The other day I watched my ten-year-old daughter Anna work with her show steer. It was one of those neat mom moments where I was standing around the corner of the barn and she did not know I was watching her. It was great to see her excitement as she stood there diligently brushing and washing her steer named Diamond. Then she took the halter and walked him around the barnyard. She led him with confidence and he respected her.
Believe me, Diamond was not always a gentle giant. We purchased Diamond last fall. A good friend of mine said she knew a farm about three hours away that had this steer for sale. The farm assured me that he was “green broke” and we would have “no problem” leading him on a halter. So, after several text messages and seeing photos, I purchased this steer calf. My friend’s husband agreed to pick up the calf. He dropped the steer off late on a Sunday night in September. He strongly suggested my husband walk the steer off the trailer because he was acting a little “edgy”. My husband walked into the trailer. He was in the trailer for quite a while just trying to get close enough to the animal to grab the halter. Just before we opened the trailer door I heard my husband say, “Oh Lord, please help me!” As soon as the trailer door was opened this pure black calf came shooting out. My six-foot-tall, 200 plus pound husband tried to hang on to the halter, but was unable to. Soon we had a new, wild, black calf running around loose late at night. There was no way any of us could get close enough to him to grab the halter. My daughters all started crying. Just when my husband thought he had the halter, the calf zoomed past all of us and broke through a metal gate and ran onto our barn yard with our milk cows.
The next few days, were a little rough. There were a few tears shed as my daughter tried to at least touch him, but he was stubborn. I felt like a terrible mother because I had purchased this demon-possessed animal for my child. However, despite Diamond being difficult, Anna did not get discouraged. She slowly started working with him and faithfully took care of him each day, and here they stood seven months later, show ring ready. As a mom, this was just the encouragement I needed.
It is easy to get discouraged as a mom. My husband and I have six children, ages ten and under: Anna 10, Ruby 8, Lily 6, Rose 4, Sadie 2 and Will 10 months. I often get discouraged because I don’t live up to the expectations I had set for myself as a mom. For example, I feel guilty every time I buy frozen pizza, because I was going to be the mom that does monthly meal planning and cook everything from scratch. Or feeling another twinge of guilt when I buy disposable diapers, because I was going to be the eco-friendly mom that only used the cute patterned cloth diapers.
Being a farm mom can also be discouraging. My husband and I have been married for almost 18 years, we milk 50 dairy cows and farm our 160 acres. Like many farm families, off-farm income is a necessity and I have worked full-time as a district coordinator for Wisconsin Farm Bureau most of our married life. The last three years, my husband has also worked an off-farm, part-time job. We love what we do, but early mornings and late nights are the result of trying to balance the farm, jobs and children. Also, the uncertainly in commodity prices and recent dairy processing situation, often leave us fearful and somedays, make us question why we even farm.
However, as I stood there watching my daughter all those negative thoughts went away and I realized we are doing the right thing by raising our children on the farm. I will probably continue to buy frozen pizzas and disposable diapers, but that is okay. I am not going to let the small things get me down.
This Mother’s Day weekend our family will be attending the Central Wisconsin Spring Fling Beef Show in Wautoma where Anna will be showing Diamond, and our other daughter Ruby will be showing her steer Rio. This Mother’s Day I don’t need anything fancy, and I certainly don’t need a diamond. There is an 1,100 plus pound Diamond that has reminded me that despite my self-doubt, I am exactly the mom I need to be, and despite the daily challenges and uncertainty in the agricultural industry, farm life is the best life. To all the other hard working farm moms out there…. Happy Mother’s Day!
Becky Hibicki serves as the District 5 Coordinator for Wisconsin Farm Bureau. Becky is active in the Green Lake County 4-H program and serves as the general leader for the Three Hilltoppers 4-H Club and is a large animal livestock project leader. In addition to working full-time for WFBF, Becky also home schools her children.