Single wife/mom season is approaching, otherwise known as harvest time, at least here in the Midwest. A decade of harvests with my husband has me preparing — both physically and mentally. I farm with my husband and his family and we’re childless, so I’m working the same number of hours as my husband. So while I can sympathize with “single wife/mom” season, it doesn’t feel much different than the rest of the year for us.
What I can empathize with is the short temper, the long hours, and dealing with a stressed spouse. While we can all agree that “turn the other cheek” is a good sentiment, it’s a lot easier said than done, especially when it’s the 10th time that day.
Every marriage and partnership is different. Every year brings different emotions, thoughts, and feelings. Every year brings different yields, different weather conditions, different equipment problems. None of us can predict how harvest will go, but we can all agree that it’s going to be stressful.
I’m no expert and almost everything is easier said than done, but here are my thoughts to make harvest bearable.
- Plan a pre-harvest getaway even a night away, with just your spouse/partner. Focus on each other. Have a conversation about what each of you can do to make the other feel loved, even when not together.
- Do ride-alongs with your partners. For those of us that are running the equipment along side our person, jump at the chance for even a few minutes in the same cab.
- Text each other as often as you can. You can’t tell me you don’t have time to text your partner one thing you love about them every day during harvest. This works both ways. Even if words of affirmation is not your love language, I think every one appreciates a compliment.
- If possible, eat a meal together. On our operation, equipment doesn’t stop rolling for meal times. So this rarely happens for us, but I wish it would. I pack most of our meals. Sometimes I throw notes or jokes in his lunchbox for a twist.
- Know that it’s only a season. It’s a majority of our incomes and is so time sensitive and important to roll when you can be in the field. Yes, it’s stressful and yes the hours are long, but it’s only for a little while.
- Plan something for after harvest that you’re excited about, with the whole family. If you have kids, they’re missing you as much as you’re missing them. Give them something to look forward to. If you don’t have kids, do this for your spouse. Don’t make it as mundane as a simple dinner out, really plan something you can both look forward to. This doesn’t have to break the bank, but make is special. Make it a way to reconnect.
- Go in to harvest knowing stuff is going to break. No matter how much pre-harvest maintenance you do, things are going to break. Taking that frustration out on the people that are working with you isn’t going to help the equipment get fixed. We all say and do things that we regret or in the heat of the moment, but try, really try, to not yell at the ones around you. They are there helping, even in your worst moments, be understanding or they will no longer be around to help you.
- With that said, don’t be afraid to walk away for a while. People treat you how you let them treat you. We all have moments, but these shouldn’t be the norm. We shouldn’t allow people to constantly take everything out on you without ever apologizing or desperately trying harder the next time a stressful situation arises.
If you’re still here, you’ve decided that all of this, while good ideas, is going to take a lot of time. Time that is already such a precious commodity. I know how precious it is, trust me I do. I am a proud farmer’s daughter, farmer’s wife and a farmer myself. I know and understand how stressful farming is. I do. But I also understand that you took vows to love another person. None of us are perfect. All of us have our moments. Think long and hard about what is truly important in your life. Yes, your crops are important, but so are the people that you share life with. Don’t forget them. And if you do, be willing to accept the consequences.
Happy harvest season. I hope it goes as smoothly as it possibly can. I hope the yields are good and the prices high. I hope the breakdowns are minimal and the parts available when needed. Remember, there is always another day.
Kelsey Pagel is a Kansas farmer. She grew up on a cow/calf and row crop operation and married into another. Kelsey and her Forever (Matt) farm and ranch with his family where they are living their dream and loving most of the moments.