Many trials and rewards of going it alone
Dealing with high stress levels is a challenge, particularly in the spring time, and when farming on your own the ability to handle the pressure is important.
Parenting on your own is another facet of life that brings its own particular challenges and coping strategies need to be in place for this as well. The pressure and loneliness of being a solo parent is rarely discussed, yet so many of us are on that road. In my daughter's class of 30, I think she said only five have a two-parent family and at her previous school it was the same.
That tells me there are many people out there trying to bring up children by themselves and I don't mind saying this is doable but it can be tough. Sometimes, it is good to have someone else to rely on, even if it is just to discuss an idea.
When my relationship foundered over 10 years ago, I threw myself into farming, so I had the double whammy of bringing up two girls on my own but also the many responsibilities of dairy farming on top of that.
It is a testament to the resilience of kids that we have all trucked along OK. I'm not proud to say that my daughters have had to find a new level of independence and self-reliance because Mum just hasn't been around like she should be. And let's face it if finding Mum involves searching a 100-hectare farm in the rain, suddenly children start finding their own solutions to the problems.
Filling your life up with cows and milk and sharemilking contracts is a surefire way of distracting yourself from the fact that your family has fallen apart and you basically end up too tired to even feel sorry for yourself, which is a good thing as time really does heal.
The alternative for me would have been some dead-end job and renting in town or licking my wounds on the domestic purposes benefit, so I am glad I never went down that track.
The times I have found it particularly hard to be a solo mum have not been really the tough times but often when things are good.
Your kid has brought home a glowing report from school which you read and then share with . . . no-one.
Or they glide off to the school ball looking like a million bucks and you are at home delighted with it all but there is no-one to bask in the glow with.
It's a bit the same on the farm.
On the one hand I am thrilled with the skills I have been forced to learn. I saved a cow cast with milk fever the other day by inserting a needle into its jugular vein and drip feeding a bag of calcium directly into its bloodstream. If there had been a man around there is no way I would have taken on that role and I feel empowered by that.
On the other hand when you have had a bad day on the farm and averted one crisis after another it would be nice to go home to some appreciation. Seriously, I know my teenage daughter is only being polite when I regale her with great tales of my farming prowess and she is actually stifling a yawn and thinking - Mum needs to get some new work stories.
Other times it would just be safer to have some back-up personnel there when attempting dangerous manoeuvres. Like yesterday when I had to drag a cow out of a flooded stream by the neck (with a chain and tractor) because I was unable to sit her up on my own. It would have been nice to have a hand with that.