Parenting in Agriculture

This article was initially written for the February 2019 issue of HiLine Farm and Ranch

I read this article recently in the New York Times online that was titled “The Relentlessness of Modern Parenting. The title intrigued me, because I have certainly felt the relentlessness of parenting.

As I read on, it spoke of the changes that have occurred in parenting and how modern parenting is often “Child-centered, expert-guided, emotionally absorbing and labor intensive and financially expensive”. One of the mothers they interviewed, who happened to be 52 at the time, said “there’s this sense that something is wrong with you if you aren’t with your children every second when you’re not at work.” I have definitely felt that pressure, but also feel strongly that my girls need to learn to entertain themselves as well.

The article went on to talk about the felt need to offer children every opportunity from piano lessons to sports. It was stated that “the relentlessness of modern-day parenting has a powerful motivation: economic anxiety….For parents, giving children the best start in life has come to mean doing everything they can to ensure that their children can climb to a higher class, or at least not fall out of the one they were born into.” Thus, parents are employing a very hands-on, time and attention intensive parenting strategy.

It made me wonder how that change looks for parents in Agriculture across time.

I’m sure that we are not immune to the felt pressure to support and encourage our children to have opportunities in sometimes a very time intensive way. We attempt to give our kids as many opportunities to try things as the next family, but are often affected by limited activity options and distance to travel. Yet, the opportunities our kids get because of our Agricultural operation Include learning life skills, common sense, and an opportunity to learn a livelihood that has lasted generations. Agriculture has long been family operated and for many operations, that is still the case. Kids ride in the equipment along with parents, they check cows along side, they have a job during branding, etc. So, we may be spending more time with our kiddos, simply because they can come with us to our “job”.

Ultimately, we know from research that says, that kids do the best with emotionally available parents. It's not about what activities they are engaged in, but that parents are available for meaningful connection.

When consider meaningful connection, I wonder if we are so engrossed in the next project, the bills that are yet to be paid, the most recent meltdown/breakdown/animal loss, making it through the day, getting the kids to bed and falling in bed ourselves, that we don’t take a minute to really connect with our kids individually.

Do we stop long enough to hear their dreams for the future (whether or not that includes the family farm or ranch), their thorough and long lasting story behind the art project they made, or recognize the internal struggle they are facing socially?

Here are the things I’m considering before stretching us more thinly to engage in yet another activity:

  1. Will it provide increased opportunity to connect with my children?

  2. Is this fostering independence in them?

  3. Is this placating my internal struggle to be seen as doing “enough” with my kids?

  4. Does this activity bring our family together or create division?

A friend once told me that every good parent will “mess up” their kids somehow. That doesn’t mean we give up trying to be a good parent, but we can rest assured that we will need the help of our community, family and God to raise our kids!