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Validation of farm women in their changing role

Elaine Froese for Progressive Dairy Published on 26 March 2021
Validation of your spouse

One of the side effects of being home-bound during the “Great Pause” is that I’ve become very fond of the predictable story arc of Hallmark movies. We have a bit of a game to see if the first kiss is within the last 15 minutes of the show.

Farm marriages don’t need to get lost in fantasy or romantic dreams, but I do think it is time for validation of farm women.

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Validation is defined as recognition or affirmation that a person or their feelings or opinions are valid or worthwhile. Flowers, chocolates, country music playlists or other “things” may have been on your gift list for Valentine’s Day, but I suspect the most powerful gift you give your spouse at any time would be an open ear and time to sit and hear what is really going on for the other person in the union.

I usually hit a really raw nerve of emotion when I ask the farming guy on a coaching call, “When it is her turn to get what she wants?”

This uncomfortable question is released as the aging farm founder is “just fine with the way things are” and his tired spouse is longing for significant changes in her residence, her roles and her income streams. She’s given him her best 45 years or more, and she is tired. The extra restrictions of not being able to see friends or socialize in town have added layers of unwelcome loneliness. He is happy to go sort cows, run augers or organize the shop. She would really like a change of scenery and more laughter with grandchildren and girlfriends.

If the idea of sitting down to listen to your spouse in the quiet of your couch without noise of the laptop, tablet, TV or radio scares you, then perhaps you need to sit alone first.

Many people don’t have a hot clue what they really want in their life, so life drifts by – sunrise, sunset, quickly go the years. What do you truly want?

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Aging farm women want a lot of different things, and I suspect the common denominator is a richness in relationship, good health and the ability to do what they want with enough resources to fulfill the needs and wants of aging. I recommend getting a financial planner to help define “enough resources.”

Coaches find women over 50 typically want to simplify their life and downsize. This is where the desire for less stuff, better organization and an easier home to manage comes to be a priority. Many farm women over 60 are still keeping books, doing risk management and wondering who is next in line for the administration jobs that aren’t so thrilling anymore. A phone call to the local accountant or your digital specialist far away will surprise you, as accounting technician work can be done by people who live miles away. Get a good scanner and use your online banking to make this happen.

What are you intentionally doing to affirm with your spouse that their feelings or opinions are valid and worthwhile?

I like it when my hubby says, “You are beautiful, and I love you.” This is a great love gift to me, as my love language is words of affirmation. No likely surprise there, as I am a writer.

My husband’s love language is acts of service, so he feels loved and affirmed when I do things for him, like cooking hot meals, finding his cellphone and mending his coveralls after they’ve left some wheat in my washing machine.

A very powerful question for stronger marriages is: “What would you like me to do differently?”

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Some people are longing for the gift of marriage time. Time to sit on the couch with a hot drink and just talk about life, hopes and frustrations without judgment. A time to survey the state of the union and celebrate the good. A time to reflect on what the “rallying cry” needs to be for the needs of the family for the next several weeks before planting.

Many farm women are longing for quiet, some time and space carved out for their needs and wants. Others are looking for fun since the workaholic fuel of COVID-19 has not been quashed; as one trade guy told me in the drugstore lineup, “Elaine, if we can’t play, we might as well just keep working.” That’s a disastrous recipe for emotionally healthy relationships.

You could use this “Great Pause” time to build future travel plans or digitally connect to the country you are missing. We had a video chat with our Swiss friends recently, and they said, “That’s the cheapest trip you will take to Switzerland.” We laughed, shared stories and felt refreshed. Connection with others is key to building resilience in your marriage.

You may be holding back on asking for what you need in this season of life because you don’t want to appear weak or needy. Good grief. Where is it written that is not OK to ask for what you need? In the “mom’s book of martyrs”?

Try these conversation starters on for size:

  • I would like to start shifting some of my current roles and lighten my load on this farm. Could we try …

  • I am curious what the priorities are for the next 12 weeks on this farm; I would like to build in some time for fun …

  • I am not sure I can keep going with the expectations of me working off-farm and on-farm. I’m finding it harder to manage my energy …

  • I’ve called the lawyer to make an appointment to update our wills and power of attorney. We can do this digitally now. We need to make some changes considering our adult children.

  • I’ve bought a flipchart and found a talking stick (stuffed toy) so we can start having monthly family business meetings to discuss who wants to live on the main yard and when. I want us to sit down and listen to all the opinions and needs of each person on our farm team, including the spouses.

Both men and women need validation. Every voice counts. Let’s all work to increase the love and respect factor on our farms. end mark

Elaine Froese, CSP, CAFA, CHICoach celebrates 40 years of marriage on Independence Day. (That’s an oxymoron for marriage!) Send her your best love story: Elaine Froese.

Elaine Froese

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