Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Farm Mamas: Stop trying harder

Note: I refer to 'farm mamas' throughout because that's what I call myself, privately, but this could apply to most farming women I think.

This one is for the farm mamas.  You know who you are. You're busting it everyday on the farm, kids in tow or home after school.  You've got plants in soil, animals waiting to get on pasture or emails to answer.  You've got meal plans on your mind and plans to do a spring craft with the kids that will never happen.  You'd like to wear your 'town jeans' someday but it's been a while, you're not sure where they are. You do a quick sweep with the broom once every few days and hope that will keep the Black Plague at bay which is surely festering in the bathroom you haven't cleaned in a month. You follow a bunch of beautiful farms on Instagram with their weedless rows and lush greens, two weeks ahead of yours.  You 'like' the "Women Who Farm" page on Facebook with all those daily photos of rosy cheeked, denim-clad, happy women with their hands in soil, making a difference in the world, maybe even a baby on their back.  Maybe you follow Barnyard Organics page on Facebook and those lovely filtered light photos with the clever hashtags.  Everyone has it so together.

Except you.

Spring comes upon you gently enough, but suddenly switches into high gear so quickly that it doesn't take long before you're way behind and the balls in the air are falling to the ground all around you and turns out they're not balls, but eggs and now they've cracked and not only have you broken them, but you have to clean them up.

I lost it tonight. I had one of those heaving, sucking, snotty, ugly full out bawls tonight.  So hard and so deep that my sinuses filled up and I had to breathe through my mouth.  And in the midst of it all I thought, "Gawd I hope no one thinks this doesn't happen to me."  I post pretty pictures on Instagram and cutesy posts on Facebook and I hate that it probably gives the perception that all is well all the time.  That I live some enchanted life with four, dancing, perfect children and hens that peck peacefully at my passing by as I sing hymns and toss glitter feed into the air.

So this is for you.  To know that a good heaving cry is not only good, it's necessary this time of year.  That feeling like dropping all the balls is also going to happen.  That the weather will be cold and miserable and seeds will rot in the ground. That maybe too many chicks are going to die and you're going to feel responsible for decades of shitty breeding totally out of your control.   That water will overflow and flood something important.  That something crucial will not arrive in the mail in time.  That the plumber won't show up and won't tell you when they will be able to get to you.  That your eldest has turned into a teenager overnight.  That your youngest needs you the most when you most need to be alone.  That you feel like a disappointment when your partner ends up doing what are usually your jobs around the house because you've forgotten for two weeks, even though they'd never think twice about it.   That you cook hotdogs for two nights in a row after 2 years of not eating one.  That you can't even muster a peanut butter sandwich and instead open a bag of chips for lunch.   That the thing you put away perfectly last winter is now a tangled/wrecked/ruined mess.  That your email goes down for three days while receiving registrations.  That the weedy flower bed out front feels like a taunt from generations passed, a metaphor for you domestic failure. That your computer shits the bed and you have to figure out a new one while responding to questions like, "I'm going on vacation on August 4th, my son will be picking up my share, can you not put onions in?"  That you forgot to pick up feminine protection and now it's day 2 and things are not pretty and you don't have time to get to town and have to ask your in-laws when they go for a coffee run.  That maybe things are actually going well and you feel guilty because your farmer friend is having a helluva week.  That homeschooling for the week' means "go back to the pond and check those frogs eggs and don't worry about coming back anytime soon." Or more likely homeschooling means, "carry this hammer while we walk to the fence perimeter." That the library books from a month ago are still strewn around the house.  That you forgot to tell your partner about the important phone message two weeks ago and now its gone on too long to tell him you knew.  That you are going on an average of 5 hours of sleep/night.  That you feel guilty for feeling so stressed when your partner has even bigger things going on. That your face is breaking out like a teenager.  That your body is sore and your son just asked, "Mommy, why is there purple under your eyes?"

So I don't have a helpful list called "A Farm Mama's Tips on How to Survive the Spring" and I don't think there really could ever be such a thing. (Although if there was it would surely include an Instant Pot because that thing really has been a saviour).
But I have this:
Stop trying harder.  When you hear that voice say, "You're just not trying hard enough", swing around and punch it right in the mouth.
I recently realized that I'm going to have to give up roller derby this year due to scheduling conflicts.  In accepting the reality I talked to a few team members about it and the very well meaning response I received from all of them, was, "You deserve derby!  You work too hard, it's your ME time! You can make it work, I'm sure of it!" While I don't disagree, what I really needed to hear was,

"It's ok to let it go.  You don't have to do it all.  (Insert a ball you have in the air that's stressing you) will be there when you're ready to juggle it again, if you want to.  Right now, embrace not doing it.  Make the liberty of letting go be your self-care.  Just lay back, shut your eyes, breathe deep and let.it.go."    

So that's what I give you tonight.  Take care of you.  And when you're having a jealous moment over someone else's Instagram know that I've posted beautiful photos and generated clever hashtags while crying over something totally unrelated because I think social media is my 'job' and heaven forbid I let that slide just because I'm sad/frustrated/overtired.  (Did I just ruin our social media? haha).

Love to you Mamas.  This season too shall pass and there will come days when we can prepare a big healthy meal and our kids will be clean , we will not feel guilt about neglecting the kids and our partners will relax and our house will be clean feel like a welcoming place and we'll get longer, deeper sleep (amen to that part!).


  1. Thank you Sally... I've been following you on FB, and happened to read the Saltscapes you guys were featured in while I was at the dentist the other week with a couple of my kids. I really needed to read this post. We aren't big farmers, not even organic, just a backyard full of chickens and some pigs that I can't wait to say goodbye to, but I have a garden I haven't planted yet, and chicks that won't sell (with like a 50% hatch rate out the incubator), and I *think* we did 2 days of school last week. Might've been just math. Anyway. I'm tearing up. And I wish I could just sit down with you for tea or coffee or Pepsi or whatever your poison is, and cry with you. And no one else sees that part of me on social media, either... ~jen, in western NB

  2. Well said and an important message for all of us.

  3. Summer will come. Your mother had her hideaway and NOBODY knew where it was. Tears and a nap are step one to recovery. Throw in a prayer and a self hug.

  4. Sally, having just read your blog, all I can say is that there are so many women in the same boat with you. I am 72, have been "farming" on a small scale for 30+ years and every May, I have all the issues you write about. Why we expect ourselves to be "all things" to all jobs, I still haven't worked out and each year it doesn't get any better. BUT I wouldn't want to change my life. So I agree with the last writer, take an hour to yourself, even if it means walking away or locking yourself in the bedroom. Sleep is so important and quiet time is next. Take care.

  5. Awesome read...and an awful lot of truth in there. Thanks for sharing and making us all part of the 'reality club'. :)

  6. Oh my god sally you nailed this issue on the head! I totally have those social media jelousy feels..but geez ..nobody posts their weedy fields, or their bad days or their problems and struggles. Thanks for being brave and honest about how hard this gig is sometimes. We are our own biggest monsters-critics and i think we are all doing better than we truly know. Self care is sooo important. On that note. I hope you continue to take care this summer. You are an inspiration.

  7. Been there, done that, got the tee shirt. Had full-time, off-farm job too, just for a little extra pressure. Easy for farm moms to feel the need to do more than their partner, but resist going there. Team approach! Hang in their lady. All too soon your kids will be grown and you will have more time to reflect as I do now. Blessings to you.

  8. This post! Holy honesty. I really, really appreciate your words here. I've tasted a bit of this and it was a lot. Farm mamas are powerful! You're an inspiration to me, Sally!