The dance between work and family time on farms is a polarity.

Froese elaine
Certified Farm Family Coach
Elaine Froese, CSP, CAFA, CHICoach and her team of coaches are here to help you find harmony thro...

Polarities are never solved but something that must always be managed. They never stop and they always require an intentional decision. Are you going to work on Sunday afternoon, or are you going to take the kids skating? Are you going to spend a couple of hours with your spouse helping them with a special project or are you going to answer the task calls of the farm business?

If you have turned to Facebook groups or social media posts for help on having more time as family on your farm, it is likely they have not provided you with the guidance you seek. The posts I’ve observed are long rants of frustration with few solutions in the comments.

Like many other aspects of frustration in agriculture, we need a deep mindset shift.

Making time for rest and renewal

Your body is not a machine. You are not serving yourself or others well by being a workaholic. When are you going to pay attention to your physical, emotional and mental needs, and those of your spouse and family?


Everyone needs rest and renewal time. We take ours on Sundays and choose not to work on our grain farm. With livestock, you need to come up with relief workers or block out four or five hours in the day that are designated for family life.

The farm comes first. Many families find this belief is not workable if there is never any time for family in the busy season. When are you going to take intentional time with family? The conflict with this mindset is the need to complete farm tasks, pushing aside the needs of your spouse and kids. Often, this is accompanied by the thought that “This is just how it is.”

Conflict on your farm about the pull between work and family needs is continuing because you have not stopped to be creative with solutions for the polarity of managing farm tasks and the desire for quality family time.

If you find yourself saying, “After seeding/calving/harvest/etc., we will do this … ,” then pushing family time into the future is not a workable solution, especially for those whose love language is “quality time.” So how can you prioritize or block a couple of hours throughout your farming week to be present to your family? Making friends with your calendar is a good start.

My friend Lauren tells the story of her husband spending three hours with their young son at a rodeo, leaving behind farm tasks to focus on creating a special memory for the family. At the end of his life, he will not regret the fact he got off the tractor for a few hours to have fun with family.

Asking for help

Many of us have been raised to be strong independent persons who can make things work on our own. It’s time to challenge this mindset and enlist help where you need it. My coach Lydia Carpenter is happy to share with you how her farm uses European workers for a season in their direct farm marketing operation. If you say you don’t have money to hire help, can you barter your time with friends or neighbours to exchange time for farm work relief?  

Filling your tank

What is enough? Your family needs time and attention. The farm needs consistent management, and we understand “all hands on deck” during milking, calving, planting, seeding, harvest. Ultimately, we choose how to have measured persistence in getting things done, yet if your value is intimacy, relationship and friendship, paying attention to what is filling your emotional bank account is critical. 

The solution for this quandary is being able to talk to your spouse about what fills your tank. Some want time for coffee and conversation, to check in with each other and have time to play with young children. Others want to be heard and understood, which requires focused listening. 

When the need for connection, family support and play is pushed away time and time again, people lose hope things will be different. Recall Proverbs 13:12 KJV, “Hope deferred maketh the heart sick.”

The dance of work-life balance on farms goes on. Can you embrace deep listening for your spouse’s needs?

Solutions for creating a better work-life balance

  • Plan family days or afternoons where you focus on family fun and time together with friends. My grandkids have a book called Saturday is Dadurday where the young kids make a list of things they would love to do with Dad on a Saturday. For you, it might be Sunday, but it’s a day when the family can be a family.
  • Organize educational days where you combine your love for agriculture and family. Try scheduling crop tours with the kids, go to a farm show or let them ride along with you in the field. Child safety experts caution us to be careful when you combine farm activities with child care. A quick tour on social media will confirm parents are being creative to do farm labour and child care at the same time. Asking for help from your mother-in-law or bartering time with a friend may help you.
  • Consider cameras and robots for your farm. We just installed cameras so my husband can see how much rain we’re getting while we are two hours away. For example, Emily Reuschel, host of Gather in Growth Podcast, and her family took a family road trip in the middle of July away from their farm but kept an eye on things using technology. One young dairy farmer texted a friend a photo of himself barbequing for a party while the robots milked, delighted with the investment that gives him more time to be a present dad.
  • Use better math and practice subtraction. When farm life seems overwhelming, what do you need to let go of? This summer, I let other young women use my garden space. I maintained two tomato plants and my gladiolas. That’s it. Where is it written to be a good (fill in the blank) you must do a certain thing on your farm? Can you say no?
  • Figure out your personal style and needs. Managing your needs and the needs of your spouse is the dance of work-life balance. As an extrovert, I get energy from spending time with my grandkids and other people. My husband prefers to re-energize by being alone. Use the 1-to-10 scale to figure out the priority or readiness for family time. Give it a try by asking “On a scale of 1 to 10, how ready are you to block off two hours on Sunday for the family to have fun?” If you answer 10, and your spouse answers 2, then you have some negotiation to do.