So while my Dear Husband was out birdwatching these past few weeks, I have been holding down the fort. Doing school runs, cooking meals, cleaning endlessly (but why is my house still a mess?), driving to piano lessons and birthday parties and… what else? Oh, yes. Working my full-time job.
Not that I begrudge him his quiet time before the calving starts (and start it has). Farming has never been an easy profession and today, though technology has made things less physically demanding in many ways, is no exception. Paperwork, politics and animal health are constant concerns but, like most farmers today, he also has a regular job on top of farming full time. Very few make a living ‘just’ from farming anymore.
I find myself almost pushing him out the door, sometimes, to go to the pub to watch a match instead of watching it alone in front of the television. Where, when the children were babies, I felt he was too busy with other things, now I feel he has too much alone time and is too isolated on our farm while I am off doing ‘all of the things’ with our children.
He and I have diverged. Not in our marriage or our partnership, but in our lifestyles. I think I know why this is – and research backs me up. Since relationships have been studied, it has been observed that women often put more time and effort into maintaining relationships outside of their marriage while men tend to lag. According to Psychology Today, men often depend on their wives to “help them with their social lives”.
With some of my women friends, we go months – even years – without seeing each other, but no one holds the other accountable; no one feels guilty. When we see each other, it’s just pure enjoyment of each other’s company
In my personal experience, moving to a new area, having three babies in short succession and being married to a busy farmer forced me to find a tribe outside of my own family. I found other like-minded women – women who were also blow-ins and married to farmers; women who weren’t married to farmers but had children of a similar age and had similar interests; women who were not married to farmers and had no children (who I could visit for some peace and quiet).
I started these friendships many years ago and over time they have changed but they have strengthened in a way only true friendships can.
With some of my women friends, we go months – even years – without seeing each other, but no one holds the other accountable; no one feels guilty. When we see each other, it’s just pure enjoyment of each other’s company.
Other friends have children at school with my own and we spend multiple hours together planning Communion masses, walking in laps around the GAA pitch after school drop-off and comparing notes on parent-teacher meetings.
Since I settled into this farming family, my friendships have been everything to me. They have been there for me through the loneliest aspects of motherhood and have made me laugh until I thought my sides would split. My friends have recounted every single episode of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills with me and they take my side in every argument (even if I’m wrong). If I hadn’t created this tribe, I’m not sure how I could have gotten through the past decade.
My husband also has a great friends, but not the same emotional connection. As he gets older, it takes more effort for him to want to socialise. So while before I would have gotten angry at the prospect of him going out for a few drinks or a round of golf, I now encourage it.
This Valentine’s Day, I will give my husband and kids and big smooch and tell them I love them – like I do each day. But I will be going out of my way to text, call and treat my girlfriends, because I have come to learn that Galentine’s Day – not Valentine’s Day – is the day I prefer to celebrate. I will be encouraging my husband to reach out to his friends and start celebrating ‘Palentine’s Day’, because farming can be lonely.