When I think of a “farm wife” I think of my Grandma Margaret. I grew up listening to stories about the farm and everything a good farm wife did. Taking meals out to the men who were working long hours in the field; growing gardens and collecting eggs to feed the family; baking pies, cookies, cakes and other goodies to take to church fundraisers or for entertaining relatives and neighbors; pinching pennies to make sure there was enough to get by if the corn/cattle/hog markets tumbled. I think of Grandma Margaret in her kitchen, making homemade noodles and trying to teach me how to be a good farm wife.
I think she was almost giddy the first time I brought my boyfriend, now husband, to meet her. I think I gained status in the family a bit just by being associated with someone who wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty, worked hard and provided for America. When we got engaged I think she was delighted that one of her grandchildren would participate in the lifestyle she loved so much.
Little did Grandma know I was not that great of a cook, I didn’t know much about growing things, and we really couldn’t fit anyone into our little farmhouse much less entertain them there. I honestly didn’t really think of myself as a “farm wife” because I didn’t really do anything on the farm.
Sure I helped Brad out when we were dating. I sat in the tractor and kept him company when he baled hay. I helped him work cows by recording their weights and whether they were pregnant or open. When he was desperate enough, I drove the tractor while he stacked bales on the hay rack (I’m surprised our relationship survived that ordeal). When I was 8 months pregnant I hiked out through the mud in my s***kickers to climb into the cab of one of his tractors determined to help him un-stick the other. But on a routine basis, you will see very little of me on the farm.
Sometimes I think, “Man, I must be really disappointing Grandma. I am not much of a farm wife at all.” But then I think of all of the things good farm wives do:
1. They provide for their families: Farming is volatile and expensive at times. Farming is stressful and for a small-time farmer, not very lucrative. It can be stressful to watch markets go up and down and not know how much money will actually be coming in after feed, rent, and loans are paid. I am a farm wife because I have a full-time job that earns me a stable income my family can rely on.
2. They raise a family and do a lot of it on their own: Okay, a lot of women raise families and a lot of families have unique situations. But as a farmer’s wife you can about guarantee there are going to be months, and I literally mean months, throughout the year when you see your husband for maybe 5 minutes a day. That means I am at practices with the kids by myself. I am grocery shopping with the kids by myself. I am going to church with the kids by myself. I am going to family and friend get-togethers with the kids by myself. Sometimes it’s hard because I have no one to help me out but mostly it’s hard because other people are always asking, “Where’s Brad?” He’s farming. He’ll be back around the beginning of June.
3. They keep their chin up even when it’s tough: Being a farm wife is difficult. Sometimes you feel like you are a solo parent. Sometimes you feel like you’re not even in a relationship because you haven’t seen your husband for days and haven’t had a meaningful conversation with him in months. Sometimes you feel the weight of everything your husband has taken on…the financial burden, the long hours, the weariness. But most of the time you just keep trucking along because you remember everything goes in phases. That it will soon be getting darker earlier and your husband will be showing up for dinner again. That the markets will bounce back and improve his mood. That sooner or later you will actually get your husband back for some family time and date nights.
4. They support their husbands’ dreams: I can’t say growing up I dreamt of living on a farm. But then one day I met this boy. He wanted to be a farmer. He saved his money and bought a farm and became a first-generation farmer (something very unusual these days). He asked me to marry him and I said yes because I loved him and his determination, his work ethic and his dream. Sometimes I think about the dreams I have sacrificed to follow his. It can be difficult to swallow at times. But as I was talking to another good farm wife this week, she helped me realize most people sacrifice something to follow their loved-one’s dreams. I’m not trying to make myself a martyr or any other farm wife for that matter. I’m just saying there are a lot of things I have given up or don’t get to do because I chose to marry a farmer. Would I change it? Absolutely not. Because my #1 dream was to marry someone I could love and respect, have a family and good life with, and that I have.
Being a farm wife isn’t easy. Am I the same kind of farm wife Grandma Margaret was? Not even close. But no matter what kind of farm wife you are, I have come to realize there is a special kinship between us farm wives that no one else can understand. I’m hoping Grandma is looking down on me and is proud of the farm wife I have become.