As a child growing up on the farm, I could not help but notice that Mom and Dad seemed to argue more around both spring planting and fall harvest time. My father lamented that in his conversations with other farmers, he found that this was not an isolated problem. I doubt that much has changed in the few decades since my childhood. The added stresses try even the best patience.
Let is take some time to look at some natural causes that may trigger tensions within the marriage relationship of the farmer. Now let me confess, I have never been a husband and a farmer at the same time, yet I have been both. I did not get married until after I had left the farm for the ministry, but after having a wife and noticing her desires, I can better understand what may be happening in many farm families.
First, most wives really desire to spend “quality time” with their husbands. Now for most men, “quality time” with their wife is any time they are within a mile of each other. In other words, if your pickup is parked at the end of the field while you’re planting, and you can see your wife drop off that extra bag of seed for you, and she can see your tractor, you feel like you spent some quality time together. Now for the wife, “quality time” actually involves talking, and not about farming. The only problem is that the radio and/or cell phone don’t count. No, for her a mile is not close enough. Not only does she want to be in the same room, but within a few feet of you.
This may sound humorous until you figure out how this actually plays out in the farmer’s relationship. I got a glimpse of this scenario after my father passed away. I was still single at the time, was farming the family farm and living in the same house with my widowed mother. I came in from the field at about one o’clock in the morning. I was very tired, but too wound up from all the days activities to go straight to bed. So I sat at the kitchen table in the middle of the night reading the newspaper for a few minutes so I could relax enough to go to bed. Evidently, my mother was not sleeping either, because when she heard me in the kitchen she came out and began to talk. Please understand, I love my mother dearly, and I like to talk to her, but not in the middle of the night after a hard days work when I am very tired. Having said that, I must speak in defense of my mother. She was recently widowed, had been cooped up in the house all day, and was feeling quite lonely.
You see, this helps us understand what is happening to many farm couples. The wife is desiring to spend quality time with the husband she has hardly seen for the past two weeks because he has been putting in those 18 hour days. She only gets to see him for these measly 6 hours out of the day, and all he wants to do is take a shower and sleep. And then he has the nerve to read the paper or watch TV instead of spending time talking to his beloved.
From the husbands perspective, he has been working hard all day. He only has a limited amount of time to sleep or relax until he has to do it again, and his wife expects him to give up his much needed sleep just to talk to her. Add to the tension the fact that he has been in a noisy tractor all day, and just wants some peace and quiet.
I think we can quickly see how easily this could turn into a recipe for disaster. So what is the solution? Ephesians 4:2 says, “With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love.” What it really amounts to is loving our spouse enough to be humble and patient with them through the planting and harvest season. That means that he husband must understand that his wife needs that quality time, and the wife must understand that her husband needs his space and some time to rest.
Some practical suggestions. Husbands, when it rains, take some time out of the day just to talk to your wife. Let her know that this is her special time because you know that once the fields dry up, she will not see you very much again. Furthermore, try to eat at least one meal a day with her, even if it is on the tailgate of the pickup at the end of the field.
Wives, give him some space after those stressful days. After I quit farming I volunteered as a county sheriff’s chaplain. Police officers actually have one of the highest divorce rates of any profession. One of the reasons is due to the job stress. Once an officer puts on the badge and the gun, he is on high alert all day long. When he gets home and takes off the uniform, he is finally able to relax. Most men need about a half an hour just to wind down. The problem is, just like the farmer who has been gone all day, their wives as well are desiring the quality time. I have advised officers to share this problem with their wives and ask them to just give them at least 20 minutes after they get home before she starts to talk to him about her day. This will be hard for many wives, but the benefits of having a more calm and attentive ear after this time to unwind, can be quite rewarding. Farm wives should apply this as well.
The busy farming season is not easy for couples, but the rewards of considering each other will not only make the planting and harvest season go smoother, but will provide opportunities for your marriage to grow and prosper as well.
Pastor Jerry D. Miller is pastor of 1st Baptist Church of Bancroft, IA.
He can be reached at 885-2702