Farm Progress

Having it all and other myths 11499

There’s nothing like a bunch of thank you notes from darling college girls to make you consider: You can have it all, but not all at the same time.

Holly Spangler 1, Senior Editor, Prairie Farmer

October 31, 2016

3 Min Read

A couple of weeks ago, I got to Skype into an ag communications class at Cal Poly. We talked about how we get a publication out the door and how I got my job, and then I offered up some random advice to college kids.

Because their instructor is a class act, every one of Scott Vernon’s students mailed me a handwritten thank you note. As I read, over and over, I caught a theme in the words from the young women: They were grateful to hear how I balanced work and family, loved hearing how I could do both, said I gave them hope that they could, too.


While my first thought was, “Oh, but I don’t really,” over and over, the words of my mother-in-law came to my mind: "You can have it all, but not all at the same time."

Because there was a day when I wondered if I’d screwed up — if I’d set my career back in some way when my oldest was born and I went to part-time work.

During those 11 years, I passed up opportunities to move up. I said, “Thank you, but no,” and wondered if I’d screwed up. If I’d set my career back. But with three babies in five years, I didn’t have a lot of time to dwell on it. And I didn't want to leave my babie, so I made peace with it. I worked part time and wrote and raised babies and stayed in my lane. For 11 years.

Here's what I found: When everyone grew and finally left for school and my days began to open up, God opened up the exact right doors. Doors I thought were permanently closed opened in fantastic ways that I never would have imagined nor could have orchestrated.

And sure enough, as my youngest grew, a call came to serve on a board of directors. Everyone in school brought a full-time national editor role, made just for me. A couple of years later, American Agricultural Editors' Association president. A year later, a management position. Now, editor.

And so it is. Patience, grasshopper. You can have it all, but not all at the same time.

There’s a time and a season for everything in our lives. It’s OK to step away when you need to. I had to dial back the professional to raise my babies. It was the right answer for me. It wasn’t easy at the time, as I watched friends move upward and onward and do it well and effortlessly.  

Maybe you’re in that season? Wondering what’s next? Let me reassure you of this: You don’t have to do it all at the same time. And God honors right choices. There will be a time when doors will fling wide, and no one will be more surprised than you.

I have a dear friend in those trenches this very day, and I say to you the very thing I said to her: This is just your second act. There are many more to come. And no one will be more tickled for you than me.

About the Author(s)

Holly Spangler 1

Senior Editor, Prairie Farmer

Holly Spangler has covered agriculture for the past 18 years, beginning her career with Prairie Farmer before graduating from the University of Illinois in agricultural communications. As editor of Prairie Farmer magazine, she brings meaningful production agriculture experience to the topics she covers, including a variety of production, management and issue-oriented stories. She also offers up her generation's take on the issues of the day through her monthly column and blog, My Generation.

An award-winning writer and photographer, Holly is a member and past president of the American Agricultural Editors Association. She was named Master Writer in 2005 and in 2015, she became only the 10th U.S. agricultural journalist to earn the Writer of Merit designation. Her work in agricultural media has been recognized by the Illinois Soybean Association, Illinois Corn Growers Association and MidAmerica Croplife Association. Holly was one of 10 recipients worldwide to receive the 2011 IFAJ-Alltech Young Leaders in Ag Journalism award. She currently serves on the College of ACES Alumni Board, and is an advisory board member for the U of I College of ACES Research Station at Monmouth.

She graduated in 1998 from the University of Illinois in agricultural communications, and received the Warren K. Wessels Award for outstanding senior in the College of ACES. Immediately following graduation, she was a founding member of the U of I Ag Communications Alumni Leadership Council, and in 2011, the College of ACES named her an Outstanding Young Alumni.

Holly and her husband, John, farm in western Illinois where they raise corn, soybeans and cattle on 2,000 acres. Their operation includes 100 head of commercial cows in a cow/calf operation. The family farm includes John's parents, and their three children, Jenna, Nathan and Caroline.

Holly is also active in the Illinois Farm Families program, and shares the story of agriculture and communications with a variety of groups and organizations, both within and outside of agriculture. She and her husband are active in state and local farm organizations, receiving the Illinois Farm Bureau's Young Farmer Achievement Award in 2007.

Locally, Holly and her husband serve with their county's 4-H program, their school district and in their church's youth and music ministries. 

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