It’s 9:47 p.m. The cows have been milked; the calves have been fed; and the children have been put to bed. There are three loads of laundry to fold, supper dishes to wash and a cow that needs to be checked again.
You’ve been up since 4 a.m. and haven’t sat down since the baby’s nap eight hours ago (and that was only because the baby decided she needed to be rocked to sleep). You haven’t showered yet, and come to think of it, you’re not actually sure you brushed your hair this morning.
If any of this sounds familiar, you might be a farming mama. With 2016’s low milk prices, it seems like farming families are wearing more hats than ever before. It seems that more and more farming spouses are finding jobs in town, or farms are making do with less hired labor and longer working hours. The old adage, “use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without,” is a daily mantra. Many of the social media networks I follow have posts on a weekly basis attesting to high stress and potential burnout.
So how can you take care of yourself while you take care of everyone else? The answer may be found in one of the hottest buzzwords on the internet: self-care. OK, you can quit laughing now! As fluffy and overrated as the phrase might seem, you can’t pour out of an empty pot, and it’s important to take a few moments every now and again to take care of yourself, so you can continue to take care of others in your life.
1. Take a few moments to write down things that make you happy – compliments from others, cute moments with your kids or even favorite quotes. Keep them somewhere you can look any time you need a reminder of all the good things in your life.
2. Practice mindfulness. Has it been a while since you’ve actually just been “in the moment”? When was the last time you marveled over a baby calf learning how to stand? Or do you just check to make sure it happened before moving on to something else? In a hectic world, being mindful takes discipline, and meditation is a great way to get in tune with yourself. Never tried meditation before? This resource offers recordings to walk you through it.
3. Create a silly habit. When was the last time you did something that didn’t have a practical purpose? If you are like most farmers, it’s been a while. Choosing something that may seem inconsequential (“We wear pink on Tuesdays”) to alter your routine can lighten your mood all day.
4. Avoid second-hand negativity. Take a few minutes to “unfollow” social media contributors who always seem to have a complaint or something negative to say.
5. Make an effort to eat healthier. Start small. Replace a handful of your favorite comfort food with a handful of fresh veggies, or make an extra effort to add another vegetable serving to every meal.
6. Have an extra 15 minutes? Take a quick nap to recharge. You might need an extra week of sleep, but even 15 minutes can help.
7. Have some girl time! Spend some one-on-one time with someone you love. If you have an extra hour, meet a girlfriend for lunch. Only have five minutes between farm chores? Spend a few minutes scratching your favorite cow under the chin.
8. Choose a time to worry. Have something that is nagging at you, that you can’t help but worry about, even if there’s not really a solution? Rather than let it bog you down throughout the day, choose a specific time to worry about it, and only worry for a specific length of time. For example, decide that you are only going to worry while you milk the first group of cows. Then, when that group leaves, force yourself to think about something else for the rest of the day.
It’s so easy to get caught up in taking care of everyone else that we put ourselves on the back burner. Think of a few small things you can do each day to take care of yourself, even while you are taking care of everyone else.
Heather Moore is a dairy farming mama herself, raising three little boys with her husband, Brandon. The Moore family has a 50-cow dairy and custom feeds 800 head of beef cattle near Maquoketa, Iowa. When she is not chasing around cows and kids, you'll find her volunteering, cooking and very occasionally, sleeping.
PHOTO: Photo provided by Heather Moore.