Dr. Val Farmer
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Rural Mental Health & Family Relationships

How Farm Women Deal With Spring Work

May 15, 2006

Farm women shared the following insights with me on how they get through the hectic spring planting season and the time crunch at harvest time.

An extra measure of tolerance. There is a lot of strain, night work, fatigue, setbacks, losses and frustration in planting and harvest times. It's obvious that most people aren't at their best. They bark out demands, give snappy responses, worry too much, communicate poorly and are easily frustrated. When people are tired, things don't go right.

If he is playing 'grease monkey,' I've learned to stay away from him.

Farm families who've learned how to "roll with the punches" make special allowances for each other during stressful seasonal work. Problems that could be brought up are not. They are put off until a later time.

During the spring, I use my friend or my mother for a sounding board since I can't expect it of my husband.

In hectic times one partner may be easygoing and take things in stride while the other gets upset easily, needing to express his or her emotions. Things are accepted that might not be otherwise.

He's used to me getting it out of my system.

Sometimes one person might withdraw and not talk under high stress conditions - even though this isn't his or her normal pattern of communication.

You may not like him that day, but you love him anyway.

Relationships may be out of kilter for a while, but it's best to recognize that "now" isn't the time to correct the problem. "Now" may not also be the best time to have company over, plan to go out, schedule major family "events" or even expect communication or companionship from one's spouse.

If there's something special I want to go to, I've learned to go by myself or not go.

Planning ahead. Some families have found that finances and spring do not mix. As much as possible they try to take care of income taxes, loan negotiations and other financial matters in advance. The additional worry and strain of dealing with finances while they are grappling with spring work.

If it isn't done before spring, forget it until later!

Adapting meal preparation. Some families make it a point to either set a specific mealtime or take a meal out to the field at a prearranged time. It provides a needed break and a chance for family members to see each other. A surprising number of farm couples set a regular mealtime regardless of how much still needs doing. Microwaves nicely solve the problem of dealing with irregular mealtimes.

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HOW FARM WOMEN DEAL WITH SPRING WORK, MAY 15, 2006 PAGE 2

Thank heavens for microwave ovens. ..not just in the spring but anytime of the year!

Communicating differently. Many farm couples take advantage of what time they do have together to renew their relationship and to make every minute count. They invest energy into their greetings and take time to catch each other up on what is going on in each other’s lives. They try to talk about more than just business or problems.

A relationship can be kept alive during stressful times with signs of appreciation, consideration, genuine concern, good listening, a little fun and lifting one another's burden during precious moments together.

I've learned that if I want to see my husband, I better tag along with him in his work. Besides, it's helped me learn a lot of new things.

Finding a release. For some people an early morning devotional time can set the tone for getting through the trials of the day. Putting one's life in perspective gives extra patience when the unexpected happens.

I sit down and put up my feet, close my eyes and erase from my mind everything that needs my attention. These 10 or 15 minutes are sacred. No worries, just rest and relaxation. During these few minutes, I say a prayer. I thank God for giving me the opportunity to take care of His beautiful land. After those resting moments, I feel much better. My work is less tedious and I can handle tasks with a new outlook.

Sometimes I just sit there with coffee in my hands, thinking idly, or not at all, just hanging loose. However I spend that time, it is an oasis of peace and quiet that gives me strength all day long.

Another woman finds emotional release by writing in her diary. Once the events of the day are written down, she finds herself at peace. Another writes poetry based on the things she's observed during the day. Another feels renewed by her volunteering and community service.

I surprise myself with my accomplishments. I feel mentally refreshed, and I find the stressful situations have eased up.

The right attitude. The stirring and commotion of spring are welcome after winter. This is a time of hope and optimism. Isn’t this what farming is all about? In springtime, everything comes back to life. Dreams and hopes surge along with the work and demands.

Right now, in spring, the hope is there. We say this is the year we'll get ahead. We are all 'next year' people. Right now, this springtime becomes the 'next year' we've been waiting for. Smiles return to a lot of faces. The work is hard, but we plow into it and smile when it is over.