Over the next few months, I am excited to share with you some of the practical tools Dr. Megan McKenzie and I have developed in the process of writing our new book “Farming’s In-Law Factor.
In May we celebrate Mother’s Day, but I think we should be celebrating the many roles of farm women every day of the year. We can do this by “checking in” to see what is still a good role for mom and what she would like to let go of.
For some farm women who are following the rules of “you should do this, we always have done that,” there is a burden of expectation that she would like to shed.
The reality is that on many family farms, traditional western gender roles still play out. Mother-in-laws (MILs) and daughter-in-laws (DILs) often find themselves working closely together with each other and with the other women in the family. The harmony in the farm team unit will likely increase if folks are honest with each other about which roles are still ones they want to embrace, and which tasks they would rather not do.
Assessing Roles on the Farm
For this exercise, brainstorm a list of roles taken on by the MIL, DIL, or other women in the family. We have created a form for you to fill out, but feel free to add additional roles that are important on your farm.
Beside each role, record who does this task and whether this is working for each person involved. If any of the tasks that have been assigned, delegated, or dropped-on-lap are not working for one or more party, discuss possible solutions to the problem.
- Maybe there is someone else on the farm team that would be better suited to that role?
- Perhaps the duties could be shared, thus lightening each person’s burden?
- Is it possible that the roles are not working because she needs acknowledgment for the work that she is doing?
Balancing out the workload may mean swapping tasks, reducing the number of tasks, hiring or recruiting extra help, or agreeing to reduce expectations around tasks. Sometimes these trade-offs make a world of difference for those involved, even though they can sometimes be hard to swallow. Some examples include: when the women are helping to combine, the men also help make meals; hiring a part-time bookkeeper; reducing the size of the garden; putting young children in daycare, or seeking out government homecare to help care for aging relatives.
Worksheet: Assessing Roles on the Farm
Get a copy of Farming’s In-Law Factor now. The book deals with conflict tools, the culture of agriculture, and practical tips to understanding what family members and in-laws need to work well together. It also deals with what to do when things don’t work out. During the month of May when things are stressful with the push to get the crop in, I hope you will treat everyone with an extra measure of grace and kindness.