The Big Sandy Mountaineer -

Family life work intergration


August 17, 2022

Tara Smith who writes Table Talks on Facebook grew up in Ekalaka, Montana on her family ranch (established in 1908). After high school she went to college at Montana State University in Bozeman, where she got a bachelor’s of science in math education. Tara then went to teach high school math at Hulett, WY for three years. During that time she also got a master’s degree in math education. In 2017, her dad suddenly and unexpectedly died. Tara was eight months pregnant with their first child. In the span of six weeks, her dad passed away, she quit her teaching career, they had a baby boy, and Tara’s little family of three moved back home to her family ranch. There was a lot going on at the time, and it was very challenging for everyone trying to navigate all the changes. But they pulled through and Tara has certainly learned a lot in the last five years. Her husband and she now manage the ranch, have a five year old son and a three year old daughter, and she absolutely loves teaching them about ranching, while learning new things right along-side of them. Tara has a side business doing bookkeeping for ranchers, but her passion is learning/teaching/helping people and families with ranch relationship.

Taken from her Blog, Ranch Table Talks, with permission:

“How do you set boundaries in regards to your work/life integration? There is no “ one size fits all” answer to this question. It has to work for you and yours. The thing about ranching is that in some season, it is a 24/7 job. When the hay is ready to cut, it needs cut. When the heifer needs her calf pulled there is no “Hold on, I’m spending time with my family.”

“Notice that I said work/life integration and not work/life balance. Balance indicates that two things are separate and equal. But ranching isn’t that way. Often there is no line between work and home. The two must coexist in harmony, which means sometimes there needs to be give and take, depending on the season.”

“Most ranchers struggle with this. Hard work and working hard are engrained in every ounce of their being, so while spending time with family sounds like it should be important, it isn’t as important as being out there working. Many people evaluate their entire self-worth on how hard they work. While the millennial generation has adopted the motto, “Work smarter, not harder,” most previous generations live by the motto, “Just work harder.” Again, there is not size fits all to this issue. It will look different for everyone. For us, work/life integration often means spending family time together while ranching. The key is making sure that the two are working in harmony for you. If they aren’t, it is essential to identify the problem and set boundaries to help solve it.”

“Here are some examples. If you are very hands on during calving, set the boundary with your family that you are not going to be able to give as much to your personal life during this time, but will commit to a family vacation at the end of calving season. Or, if you are going to be putting up hay for the month of July commit to be home from 6:00pm to 7:00 am every night during August. Or maybe your compromise is to take you family with you when you go check water each day in the summer. Or take you family in the side-by-side when you go around your cow herd each morning. Be willing to experiment to see what works. “

“Most importantly, let go of the guilt you feel about not working hard enough, particularly if that guilt stems from someone else’s opinion. I know that is so much easier said than done, but it really is important. If you are getting the job done, it doesn’t matter how hard you work. Outside of your immediate family, your work/life integration is no one else’s business. He is a secret, if Mom/Dad/Grandma/Grandpa/Brother/Sister/Uncle Aunt makes you feel like you never work hard enough, no matter how hard you work, they will never think it is enough. This is their issue, not yours.”

“Integration means blending personal/family life and work life. Do What works for you and your family. The goal is to enjoy life, and if your ranch life makes that challenging it’s time to evaluate and make some changes. “


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