I was on a call with other farmer-parents last week when I realized something: we were all struggling to live out the story of a family farm.
You know: the one where we’re self-sufficient, where the kids roam safely and freely, where the parents get the chores done and we all sit down to dinner together at the end of the day.
In this story, we’re a haven.
A single unit that grows and nourishes each person. A family where the parents have it all together, and the children come inside each day with the dirty jeans and scraped knees that are expected of a free-range childhood.
In this story, everything you see on instagram is true.
And this story is a lie.
Yes, we do sit down for dinner together. Yes, there are plenty of dirty jeans and little scrapes. And yes, we grow food.
But on top of that is the pressure to do it perfectly. The pressure to do it “right.” The sinking feeling that we’re failing because our lives don’t actually look like that other instagram account does — you know the one where the kitchen is clean and there’s always baked goods and no real stains and no weeds and the kids listen and smile and never push their parents’ buttons (but Ma, you’re not wearing any buttons! …says my son everytime I utter the phrase…)
This is not what I signed up for.
And as I listened to other farming parents, I realized that I wasn’t alone in feeling the weight of this story.
Cultural stories are powerful — but we have the power to write new ones.
The thing is, I don’t actually believe in self-sufficiency. I don’t want to have to do it all. I’m tired of accepting a vague definition of success that’s been handed down to me from the society of “do it all, have it all, be it all.”
Here’s the truth I’m coming to appreciate:
You don’t have to be the perfect farmer or perfect parent.
You don’t have to grow everything yourself.
Your kid will be okay if they hear you swear.
You will be okay if your life doesn’t look like the Hallmark Channel of family farming.
Your own child can teach you fulfillment: slow down, fill with the wonder of the world, imagine, be exactly right here.
And it’s okay when you need a break.
When you need to lean into the comfort of other adults and commiserate, share, laugh, cry. In the midst of the pandemic, it’s community that I crave most. And on that call I began to find it community in a new way.
We all need help. Humans evolved to live in community. In this time of social distancing and masks, I’m finding myself grateful for Zoom calls and organizations creating new webs of connection.
Do you feel this, too?
You can join in on these calls, too. For the month of December, NOFA-VT is hosting a series called “Help! I’m Farming and Caregiving in a Pandemic!”
It’s free and open to all farmers and caregivers — get all the details and sign up here.
I’ll be there on Monday mornings, and I hope to see you there, too.
Remember: even in a pandemic, even on a farm, you’re not alone. You don’t have to do it all. We can find ways to create the village we need.