Feelings of envy and guilt washed over me. “How does she do it?” I muttered to myself.“What’s her secret?
What a lousy farmwife I must be. I couldn’t do half of the things she’s able to do.”
Once again, my industry travels had brought me to the driveway of another one of what I call “the fairy-tale farms.” Before me stands the sweetest, nicest, most adorable young farming couple. Their passel of cherub-like children scurry around the freshly mowed lawn with kittens under their arms and gum boots on their feet.
Their farm is picturesque in every fashion: The fence is arrow-straight and crisply white, not a stray piece of bag plastic, spilled pile of feed or speck of manure to be seen – and bless her heart, she made me cookies.
Playpens and strollers are tucked away into convenient locations so the work can continue without interruption. Every morning, every night, they work side-by-side with only one employee. They’re literally “doing it all,” my own personal version of a power couple.
The tour is over, and I continue on my way and eventually get home after a week of being on the road. There is mud everywhere, there are deep ruts where somebody drove the skidloader across my lawn again, and the garden is overrun with weeds.
I catch a fleeting glimpse of my husband as he heads to the barn while I race to the house with my overnight bag to answer emails before speeding off to fetch our daughter from day care.
The rest of my evening is spent with a toddler wrapped around my leg as I do two weeks’ worth of laundry and dishes and prepare supper. I longingly glance out the window toward the barn.
If I’m lucky, I can try to get in on a milking tomorrow night – if the baby agrees to be content in her parlor swing. I go back to folding the laundry and recall today’s fairy-tale farm and the stark contrast between their lives and ours.
Comparison is the root for many advances, discoveries and improvements. Without it, many of us would be stuck in the same rut still waiting for that new idea or improvement to drop out of the sky and hit us in the head. Comparison, however, can be the little dark voice inside your head. Reminding you of your shortcomings and flaws.
As humans, we are guilty of seeing what others have and wanting it for ourselves. It’s no lie that I’m envious of the farm family I met today. After several days spent on the road, I often dream of a life where I’m working on the farm alongside my husband every day as our kids toddle along with us as we work.
I dream of what our operation would look like if I were able to add my collective efforts and, in return, feel absolutely justified and foolproof when I refer to myself as a dairy farmer or farmwife – a title I don’t feel very deserving of when compared to Mrs. Fairy Tale.
The thing is: No setup, operation, backstory or lifestyle is the same, and these comparisons can often become unrealistic. We just can’t hold ourselves to the same set of standards we see when meeting others and hearing their unique stories. Of course I can’t be as involved in our operation as the woman in my story – because I have a full-time job as a sire analyst which requires a good deal of travel at times.
Me working for the farm just isn’t a financially feasible option for us at this time, and you know what? That’s OK! I have a respectable job and get to travel around the country looking at cows and meeting new people. When there are times I wish I were home farming more often, I can guarantee that Mrs. Fairy Tale also longs to escape the farm and get out and about more than she’s able.
We all have different stories and different situations. The farmers I meet who are close to retirement are envious of our young family. They wish they could have had it as easy as us – with all the new and exciting technology at our fingertips (automatic take-offs, you say?) and miss the excitement of “just starting out.”
The young farm family looks at the 60-year-old couple and is envious of their new house, freedom of debt, well-established operation and carefree lifestyle. What we all need to realize is that we are doing the best we can and good things come to those who wait.
Be proud of what you have and use comparisons constructively, being careful not to hold yourself to unrealistic standards. Because, who knows, maybe there’s somebody out there describing your farm as a “fairy-tale farm.” PD
Genex Sire Analyst