Years ago as I flipped the chart of papers from the young farmer’s seminar in St. John’s a phrase caught my eye. A young producer had shared that one of the key insights of the day was “I am not alone”.
Farm families are quite surprised to hear me affirm them with the words “you are not alone” in their journey of conflict. Many families across the country are quick to hide what is really going on inside the farm kitchen door. They are proud, independent, self-sufficient entrepreneurs who have no desire to “air their dirty laundry.”
The funny thing about iconic Newfoundland pictures is you will often see an artist’s rendering of the laundry being strung out to dry with the sea winds.
On June 11 during our Farming’s In-Law Factor virtual event, a young mom told the story of her big breakthrough when she finally reached out to her mother-in-law and directly asked for help. She understood one of my coaching phrases “love does not read minds.” You can’t assume your spouse or parents know what you need. You don’t have to suffer alone. Ask!
Don’t let your family issues go on autopilot and drift. Use the thinking and reflecting time on the tractor to set up a game plan to embrace your farm team in a great strategic vision session. In July the rallying cry for many farm families is “how do we block time for fun?” It’s going to take some intentional planning to take a few hours off to share rodeo memories with your young son, and really be present to create those memories. You might need to ask a neighbour to help swap time to do chores so you can stay a few hours longer at a wedding or family gathering.
Many young farm moms are venting their frustration on social media about the lack of time for family on farms. It would be great to check in with the younger farm parents in your area (male and female) to see how you might lend a hand in being emotional support. You can also challenge the current thinking by saying “Where is it written we have to work EVERY DAY on this farm?
Who is your emotional support group beyond the farm? I find scrolling a time-waster when I get more support from actual conversations on my phone while I am walking down my lane to increase my steps for the day. As a young mom, I shared a weekly date in helping care for my friend’s son every Thursday, and she returned the favour on Tuesdays. This gave us each one day a week to call our own for other projects and tasks without the extra stress of keeping young kids safe.
I challenge you to drop your pride filters and reach out to folks who can help you facilitate solutions to your conflict around “lack of family time.”
My grandchildren have a book called “Dadurday” which is a play on words for having Dad around on Saturday. The children in the story make lists of what they would like to do with dad when he is not working. Farming can be a 24/7 demand, but you must draw some boundaries for self-care, marriage time, and family expectations. My grandkids sometimes make lists of the special things they would like to do with Dad on Sundays. On Sundays we rest, go to church, have family time, and let go of the farm work. We know this is not typical in today’s culture of agriculture. When our employee of 35 years was asked why he liked to work on our farm he said, “52 Sundays off.”
If you need to jump off your hay mower to put kids to bed, tuck them in and read stories, you likely will get teased by the folks who don’t see it as important. As I was walking the lane, I checked my watch. 8:30 YUP, kids tucked in bed, and my son was headed to the field in the high clearance sprayer. We have the technology to set timers and reminders on our phones. The currency of time in 2022 is likely as important as the currency of dollars.
Can you reach out and ask for help? When you get badly stuck during seeding, you quickly ask for help, because time is of the essence. Recall what it feels like to be stuck, frustrated, and feeling helpless to get out of the mess you are in.
The dance between work and play is ongoing on farms. Every season is a new opportunity to challenge how you have been doing things, ask for help, and let go of what is not working.
Conflict is not bad; it just needs to be resolved. Being lonely and isolated is not good for your mental wellness. Working your body too hard will land you in trouble. You are not a machine. You need to block time for self-care, fun, and family relationships.
Strong families celebrate, communicate, and connect with their community. With Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Linked In you may think you belong to many communities. Who really knows what is going on at your farm? It is time to be transparent with a mentor you can trust and reach out for creative solutions to “being alone”?
Pretending that all is well on the farm to protect your image and feed your pride is not helping you craft the healthy legacy that will sustain a profitable farm.
As agriculture producers, we are now less than 2% of the Canadian population, which makes us a unique culture…and a minority.
Venting on social media about your family situations may create a fleeting sense of relief, but ultimately you need to act to adopt a new family pattern for your farm family.
You are not alone.
Help is a cell phone call away, and a click on the internet.
Make the call. Build a campfire with your kids. Play.
Remember, it is your farm, your family, and your choice. Make great choices this summer for family time.
Elaine Froese, CAFA, CSP, CHICoach, and her coaching team are ready to help you facilitate tough conversations to build harmony through understanding. Visit here to book a free discovery call.
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