Balancing Work and Family-It's Possible!

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Guest post by Elaine Froese


May is the season we celebrate Moms, and seeding! Here are some thoughts on taking better care of ourselves, in order to be resilient farm families.

Balancing work and family on the farm is an on-going process. It involves an intentional holistic approach to the many roles farm families perform managing the overload of busy seasons.

Research by Dr. Nikki Gerrard of Saskatchewan, who spent 12 years looking at resiliency in farm families, found that the keys to bouncing back…balanced living…are communication, connection, and a deep sense of community. My studies at the Hudson Institute framed balance as “hold on, let go, take on, and move on.”


Hold On

What things are you doing that you want to continue doing? If farming is your passion and you want to hold on to the farm business, what does that look like to you? Describe what a really great day on the farm would look like. Can you express your desires to your mate?

Let Go

Sometimes we need to conduct minor surgery on our lives and fix what hasn’t been working. This might mean being really honest about what our addictions have been costing our family and business. Are you addicted to work, food, alcohol ? Do you care too much about others at the expense of your own well-being? Expectations of people, your farm performance, and possessions may be killing you! If you are feeling stuck in your current situation, you might want to create an exit plan. Transitioning out of your current work role at the farm may mean working different hours or only working when you choose to come and help out.

Take On

I’m a firm believer in life-long learning. I want to take on projects that will help me be a better person, relate to others, and help our family and farm business. The farming lifestyle can be fulfilling when you feel what you are doing is meaningful. What things would be good for you to take on ? Are there some new skills you need to learn? Is it time to face your mortality and work on a plan to transfer the farm? Is it time to have more fun and find out where the old-time dances are scheduled? Is it time to learn how to work the wood lathe, and dust off the books waiting to be savoured?

Life is a grand adventure, more like a “Slinky” and not a straight line. Hard work doesn’t guarantee success. What is your definition of success?


Move On

Perhaps you just want to get on with your life, and not change very much. The years slip quickly by, and so may some of your dreams if you don’t stop to remember who you want to be and what you want to do.

I’m a human being first, wanting to be intentional about caring for myself, my family, and my community.

Balanced living and planning for change may sound impossible, but dig down and figure out how you want to restructure the current scenario you find yourself in.

Farm families are resilient and have many resources to draw on. You can choose to cruise doing things the way you’ve always done, or you can look at your situation with courage and say, “Some things around here have to change.”

-Planning for change involves:
  • Holding on to what is good and right for you.
  • Letting go of the habits, activities, and roles that don’t work for you anymore.
  • Taking on new learning projects, and unlearning things that keep you stuck.
  • Moving on with a timeline to accomplish what your life stage requires of you.
Farmers are famous for living in “next year country”. My challenge to you is to learn from the past year’s trials. Take good care of yourself and your family, …physically, emotionally and spiritually. Find a quiet place to contemplate what you want .Balancing the many roles each person has: self, couple, family, farm, other work, friends, and community involves setting priorities for what is going to happen, and what you will say “no” to. Understanding your strategies for avoiding “role overload” is important.

Lack of appreciation, stubbornness to release power and control, and un-forgiveness keep farm business families stuck and unbalanced.


Ten Characteristics of Farms Under Stress

Circle those things that are affecting your sense of balance on your farm:
  • Keeping farm problems secret from partners or friends?
  • Feeling pressure to keep up with an unaffordable lifestyle?
  • Too busy with community commitments?
  • Juggling farming and off-farm work?
  • Fearing being forced to leave the farm?
  • Family is becoming fragmented?
  • Feeling farming will not be prosperous in the future?
  • Avoiding dealing with farm problems… eg. bills, records?
  • Having too many problems for one person to handle?
  • Are you unhappy with your farm situation?
(More than two circles means your stress and unbalance level is serious !)

Connection is a resiliency building skill that helps people feel they can manage.


What Does Your Personal Support System Look Like?


DO YOU: ( Mark Y for Yes, N for No.)
  • Have friends in your community who you can talk to when you have problems?
  • Know people who balance their lives and manage stress well?
  • Have a close and high quality relationship with someone?
  • Have a willingness to seek professional counselling if stress becomes severe?
  • Have a strong and supportive family or home life?
  • Know someone to talk to about your problems and nobody will know?
  • Regularly discuss your personal situation with partners or friends?
When I hold a wrench up to my audience I declare that “Elaine Froese can only fix Elaine Froese.” We each need to take personal responsibility for the choices we make, and reactions we have to the balance we seek in our lives. I can only change myself, and I need to communicate my needs and roles clearly to the others on my farm family team.

Some of the healthy coping skills for the process of balanced living are possible if we:
  • Ask for help and seek advice
  • Copy success of role models we are inspired by.
  • Avoid becoming martyrs with negative attitudes
  • Learn to say no and set healthy boundaries
  • Lighten up and create margin in our lives
  • Keep track of what we commit to
  • Practice extreme self-care, which is not selfish.

"Elaine Froese, CSP, CAFA, CHICoach is author of Building Your Farm Legacy, and has a farm family toolkit at www.elainefroese.com to help you . Buy her audiobook. Follow her on Twitter @elainefroese or FB Elaine Froese Farm Family Coach.  Elaine rolls up her sleeves on her seed farm near Boissevain, Manitoba."
 

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