Are you in the season of life where you are stuck at home with the kids, instead of out being a cowboy? Maybe you weren’t planning to get pregnant, but here you are. Maybe you wanted a baby, but didn’t realize their constant needs would prevent you from doing everything you used to do. Whatever the case, now you end up staying home with the baby while your husband rides out every day.
I get it. I really do. I have been in your shoes many times. I am not naturally an indoor person. When I was a teen, my mom always sent me to work with my dad on the sawmill because I hated being in the house with her. (I didn’t enjoy the sawmill, either, but it was better then being in the bakery!) I was a tomboy who climbed trees, ripped my dresses while playing outside, would rather get dumped riding a horse, than go shopping.
Well, here I was, a young mom, on a 12,000 acre ranch, stuck in the house with 3 young kids. I wanted to go with my husband so badly I could taste it. I did go with him sometimes, but it’s not the same when you have 3 little tots trailing you.
We didn’t have kid-friendly horses. There were only the string of green ranch horses, that everyone rode and no one put time into. We couldn’t buy good horses on our wage, either. So yes, I get it.
Why it is hard to be a stay at home mom
You miss your carefree days.
You miss jumping in the truck with you man without grabbing a diaper and a bottle and a blanket for the baby. You miss going out to saddle up before dawn, then trotting out at the neighbor’s branding beside him, gathering pairs in the cool morning air. Instead, you bring a pie to the branding, and try to keep the kids from killing each other in the pickup.
Others are passing you up in skills & accomplishments.
You had plans. You had goals. You wanted to become the next female roping legend, or maybe the gal who could put a handle on a horse so everyone would want one of hers. You wanted to be the smoothest roper at the branding, or the desired partner at the local ranch rodeo. Maybe you wanted to become the best cattlewoman out there, who had a handle on cattle health and grazing. Whatever your dreams, they aren’t being realized while you are doing laundry and wiping snotty noses.
Other ranch women judge your parenting
Whether you stay home or take baby along… I felt like I couldn’t ever measure up. Some ranch women thought I shouldn’t bring my babies to a branding at all, but mostly, ranch women judged me for not sticking them on a horse alone when they were tiny.
Some of you know that we lost a son when he was 2 years old to a drowning accident. Something like that changes how you parent. You realize that there are some dangers you can’t justify. We didn’t have kid-broke horses till the kids were older (6-8). We didn’t come from a family line of ranchers, with all the benefits that provides, like extra horses, babysitters, inherited ranch… We had to scrabble our way up from zero.
So no, we couldn’t afford a 4k horse on a 2k/month salary. We couldn’t take the kids and spend all day fixing fence, because my husband was being paid for getting work done in a timely manner, and there was never enough time.
Things to remember about being stuck at home
Husband is the one on the payroll
It really comes down to this, a lot of times. Why didn’t he stay home with the baby sometimes? He couldn’t. He was on the payroll – I wasn’t. I could go help him, sure. But they weren’t going to pay me. So he had to work. He’d agreed to that. If he didn’t work – we didn’t get paid. If I didn’t help, it didn’t change our paycheck.
This stage will pass.
I know how frustrating these words can be! I get it! But it is true. At 35, suddenly I found myself able to just tell the kids that I was going out to ride, and they would be fine alone at the house…or they could saddle a horse and go with me! They could make their own lunch, do their own schoolwork, do the laundry, whatever. (This is a secret benefit of having your kids early in life, by the way. They will be self-sufficient when you are still young enough to do lots of fun things!)
You are doing important work
This is important work. Beef is important, but nowhere near the same level as motherhood. Beef and roping and reputations will all melt away, one day. But your children have eternal souls. You have to look long term, here. You will still be able to ride and rope in a few (long!) years. But your kids will never be small and impressionable again. They will grow up and not want to snuggle their soft little head into your arm while you kiss their squishy neck. They will grow up!
Right now is the time to teach them important truths about God, the world, relationships, family. Building good habits and stability into their lives is so important to their health. Teaching them character qualities, how to do things, and that mom is always there. Modeling that everyone is important on the ranch – not just the one who rides the colts or who swings the best loop. So many kids grow up thinking they are above jobs like fencing, irrigation, housework, cooking, fixing trucks, etc. We need to teach our kids that ALL ranch jobs are important.
God sees you.
You may feel invisible to everyone else, you may feel like your life is hidden, boring, not worth much. But that is a lie from Satan. God sees you. He does. He sees your sacrifices, your dedication, your hard work. He cares, He will reward you for it. You are so vital. You are caring for the most vulnerable.
Think about the little bum calves – the ones that are not cared for by their mama. They are the ones we spend a lot of time on, trying to get them healthy and strong. They need so much extra care, because their mama wasn’t doing her job. A healthy cow-calf pair – we want to see that, because we know that calf will need very little help from us. It will stay healthier, be stronger, sell for a better price. Mamas, don’t let your babies be leppys! Be a good mama. Raise strong calves.
Cooks are vital to the ranch
Remember; cowboys couldn’t do their job without you. They need you to grab meds, take things to the vet, haul a load to the sale, feed a crew of 30 with one days warning. They need a human gate, sometimes, or help in the calving barn, or a bathtub to warm a calf.
They need you. They appreciate you. It takes stress off of them, to know you are in their corner – that they can depend on you to be there and have their back. Also, guess who the cowboys love to see the most? That’s right – the cook, bringing coffee or snacks or lunch.
What to do when you are stuck at home.
Know your why
As in any business, you need to know your why. What drives you? Roping? Then you will chafe every day until the kids are grown. But if you remember that raising God-fearing men and women is more important than raising fat cattle, then you will have the grace and stamina to do it well. No one else can raise kids quite like their own mama can.
Don’t let anyone, especially your own inner voice – tell you that what you are doing isn’t important. Vitally important! You will have to mind yourself of this, many days. Know your why.
The small years are crucial to building lasting relationships with your kids. I cannot overstate this. So many families where the kids grow up and there is no relationship – the parents were absent, relationally, when the kids were small. Don’t be a statistic. Build relationships. Form bonds that will last. Don’t expect rocky teen years! Set yourself up when they are 2-3 years old, to be good friends when they are 13.
Ranch women are, by default, distant from most friends. Now we have social media, but we all know how impersonal that can be! Use these years when you are at home more, to build relationships with other women. They don’t have to be ranch women. Take time to go visit, have coffee together, babysit for each other, share a meal. Nothing beats in-person friendships and interaction. The day will come when you need real life friends – work on that now.
Learn useful skills
Budget tight? Now is a great time to work on gardening. Bored? Take some online classes. Business degrees are always helpful, if you get into management or start a side business. Cattle or equine skills are important. Rangeland knowledge is so helpful.
Learn to sew, build saddles, take photos, braid reatas, raise stock dogs. There are endless things you can do to keep you busy and productive, maybe even earn a little side income to supplement that cowboy wage. Shoot, I used to bake pies and sell them. It paid for groceries several summers!
Get a degree.
As I mentioned, online classes are always smart. I know – you just want the babies to grow up enough so you can go back to riding. Hey, you know what? Someday you may have your own herd, and guess what skills will be needed then? Business or accounting. (trust me!!)
Think ahead. What skills might you realistically need in 10 years from now? Bookkeeping? Rangeland management? Cattle health? All these things are not traditional ‘cowboy skills’ like riding rank colts, or turning out a finished bridle horse. But if ranchers are to keep up with the times, we need advanced skills. Any old ranch cowboy can stick a colt. Not many can balance the books for the boss. Think ahead.
Find your identity in Christ
There are so many voices screaming in our ears. You can be sure the loudest ones will not be from Jesus. His voice is a gentle whisper. You will have to seek Him if you want to find Him. Spend time in the Word. Spend time in prayer. In His presence is true joy. As long as you are trying to find fulfillment in your work, you will be discouraged. When you set your focus on Christ, you will be filled with joy that can’t be changed by your circumstances.
You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence.’ Acts 2:28
More reading: True Joy
I hope this has given you some new ideas on how to make the most of your time in the house. It is hard to be stuck at home with the kids – no doubt about it, But we can do hard things! We are strong – we are ranch women! God will strengthen you for this huge job of raising kids. He will be with you. He will guide you. Pray. Read His word for wisdom. Ask for wisdom. He will give it.