Make time for what matters most

Written by Allison Jenkins on .

In agriculture—especially in the busiest times of year—you do what it takes to get the job done. Farmers know that well. So do we here at MFA.

So, when I needed to interview a row-crop farmer in mid-May for a Today’s Farmer story, I was happy to jump aboard the buddy seat of his tractor and talk while he planted a 20-acre field of soybeans. Between business, the conversation turned to small talk about family. I mentioned that I’d attended my children’s end-of-the-school-year awards assemblies that week and spent three hours at the ballfield Monday night watching our son play coach-pitch baseball.

“I get it,” he said. “I try to never miss any of my daughters’ activities, no matter what I’m doing. You could say I’m not a typical farmer. I will stop the combine or the planter and go. They’re only young once.”

He’s right, and that sentiment has really hit home with me lately. The next day, our three children officially completed second grade, first grade and kindergarten. I’ve blinked, and somehow our preschoolers have turned into full-fledged elementary students. Our oldest is already halfway to getting his driver’s license!

Where did the time go? Countless moms, dads, grandparents and guardians are thinking the same thing as their little ones—and not-so-little ones—reach major milestones at the end of this school year. Promotions from kindergarten, elementary school and junior high. Graduations from high school and college.

I can tell you where the time went. Work. Worry. Fast-paced lives. Too much to do in too few hours. Focusing on things that really won’t matter in the long run.

An article I read recently reminded me that, at best, we get 18 summers with our children before they head out into the world as adults. My husband warned me that it won’t even be 18 because they’ll probably refuse to have anything to do with us once they hit those teenage years. That’s all the more reason to make the most of the time we have with them now.

Even though he’s always stayed busy from sunup to sundown, my farmer-father rarely missed activities my siblings and I were involved with—although he’d usually cut it to the wire. He’d leave the field, pull the tractor practically to the front door, rush in the house five minutes before we had to go, change into his go-to-town jeans and best co-op cap, wash the field dust from his face and scrub the grease off his hands. But he was there, right beside our mother, for my marching band performances, my sister’s halftime cheer routines, and my brother’s soccer, baseball and football games. And we remember that.

Hopefully, our kids and yours—when they’re grown with kids of their own—will remember that we made an effort to be actively present in their lives. I’ve learned that it’s not about “having” time but “making” time. Even when it’s not convenient. Even when it means putting aside something that needs to be done on the farm or at home. Even when it means a long night after a long day at work. Even when it means we all eat turkey sandwiches and Cheetos because there’s no time for a sit-down dinner.

When I look at our calendar packed full of kid activities, I’m guilty of complaining that life is too hectic, that we have too many things going on and too much work to do. But I’m trying to do better. Next time I’m freezing at the soccer field on a blustery spring morning or sun-burning on the bleachers at a baseball double-header, worrying about the magazine story I need to write or the dishes that need to be washed, I’m going to remind myself that one day—sooner than I’d like to think—there won’t be anyone to take to ball practice, any more sports events or school assemblies to attend or early dismissal days that interfere with office hours.

That work-life balance is a real struggle for most of us, especially in careers that don’t necessarily run 9-to-5, Monday through Friday. Deadlines have to be met. Fertilizer has to be spread. Fields have to be planted. Cows have to be milked. Hay has to be baled. Herds have to be worked. Meetings have to be attended. Meals have to be cooked, and laundry has to be done. It can be tough to carve out time for family and fun. Do it anyway! That’s where memories will be made.

You can’t make more time. But you can make time more meaningful.

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