As my son approaches the one year mark I’ve been thinking back to those first few weeks of his life more often.
“Did I realize how quickly he would begin to crawl, to walk, and to have ideas about independence from me?”
Thankfully I have spent many more hours holding and playing than cleaning or worrying about home decor, and I think my smiley boy and my messy house attest to that! But I still feel pulled and torn in more directions than I want to manage.
I vividly remember sitting in my hospital room with my new baby less than 48 hours old and trying to get my mind to focus. I needed to complete an online order for dairy supplies on the laptop my husband had brought to me that morning. My entire brain felt mushy and exhausted as I tried to type and remember what products we might be low on. I later learned some of the intense fatigue could be attributed to a magnesium IV. Regardless, I think we can all agree giving birth is not an easy thing to do.
When we brought our new bundle home the farm didn’t stop demanding attention. Because Speedy had come about 2 weeks early we had to quickly shuffle people around to cover my work, and it was made even more complicated by another employee who got sick and needed extra time off. I knew I wouldn’t have a typical maternity leave, but I longed for one. I cherished the few weeks I spent mostly at home. By mid-April I wasn’t working full days, but I still went to the farm with baby nearly everyday. Between JR and my in-laws they would watch Speedy while I checked on calves, made vaccination lists, and talked with my calf employees about projects. Things weren’t as caught up as they should be, but the necessary things got done. Soon it was planting season, and the days got even more crazy.
During low points I would inwardly seethe when I heard other moms complain about only six or eight weeks of maternity leave instead of twelve. Or just as bad, when they complained that their partner didn’t get as much paternity leave as they would like. Obviously neither JR or I got a lot of time off, and it was a struggle from day one to cover the work that had to be done. The rational side of me knows we choose to work as farmers. It isn’t someone else’s fault that I don’t have maternity leave, and I do have the option of brining my child to work if I have to. Other parents with their own business face these same challenges, and there are many more hourly wage workers who don’t or can’t take adequate time off either. By nature I look at all sides of an issue I’m concerned about, and the more I do that the more I realize no one has an ‘easy’ situation. It’s simple to think the grass in greener for everyone else, but that’s rarely true. We humans are also pretty resilient, and we can figure out solutions to do what we must to provide for and care for our families.
Right at six weeks Speedy started daycare, and I will forever be grateful for the warmth and love our first daycare family provided. I missed him beyond measure, but I always felt comfortable dropping him off. I knew he was safe, and I knew she snuggled him like he was her own. The happy pictures that would occasionally pop up in a text message were bright spots in my day. We are now on our second daycare family while our first works toward a new career goal. We were blessed to find a new spot – for an infant no less – where he is also thriving and happy.
While the past year has had intense moments I realize this balancing act is just beginning. As a farmer I know long and unpredictable hours are my reality. I’m sure I will always feel like the time I get to spend simply doing mom stuff is never enough. This “mom guilt” is real. In my case I would title it something closer to lonesomeness. I know it’s not practical to do all my work right now with Speedy by my side. I know cold Minnesota weather, multiple employees to manage, and open air side-by-side driving are not super compatible with an almost-one-year-old. Still, I miss my boy from the time I drop him at daycare to when I pick him up. I struggle with asking my in-laws yet again to watch him on evenings I have barn work to finish. I feel sadness (and tiredness) every Sunday morning when I wake him by 4:30 a.m. so I can feed him, bundle him up, and take him to Grandma and Grandpa’s while I do chores as quickly as possible.
I love his sweet face and smile more than I knew I could love anything. I don’t love him for what he does or doesn’t do. I love him purely because he exists. I have just one more parting thought to mention. No matter how challenging it can be to arrange child care or accomplish tasks with a baby, I am grateful beyond comprehension for him. I never find myself longing for the freedom I had before he was born. Perhaps this is because the farm has never allowed us the kind of freedom to sleep in on weekends, travel, or take sick days that more typical jobs do. I don’t know for sure. I do love being a mom, and I hope we can share our love and values with his siblings someday too. No matter what I do for work or where this farming journey takes us, I hope to instill strong values in him. Among many things I hope to teach my kids the satisfaction of hard work, the importance of being kind, and the reality that God is always waiting to guide and help in their endeavors. Especially when things seem unmanageable. And I will keep striving to believe and illustrate these qualities in my own life.
Moms, and especially farm moms, what insights do you have for me on managing work, home, child care, and daily living while keeping a smile on your face? 🙂