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HERd management: A dairy mom’s quest for balance

Amy Engberson Published on 11 September 2014

females on farm

Everywhere I go lately, it seems like the conversation turns to balance.

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Maybe I’m having my own personal struggle with how to balance everything in my life.

Or maybe everyone else is having the same struggles too. Either way, I wrestle with myself trying to balance my life.

Women wear many different hats in their lives. I am a mother, wife, daughter, sister, bookkeeper, cook, chauffeur, teacher, caregiver, shopper, cleaner, tractor driver, cheerleader, community member, churchgoer, friend, landscaper, gardener and many more things. It is easy to feel overwhelmed by the many responsibilities we have. So how do we choose which activities to forgo and which to participate in?

It’s easy for me to balance my time when the choice to be made is between something that is obviously a poor use of my time, such as watching TV, or a good choice such as reading with a child. I find most of the choices I have to make are more often between two good activities.

As farmer families, we are no strangers to hard work. In fact, working hard is one of my favorite things about being a farm family. Where do you draw the line though? Last week, my family did not quit working until after dark every night. The alarm went off before six o’clock every morning. There is no such thing as lazy days of summer on the farm.

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The balance question keeps crossing my mind. We are teaching our children to work hard. Are we teaching them to enjoy recreation? Should we leave the unfinished jobs and go fishing once a week? Or should we teach them that we must stick with a job until it is done?

I doubt we will ever look back and say, “We should have spent more time at the farm.” You know how it is, though. When the chores aren’t done, it’s pretty hard to leave.

School has started, and school is almost a curse word at our house. Farming runs through my boys’ blood. They love it. Here is the “school” balance dilemma. My boys are capable of getting straight A’s. They could do it if they hit the books hard every night.

They are much happier going outside and doing chores on the farm. I see value in a kid who knows how to do chores, but how many chores? I see value in getting good grades, but how good?

If they learn the material well enough to get average grades and do chores, is that good enough? Or should I force them to study long enough to get straight A’s? Where is the balance? Where is the happy medium?

Recipe for purple cow milkshakes

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The beginning of school used to also mean the beginning of sports seasons. At least that’s the way it was when I was a kid. Any more, coaches want kids to participate in summer camps, open gyms and team-building activities all summer long. How do I balance the old adage “you get out of it what you put into it” and having family and work time?

Cooking is one of my favorite things to do. In my opinion, we eat fairly balanced meals. I have drawn a parallel between balancing my diet and balancing my life. I feel better when I am eating food from every healthy food group.

I also feel better when I am participating in every important priority in my life. Healthy portion control in my diet keeps my pants fitting right and makes me feel good.

I have to be careful to not overindulge in a particular priority in my life while abandoning other activities. Of course, I’m happier when I have a little dessert after my meals. Most definitely, I feel better when I add some fun activities to my schedule.

Here’s another way of looking at it. Think of a car whose tires are not in balance. If one tire is lower than the other, the car will not run efficiently. Gas mileage will decrease. Tires will wear out more quickly. The ride will be bumpy. So it is with our lives.

If our lives are out of balance, the ride isn’t very pleasant and our ability to function efficiently decreases. If I was to label the tires on my life, perhaps they would be called family, religion, work and health. Maybe if I learn to keep the right amount of air in each of these “tires,” my “car” will run a little more smoothly.

What would you label your tires? Are they balanced? Do they need aligned or rotated? I ask myself, “Is what I am getting out of the activity worth what I am putting into it? Does this activity keep my tires balanced?” Then, confused as ever, I make a decision and go for it. For the record, I vote for leaving the chores one day a week and going fishing. PD

  • Amy Engberson

  • Dairy Producer
  • Monteview, Idaho

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