One of the challenges that we knew we would face in this transition was figuring out how to work from home. Despite knowing (and having a loose plan for) that, I was surprised at how difficult this concept was to deal with. Lots of people have tackled this issue, including some of our close friends, but it is definitely an on-going learning experience for us.
One of the many wonderful things about this property’s infrastructure was the existence of a finished room off the garage. The previous owner had set it up as a man/hunting room, complete with deer heads hanging on the walls, camouflage curtains, and a gun safe in the corner. Right away, we began planning to turn this room into my farm office. Setting things up this way would allow me to “go to work” away from the kids, while still being close enough to help with family stuff, eat lunch with everyone, etc. We outfitted it with an old military desk from my dad that I used as a kid, a couple filing cabinets, and a white board mounted on the wall that we purchased from MtV Church.
It’s pretty utilitarian right now, but I have grand plans to hang some cow pictures on the wall, the traditional “first dollar earned” plaque, and maybe have a bookshelf with farm/vet manuals. The biggest challenge from an infrastructure perspective was getting our WiFi to reach from the house through the metal-sided garage, but we solved that with a $30 antenna that plugs into my laptop’s USB port. Now I have a place to go make phone calls and keep farm records that is separate from our home.
My biggest frustration has come with trying to deal with the kids, and their lack of understanding for the concept of Daddy physically being around, but not available to them. Woven into that challenge is the fact that I want them to be around, participate in farm work, and generally grow up in/around the day-to-day operation of Pastured Providence Farmstead. In fact, that concept was one of the key points in our decision to get out of the Air Force and start a farm. However, reality is best described this way: I don’t want to get to the end of our savings account in a few years, look back, and say “I was the best dad in the world but now, since I chose to be unproductive early on, I have to get an off-farm job to support our family financially”. I want PPFS to solely sustain our family for the long term, and to do that I feel the need to sacrifice a little of the ideal right now in order to create the ultimate goal.
After talking all this out with Heather, we are both making a concerted effort to protect my work day. The kids know not to come into the farm office unless invited, and when I’m out on the property Heather is quick to say “Make sure you don’t bother Daddy while he works”. On the flip side, I constantly look for opportunities to include the kids in something I’m doing, mentally prepare myself for the decrease in efficiency that comes with that, and try to “come home” at a decent hour each day in order to invest quality time with them. Lately, the balance has been much better, and I feel like we’re honing in on the right answer for us. The challenge will be to maintain an acceptable solution as things change and the demands for my time increase. Together, our family is up for the task, and I’m looking forward to being self-employed for many years to come!
If anyone has dealt with similar self-employment challenges, what was the best way you and your family found to handle the issue?