This is a first for me. I am married to a 60-something-year-old farmer, mixed enterprises.
He is a hardworking, old-school father. We have five boys and a girl. We have just finished lambing down ewes and it was pure hardship (as it always is).
My husband expected the two youngest lads to be at his beck and call every hour of the day. They are good workers.
I had the conversation with him regarding giving them some money weekly, but I was ate
One is at college from home. It’s so hard and unfair on him to have to juggle it all. The other is out of paid employment and on the reduced COVID-19 payment.
Their father keeps saying he will give them payment, but has never done so. I had the conversation with him regarding giving them some money weekly, but I was ate. With my husband, it’s his way or the highway. I always agree to disagree, because I wouldn’t win.
They don’t get any encouragement. I feel for them and I am worried for them
He is turning his children against farming. They are good lads, but they are used and given very little praise. They don’t get any encouragement. I feel for them and I am worried for them and their mental health.
My husband says I don’t care about the farm. I work outside the home, thank God, and keep the family home.
He has never told the lads what the future holds for them. He said: “It will be theirs someday.” I know he is working so hard, so are we all, but mentally it’s very hard for our family.
Miriam, any advice?
At My Wits End
Dear At My Wits End,
Thank you very much for getting in touch. I am sorry to hear the affect this situation is having. But I would like to commend you on standing up for yourself and your children. Well done, it is not easy.
I will take each issue you have outlined one-by-one. Firstly: you and your husband’s communication.
If it is taking its toll, please don’t be afraid to get help
You most certainly did the right thing in speaking with him. I know it is hard when you are getting a negative response, but I would encourage you to keep voicing your opinions.
That said, I know these situations can be hard and draining. If it is taking its toll, please don’t be afraid to get help. Whether that be talking to your friends and extended family, or a professional like a counsellor.
Also, if you do feel this situation is impacting on your sons’ mental health, I would offer them the same advice. Most colleges offer free counselling and mymind.org are proving free counselling until 31 March for those affected by COVID-19, which includes your son out of work at present.
Tell them, if it is how they feel, to communicate to their father that the situation needs to change
With regard to your husband using your sons for labour, I feel there are a few things to address. As you have pointed out, it is not fair for your husband to use your sons as free labour to this extent. If he won’t listen to you, I would suggest encouraging your sons to talk with their father themselves.
They say the best parents give their children the tools to fend for themselves. Tell them, if it is how they feel, to communicate to their father that the situation needs to change.
This leads me on to what I feel is the overarching issue, the long-term plan for the farm. You haven’t given too much detail in your letter, but you have alluded to potentially quite a loose arrangement with regard to farm succession.
I would implore you to all sit down and have a family discussion about taking over the farm
It is not clear who is getting the farm, I am conscious there are also older siblings in mix.
I would implore you to all sit down and have a family discussion about taking over the farm. It should be a two way conversation: who is getting what and also who would be up for what.
Potentially, this is something you might all have a fair idea of already, but firming things up and putting a timeline in place for taking over would help everyone. And indeed, give some clarity on the unpaid labour issue as a result. Our Money Mentor recently did a four-part succession series. Search “succession” or “Money Mentor” on farmersjournal.ie to access these resources.
Although this is a difficult situation, I think what is abundantly clear is that you have your children’s best interests at heart. For that you should be proud. Keep encouraging and praising them, and please look after yourself also.