Karen Bohnert
Oprah Winfrey once said, “You can have it all — just not all at once.”

And, honestly, I never really understood what this meant until I hit motherhood.

Trying to create a sense of balance is hard. While we strive to prioritize what’s really important to us, that isn’t always an easy formula to figure out. Have you ever asked yourself, “What is it that I really want out of life?” I have, and sometimes I struggle with the answer. I’m guessing some of you have felt the same way.

Social media plays havoc of fooling us that we can have it all — all the time. It also confuses us in telling us what we really need out of life. Facebook showcases highlight reels, easily making us jealous of others. We seem to think that everyone else gets everything all the time, so why can’t we? Sadly what we are seeing are the highlights and not the moments of struggle.

I’m an open book and often share the good and not so good moments. But even I struggle with thinking I’m not enough because I don’t have it all — all the time.

Let’s be honest — part of life is sacrifice and compromise and negotiations. Something that us dairy farmers could write a few chapters about.

I feel that I have had a lot of successes in my short 40 years. The ones I’m most proud of are not on my résumé. My three children, my husband, and our farm top the list of things I am most proud of and make my heart full. They also are the areas that top my priority list.

We all know that life is all about choices — and opportunities — and ultimately about balance. The latter might be the biggest area where real struggle is discovered. Or at least for me it is.

Nearly eight years ago I was let go from my corporate job. A moment in my life that I knew was a game changer, and truth be told the uncertainty it presented was stifling. It was also a humbling chapter in my life, forcing me to become more patient with myself. For the first time, I understood what Oprah was saying. I didn’t have it all.

Our perspective on life changes, as life itself unfolds with bountiful beautiful moments and chapters of adversity. For me, balancing being a spouse and a mother and having a career forced me to become less selfish.

I truly learned the meaning of sacrifice when I married a dairy farmer; a life I would never change. I truly learned the meaning of sacrifice when I became a mother — the first time, the second, and the third; a title I’m the most thankful for. And when I have worked away from home, I also really understood the meaning of sacrifice. That time could be time I spent with my family, but it was a decision I chose.

I remind myself often, I can have it all, just not all at once. The choices I’ve made in life are in most cases my own. I really cannot hold anyone else accountable.

Life circumstances reinforce that, at times, bad stuff happens. Something again that dairy farmers know all too well. Life is really about adapting to whatever is thrown at us, something that I feel farmers do well. Whether it be Mother Nature or milk price or cows getting out in the middle of the night, farmers understand that bad things happen and have persevered well because of it.

So, have you honestly asked yourself what it is that you want or expect to gain from 2017?

We have adapted well, tightened our belt strap, and endured 2016. Besides a better milk price, what is it that you want? This is a question that I ask myself, my husband, and our farm. The answer generally takes time to discover.

Do you want to expand your farm? Transition your farm? Make your farm more comfortable financially? Free up some of your time on a Sunday afternoon? Whatever it is, do your best to make it work! Just because scenario one didn’t work, doesn’t mean it wasn’t meant to happen. Revisit the topic!

But realize everything you do comes with a price tag. And that is ultimately a choice you (and your squad) have to make. We can have it all — but not all at once. Expansions don’t just come with a price tag; they come with sacrifices. Our last expansion is a blur because of the man-hours it took to get it up and going. But that was a consequence we were willing to accept to milk more cows and for our farm to become more efficient.

Make 2017 a year about finding balance for your life and for your farm. And for you lucky few that might mean changing nothing. You might have everything you want right now. If you do, count your blessings. If you don’t, have the courage to open up dialogue to paint your successful picture.

Listen to your heart and to your intuition. Farmers generally have a good gauge when it comes to this. Decide how badly you really want whatever you are striving for. This is easier said than done, especially if there is a team striving for different goals. Open up communication between team members so you can find the common thread and sew your way to success.

Around the Kitchen Table is a regular column in Hoard's Dairyman. The author and her husband work in partnership with family on a 450-cow dairy in East Moline, Ill.

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