Friday, September 9, 2016

Happy People First, then Happy Cows

The Dairy Community has been preaching for years about how we put the cows first.  We have done amazing things on our farms making sure our cows and their well-being come first, but there is a personal consequence for this: marriages, families, friendships, mental health, and so much more.  As a dairy community we need to make sure we put people first, then the cows, because if it wasn’t for the people we wouldn’t have the cows.  More important are the selfless owners/farmers/managers of these dairies.  So many stories have been popping up in my newsfeed of dairy farm families in so much hurt, sacrificing everything they have for their cows, but losing so much of what makes life worth living. 

Wonderful women are sharing heart breaking stories about how they are doing it all.  They are taking care of their kids, milking cows, managing employees, pulling extra milking shifts, driving tractor, taking care of harvest meals for their husbands, cleaning their house and at the end of the day they feel guilty that they didn’t do enough.  They didn’t make the fancy crafts with their kids, they didn’t deep clean their fridge, they missed a night out with the girls, all for the sake of the cows.  These women wear their sacrifices like a badge of honor on their sleeves but show the signs of being drained and destroyed.  Just the thought of doing something for self-care, like an hour to take a bath, enjoy a book, or spend some prayer time immediately spawns feelings of guilt and selfishness.  Some of these women even cast judgement on others who do take time for themselves and let something else in life slip.  Ladies, we are not in competition with each other!  Stop it right now!  There is no pride in cleaning your house instead of spending time with your kids.  There is no pride in working yourself to a thread all for the last 5 pounds of milk.  There is so much more to life than cows and milk production.  We can’t do it all and we shouldn’t.

Humans were meant to be in community with each other and help each other.  If you’re a spiritual person, you know we were meant to need something other than people and ourselves, we need God.  We were not meant to be independent, but interdependent.  Ask someone for help, share responsibility with your husband.  Take an oxygen mask ladies and help yourself out.  If you don’t take care of yourself first then how can you possibly take care of anyone else?  And men do this too! (but they aren’t willing to talk about it because heaven forbid they sacrifice their male pride)  I will never forget the relief I felt when a friend shared with me that she was hiring a housekeeper to clean her house 4 times a year! Wow! Did I ever feel better about my dirty house after that!  Or when I discovered that a family made the choice to play with their kids instead of chopping silage on a Sunday.

Personally, I did it.  I tried to do it all.  I tried to be the farm manager, herdsman, calf feeder, heifer breeder, accountant, the HR manager, the social media specialist, all for the cows and the last 5 pounds of milk.  Was I successful?  You know I was, I’m determined.  Did my cows come first? Definitely! But what did I lose?  I lost my marriage, I lost my sanity, I lost my health, I lost myself.  My friends tried to hand me an oxygen mask but I didn’t take it.  I didn’t take it until I hit rock bottom.  It was then I realized how much I was missing out and how much more I could accomplish if I just took even one hour a day for myself.  If I said no to some activities and volunteer work.  If I let employees do their jobs and trust them to do their jobs.  I made time for God, for exercise, for reading.  I made time for family and friends.  My own niece was scared of me because I spent so little time with her.  My house was a mess, I lost our farm, but I salvaged what was left of me and rebuilt what I have now become.  Ladies, please do yourself a favor and take the oxygen mask!  There is no pride in working yourself to death!  Do something for yourself, take a nap, spend some time just playing and laughing with your kids.  Call a friend for coffee and help.  You matter! Because at the end of the day there will be no cows and no farm if it wasn’t for you and your drive and passion.  And gentlemen, please take note as well, because you matter too!  Ask for help and take care of yourselves!  I’m cheering for you!

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I write this blog to share my passion for my cows and farming, please be respectful of that. I reserve the right to delete those comments which portray hate, call names, and are out right disrespectful. If you have an honest question, I will respond, to explain what we do on our farm, why we do it and how we do it. Please read with an open mind. My time to blog is short, as most of our days are spent caring for our beloved cows. Thank you!