Women’s Work

On Thursday my social media and favourite ABC radio programs were brimming with messages surrounding International Women’s Day.  All the uplifting quotes, photos and stories got me thinking about my role as a women living on a rural property and the role of other generations of women in my family.

clean washing

As a child I don’t remember ever being discouraged from trying anything based on my gender but there were certain farm tasks such as slaughtering sheep and welding that were just never considered to be women’s work.  As a child I also remember my mum and grandmother both working on the property when necessary, mostly helping out with sheep work.  The rest of their time was spent maintaining extensive gardens, keeping food on the table, raising and educating children and generally providing comfortable homes for their families.

sheep work

My mother-in-law is a woman who can still shear a sheep, press a bale of wool, dispatch feral animals and do most other farming tasks that come her way.  She also cooks, sews, works her sheepdogs and maintains a home.

sheep work

Following in the footsteps of the older women in my family, my time is divided between paddock work and jobs closer to home.  When it is needed I happily help out with sheep work, checking tanks and miscellaneous bits and pieces.  The rest of my time is spent keeping food on the table and in the pantry, packing tuckerboxes and smokos,  growing a garden, maintaining our home and of course, raising children.  Photography and food projects fit somewhere in between.

sheep dog

Perhaps it’s an old fashioned belief but I don’t consider these domestic tasks as being lesser jobs than the traditionally male tasks such as building fences, driving machinery or installing pipelines.  Our business and our life would be vastly different if there was nobody at home to keep the washing pile under some control and the biscuit tin (mostly!) full.   So, while I am all for equality, big dreams and smashing glass ceilings I am also proud of my role on our property and I feel that it is a valuable part of our family and farming situation.

sheep work

I encourage our daughter every day to pursue her goals and dreams.  She loves the outdoors and farm work but she also loves to write, dance, draw, sing and daydream.  I am delighted that she is practical and doesn’t mind getting her hands dirty but is also creative and enjoys the gentler side of being a girl.

horse and rider

I know some rural women who rarely venture into the paddock and others who spend the majority of their time doing farm work.  Farming businesses are diverse and women take on different roles depending on their skills, strengths, location, family dynamics and financial situation.

If you are still with me you might like this piece recently written by my cousin Lisa Shannon.  Lisa and I grew up on almost neighbouring properties and she has experienced the highs and lows of being a woman in an isolated and male dominated part of the world.

Are you doing traditional women’s work or perhaps like most women a mixture of roles?

Is some kind of domestic order important to you and your family?

Happy Sunday, friends x

25 Comments

  1. Reply

    Kate

    March 11, 2018

    I am in a very traditionally female oriented profession but I do it because I love it, not necessarily because I am a girl. I found the message that girls can do anything they want resounded loudly through the corridors of my all girls secondary school!
    I really enjoyed hearing all those stories of girl power on Thursday too Jane xxx

    • Reply

      Jane S

      March 12, 2018

      Yes Kate…not too many men in your workplace that’s for sure. You are so good at what you do! May the girl power continue in harmony with our male counterparts. x

  2. Reply

    Di

    March 11, 2018

    Well said Jane. You are a real inspiration for all women and I love reading your blogs and following your Instagram posts. Keep up the great role model.

    • Reply

      Jane S

      March 12, 2018

      You are so kind Di!

  3. Reply

    Kate N

    March 11, 2018

    Well said Jane. To begin with I was out there, up to my armpits in the farm, then when the kids came along I was very like you, kept the family running and did the farm stuff when I needed to, it seemed like there were endless jobs needing doing, and I felt like I was missing them, so the kids ended up in the paddock with me, Al used to have his afternoon nap on the quad with me, bringing the dairy herd in to be milked. Then when the kids went off to school I started working on the farm full time again, before the kids were up I’d get cows in, when I put them on the bus my day would begin in ernest and I’d get a full day of work in before getting the them off the bus. But something huge was missing, and as you know, I retrained as a TAFE teacher. Now I’m a proud teacher if some of the future of agriculture in Australia, and in some cases overseas, nothing makes me feel more satisfied than a smiling line of kids on a fence who have all mastered an intricate fencing knot, and nothing makes me leak a bit from my eyes than seeing a kid achieve employment in an industry they’ve dreamed of entering since the can remember but been told no way they be able to do it, or a kid go into the show ring with a steer they’ve had a direct hand in breaking in and preparing and coming out with a ribbon, or even just the accomplishment of getting in there and having a go.
    It doesn’t matter what role you play, as long as you are passionate about it and you love it!

    • Reply

      Jane S

      March 12, 2018

      I love your work Kate. You should be so proud of your achievements and your family. Thanks for calling in and staying with me! x

  4. Reply

    kate

    March 11, 2018

    I found myself moving away from the social media memes and blah blog posts this year. I also didn’t attend the annual UN Women breakfast – an event I’ve attended pretty much every year for the better part of two decades.

    I struggled with the idea that men could no longer be visible across the ABC. I’ve worked in media my whole career, and I get it, though making me more visible didn’t necessarily mean that I or my peers got better pay, equal pay even, or were promoted into leadership roles.

    I know the data, I know the stats, I’ve seen them, lived them, supported people through and beyond them. Like you, I’ve grown up through the changing decades of equity and equality for women. I’ve championed women in leadership and governance roles. I’ve championed financial independence (a subject very dear to my heart and until we crack that particular nut, I fear we’re nowhere near equity with men).

    There is still a lot to fight for, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not, in my mind, that women need to be more like men. I think you’ve said it here quite beautifully. We have to share the workload. I’d like to think a fella could as easily fill that biscuit barrel and might choose to as do the more physically demanding paddock work. When we see both as our shared tasks and responsibilities and, dare I say it, men work on what you’ve described as softer traits, then we can say there’s equality and equity.

    • Reply

      Jane S

      March 12, 2018

      I had a hunch that you would make a thoughtful comment on this post Katie, thank you. I had no idea you worked in media, I love that as we blog we all learn a little more about each other. I am all for sharing the workload and supporting each other in all of the roles that life throws at us. I always value your contributions!

  5. Reply

    Anne

    March 12, 2018

    Interesting Jane. I was one of four daughters brought up on a farm and as we had no brother, there was no distinction between girls’ and boys’ work. One of my sisters is a successful farmer though I chose farm admin and throughout my life have very reluctantly driven tractors during harvest. I would far rather keep the office in order and make sure everyone is fed and watered. We’ve been able to diversify on our farm, giving the family a choice to follow whatever direction they choose irrespective of gender.
    Wouldn’t it be good if everyone could do what makes them happy without feeling they’re inferior or superior to anyone else?

    • Reply

      Jane S

      March 13, 2018

      There is room for us all in our different roles isn’t there Anne? It must have been a wonderful childhood with three sisters on a farm. Thank you for your thoughts as always.

  6. Reply

    Mimi

    March 13, 2018

    A beautiful post. I have two daughters. I raised them well. I raised them to choose men well. And they did.

    • Reply

      Jane S

      March 13, 2018

      Thank you Mimi!

  7. Reply

    Kate

    March 13, 2018

    Wow, great glimpse into your life and I loved your cousins piece too.
    Thanks for sharing
    Cheers Kate

    • Reply

      Jane S

      March 13, 2018

      Thank you Kate!

  8. Reply

    ewe beauty

    March 13, 2018

    a lovely piece of writing Jane ….I enjoy your work…..

    I never want to be more like men, there is room for us both and I firmly believe that we can share roles but also each gender can do jobs the other really cant . I loved raising my family, getting all 5 through primary home schooling, but also playing an integral part in mustering for any sheep work ( sometimes with small kids in tow, reading and doing the odd bit of school as we went !) drafting sheep and cattle with kids in porta cots etc. providing meals to all and sundry and trying to provide a home for my family. I took pride in having a garden when water permitted and at 60 I don’t regret it, any of it for one minute . We all make choices in our lives, I made one to live in the bush and raise a family, I don’t consider myself a hero at all, I am just following in the footsteps of many, many women before me and I hope when I am not here any more, I am remembered for having given life a fair crack !!!

    • Reply

      Jane S

      March 13, 2018

      Thank you Trish, always lovely to hear from you here. I agree, we all have a role to play don’t we! For as long as I can remember you have always provided a welcoming home and always put yourself before others! I truly hope you are enjoying your new (well deserved!) space. x

  9. Reply

    ewe beauty

    March 13, 2018

    it is amazing Jane…. a dream come true for us.. I pinch myself every morning as I watch the sunrise from my bed, I am grateful and feel blessed at this stage of my life to have such a home to enjoy and make a home again! ………………… I now need your mother’s vast knowledge to help me plan a garden on sorts and consume this vast space of red dirt out front!
    PS your photos are amazing, you need to make a coffee table book, I ‘ll l house one gladly xxx

  10. Reply

    Sam

    March 13, 2018

    Hi Jane, I read this post and your cousin’s fascinating piece at the weekend – so much food for thought. It’s hard to unpick my upbringing and to know for sure what influenced me but I don’t remember being encouraged to break the traditional female mould. It’s probably too deep a subject to get into here! Nowadays, I certainly take more notice of the division of labour in my household and try to encourage equality and broad horizons for my two boys and one girl. Gender stereotyping is SUCH a broad and complicated subject and I’m sure I have been guilty of it (totally unconsciously) in the past. I suppose I do traditional women’s work (cook, clean, decorate, garden, care for the kids, etc) and my actual paid work is editing books, which is gender neutral (if a job can be!). My husband sits in front of a computer all day – hardly traditional ‘men’s work’. We both love to wield a hammer, dig earth and stack wood. Domestic order is certainly important to me – I have a much lower tolerance for mess and chaos than my husband! Sorry this is such a long rambling comment. You’re completely right that it’s important to do what you want and what gives you pleasure if at all possible, whether that’s shearing sheep or making bread, painting walls or building fences, and we need to make sure our children have the options to choose their path, wherever that may be. Sam x

    • Reply

      Jane S

      March 20, 2018

      I love your rambling comment Sam! Thank you. It is interesting isn’t it…it makes me smile to think of those simple pleasures like wielding a hammer, digging and stacking wood. Jane x

  11. Reply

    Chookyblue

    March 17, 2018

    its always such a challenge to balance farm work, family, town work they are all very important hats……..the house can be a mess some times so long as the lawn is mowed nice I feel sane……..when you work F/t in town I don’t think others see what you also try and fit into your day at times………..there is mostly not much down time as you catch up with farm work be that office or paddock……………
    I know my mum thinks it is wrong to be outside working………….but it is what I need and want to do………….family farms only work if everyone works together…………all the jobs need to be done………sometimes I round them up for “pettycoat goverment” and everyone cleans the house……….its usually a major overhaul by this stage but it is just as important as some other jobs outside………..granted it won’t make money but it gets the house in order……….
    you wrote this so well…………
    i think everyone doing the same job should be paid the same money…………I also believe the best person should get the job………..sex is irrelevant……..I certainly don’t want to get a job just cause I tick the box of employing another women………..I want it because I am the best person for the job……..thankfully my town work everyone gets paid the same money for the same job………………

    • Reply

      Jane S

      March 20, 2018

      Nice to hear from you Chooky. I worked off-farm before I had children and it certainly can be a juggle. Life is still a juggle just with different things! I agree on the mowed lawn, it makes everything feel better doesn’t it? I appreciate your comment. Jane

  12. Reply

    Sally

    March 19, 2018

    Hi Jane, I found your blog through My Open Kitchen, which I found after a recommendation from one of my blog readers. How one thing leads to another..!! I listened to your interview while I burned the spuds, time stood still, so wonderful to hear what you have to say, and now to have the luxury of reading through your blog posts. I take my hat off to you. Your skills as a writer, writing about your life, so very interesting to hear from a woman who is walking the walk, genuine! Crikey, I’m a country woman, and proud of it, but our shop is 15 minutes away and a rare trip to the City takes just over an hour. We think we’re country, but we ain’t got nothin’ on you sister. Thanks for giving me the vicarious pleasure of your kind of country life. I don’t know how you do it all… when do you sleep? XX

    • Reply

      Jane S

      March 20, 2018

      Hello Sally, lovely to hear from you and thank you for your generous comment. I really just do what I have to do! Sometimes life is smooth and sometimes not so smooth…just like all of us! It is lovely discovering blogs and connections through social media and podcasts isn’t it?

  13. Reply

    Christine

    March 25, 2018

    Hi Jane, I just wanted to say how much I enjoy your blog and postings about your life on a rural farm. I live in Pennsylvania, USA and work right in center city Philadelphia. About eight years ago my husband and I had a roll reversal when he lost his job and I began working full time after many years of working part time. I think it is most important for someone to keep the home, and household chores together, shopping, cooking, cleaning the house, having a meal on the table at the end of the day. If my husband had not been willing to do that I could never have taken on the roll of full time secular work and major financial contributor to the family. The point I’m making is that keeping a well run household contributes to family stability, a sense of peace and well being.
    Christine
    Lilbitbrit

    • Reply

      Jane S

      March 25, 2018

      Thank you so much Christine, I couldn’t agree more. In fact I wish I had articulated it as beautifully as you have in your last sentence!

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