I was part of a panel discussion about agricultural advocacy at a recent co-op meeting. During the discussion, one of the dairy women in the group asked me, a little incredulously, "How do you balance being a dairy farmer and a mom and an advocate? You must be superwoman."
Likewise, I was chatting with a fellow dairy mom at a dairy show this summer. The conversation drifted towards the topic of 4-H and my experience with my family's first year of participation. We talked about the time commitment and shortly after, my friend said, "I don't know how you do it."
Before I say anything else, let me make a couple things clear: There is no balance. I am not superwoman. And I don't do it all.
I've come to believe that balance is a mythical idea. Balance would mean that, each day, each area of my life received adequate attention. That never happens. Some days I wish I had spent more meaningful time with the kids. Some days I feel like I didn't get enough done outside. Most days I wish I had more time to cook and to write and to sleep.
Superwoman might be able to do it all, but I can't. It is nearly impossible to keep all the torches I'm juggling in the air. When there are extra chores outside or the kids have activities or I have a meeting, I drop the housekeeping torch. Thankfully, we've been bestowed with enough hand-me-downs to keep the kids clothed when I don't do laundry for a week. When I have a meeting or a project deadline, I often have to hand my chores off to Glen - who is incredibly supportive of my crazy schedule. I also rely quite a bit on family and friends to help with the kids, a lawn service to mow our lawn, and a cleaning service so that the floors get mopped and the windows get washed.
I've learned that I don't need to do it all, but I do need to do what's important to me.
And what's important to me is being involved - in my children's activities, in my community, in my cooperative, in our industry. I grew up in a family that was very involved in off-farm activities. And I want my children to understand that we don't make a difference in our world if we don't get involved - even if that involvement means extra stress at times.
I believe other dairy women's activities reflect their interests and priorities as well. With or without off-farm activities, dairy women have a lot to juggle.
So, the question I have is, why is the statement - "I don't know how you do it" - tossed around so much? Are we trying to make ourselves feel better? Are we trying to pay a compliment? Are we looking for ideas to make our own juggling act easier? Are we simply curious about other lifestyles?
I hope we're saying it to pay a compliment (even thought it doesn't always feel that way). Because the bottom line is that some of us have cleaner houses or higher herd averages or more well-behaved children or ___________ (fill in the blank), but we're all doing the best we can.
And if we're truly curious or looking for ideas, then we should be straightforward and ask. All of the dairy women I know are happy to share ideas about what's worked for them and what hasn't.