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Something’s gotta give

Where I Come From: How can rural parents raise children and work with so few child care options available?

Betty Haynes

May 31, 2024

3 Min Read
A mom and her toddler in an old pick up truck
MOMMY: I’ve always wanted to be a mom and farmwife and journalist. But I never could have guessed how hard balancing it all would be. Haley Stewart, HazelBee Photography

My whole life I’ve wanted to be a mother of wild, fearless, farm kids. My whole life I’ve wanted to be a wife to a good Christian man, who is tough as nails with a heart of gold. I’ve dreamed about raising my family in wide open spaces. I’ve dreamed of my husband and I looking over the farm, checking cows and going for tractor rides with our sweet babies.

And I’m there. Dream achieved.

My whole life I’ve also wanted to be a journalist. My mom saved books I wrote as a child with crayons and construction paper, and in high school I read the announcements every morning over the intercom. I always knew I was a communicator. College and grad school brought new opportunities, then a dream job at the Illinois Beef Association, then another dream job at Prairie Farmer.

Dream achieved. I’ve worked hard to do both. And I’m so incredibly proud of my family and my career.

Rural child care woes

But the part we don’t talk about enough is doing both. How is it possible to be the best mother and best journalist, while living in rural Illinois without reliable child care?

To be fair, our town has a daycare and several home daycare options, all with waitlists a mile long. Springfield is another option, but that’s 45 minutes from the farm.

And even if it was possible, I’m not sure how I feel about sending Clare away. She’s only little once, and I want to soak up all the time I can with my sweet, blonde-haired, animal-chasing baby. I blinked and she turned 2. I know I’ll blink again, and she’ll be 18. And daycare isn’t free. Does it even make sense financially?

Nearly all of my friends depend on their parents for child care, and so do I. But my parents aren’t retired, and their parents require more of their time, so they have their own balancing act. Ultimately, I don’t expect my parents or anyone else to drop everything to raise my children.

My next chapter

So after months of prayers and tears, I’ve decided to step down from my position at Prairie Farmer. For the next chapter I’ll be mommy to Clare and our future children. I’ll be a freelance writer and photographer, and I’ll be the farmwife I’ve always wanted to be.

It’s not a decision I take lightly. My heart is heavy saying goodbye to a job I worked so hard for, and even more, saying goodbye to all the people who really believe in me.

Of course, we still have unanswered questions. What will we do about health insurance since Dan and I both will be self-employed? I don’t know. Will I even be successful as a freelancer? I don’t know.

But what I do know is that doing it all took a major toll on my mental health. I know waking up at 4 a.m. to write, working during Clare’s nap and being mommy the rest of the day was no longer sustainable.

I know pouring 100% of myself into work left 0% for Dan and Clare. I know I was becoming a version of myself that I didn’t recognize — someone with a short fuse, with super-mom highs and failure-mom lows.

So to all of the working mothers across the rural U.S., I see you. It’s so hard to know what the right decision is for our babies, for our families and for our own mental health. Just know that whatever your decision, I’m sending so many prayers your way.

How are you navigating gaps in rural child care? Email [email protected].

About the Author(s)

Betty Haynes

Betty Haynes is the associate editor of Prairie Farmer. She grew up on a Menard County, Ill., farm and graduated from the University of Missouri. Most recently, Betty worked for the Illinois Beef Association, entirely managing and editing its publication.

She and her husband, Dan, raise corn, soybeans and cattle with her family near Oakford , Ill., and are parents to Clare.

Betty won the 2023 Andy Markwart Horizon Award, 2022 Emerging Writer, and received Master Writer designation from the Ag Communicators Network. She was also selected as a 2023 Young Leader by the International Federation of Agricultural Journalists.

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