Dr. Val Farmer
Rural Mental Health & Family Relationships

Treating Farm Women As Ladies

November 7, 2005

A farm woman checked my website and found out I hadn’t written about how farmers need to treat their wives as ladies. She then proceeded to give me her ideas on what she thinks is acceptable behavior. Here are her suggestions.

1. Take me someplace nice for a date. Lunch at Field Days is NOT a date. As much as I enjoy not having to make dinner; I don't consider a hotdog at the stadium a romantic supper. Taking me to an Iowa or ISU game would be considered a date but please take me to a nice restaurant. Don't take me out on a nice date, and end the date with, "OK, I took you out. I don't want to hear any complaining when harvest starts." This makes you look like a jerk!!!

2. Mind your table manners. Just because you can chow down an entire frying pan full of Hamburger Helper in 5 minutes does not mean it is acceptable. Enjoy your meal with your family. Slow down and talk to your children. Ask to have something passed. Don't reach across someone's plate because you could reach it.

3. Say please and thank you a lot. "Will you please help me move some hogs?" will get you a lot further than, "Get out here and help move hogs!" If you want me to help you, be willing to help me when I ask for it without offering any excuses about how busy you are. I wouldn't ask for help if I didn't need it.

4. Don't talk like a redneck. You are an educated businessman who likely attended Iowa public schools - rated among the best in the nation! No teacher taught you to say, "We ain't got none a that."

5. Your wives are not rednecks. We have also been educated in Iowa public schools. We wear shoes, fix our hair, and have front teeth. Making dumb jokes about your wife and children is unacceptable. Some farm wives may consider themselves tomboys, but not rednecks.

6. We are still ladies. Treat us like it. Farm women can move a mountain with their bare hands in a matter of hours - but don't take advantage of that. Open the door for us, let us go first, be sensitive to our needs as females. Maybe we want to take a quilting class, which is offered only during harvest. Accept our need to make something pretty for ourselves sometimes. We should be able to take a night off from hauling corn without being made to feel guilty.

7. Please take care of yourself. I take care of myself for you. Get regular medical check-ups, eat healthy, exercise, shower, shave and brush your teeth regularly. I know it's easy to forget when you're exhausted because of harvest, but it is easier for me to want to be close to you.

8. We deserve to be treated with respect at all times. We are not always perfect; and neither are our farming husbands.

9. Try experiencing something different. Some farm wives and children really enjoy the sport of hunting together with their husbands. Some do not. Don't moan and groan if I ask to go to Iowa City - not for a football game, but to see a fine arts performance.

10. Your bodily functions and noises aren't amusing.

11. Be a good example to your children. For example, don't send them to church then go to the field yourself. Go to church and other places as a family. Practice what you preach in other areas, too.

12. Make time for your family. The work will always be there. It never gets done. I know, I clean a farm house!

13. Ask how you can help us sometimes. Farming is different than it was 20 years ago. A lot of farm wives work in town. If I help you during my time off, be sure to appreciate me.

14. Helping with housework is everyone's responsibility. We all live in the house together so we all need to pitch in. It is the same with cleaning up after meals.

15. Respect laws. I know you used to ride in the back of the pick up all the time when you were a kid. I did, too. However, there are now seatbelt and car seat laws. You and the kids need to buckle up.

16. Rejoice with me when I've accomplished something difficult. You want me to be happy for you when the markets figures are smiling down on you.

17. Roll with the punches. When the well suddenly goes dry, a child is admitted to the hospital, a drain is clogged, a tire on our only vehicle is flat, the other kids are acting up in school, the dog miscarried her puppies and your grandmother's death - I loved her, too! - are all beyond my control.

I certainly did not plan for these thing to inconvenience YOU during harvest! My feelings of being overwhelmed are just as real as your sense of urgency to get the beans in! Don't treat me inhumanely because you feel as if you must attend a funeral during YOUR busy time. I work, too.