On Friday Night Lights: Football, Family and Finding Balance

Here is a reprint of Deb’s popular post on Friday Night Lights that was originally posted on the CommonGround web site.

Deb Gangwish and her husband Paul have raised five children, row crops and livestock on their family farm in Shelton, Nebraska.

“Friday night lights.” This common phrase is one that most moms associate with bright stadium lights over a high school football game on Friday nights in the fall.  As a mother of five, I can still remember the joyful chaos of Friday nights that my husband, Paul, and I felt as we shuffled the kids to and from practices and games throughout their high school careers.

This phrase has a second meaning to me because I am a farmer. When I hear this phrase now, the first thing that comes to mind are the lights of our farm- the combine, tractors, trucks and bin lights that light the way as we work late into the nights and weekends to harvest our crops.

Harvest was 75 days long for us last year, which is long, but standard for our large operation. For almost three months straight I practically lived at our bin site, where we store our grain in bins once it is harvested from the field, with dust in my hair, on my clothes and in my lungs. I ran the grain dryer, which dries the corn and soybeans to reduce moisture levels before it’s either sold or stored for the winter, and weighed each truckload of grain to keep track of how much each field was producing. After the hard work and long hours we put in at harvest, I told my husband, “I need to feel like a woman again!”

But back when “Friday night lights” meant farming AND football to our family, I have to say that Paul and I did a doggone good job of getting to every game that we could. And yet there were still times when we could not attend everything. Since our children grew up immersed in the farm, they understand the early mornings and late nights that it takes to raise a crop as well as the importance of tending to a sick animal. As hard as it was as a mom to have to miss a game, our children respected the reasons for the absence. And that’s the heartbeat of rural America. We don’t put ourselves first most of the time because there is always something that comes before our needs.

After high school, our son Jack went on to play college football at the University of Nebraska. With our large farm, it would have been impossible for us to attend his games three hours away during harvest if it weren’t for the help of our dedicated employees who stepped up to manage the farm while we were away on the weekends. For five years, we never missed a home football game in Lincoln, and I cannot express my gratitude enough for this blessing they gave us during this special time in our son’s life.

Many moms can likely relate to the intensity of life during the years when kids are involved in sports. I never knew what curveball was coming at me – I just had to roll with it. But I had people there to help us when we needed it. What people in your life have helped you cover your work responsibilities so that you could be there for your kids on Friday nights? What are your “Friday night lights” stories? Whatever it may be, I know that every mom wants her child to pursue their dreams, and many moms are faced with the challenges of balancing a busy career and motherhood. Share your stories in the comments section below!

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