Blog: Woman vs. farm: On being a farm wife

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click image to zoomModern Farm WifeModern Farm WifeModern Farm Wife blogger Jessica Folkema and her husband, "Dairy Man." My Dairy Man spends a lot of time out on the dairy. Like, a lot. He usually hits the dirt around 7 a.m. and I see neither hide nor hair of him until 8 or 9 p.m.

The time between when I get home from work and when I see the hardworking farmer can be a lonely time. In the first few months of our marriage (harvest time), it was actually much worse. I resented it. I felt like I barely had a husband. When he finally got home, we would scarf down a quick dinner, spend 20-30 minutes catching up, and then head to bed so that we could wake up to do it all over again. It got better when we actually started living on the dairy, but the Dairy Man’s life is still at the mercy of the farm. If something breaks, he has to fix it. If an employee needs assistance, he has to help. If the cows get out, he obviously has to wrangle. Regardless of the time, day or night, the dairy almost always comes first.

This reality has been the most challenging adjustment as I learn how to live as a modern farm wife. I grew up in a family that treated work very differently. My dad was home for dinner almost every night; no one was calling him at 4 a.m. to report a problem; he could plan his days and we could plan on him.

But farming is very different. Long hours and lack of freedom come with the territory. This is your name on the line, your reputation, your livelihood. There is a high level of personal investment. Farming is like any other small business … if the business were on steroids. Farming will never, ever be a 9-5.

Honestly? I’m still adjusting. I suspect it make take years. The all-encompassing nature of the farm still shocks and annoys me. My Dairy Man will spend the rest of his life trying to find balance and I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to accept that we often won’t achieve it.

A few months before we got married, Dairy Man and I were in a premarital counseling session that changed everything. While addressing my fears of living in the country and marrying a farmer, I came up with a laundry list of worries: living in the middle of nowhere, dealing with my husband’s work schedule, and giving up career options to follow him. Would he make enough time for me? Would I get lonely? How could I survive when the nearest mall or Starbucks was 45 minutes away? What kind of future would I have?

When I stopped to take a breath, Dairy Man started talking. He talked about his love of farming and his eagerness to grow and innovate on the dairy. His passion was palpable; his eyes were gleaming; his ambition was remarkable. And then he said, “But I feel so guilty about all of this because I know Jess is unhappy. And I understand, but I just don’t know what to do.”

BAM. My selfishness hit me like a load of bricks. And it hurt. It hurt to see that I was unintentionally stomping all over his dreams. It hurt to know that I was taking the joy out of something he loved so much. That’s when I decided to stop digging in my heels. I chose him and thus, I chose this life. If we were going to be happy, I would have to start being ok with this.

I’m proud of my husband. I’m proud of how hard he works and how big he dreams. He inspires me to do more and push myself harder. I need to reciprocate. Even though the stiletto-wearing city girl from five years ago would have been horrified at the prospect of living in the land of sky, dirt, and cows, this is exactly where I’m supposed to be.

And so, when I am eating yet another dinner alone, I remind myself why I’m here. The Dairy Man and I both have things to learn, but we’re on the same team. Even if the team uniform requires old jeans and rubber boots.

For more adventures from an urbanite learning to live the life of a modern farm wife, visit ModernFarmWife.com.


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Holly    
MN  |  October, 28, 2013 at 08:35 AM

I live the life of not only a farm wife but a farmer as well. It's not any easier that way. We live seep rate work lives but end up taking our work "home" at night too. Date night? Well that usually involves a trip to pick up farm supplies and quite often it ends up being fast food since we are exhausted. Some days you feel like you need to see other people and to get out. But by the end of the day, he is exhausted and you have your mind made up that you're going out. Always hard to make plans. Quite often I feel like a single parent. My kids have come to understand the way of life and participate fully by milking cows or driving tractors. They love the lifestyle but I often wish their father were more a part of their off farm lives. It's a balancing act that no one will ever quite master. As weathers changes and crops need tending , cows need milking; we learn to roll with the punches. One day hopefully you will too. Just remember it's not an easy life but it's very rewarding, wether it be for him or your love for him!

Martha    
New England  |  October, 28, 2013 at 09:36 AM

While I was not a city girl that moved to the farm, I was a farm girl who married a farmer and moved to a different farm. We raised 7 children on the farm and the running joke in our family was that we often ate more meals picnic style in the fields or in the barn that we did in the house. There are times when my workaholic husband would never have seen the kids if we had not opted for the picnic meals. I would suggest that you become active in some aspect of the farm or you will grow to resent it. Try to be flexible - while it can be very frustrating to plan a family day to have it flushed down the drain because someone does not come to work or there is an equipment breakdown find a hobby or activity that you can enjoy and then share with him - like photography. There are endless photo ops on a farm. Good luck - there is no better place to raise a family then on a farm - even if it seems you are a single parent.

John    
TX  |  October, 28, 2013 at 11:24 AM

The love of the farm doesn't mean we have to sacrifice our family. Much too often, that's what happens. We become emotionally absent from our wife and children when they need us most during the early years of raising our family. We 'think' these are the sacrifices that have to be made for the farm to be successful. However, nothing could be farther from the truth! When I finally learned to 'shut it down' in my mind, and be home by 6pm, the quality of my family life grew dramatically. I no longer allowed myself to become the first person the farm would call when something went wrong. I committed my weekends to my family. Most of us have very qualified employees who can take that first phone call. The most important job we as dairy farmers will EVER have is that of being a husband and father. Unfortunately, we don't structure our business like that. Yes, the farm is only that: It's a business. It's what God has blessed each of us as a way to put food on the table for our family. It should NOT define us, it should NOT be our first priority, and it should NOT emotionally own us! We should own IT. When I finally stopped working 80 hours/day, 6 days a week, and learned how to delegate responsibility to trained key employees, my entire family was the beneficiary. I became much more involved in all aspects of their lives and our relationships greatly improved. I'll repeat the critical question that forced me to face reality, and change how I approached my business: Does the farm own us, or do we own the farm? When I acknowledged the real truth to this question, I began to change. Answer this question yourself, and then, you too can begin become the best at the most important job you'll ever have: That of a husband and father.

Abigail    
Michigan  |  October, 28, 2013 at 06:37 PM

I grew up on a dairy farm, as did both of my parents. My Grandpa on my Mom's side (the farm we operate) taught us after he learned the hard way to take time out to spend with your family and children. He had 6 daughters; the first 5 and then a 6th 14 years latter. It was with his 6th daughter that he took time to be active in her life off the farm. He went to her sporting events and other school activities. He urged my parents to do so as well when they go married. It was a major sacrifice for them to attend our cross country and track meets, but they always made it to one during the season. Actually they all made it to watch me finish first at my cross country state meet my senior year. Yes, farming is unpredictable. Yes, we do have to pinch hit and cover when things break, the weather turns, employees don't show etc. But just as those things are important so is the time we spend with each other. It can be working together to get through something on the farm, like harvest, but you also have to mix in sometime away, even for a minute or two. My husband and I, are now following in my parents and grandparents footsteps, 2 children and counting in tow. Our children are part of our work life and they love it and we love what we can teach them, but we do take time off away from the farm and as we make improvements on the farm we look for ways to make it more family friendly so that we can spend time with each other and our children when we need it. Each year will add challenges and you will adjust, but if you are willing to embrace your husband and the farm you will both succeed. And you can ask my husband about the adjustment curve, he was the non-farmer. Good luck!

Stacy    
Wisconsin  |  February, 26, 2014 at 08:49 AM

This blog made me cry....I am marrying a dairy farmer this August - and I know all to well what you describe in this blog. I can be so selfish - wanting him by my side. Lonely nights. Trying so hard to not be mad at the farm that takes him away from me. But I love him. And I choose him. So it's worth it. I can't tell you how much I needed to know there was someone else out there dealing with the same thing.


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