Her sniffles were clear on the phone line as she said, “He used to spend so much time with me on the weekends, but now that we are married he doesn’t even have time to go to church with me on Sunday morning. I am extremely lonely.”
Another much older woman touched my arm to stop me passing by at a farm show. “Elaine, I want to thank you for giving me the best birthday ever. My husband took me out for supper, bought me a card for the first time, and even showed up with flowers! He heard you speak about the power of encouraging in practical ways, and this is the first time in 24 years of marriage he has done anything!”
OK, this is not written to bash male farm partners, this is a reminder for us all to be careful about how we manage our energy and time on the farm as we desire to build healthier relationships and stay happily married.
When we are feeling lonely, we all get to choose our response. I am not intending any readers to feel “less than” or guilty, I want us to see the issues of loneliness on the farm and create practical solutions.
- My husband works a lot and is late getting in the house. “Workaholics” are alive and well on farms. The work is never done… or is this a lie you have swallowed? We all get to choose the big rock priorities, and spending time with young children can be worked into a full farm day. Eat supper together, for 30 minutes. Then go back to the job. Ten o’clock at night is not a great time to see young kids who need to be sleeping. I know one young father who reads bedtime stories and tucks his son in, then he heads back out for a few more hours. Consider new solutions to your labour shortage.
- Barter time with your neighbours. When my son was preschool, I had every Tuesday for errands, writing, doing my pro-jects while he played at his friend’s house in town. On Thursdays, the reverse happened, and his friend came to the farm. This sharing of care helped two moms build some reliable space for our priorities beyond childcare. If you are a long distance from other young moms, perhaps there is a granny my age who is willing to pitch in. You need to be courageous and ask for help.
- Pick up the phone. Use your smartphone as a device to call a friend, not text! Adult interaction is a great gift when you haven’t had an adult conversation in days. Applications such as FaceTime, What’s App, Viber or Zoom.us can make this a video call. I call my New Zealand friend on Viber. Male farmers need this too as their emotional support networks die from lack of attention. Everyone benefits when relationships stay connected. A young farm mom’s tip is to “Call your mom!”
- Send cards of encouragement. Mark Twain said, “A person can live on a good compliment for over three months.” Don’t worry about picking out a perfect Hallmark card, you don’t have time for that, but do spend time writing out why you love your spouse and seal the letter with a kiss. If your love language is “words of affirmation” you will love cards. If your encouragement is having your spouse clean out the pickup truck, then make that a fun project with the kids’ help.
- Listen to podcasts and email the interviewer. I enjoy Cal Fussman’s “Big Questions” podcast and reached out to encourage him to build his speaking business. Cal has breakfast with Larry King every morning, but that did not stop him from responding to my email. It’s not that hard today to build relationships and be a lifelong learner. The books you read (or listen to on audible.com) and the people you meet will have a huge impact on helping you feel part of an energized world. My newest book Building Your Farm Legacy is on audible.com.
- Pray. Spend some time pouring out your thoughts and feelings to a God who truly cares for you and will comfort you. Reading the Psalms can be a reality check as to what it feels like to be lonely and in the pit, but you don’t have to stay there. I believe that God’s comfort is real, so if you call me for coaching, I will also ask if I can pray for you. People who believe in God’s goodness and grace are never alone for we know God is always with us, He has given us the Holy Spirit to comfort and counsel us. Don’t neglect your spiritual side. The woman who wants to go to church goes without her husband and prays he will join her. Our family has chosen not to work on Sundays and our employees love having a guaranteed break weekly.
- Unplug from social media. You will not die if your phone is left behind in the house for two hours. Binging on Facebook feeds and comparing your farm life in seeding and harvest with the folks having fun on weekends is a joy stealer. Use your social media to reach out to other parents and get together for simple pleasures like wiener roasts, time at the lake, or supper on your pickup tailgate. Bring along a batch of homemade playdough. Plan to gather face to face.
- Go solo if you have to. Where is it written that you are a horrible spouse if you go to a house concert by yourself? You’ll see lots of your friends and neighbours there. This may be very controversial for marriages that are highly enmeshed, but having new friends when your spouse just wants to re-energize with alone time is not bad. If your spouse refuses to leave the farm for playtime or holidays, you can choose a sister, friend or cousin to travel with you.
- Break bread together. Having folks at my table is the best way to conquer “sorry me” feelings. When you reach out to others to invite them to share supper you can have long, uninterrupted conversations while the kids have fun playing with Lego or you can choose to share the conversation with all generations. Go potluck if you are feeling overwhelmed!
Let me know what you are doing to let go of loneliness on your farm.