Stoked to continue the farming & family guest posts with longtime farm crush Rita Champion of Stitchdown Farm in Vermont.
I was planning on writing my experience of farming with a baby months ago. But perhaps lesson one in parenting is that you no longer abide by your schedule at all. baby owns you and every which way you go about your day. This makes farming hard, and near impossible if you do not have help.
My husband is a graphic designer who works from home which is excellent because he is around and can be flexible and share in the baby duties. He also manages the pastures and animals on the farm and was frustratingly strict about me doing any heavy lifting during my pregnancy and postpartum. I had a healthy pregnancy, I had a natural birth. I was lucky. The real hard part was when I came home and tried to assimilate my new reality as baby mom with the farm I was already a mother to. I was and am still torn because farming is what I love, it is a part of my identity and what fills me. Baby love fills you in all new ways and now sometimes I feel like I am exploding. Babies demand so much of you, your energy, your time, your every last ounce of patience, and did you know they actually eat some of your brain in utero? No wonder they come out so heartbreakingly lovable, perfect and innocent, otherwise I might fear for the human race.
Francis was born mid season, and without trying to make things sound dramatic, it was fucked up. I was the row crop farmer, I was the only one that knew what was going on and growing in the fields. Other than one part time helper, I was the only one out there sowing and weeding and transplanting, and I was the only one who knew what and when to harvest. I was also the only one who did any of the arranging and correspondence and event flowers and after the baby arrived it was a total disaster. I was naive to not set up systems and ask for help. I suffered, the baby suffered and the farm suffered for it.
I learned my lesson this year. I hired a field manager and two other part time crew to keep the flowers alive while I answered emails and took care of Francis. They were a total dream team and as a farm it was our most successful year yet. Hiring people is awesome. We also had help from Andrews parents who while they were in town would take him for a couple hours a day AND we even hired a nanny for the whole month of September cause I had multiple weddings per weekend and knew we needed the extra support. It was new and humbling and difficult but asking for help was really a tremendous thing we learned to do after having a baby.
My day is split into two different categories. What I can get done with baby and what I cannot get done with baby. For example, Tractor work, he loves it. Harvesting hit or miss. computer work a definite no. So, nap times are strictly spent doing things he would not tolerate me doing while awake. Once he wakes up I strap him on and we go do some brush hogging or Andrew takes him to set up the horse fence. Productivity always needs to be maximized on a farm and this is the way we have tried to make that continue to be the case. This persistent need to keep moving has also led to a constant low level anxiety that I am just now thinking I might need therapy for. If every moment spent while he is napping isn't productive I feel myself boiling up, stressing out and an unfair amount of resentful envy of the people around me who are able to relax. hashtag self care might be a legitimate goal to stay sane as a parent.
So yes, like many before us, we are making it work. We are successfully running a farm and another business, we are still able to get a lot accomplished, its just so very much harder not being able to work whenever you want and at the pace you are accustomed to. The key to success with a kid is low expectations and seeking help in all the ways. It is fall now, actually winter because I'm in Vermont, and we are just now coming up for air and thinking about next years goals. Right now it feels devastating to keep saying "no" to new farm ventures and growth in attempts to streamline our operation so we don't spin out. But it also feels like the smart, caring, responsible thing to do, which is exactly what you have to be as a parent.