December can be an emotionally strained month when folks are setting up high expectations of what the seasonal celebrations and gifts are supposed to look like.
Last year, due to a myriad of circumstances and miscommunication, my Christmas stocking was skinny, and truthfully, I was disappointed and tempted to feel sorry for myself. When you consider the terrible wars in the Middle East and Ukraine though, I do think we have a lot to be thankful for in this part of the world.
Communicating your needs goes beyond a simple Christmas list. My coaching team member, Kalynn Spain, has a degree in conflict resolution, and I asked her to share with us some of the reasons why farm moms of the older generation can’t ask for what they truly need.
Some farm mothers may have learned early on that it is selfish to have needs. These childhood messages could be something like asking for what you need is not right, or you should work for what you receive.
If a farm mother grew up poor, then she may approach farming with a scarcity mindset. This can look like someone constantly in “survival” mode who tries to buy and preserve as much as they can, sometimes to compensate for other needs the farm is not meeting, such as emotional support.
A good article on the difference between scarcity and abundance mindsets can be found here.
My farming father was a young boy during the Depression and fits this model of having a scarcity mindset. I recall my mother bought a full-length black ranch mink fur coat in the late 1970s from the proceeds of a truckload of wheat she sold. I was curious why she thought she needed a mink coat, but suspect it came from a need to be recognized for all her hard work as a farm partner with my dad.
Mom never wore that coat much, and I was gifted it to enjoy for a few decades of cold winter Sundays. I have passed it along to my city-dwelling sister-in-law who will enjoy it.
GENERATIONAL NEGLECT OF NEEDS
Often in seminars I have quoted this biblical passage: “You do not have, because you do not ask.”
Farm mothers may come from mothers and grandmothers who neglected their own needs for the benefit — and possibly survival — of the family and the farm. Thus, they didn’t have female role models who spoke up about what they needed.
If your role models embodied this kind of martyr-like neglect, you may not have the language or courage to be bold, strong and empowered to make your needs known.
Our coaching team says, “Love does not read minds.” You may have the intention of having your needs met, yet you’re not quite sure how to go about asking for what you truly want.
DISRESPECT OF IN-LAWS
When a woman marries into a farming family, she may be disrespected by her in-laws and treated as a less equal partner in the farm than her husband, even if she grew up on a farm and understands agriculture.
This disrespect can take different forms, from exclusion in farm operation meetings to disregard for the important roles farm wives can hold in the business, such as record keeping.
This lack of respect from in-laws is evident when you scroll the Facebook posts of farm women in ag groups. It’s the key reason Megan McKenzie and I spent a year of Tuesdays writing our book, Farming’s In-law Factor: How to Have More Harmony and Less Conflict on Family Farms.
Unfortunately, many millennial women who have agriculture degrees and practice agronomy as professionals still may come up against unconscious or conscious bias against their right or ability to be a successor of the farm business and play an active role.
So, what is it that farm mothers need? This includes:
- Acknowledgement of how important her role is on the farm, even if it is not out in the yard.
- Appreciation for all the things, large and small, she does to hold the family together and support farm operation communication.
- A voice in the farm operation, or more specifically, a seat at the table. Whether it’s after breakfast discussing where the cows are going to get moved or a meeting at the accountant’s office, farm moms deserve to have a say and to be heard.
- Respect for the agronomic, economic, human resources, marketing, risk management and strategic thinking skills women in ag bring to their farm teams.
Many of the farm women I know who are working off-farm jobs, raising young children and/or providing meals are doing the best they can. Where is it written you aren’t allowed to ask for what you need?
Today I am giving all my readers, male and female, permission to graciously express verbally to their farm families what they truly need this holiday season.
Use the power of a pen to write notes of affirmation and appreciation to all the folks on your farm team. It might be transformational for your farm culture to approach the women on your team with, “What do you need in this moment and this season of your life from the farm business?” Be sure to act on the request.
Peace, joy and love for one another be yours in abundance this Christmas.
Elaine Froese and her team are here to help your farm family in transition find harmony through understanding. Thanks to my farm family coach colleague, Kalynn Spain, for her research on this article. Visit here and listen to the Farm Family Harmony Podcast.
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