Dr. Val Farmer
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Rural Mental Health & Family Relationships

Two Farm Women Describe Broken Dreams

November 17, 2003

This letter describes a common story in farm communities. It is about parents who aren’t able to let go and break their promises to their adult children who farm with them. Problems are foreshadowed and then denied until relationships are damaged and dreams broken.

My husband and I left a business and everything behind, sold our home for next to nothing and moved our family for miles to help save the family farm due to his father’s illness. My husband left several years ago due to control issues with his father. We thought time would have changed things, but it did not. He did not want his father to lose everything he worked so hard for.

Even as a very young child, my husband worked like a man on that farm and put, as the saying goes, a "lot of blood, sweat and tears" into that farm. We sacrificed as a family and worked very hard for the business we left behind. No one ever gave us anything or helped us. We were promised a part of the farm when we got there and eventually to take over when the father retired.

We did not get it in writing either, even after asking for it. It was always "We will do that when you get here, you have nothing to worry about. Call it 'blind trust’.

This is the thing - they never let go until they have no choice. There may not be a farm by that time, depending on what happens between now and then, and on what decisions the father makes.

There were other hurts too. They made comments about our comings and goings, but also about the money we spent and the things they thought we didn’t need. We were told we didn’t deserve the comfortable life they had.

It took 15 years to see things were not going to change. We lost everything. It was very hard on our children and us. With hard work and God's help we have started over. We are in our 40s. I am very thankful that my husband had enough insight to rea1ize his family never changed and never will change until that final day comes.

For others that are in our shoes I offer the following advice. Do not make your personal well-being, your marriage, or most importantly, your children suffer. Live your life and be happy.

What is the farm to you if you have had nothing but misery waiting for it? Don’t wait to leave until they run you into the ground or you will have nothing left. Ask yourselves, is it worth your family and sanity?

It is never too late to make a change for the good. The longer you wait the harder it will be. There is life beyond the farm.

Signed - Some things never change.

This letter describes the heartache of a lonely and frustrated mother and wife where the farm economy, her husband’s love of farming and poor communication deprives her of her dream of staying at home with her children and having closeness with her husband.

My husband gets to stay home and live his dream, of which I once thought I would be a part. I go off to work 5 days a week and leave our kids to raise themselves while Daddy is out playing in the dirt for hours on end.

It breaks my heart to force my feet out the door every morning, with my preschoolers saying "bye momma" and blowing kisses. I drive to work crying many mornings. I drive home crying many afternoons. Then I knock myself out trying to keep the house clean and putting dinner on the table and clean underwear in his drawer, as well as my spending hours every week helping tend to the livestock.

We never go anywhere other than out to an occasional dinner we can't afford. Travelling or spending the night elsewhere is out of the question. I make good enough money, some would say very good money. But it ALL goes to the mortgage, the bills, and funding the farm.

This isn't what I signed up for. Before we married, we were in agreement that the man should provide for the family and the wife should stay home with the kids. But one decision led to another. I worked a little more, and a little more, and a little more, until I work 5 days a week now, with literally no end in sight. We have a mortgage, and at our current rate, I will NEVER be able to retire. I am tired. I want to be home with my kids.

You know, I truly love him. I know he probably believes we have a good marriage. He knows I am unhappy, but I don't believe he has a clue of the depth of my unhappiness and depression. To try to talk to him about it seems to threaten his dream, and makes him withdraw, which makes my blackness even blacker. He believes "in a couple of years" we'll "be to a point" where I can "get home." I would like to believe that. But the statistics on farm incomes do not paint a pretty picture or give me much hope.

Signed - Sugar Momma