March 15, 2023
Life is ticking along at a rapid pace and we’re getting everything done, but there’s not a lot of leftover gas in my tank these days.
This is to be somewhat expected this time of year for me because of my full-time job as director of the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission (SMADC) and, of course, my time on the farm.
Pruning season is well underway. We have also participated in Maryland Wine Month and are planning our giant Spring Fling vendor fair (60-plus vendors, live music, food trucks and more).
Me and my crew of nine colleagues at SMADC are managing 12 active programs, two big USDA grants and are actively participating in the state’s annual legislative session. I’ve testified on four bills already.
Then there’s home. The baby is 18 months old now, and there is a never-ending stream of laundry, dishes, house cleaning, family duties and more.
I love my life; it’s full and meaningful. But sometimes I run out of juice. So, when I sat down to write, I texted two of my other farm girlfriends: “Help, my brain is fried. What’s an idea for a topic for my column that you would want to see or be interested in reading?”
Both responded quickly with several ideas (the others I will be banking for later!), but the one that struck me the most was the reply that said: “You should write a story on juggling mama life with farming. They wrote one in my market gardener magazine, and it was so good. They mentioned tips and tricks, that sort of thing. You should add your own spin to that.”
So, here we are! This I can do because it’s top of mind for me every day, and because I have several friends who are pregnant or have new babies, and we text this stuff to each other all the time, too.
This topic is not just for the ladies, though. Guys, you’re included, too, because we are modern mamas and daddies, and we work together to raise the family and the farm — and pay the bills and keep everyone sane(ish) in the process.
So, here are my four biggest practical tips for a working mom and dad on the farm:
1. Organization is your lifeline. The only way our life runs along smoothly most of the time is because it’s organized as much as I can organize it.
I enter everything in my life — farm, work, personal, home — into my digital calendar and into the physical planner I carry as well. Every few days, I compare the two to make sure they are synchronized.
I print the monthly calendar out and tape it to the kitchen wall next to the coffee maker so my husband reads it, and we can refer to it daily for a refresher.
I set alarms on my phone for everything. My husband joked to our son when my phone alarm went off one morning: “Mommy’s alarm is going off again. It’s her alarm to remind her to set an alarm to set all her alarms for the week!”
For real though, phone alarms and calendar reminders keep me on track, and every night when I’m lying in bed before I put the phone down for the night, I check on them and make sure they’re set for whatever the coming day brings.
Automate what you can in your life. I set all our bills to autopay, so I don’t forget them in the chaos. I order groceries online for curbside pickup or delivery through my phone, and the app saves my most frequently ordered items, so the list is there to just tap and edit.
We use our Alexa to verbally set alarms, add items to the digital grocery list, and give us the news and weather report as we get ready in the morning.
My farrier comes every eight weeks to trim the horses’ feet. He texts me that he’s coming. Then I text my aunt, whose house is right next to the horse barn, to put the mare in her stall. He does the horses' feet, and I use Venmo to send him the payment. It’s an easy system for us all.
2. Communicate, communicate, communicate. It’s cliche, but it’s true. Clearly express to your significant other, your farm partners, your work partners and others what you have the capacity for at the moment.
Setting realistic expectations for each other makes chances for resentment or disappointment much less likely. You can’t read their mind and they can’t read yours, and unexpressed emotions and needs are not going to further anyone’s goals.
Be clear, be kind and be honest. And remind yourself that life has seasons, and you can’t do everything all at once.
3. Cultivate your village. We are so grateful to have family nearby to help. Since we’re both working during the day, my mom and my mother-in-law each take the baby one day a week, and then we pay for a babysitter to come to the house the other three days.
Our mothers, sisters, aunts, cousins and nearby friends have been such a vital part of our village, and we couldn’t do it without them. We are in no way doing this alone, and I thank God for that.
We are there for them in their needs, too, and the support flows both ways. Small rural towns are good in this way.
I do have friends, however, who don’t have family close by, and they have had to create their own village for support. They do this with friends, neighbors, babysitters, and fellow community group and church members. The best advice I can give is to connect with your village however you can. Show up to give and to receive, share your talents, and let others share their talents with you. This can be life changing.
4. Grab these things. Here are some things to use to make your life easier:
An easy pop-up playpen. I use the Regalo My Portable Play Yard Indoor and Outdoor. It’s washable, and it’s amazing.
That sucker folds up and down in a flash, fits in the trunk of my four-door car, is lightweight to carry, and is perfect for keeping the baby corralled anywhere I need to be. We put four toddler cousins in there at one time with a bunch of toys, and they had a ball. We also took it to the beach.
Backpack-style diaper bag, in gray. Mom or Dad can both carry it. It’s an inconspicuous color, and the backpack style leaves your hands free.
Car-seat mirror. I bought one for both of our cars and both grandmas’ cars. It allows you to see the baby in the back by just looking up in your rearview mirror.
Facebook marketplace. This is your friend. Use it to find all the stuff you need, gently used, without paying an arm and a leg for it. Use it, then sell it again when you’re done. I am a full-on Facebook marketplace convert.
Lavender-scented poop bags. Yep, individual little plastic scented baggies to put those horrendous smelling poopy diapers in. Tie tight and lock in the smell so your garbage can, or your vehicle, doesn’t smell to high heaven.
Stash baby wipes, everywhere. These things are multipurpose and gentle on the skin. Wipe down your baby, take off your makeup on the drive home from work, or give it to your husband in case he wants to wipe his greasy hands before scarfing down a sandwich in the tractor. Think of anything; these will work.
Crockpot. This is worth its weight in gold.
Written prescriptions. This seems random, yes, but trust me.
Nothing is worse than taking a sick baby to the doctor, bringing the baby into the pharmacy, and then finding out that the electronic prescription for the medications hasn’t made it over to the pharmacy system yet.
Anytime you go to the doctor for your baby or for yourself, ask the doctor to give you a physical paper script that you can carry with you, too.
That way, you’re covered no matter what.
Watson-Hampton farms with her family on their fourth-generation family farm in Brandywine, Md.
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