The “normal” American family: two parents, both of whom
probably work 9-5, five days a week; two children; family dinners each night;
weekends together; maybe throw in a few extracurricular activities to make it
My “normal” dairy farm family: Daddy is a dairy farmer,
working 4:30 a.m. till at least 6:30 p.m., seven days a week; Mommy works a
full 40-hour work week away from home; baby spends his days with grandma; we’re
lucky if we get one family meal a week and one afternoon with no work to do;
throw in showing dairy cows all summer for a little variety.
I realize I’m not going to get sympathy from most parents
out there, and I’m not looking for it. But I do hope my words at least open the
eyes of others to what family life looks like at my house.
Growing up in a dairy-farming family, I never thought what
we endured was out of the norm. As I’ve grown and spent time with friends and
their families, I see that the home lives of farming families can be quite
When my parents owned their own farm, my dad was long gone
before my siblings and I got up in the morning. Before we were school age, we
basically lived in the barn in a playpen while mom and dad did the chores.
When we were older and in school, Mom got a full-time job
off the farm. Most days, Mom was still working when we got home from school, so
my siblings and I changed out of school clothes, into barn clothes, and walked
through the field from our house to the barn.
My sister and I helped feed calves and heifers, and we all
had to take care of our show calves and pigs. When we were old enough, we had
to help milk too.
After all the chores were done, we’d had back to the house,
usually around 7 p.m., for dinner, which was typically something along the lines
of hot dogs and mac n’ cheese – fast and easy. Homework had to be done, baths
taken, and we needed to be in bed at a decent hour.
Weekends were more hectic, with all of us working on the
farm all day. If we got lucky and it rained, the milk house always needed a
While that schedule didn’t leave much time for family
interaction, I don’t even have the faintest memory of not enjoying what we were
doing. My parents always ensured that we were together in everything we did.
They made time for church on Sunday, followed by a family, sit-down meal. And I
do remember that Friday night was reserved for TGIF TV – Family Matters,
Roseanne, Full House, Step by Step, Boy Meets World.
Today, my life hasn’t changed all that much.
My husband works full time on his father’s dairy farm, and I
work full-time for Lancaster Farming.
This time of year, my husband is spending most evenings
harvesting crops and I’m walking show heifers, which equate to not seeing each
When the weekend rolls around, neither of us have the
energy, nor the time, to undertake big family outings. Unless crops have to be
done, my husband does work a little less on the farm so that we can have some
family time – usually spent playing with our son.
Lord only knows how our lives are going to evolve and change
over the next few years, but we enjoy our hard farm life and wouldn’t trade it
for the world.
~ Jessica Rose Spangler, market editor