/life equilibrium, or are things out-of-balance? I fully realize it’s easier said than done, especially this year when we are so far behind with ranch work. But if you don’t take the time to take care of you and do things that fill your cup back up, your work and family will suffer.
So carve out the family time. Make friends and community a priority, too. Take a rest and take care of yourself as needed, as well. Your energy will be renewed as a result, and your efficiency at work will improve, too.
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Farm Progress.