Helping Farms Thrive

A Candid Discussion on Farming & Motherhood: Part 1

Megz and her daughters
Recently, Aimee Hood, one of our communications leaders and mom of two boys, reached out to Megz Reynolds, a farmer and mom of two young girls.
What followed was a thought-provoking discussion of “mom guilt,” the communications challenges today’s farmers face, and how we can build a better future through agricultural innovation and social change. Below is the first part of their conversation.
Aimee: “Being a mom is amazing, challenging, lonely, and limitless.”

Megz,

Hi! My name is Aimee Hood. I lead a Science Communications Team at Bayer Crop Science, and I was with Monsanto previously. I am based in St. Louis, Missouri.

I ran across your article, “I'm A Farmer And Mom. Lack Of Rural Daycare Makes It Hard To Be Both”, and I thought it was amazing. I know what’s it like to be a working mom in a more traditional work world, but I hadn’t thought through a day in the life of a Farm Mom, especially one with very young children. I love your embedded tweet with the picture of you feeding your daughter while feeding the world.

I have two boys who are 14 and 17 now, and those days when they were little and cuddly seem like yesterday, yet so long ago at the same time. I am thankful that in my area we have many daycare options, and we were lucky to leave our children with people that we grew to love and call our friends. It was still a challenge to leave them, and the mommy guilt was significant.

I balanced most of the guilt by knowing that I was passionate about my job and the work I was doing. As you said, I am a better person and a way better mom when I am working and have purpose. I did not grow up in agriculture. I grew up in a suburban area outside of St. Louis and my dad worked for Monsanto his entire career. Most of his career, they were a chemical company making products such as AstroTurf and RoundUp. When I was in college, Monsanto was adding row crop seeds to its portfolio and turning more of its focus to agriculture. This seemed like such an interesting field to me, and after I worked for Monsanto for three summers, I found myself becoming more and more passionate about finding ways to help farmers be more productive while using resources more efficiently. So, more than 20 years later, I have maintained and grown this purpose and found so much fulfillment in my work. I am proud to model that for my boys.

Aimee and family, celebrating Aimee being honored as one of Working Mothers magazine’s 2018 Working Mothers of the Year.
Aimee and family, celebrating Aimee being honored as one of Working Mothers magazine’s 2018 Working Mothers of the Year.

I was humbled and honored recently to be named legacy Monsanto’s Working Mother of the Year. I was inspired to write a blog post on LinkedIn entitled, “How Do You Inspire Others – Everyday?” I am hopeful that I was able to capture some of the reasons why I think that I am a better mom when I am working by the example that I set for my family.

Additionally, my boys attend the same high school that I did, and the school newspaper recently featured my family in an article.

The quotes from my boys are a bit of an affirmation that I might be balancing things OK as a mom. Still, some days I wish there was an instruction book on how to be a mom.

I still wonder if I am doing things OK. I still wonder what I could do differently to ensure that my children will be successful and happy. I still wonder what I could do to make sure that they actually shower, eat a decent meal, or do laundry when they go to college. (AHHHH!) I would love to explore some of these challenges with you. Being a mom is amazing, challenging, lonely, and limitless. I’d love to know the other ways that you are managing it all.

I can’t wait to hear more from your end!
Aimee

P.S. Some of my favorite people in my life are from Canada, and Cami Ryan, one of my colleagues that I admire most, is also from Saskatoon. Farmers in Canada are doing an amazing job telling their story and seem to have an amazing sense of “family”. I’d love to pick your brain about that as well.

Megz: “I want my girls to grow up knowing without a shadow of a doubt that they can do anything.”

Hi Aimee,

I loved reading your email and congratulations on your award! I feel we may be kindred spirits.

I often get asked, how do I balance it all? My first response is to laugh, and my second is to clarify that I do not have balance. I try to prioritize and work with my family to ensure the most important balls do not get dropped, but to say I have balance would be to lie. It would also be a huge injustice to every other parent out there who is struggling to be the best mother or father they can be while following their dreams and trying to keep up with the day-to-day of running a household and family.

I want my girls to grow up knowing without a shadow of a doubt that they can do anything, that it’s important to follow your dreams and that gender roles do not need to define them. I want them to know these things not because we have verbally affirmed them but because we have led by example.

My husband has our girls with him farming almost as much as I do. Often my work takes me away from home for a week or more at a time, and he is the one home with the girls.

Megz, her husband, and two girls
Megz, her husband, and two girls

I want to change the narrative that addresses the question of how you manage to be a farmer and mother with such young kids. No one ever thinks to ask my husband that question, and in reality, it is just as challenging for him as it is for me. Cultural stereotypes have taught us to look to the mother as the main caregiver, and we continue to create a difference by focusing on the past.

I look forward to our conversations as well!

Kind regards,
Megz

Aimee: “We need more role models for women out there.”

Megz –
I agree with you in so many ways.

I am so lucky in the partnership that my husband and I have. People often ask me how I “do it all” as well. The reality is, I don’t. Perhaps the traditional mom-role gets the credit when my kids show up at school bathed and with clean clothes on. Don’t tell anyone, but my husband does the laundry and nags the kids to take a shower way more than I do! Craig (my husband) is amazing and often doesn’t get the credit, even from me, for all that he does for our family.

I still think we have a long way to go to wipe away traditional stereotypes. A friend of mine shared a story on Facebook recently: She was on a plane leaving for a business trip and started talking to the person in the seat next to her. She relayed where she was going and why and the person said, “Oh. Who is watching your kids?” To which she answered, “Their father.” (Duh!) I don’t usually get sensitive about these kinds of questions, but at the same time, no one would ask that same thing of a father who was traveling for business, would they?

Did the way you were raised influence how you are raising your kids? I know that this is true for me. My dad was the traditional breadwinner in the family. He left before we woke each morning and got home late most evenings when I was growing up. My mom was a stay-at-home mom until I was in middle school. My parents have always been giving and loving people and made us feel like we were limitless in what we could do and achieve. Even though their roles were more traditional, I never felt boundaries. I appreciate that so much. My parents are also extraordinarily generous people with both their time and money, and Craig and I try to model generosity for our boys.

I just ran across this article on LinkedIn and found it interesting: "Being a female leader means being asked the dreaded question…"

I love it when people remind me how to frame things differently. Here was my takeaway: Rather than resenting being asked “How do you balance it all?”, embrace it. We need more role models for women out there, and we can all use inspiration and ideas from others on how to be successful.

Have a great weekend!
Aimee

Check out part two of Aimee and Megz’s conversation here!
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