Work life balance on farm and a good dose of mother guilt

The slow burn of mother guilt catches me unawares sometimes but on other occasions, it’s as sharp as a knife. Or more accurately, as shrill as a tired toddler’s screech.

Just In Time (JIT) fencing

Just In Time (JIT) fencing

When a knock on the door from a concerned motorist signals a heifer and bull trotting down the road, which in turn reveals that a mob of skittish kangaroos have rendered your fence as floppy as a spoonful of fettuccine, a farmer has little choice but to report to the scene, sirens wailing. If the farmer is also the mother of a toddler, the ramifications can be far more serious: Nap Time Deferral (NTD).

Strapped to the Bobcat seat, my Little Man finds it hard to understand why Mama is singing lullabies as she fumbles with the fence strainer when she should be singing them at the bedside.

"Home, peese"

“Home, peese”

“Sorry, Little Man, I promise I’ll be as quick as I can, I just have to get this done…”

I know Mother Guilt is not limited to farming or, indeed, mothers. On Twitter’s AgChatOz forum the other day, fellow dairy farmers told of their dismay.

MotherGuilt

And, then, Shelby posted a link to this:

Cat’s in the Cradle always “gets me”, too. It’s times like these that I wonder if I am doing the right thing. My children see more of me going about daily life than they would if I was an office worker but, with farm returns so low, it seems we spend most of our time working and less of their time playing.

With the heifer paddock hastily patched up, Zoe, Alex and I returned last weekend to do the major works. As I wrestled with wire and strainers, they gambolled about the picturesque hidden paddock. Flanked by forest, they were out of the chilly wind, away from roads and so carelessly happy. I smiled as their little heads bobbed across the pastures and my spirits soared as their laughter echoed around the trees.

A gambol cures a dose of mother guilt

A gambol cures a dose of mother guilt

I was cured. Well, almost. What mother would stand back and film this?

How a farmer hangs out her washing (or desperation is the mother of invention)

At 15 months, Alex loves “riding” the quad bike.

The little man is drawn to anything he can climb, toot or wobble, especially if it has buttons and the quad has all those magical qualities with the added bonus that it’s his Dad’s.

The mite’s adventurousness is only slightly hampered by his wet blanket of a Mama. When Wayne bought Zoe a hot pink mini-quad for Christmas last year, I refused to let him bring it home. Quads are seriously dangerous bits of gear and, besides, a pushie is still the best way to burn up all that excess energy.

But whether it was out of sheer exhaustion or the joie de vivre that comes with the first truly warm day of Spring, I relented just a touch today and took Alex for an illicit ride on the quad. As we’d passed the quad with the washing basket, he’d somehow become firmly attached to the Suzuki’s grimy plastic faring. A moment later, his padded posterior was straddling the gear shift.

It turns out that the trip from the laundry to the washing line with a toddler is gloriously smooth-sailing when you’re riding a quad – albeit at a snail’s pace. It also turns out that the quad makes an excellent table for the washing basket and is just the right height for pegging up everything from unmentionables to our Sunday best. Don’t tell anyone, will you?

A taste of my own medicine

Last night, I had a shocking taste of my own medicine. The farm, you see, is almost entirely fenced with single strand electric wires.

These “hot wires” are kinder than barbs, low-cost and flexible. And while they are also less vulnerable to floods, the trio we had recently left our fences in a state of disarray. I have snipped the connections to all non-essential sections in order to keep the power up to the core and am going around fixing paddock by paddock ahead of the cows.

At the same time, Alex at 13 months is getting heavy. With 12 kgs of wriggling toddler on my chest, fencing work is becoming something of a challenge, so I decided to trial him on my back.

I ended up with an extra burden of mother guilt. Suffice to say, I am not used to crawling under electric fences with an extra load “up top”. Zap!

That horrid sensation of pulsing muscles hit me just as I crept tentatively under a fence. It must have connected with Alex on the carrier but he didn’t seem to notice at all, as he carried on with his babbling, happy as a lark while mum staggered to her feet.

Glad none of the cows were watching!