Can you have it all? Go to any bookstore or library and you’ll find shelves crammed full of self-help books on this subject and, in particular, on women who strive to have it all. But is it possible? Many Canadian women are juggling a career with being a perfect Mum and loving wife/partner. Throw a horse or two into the dynamic and the multitasking really begins in earnest. However, is it worth it? Does having too many “balls in the air” mean an unbalanced life, one filled with compromise? Are women running themselves into the ground to make their dreams and those of their family members come true?
Maureen Hall, owner of Prospect Farms in Port Perry, Ontario, says one of the most important things to remember in life is not to be too proud to ask for help.
“Help, help, help. I just can’t do it all. We all pitch in. My husband Gerry is a Godsend and the kids have a lot of work to do too. It is really important that everyone has jobs to do and that they take responsibility for those jobs.”
Hall confesses to “cheating” slightly. Her parents also live at Prospect Farms and they look after the house, the garden, and take care of the ever-present laundry. A girl is hired to clean the stalls three mornings a week.
The Halls event, breed sport horses, compete at numerous shows, participate actively in the pony club, and host PPG (Prince Phillip Games) practices. Sons Mitchel and Stephen compete in PPG, plus show on the “A” circuit in the hunter ring. Almost every weekend is full of horsey activities.
However, horses are only one part of Hall’s busy life. She also runs a full-time family travel business on the internet called www.hotelfun4kids.com
“Twenty years ago I juggled a career and horses, but I sold my horses when I married and we started a family. Three years ago the boys and I were riding at a local stable to prepare for a dude ranch vacation in Wyoming. We all got completely hooked.”
The Hall family now own a private, 8-stall barn with an indoor arena. It is a very busy life but Hall loves it and thrives on the rapid pace.
“And the greatest thing about horses is it’s something we can do as a family.”
Mother, wife, coach, horse owner, and rider, Julie Diamond of Drayton, Ontario, agrees that leading multiple lives, as it were, is well worth the effort. As a hunter coach at busy Riverside Stables near Baden, Ontario, Diamond was working 6 or 7 days a week, teaching over 85 students and going to shows every weekend. She loved her lifestyle but points out that adjustments had to be made when she and husband John started a family.
“I would not miss the experience of having kids but it definitely changed the way I looked at my career! My first daughter, Jacy, was born in the month of June, right in the middle of show season. At 2 weeks of age I was carting her around to shows. When you’re self-employed you have to keep on working since paid maternity leave is non-existent. When I got pregnant with Joelle, I decided it was all just getting to be too much. Working the way I was, I just couldn’t spend the quality time I wanted to with my babies and my husband.”
Freelancing as a coach has its own challenges and the first year was lean. However, Diamond persevered, determined to coach and still have time for a family life.
“I have built up my clientele. I teach 20 students a week now, most of who own horses, lease or co-board. The freelancing gives me much-needed flexibility. My students are fabulous. If I have to change lessons because of my kids, they are totally understanding. They’re the best.”
Even with the flexibility there are still pros and cons, as there are in anything.
“The biggest pro of being my own boss is getting to stay home with my kids and raise them. I rarely need a babysitter as John can be home when I’m away coaching. I’m very lucky to have a hobby that is also my career. The biggest con is John and I are on completely different schedules. He’s a teacher so his free time is in the summer when I’m busiest with horse shows! Also, it’s SO cold standing in indoor arenas in the winter!”
“Yes, I had to make some sacrifices and changes in my career, but my family comes first. I will keep on juggling so that I can have it all as long as I can…and hopefully that’s until I am old and grey!”
Dawn Doner of Queensville, Ontario and her husband, Glenn, recently purchased a small hobby farm. High school sweethearts, they have been married for five years. After scouring the countryside for a suitable property, one was found. In June 2006, they moved from the suburbs to a rural area.
“It was such a relief to be out of the hustle and bustle of “town” life! We took the month of June to prepare for the July 1st arrival of our herd of six horses. The day of arrival was like Christmas morning. I was so excited, at long last – my horses would be on my own property! Little did I know my life was about to change in a drastic way.”
Before the move to the farm, Doner had a very regular routine. Each morning she was up 2 hours prior to starting her workday. She’d prepare for the day in a relaxed manner, applying make-up, carefully selecting her clothes, and enjoying a nice cup of coffee whilst reading her emails. Life on the farm has certainly changed all that.
“Now I’m up at 5:30am. I let out my 2 hound dogs and begin the trek down to the barn. When entering the barn, I quickly feed, muck-out the stalls and begin to put on turn out boots. One-by-one I lead the little devils out to their turnout paddocks. Of course I have to do this in just the right order or they will ALL be upset and heaven forbid I should upset the little darlings.”
Shortly after 7:00am sees Doner running up to the house, having a quick 5 minute shower, grabbing the first clean outfit she can find, jumping in the car and dashing off to work. Gone are the days of leisurely cups of coffee in the morning.
“Once you are responsible for the lives of such amazing animals, it makes you realize that the little things you would previously fuss and fret over are no longer as important…well…that’s what I tell myself anyway. We are now thinking of starting a family of the 2-legged kind. I have a sinking feeling that my daily routine just might get a little more complicated. Stay tuned!”
- Time management and self-discipline are the keys to success. Create a schedule and stick with it!
- Keep the house tidy during the week; leave cleaning and laundry on weekends. Enlist partner/spouse/kids in household chores.
- Don’t try to be super woman.
- If you own 2 or more horses, seriously consider investing in your own small farm.
- Don’t be afraid to accept help from parents and friends.