It was 8 p.m. last night and I was rocking my newborn back to sleep having reminding my older son, once again, to stay in bed. I had spent close to an hour getting the baby ready for bed and asleep and it was all undone when the toddler made his appearance, causing me to have to get up and walk him back to his room and tuck him back into bed. It was at that moment that I wanted life to be like it was, where bedtimes were non-events and by 7:30 p.m. the evenings were mine and free of children, dirty diapers and nursing. I wanted my husband home so he could help me keep it all together and keep our older son in bed and I wanted company as I rocked and rocked and rocked. But he wasn’t home and I wasn’t happy.
My husband wasn’t home because he was returning from a trip to south-central Kansas where he unloaded 80 cows to spend the winter on new pasture. He was late getting on the road and got caught in his tractor-trailer in icy, hazardous driving conditions. He was supposed to be back to the farm around 6:30 p.m. He walked in the door two hours later.
I didn’t grow up on a farm. I was raised in town by parents with eight-to-five jobs that allowed them to be home on evenings and away from work on the weekends. That’s what I envisioned for myself but it’s not what I married into. Farming doesn’t have closing times and doesn’t know the difference between Tuesday and Saturday. During the winter months the hours are even more unpredictable as my husband and his father help more than 300 mother cows deliver and care for new calves. And the animals, inevitably, pick the coldest nights and wettest weekends to deliver their off spring. It’s out of my husband’s control but all his responsibility.
I always talk and write about understanding and appreciating the hard work and long hours my husband puts into his job. I’m proud of the work he does and the hours upon hours he commits to the farm, but sometimes I forget that his obligations to his job and his animals must supersede his time at home. Last night, I forgot . . . I just wanted him home.
My husband is a successful business owner who is living his dream to carry on the family farm. He grew up watching a father and grandfather who both worked tirelessly to enable their sons to return to the farm and carry on the family business. Now my husband is working toward that same goal. He’s putting food on our table and provide healthy and nutritional products for people near and far. His work is invaluable and his passion undeniable.
But his dream often runs counter to my vision of a happy family of four enjoying a meal together or visiting the zoo on a Saturday morning. And when I forget why my husband isn’t home, I get angry and frustrated and become a person I’m not proud of. Part of marrying into farming is accepting the unknown, unpredictable and uncontrollable hours that come with raising crops and caring for animals.
Understanding all of this is easier said than done and even more so when a newborn is crying, yet again, needing to be nursed and rocked back to sleep while your toddler refuses to stay in bed and go to sleep.
I know my husband wants to be home as much as I want him home. I’m not the only farm wife, or mother who must find a way to juggle it all. As I learn to navigate life with two little boys, a full-time job, graduate school classes and other community obligations, I must remember that when my husband isn’t home, it’s because he is away making all of that possible. I tip my hat to all wives and mothers who must go it alone and while I know that my husband and farmers across the country want nothing more than to spend time with their families, work calls and they must answer. I usually understand, but sometimes, I forget.