In a recent letter to this page I can’t help but feel we have achieved nothing ourselves published in the 5 February edition, the letter writer asked for advice from other farmers’ wives on her personal predicament. This very thoughtful response arrived in my inbox afterwards. Thank you for taking the time to get in touch and hopefully the original letter writer will take inspiration from your words of wisdom.
Although I’m not in the situation of Farmer’s Wife, I would like to send her my two cents worth, if possible. So here goes:
Dear Farmer’s Wife,
You and your husband appear to be shouldering a lot of extraneous guilt and anxiety, which I would like, if possible, to help you shed.
Firstly, if your husband was, perhaps, a distant cousin who was bequeathed the farm in order to preserve the family name, or if he was a kind of “Gentleman Jim” who swanned in to take up the reins of a ready-made farm, then he might, understandably, feel a little guilt at accessing and living off the fruit of someone else’s labours. But this does not seem to be the case.
First of all, your husband’s parents had to leave their estate to someone, they could not take it with them. It is part of life, and of tradition, that a child of theirs would take it over. Also, in this day and age, when there is so much choice in life paths to take, and, with it, increasingly fewer farmers’ children being drawn to farming, they were very lucky to have a child who was interested and able to take over.
Her husband possibly worked on the farm for years, helping out, learning the ropes and doing a man’s work from a young age. He is also clearly doing a great job, which would surely be a source of relief and pride to his parents. So he should take note of this and feel very proud of himself. Furthermore, he is doing a very worthwhile job, as all farming leads to food production, which has an obvious value beyond words. And finally, if he is able to employ people full time, he should feel all the more proud of himself.
As for yourself, Farmer’s Wife, you need to stop beating yourself up and, like your husband, start acknowledging your own worth. As Miriam said, “I’m sure you have made a valuable contribution in terms of raising your family”. Bringing in money is not the only measure of one’s impact on the family. You need to see that you’ve had a full-time job over the years, albeit unpaid, in tending to the home and looking after your family. Few men would do it. You have also helped your husband maintain a thriving business. Do not doubt, even for a second, that he could run the farm as he does, without knowing that you are there with him, as his friend, his support, his rock.
Your letter is full of unease about your value in the eyes of others. You felt undermined when you joined your husband’s life first and you’ve been trying to prove yourself since. Know that you need answer to nobody. Be confident that, as you fret about what the world is thinking of you, the world is actually not focused on you at all, because it is too busy thinking about itself.
You come across as a lovely and much loved woman. Along with your husband, you have achieved so much and can take your place with the best. So enjoy your marriage, your family, your business, your holidays, your life. You have more than earned the right to do so.
Another Farmer’s Wife