It would be fun for you to be a fly on the wall of my office when the calls from farm moms come in. They range in age from 33 to 93, and their heartfelt cries ring in my ears as I write this. Regardless of your age or stage as a farm mom, I bet there are some heart tugs that you would like to be able to express to your farm team and family. Here are ten things the farm mom in your life really wants but won’t say.
1. A Voice for Change
As the sons and daughters grow into capable farming adults the Mom sometimes feels left out. Her role as nurturer and launcher has shifted. She may also be actively involved in the farm labor and management. But somehow she feels her voice is not heard. Farm life gets chaotic, and she wonders if her work counts anymore. She sometimes feels that she doesn’t have a voice in the legacy decision making for the future vision of the farm. Are you going to have a family business meeting at the end of seeding to talk about the future vision of the farm now that the kids are back home farming?
2. Better Communication
The day-to-day affairs of running a farm are complex, but the wheels all turn more smoothly when people communicate directly to each other with clear, concise instructions and respect for the listener. Moms are often the sounding boards for spouses, children, and in-laws. Use a learner mindset when you talk to seek understanding of the other person’s perspective. Explain your intent, and why certain decisions are important. Be respectful of each other as you speak, and look each other in the eye.
3. Less Refereeing and More Resolution of Fights
Most farm moms would love to give up their referee sweaters for life. It’s time for the conflict triangles on your farm to get flattened. That means adult founders speak directly to successors, and don’t loop Mom into picking sides. You get the behavior you accept. If you want folks to be more direct with each other and resolve their tensions, don’t keep being the “person in the middle.” See conflict resolution as a realistic, doable goal.
4. Love and Affirmation
Moms have big hearts for all their children, regardless of some of the goofy choices the kids make in life. When have you told your Mom that you love her? How have you showed her with your actions? Have you spent quality time with her? Do you pick out special gifts for her? Do you hug her? These are the various love languages according to Dr. Gary Chapman that we all need to be smarter about embracing for stronger families.
5. Good Mental Health for All the Family
Moms are willing to take family members to the doctor for mental health assessments, but those family members have to be okay with doing the work of being mentally well. Do you want to be well? Depression, anxiety, unresolved anger, and early signs of dementia are on our farms. Let’s talk about our concerns for mental wellness, and let’s get treatment if it is needed. Mom can bring you chicken soup, but you need to take your medications.
6. Fun with Friends and Family
Give Mom permission to leave the farm for more than 24 hours. She likely has girlfriends, far away from family and sights over the sea to explore. Has she been holding back because Dad is always working and won’t leave the farm? I once took my elderly cousin, the family historian, to Ireland for 15 days to find living relatives and explore our ancestry. The farm did not fall apart, and the gift of the experience keeps on giving through stronger family bonds. What does your mom consider a fun time?
7. Security for Her Financial Future
I recently had a 93-year-old ranch woman in my seminar who was pleased that her financial affairs were all in order. She was well taken care of financially and legally with her power of attorney and updated will. Does your mom have her name on farm assets? Can she say that she “has a purse of her own” to spend or gift money as she wishes? I am shocked in 2017 to still meet women who don’t own anything on their farms. Every person deserves to have a personal wealth bubble to secure their future well being as they age, and this goes beyond the meager pensions from CPP and OAS.
8. Help with the Heavy Lifting
Sometimes silence in families or shunning feels like heavy lifting, but what I am talking about here is the physical tasks of maintaining a farm yard in decent shape. I also need an operator with strong arms and back to help clear trees, down the raspberry patches and control lilacs. The farm’s demands never stop, but your mom knows that beauty creates energy. Help her create more beauty in the landscape around her home or make it easier for her to maintain.
9. Her Own Tools
Farm moms love it when they don’t have to walk miles to find tools for their jobs. I asked for a wheelbarrow, and a chain saw for Mother’s Day gifts because I need decent tools to work with that were close at hand. Check with your Mom first if she is the type that would appreciate a new rake, spade, or screw driver!
10. To Know You Are There For Her
Today I witnessed a faithful son taking his aging mom her mail. He moved her to his town so that he could check in on her on a regular basis. Many of her friends have passed, but her family is there for her. Moms love to be rich in relationships, young and older women friends are important. What very practical things are you doing to enhance your mom’s emotional support group beyond your family? Does your mother know that no matter what is happening on the farm that she can count on you to be there for her?