Balancing Roles Panel

How to Balance Work and Daily Life

by Shana Hilgerson, ISU Women in Ag, student assistant


Balance is an important part of survival.  Being involved outside of the family farm and remaining an active member of the farm business is hard to handle.  Moderated by Cynthia Bartel, we asked three women who are actively balancing many different roles how they utilize their leadership skills to remain involved in all facets of their lives.

Pam Bolin, a dairy farmer, mother, grandmother, and active community member and active advocator for the dairy industry, opened the discussion with an analogy.  One day her son was juggling in the barn, and mentioned that “when you juggle, it is important to have things of a similar weight and shape.”  Pam was reminded of all the things she juggles in her life, and realized that not everything in life holds the same shape or weight.  You need to choose to prioritize what is most important to you and let that weigh more, while still “juggling” the things that may have less weight. 

Amy Tlach, owner of Mid-Iowa Seeds, mother, farmer, and active with ISU Extension and Outreach, seconds Pam’s ideas of prioritizing.  “Be aware of the things you can be in control of,” Amy says.  You can be whatever you want to be.  Surround yourself with positive people who will support your choices in attaining what is important to you. 

Nancy Bohl Bormann, Soil and Water District Commissioner for Kossuth County, certified crop adviser, mother, and farmer, cautions us to make decisions wisely.  “If it’s not a “Heck yes!” the it’s probably a “No.””  Too often, we try to do everything that comes up, and are spread too thin.  It’s important to establish what is most important to you and do it.

Other thoughts from the panel included how to ask for help.  A lot of the time we see asking for help as saying “I’m not capable.”  There is nothing wrong with asking for help, everyone needs an extra hand every now and then.  When working with others, make sure you listen and that everyone gets a turn to communicate so you can work as a cohesive group toward the same goal.  Not everything needs to be delegated, “do what excites you,” Pam says. 

Show up to meetings, to work, to other events.  Things happen because you are there.  By knowing what you are interested in and making an effort to be present, new opportunities will arise for you.  Nancy tells us to “accept opportunities.”  There is an almost domino effect when you choose to accept an opportunity, it leads to another. 

Everyone is busy.  Balancing all the different roles you have at home, in the community, at work, and more is hard.  But “busy is a choice.”  Amy explains how we are all busy all the time, and sometimes “busy” gets in the way.  It’s important to take time for yourself and know what you need. 

Be intentional.  Be willing to step out.  Make an impact.  “1.5% of us feed the world,” said Pam.  Just by being involved in agriculture, you make an impact.  By taking the time to prioritize and delegate tasks by knowing what holds the most weight in your life, you will be able to achieve a balance that works for you.