Karen Bohnert

Just you wait.” I used to never like that phrase.

When I was just married and before I got pregnant, which was just a few months after, everyone would tell me, “Just you wait until you have babies. Then you won’t ever have free time again.”

It was like I could not even enjoy being a newlywed; steadfast to the next chapter in my life. How many of you can relate?

But then I had a baby and constantly heard, “Just you wait until you have another” or “Just you wait until those babies get in school, then you will have no free time.”

I’ll be honest, as a dairy farm wife, and then soon after a dairy farm mom, I really didn’t feel like I had a lot of free time. And I tried hard to ignore those that were further down the road than I was and enjoy the chapter I was in.

Good thing that I did savor the moments of rocking babies, singing nursery rhymes, and having those little ones hold my hand everywhere they went. It went by in a blink of an eye.

Racing at full speed, I’m now immersed in the “just you wait” phase that all my family and friends warned me about. I’ll be completely honest, I’m exhausted. Instantly my days became longer overnight.

Survival methods have included building a tribe of other moms saying, “Hey, I’ll pick up the girls from volleyball, while you pick up the boys from basketball.” It’s a survival of divide and conquer that has been a godsend in the incredibly busy lives most of us live now.

My tribe extends out to my mother-in-law and a retired neighbor. After all, I have three kids. I’ve not mastered being in three places at the same time.

During fall, when Scott’s hours grew longer, I’ve learned to be okay with saying no. My 7-year-old son, Jacob, begged to play football. However, Jacob playing football meant that I would miss the older two kids’ games while he attended practice. I told him, “Not this year, buddy,” and then fretted about it; feeling really bad. His reply back to me was, “OK, mom, maybe next year?”

With watery eyes, I said, “Yeah, buddy, maybe next year.”

So my advice to you is to cut yourself some slack. Ask for help, learn to fuel up, and prep multiple meals when you can. Oh, and that never-ending laundry. Let’s be honest with ourselves, it will never get caught up. Not with the farming lives we live. Add uniforms to the mix and, well, there have been times when Febreze did a sufficient job hiding the smell.

Meals this fall have not been Pinterest-perfect; a far cry from my mother’s made-from-scratch meals. We have learned to eat leftovers and be okay with less. Pizza has been a weekly menu item. In a pinch, we have had cereal as our dinner.

My kids know how to cook, and because I have to stop what I’m doing midafternoon to get to their games, I come back to my workload and tell them to fend for themselves. Make some macaroni and cheese or a grilled cheese sandwich. Part of me questions what would my late mother think? She would smile and say, “Atta girl K, these are life lessons kids need to learn.”

And homework, I’ll be honest, while I have a bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics, advanced algebra still stumps me. I’ve become resourceful and not the “I’ll do everything mom.” I’ve gotten to know teachers on a first-name basis and they know me. Oh boy, do they know me.

We start our mornings even earlier, to chore, have breakfast, change, and be at school by 7 a.m., so the math teacher can go over the assignment one more time. I figure this gets us more mileage than me trying to cram for it and teach my child only to confuse him and age me in the process.

This is a busy chapter, folks. One that I’m told don’t wish away. When I look in the mirror, I don’t feel young. Dark circles and grey hair provoke. I pass by a cross and remember this too shall pass, but in the meantime, I’m doing the best to embrace it.

Life is not about the destination, it is about the journey. Walk slowly; it goes quickly. Ask for help, and try not to sweat the small stuff. In this household, laundry piles up and beds don’t always get made, but we do begin each day with a purpose and end exhaustingly grateful.

What more can I ask for?

And for those of you who have yet to enter this chapter, I’ll tell you, “Just you wait.” I’m forewarning you it’s a busy one, that zooms by at lightning speed, but has proven to be one of the greatest chapters of my life.

Yes, cultivating human beings is nothing shy of challenging. But watching my children engaged in our home, on our farm, and in their school and community reminds me that they are living a purpose-driven life. Kids who are involved and connected are less likely to get in trouble and most importantly fill their hearts with passion that will launch them toward a path of success.

Just you wait.

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.