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Till & Talk: Farm stress is real, and balancing life is difficult

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There never seems to be enough time to get everything done? How do I balance everything: career, house, kids, marriage, farm, paperwork, life, etc.? — A Stressed Farm Wife

Dear Stressed Farm Wife: 

You are not alone in this. We all feel, at some point or another or all the time, that we’re letting more balls drop than we’re keeping in the air.

I’m not a mom to little humans, just the animal variety, and I can tell you life is stressful. My first advice is to quit comparing. I’m THE worst at this. We scroll social media and see how everybody else is doing all the things — and doing them SO much better than we are. This is BS and you know it. Everybody has seasons we go through. Sometimes we juggle things better, sometimes not so much. Don’t compare yourself to anybody but yourself. Compete against yourself. Then give yourself some dang grace. We are humans. And farm wives and farm mommas are asked an awful lot.

Second, list your priorities. My marriage is my most important priority. It’s the thing that means the most to me in the world. That means I make time in my schedule to work on it. Sometimes that means date nights out and a vacation away from the farm with my spouse. But more often than not, it looks like feeding cows so he can do something else. It looks like delivering lunch so he can keep working. It means helping him with the latest task that is stressing him out so he can be present with me later. Sometimes it simply means being with him even though we could each do the task separately. Just being is part of that priority.

Next, writing is important to me. My dreams and goals are no less important than his. That’s why I take time each Wednesday to write during the day when my brain is in peak performance mode. I have spent years writing in the morning or at night or here and there when I could sneak pockets of time. I have worked around his dreams to make mine come true. But I found I was extremely bitter at him because I felt like he didn’t believe in my dreams enough to give me time to do it. After a conversation that simply wasn’t true, it was just the mentality that many of us women have that we have to do it all and be there for them. Now a few hours on Wednesdays make me incredibly happy; I’m fulfilled which makes me a better wife and partner for him.

You will never find the time to make your dreams a reality, you have to make the time. You have to make it happen or it never will.

Last, hire the help. A clean house makes me feel good. A cluttered house makes my brain go haywire. Matt and I discussed a house cleaner and he didn’t want to get one. So I devised a cleaning schedule that we both agreed to and participate in. Both of us are farming full time, and it’s not my responsibility to take care of the “woman’s chores.” My husband agrees with this. Each day we spend 10 to 15 minutes cleaning a certain room of our house. Our house is never fully put together, but since we have implemented this, it’s done wonders for us! Understand with this, that while we’re both on board with this, sometimes, I’m the one doing the daily cleaning task and sometime he is. More often than not, we both do it, but life happens. Marriage is about give and take and compromise. Don’t make this another thing to fight about. If you and your spouse agree on hiring help, do it!

rural farmhouse
Image by Anton backsholm, Shutterstock

Life is short. You only get one chance. Nobody wants to spend it miserable. Like my ag teacher from high school says year after year in his philosophy of life, you never know when it’s going to be game over. He doesn’t want to have a bad last day, so he tries to live each day as though it might be his last. Know there is no such thing as balance. None of us have it figured out. When we think we have something down, life smacks us in the face. We do the best we can. It’s OK to need a minute. It’s OK to not be the perfect 1930s housewife while being expected to work 8 million hours a week.

I can’t speak for all husbands out there, but I can tell you, I think most of them are pretty decent human beings. I think they are incredibly overworked and tired and stressed and just trying to make the best life for their wives and families. I think men think so much differently than us women, but I think most of them love us more than anything. I think that sometimes they just don’t understand what we’re thinking or why, but they want to do the best they can for us. Sometimes that simply means asking him to put the dishes away or give the kids a bath. Just ask him for what you want. I think many of us are surprised that’s all it requires to get help. Just ask.

Marriage and farming are hard. If you have spent long enough being bitter and angry at your spouse, go to counseling. Go to a professional for your marriage like you go to an agronomist for your plants or a vet for your animals. We don’t have all the answers and sometimes we just need help. Don’t be ashamed at wanting help. Know that you are not alone. There are thousands of us farm wives out here that understand how you feel. Reach out and connect with one with the same values as you. Find somebody to listen and encourage you along the way. If we’re here for each other, life is better.


Kelsey Pagel is a Kansas farmer and the author of Till & Talk, a regular AGDAILY column that answers reader-submitted questions about modern agriculture and rural life. Kelsey grew up on a cow/calf and row crop operation and married into another. She and her Forever (Matt) farm and ranch with his family where they are living their dream and loving most of the moments. 

To submit a question, email Kelsey at tillandtalk@gmail.com.

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