Osha Grey Davidson’s book title “Broken Heartland” inspired this column’s title, because in the past few months I have heard many sad stories of broken dreams and stressed marriages on the farm.
As I am coaching farm families I am seeing a deep need to “sow seeds of peace”. In James [3:18] it says “A harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.” It’s time for fathers and mothers to make peace with their farming sons and daughter-in-laws. I don’t care what your net worth is, it means absolutely nothing if relationships are raw with hurt. Promises to pass on the farm “someday” and treating your 40 year old son like a hired hand instead of the next leader just doesn’t sow peace.
Marriages fail when promises are broken. You won’t dare let the fences fall into disrepair, lest the neighbour’s bull roam your cow herd. Why do you shy away from those talks you know you need to have with your son and your lawyer about ownership titles and operating agreements?
Your pride and stubbornness is killing your family. Your need to always be the boss, and make all the decisions, yet this approach won’t help mentor the next generation. Your son is about to leave. Your daughter-in-law left emotionally a long time ago. Your legacy is lost.
What can you do?
Start by offering the olive branch of love, mercy and forgiveness. Face your fears about your future farming identity. Talk about what a good day looks like to you when your son is the manager, and you work alongside him, or mentor from a distance. If you are afraid that your son will fail, get into unmanageable debt, and lose the farm…you need to talk openly about that fear of failure. Tell your son directly that you are thankful for him, and mention specific examples of what he has done that you appreciate. Sons can also tell their parents what they appreciate. It needs to happen both ways.
Farm businesses are under a lot of strain, but the crushing stress of unhealthy farm family relationships is the worst pressure. You can bounce back from a lot of conflict when communication is trustworthy and open, knowing that the future hope is a restored relationship and a common vision for the family and business.
Sign up for the Alpha Marriage course, and work on your own marriage relationship. Call 1-800-743-0899 to find out how to get the Marriage Course in your town. Use July as the month to have intentional fun with your family. Buy a Bocce Ball set, and play with 3 generations on the front lawn. Go to the lake as a family. Build a horseshoe pit. Roast marshmallows around a barrel pit fire.
“It’s either me or the farm, I can’t live on broken promises anymore.” Some young farm wives are tired of being put last. They understand the long hours, and the busy seasons, but they will not be totally isolated and neglected for long periods. If Dad and Mom can’t let go of management or ownership, then son is going to look at options outside of the family farm. Farm sons have lots of marketable skills, so don’t suppose that they won’t ever leave.
“She is gone, and so is our son, so our problems are over.” Wrong. You have lost the opportunity to have your son work alongside you. You have lost the trust and respect of his spouse. You might even have lost future contact with your grandchildren. Was your stubbornness and anger worth it ? I think not. Use July to find out when the next conflict resolution course is offered at your community college or in a larger centre. Take the course.
Newlyweds don’t usually get to the altar, until they have done some degree of pre-marriage counselling. Asking for counselling is not a sign of weakness, asking for help with your communication in your marriage and family is a good thing.
July is haying time, but there is still time for tailgate suppers and picnics in the field.
You can mend broken hearts by asking what the other person needs to feel loved and appreciated…and then do it ! Asking for forgiveness is also a huge bridge builder to re-starting the relationship on a clear footing.
My husband knows that I am committed to him, and to supporting him as a farmer.
We are cherishing our marriage by open communication, resolving conflict, and being willing to learn more about meeting each other’s needs.
My prayer for your family is that you will be very intentional about creating the place and space for nurturing the hearts of your family, and your farm’s future. Restore the heartland of your home.
“Mercy, peace, and love, be yours in abundance.” Jude 1:2.