Updated: Jan 21, 2022
I grew up in a small town. My dad loyally worked in a paper mill, and my mom in education. My sister and I played sports all through school and in college. We had a simple routine. School, dinner, sports, church on Sundays, and family time in between going to watch the Friday football games or attend our own practices and games. Sports was where we learned discipline, team work, respect, dedication, how to adapt weaknesses into strengths. Our school was our second home. Teachers and coaches were family, always there when we needed help, or when we needed constructive criticism to keep us humble in our adolescence. Most of all, they kept expectations high, in a supportive way, because they believed in us.
20+ years later, I find myself in a place far from home, far from people I was comfortable around, and expectations seemingly in the polar opposite of what I grew up with. Not to mention, the work schedule not being dictated by the sunrise and sunset, but rather by the need for only 6 hours of sleep. If you're awake, you should be working. So in keeping true to my stubborn character, I tried to change me and the exceed expectations of the place I was planted in marriage.
Before marriage, I was the girl with no "plan" other than play sports, graduate college, teach and maybe coach. Marriage wasn't something I sought, for sure. Tomboy and homebody to the core...my comfort zone did not extend out very far.
All this was tested in an un-welcomed but blessed change of events, when I met Marty. Here's a guy who liked me despite me being me! Someone who didn't care where I came from or any pre-conceiving notion. He's the guy who always always made me feel special. I wasn't a 4H star, or a FFA degree recipient (kids and adults whom I think are superstars and so proud of). I certainly wasn't looking for a "certain" guy or any guy at all.
Looking back, you'd think someone like my husband would keep an eye out for someone with accolades abounding in at least one Ag circle. However, my creative but awkward personality hasn't been and most likely will never be geared to be on 3 different "boards", because I'd rather be home with my kids, being outside working or hunting, dabbling in art, or napping. I'm very diverse in my down home interests! Plus, my better half does excel in serving on different community/state boards...one parent gone 3-5 days a month is enough.
The first ten years of being married, starting a farm business together (while I taught full-time at school), was a change of pace and change of climate in more ways than one. I felt I had to "keep up" and try to fit in. I needed to work at school late, if Marty was in in the field late (which he was and still is all the time). I, the new "farm wife", to a guy who grew up in a 7th generation on both sides family, needed to "gain approval", and try to do all the things. Teaching, working on a masters degree (that had nothing to do with Ag or making decent money), starting a family, and continuing to teach, work on masters, and help on the farm while learning to mother a newborn for the first time.
I found myself waking up at night, crying because my new born wasn't in the bassinet.
I was holding her and didn't know it!
I was tired. I was burning both ends of candle.
This happened once before, and I'm a little embarrassed about it. My freshman/sophomore year in HS I was overdoing everything, to try and be the best athlete and best student...but wasn't sleeping or eating right.
So, I had a glitch (seizure). I refer to it as a glitch, because that's what it felt like after my big seizure. I would have small "glitches", which took a a few years to get balanced out.
If you read between the lines, the pattern of stress, anxiety, and trying to fit seems to come into focus.
Trying to fit a round ball in a square mold. It wasn't going to happen! And never will. Are we suppose to fit in on earth anyways? Good grief!
It only took 16 years to figure this out and be comfortable with the fact I was not going to be "comfortable" anywhere until I was comfortable and confident with me. Lessons learned through quite a few trials out here in the middle of nowhere. Trials that felt like a never ending mud pit race and obstacle course I didn't even sign up for!
The hard times we've been through as a young farm couple, as I've said before, brought a strong bitterness in my soul that I won't forget. The experiences and situations triggered depression, in a young mother who loves her family more than words can say but couldn't get out of bed, felt her purpose was gone after giving up career, and trying to help with the farm that seemed to not have much hope of financial or emotional stability. Feeling that no one would ever understand, was heavy. Giving up work, to stay home and provide balance to the family while the farm was growing to try and be sustainable, was a big change. What else is there to do when you're limited on child care, and your husband hires two employees by the time you're 28 years old? It wasn't going to "lighten" the load! Having employees creates more work! The constant yearly changes in our business would make any person's head spin. Throw in the bipolar grain and cattle markets and you'll see a reality show full of variety and complexity.
The "spark" I had as a young adult was so far gone in my mid-thirties. The spark you'd think every woman has, of being worth more alongside the role as a momma. Why was it gone? When you have a blessing of a husband, who loves and supports unconditionally, but other people are putting off a fragrance that hints " you'll never be enough" and "you don't belong here". Being a new mom, in a new place, on my own was tough enough. It's just too much for a person to deal with on their own, away from the loving acceptance of family and friends. Really.
Knowing no matter how much work I put in, it wasn't going to be recognized because I wasn't from here or a direct descendent. That's a thing! I have no idea why but, it IS a thing. I call it the Twilight Zone sometimes! Wondering, if I were a Rhodes Scholar, or a DI All American athlete, would this help? Eh, probably not. Probably would help if I was born in this county though!
I think for some of us "farm girls" who marry the farm life, face the repeated small minded question of "is she really cut out to be married to the farm?" Oh crap, I'm not suppose to talk about any of this am I. I'm suppose to pretend everything's perfect, we are perfect, it's all perfect...and not have an opinion, or an experience that's different.
That is the problem. The observation of my husband, farming every field different, every year...every crop, season, batch of seed, etc. is different, and preforms different. Seed that maybe isn't suppose to do as well as another that's been specifically bred for more adversity in conditions, sometimes does better than the "more qualified" seed. I like to think this analogy transfers to individuals who've chosen to grow in places they're not expected to thrive and contribute.
I believe being stubborn and independent, is a gift when you're in the middle of harsh conditions especially. The wind, heat, and harshness of life's weathering ways won't keep a gal from wavering when she's got some grit in her roots. I've gained more confidence, awareness, and directness than I ever used to have, thanks to the discomforts and unstable experiences we've been through. It's been tough out here on the prairie. The naive and sensitive young lady has hypothetically left the county. Along with those hard experiences, it was a big step in getting some help! You know, like when your eyes need a prescription, or your seed needs inoculant to help get some growth in unhealthy soil conditions...just like that!
A couple years ago, I broke down and called for my first therapy appointment. You can't pray high functioning anxiety away. It was a step in the right direction. Medicine, which I've always avoided, has helped tremendously as well. Ask my husband! My belief is, God provides doctors, therapists, and medicines to help us along with way. And, along with this, I've heard people go to the standard "if you just pray", and go to church, you'll get the help you need. Church, for me, has not always be the place God speaks the most. For me, He speaks in many different creative ways, and I meet Him halfway in my own Bible study, listening throughout the day...He knows where I am, I know where He is, and we meet halfway. Always has, always will. There's a lot of people in this world, with different routines, circumstances, personalities, etc. He made us all different, and will always provide us His Word and Spirit no matter where we are. We just have to show up in spirit, and meet him halfway.
All this to say, If I could give any advice to young women marrying into a this lifestyle, who may not be as confident and bold as women I've been blessed to know who are born navigating the world of cattle with ease, and just knowing the in's and out's of the industry ...it would be this. Be yourself. Love who you are. Don't stop being you, to try and fit someone else's square space. Be confident in saying, "I can learn". You CAN say no, and you CAN ask questions in that seem basic. We are usually humble servants, knowing God brings us to unfamiliar territories sometimes. God made each of us, farm girls by heart, farm girls by choice, farm girls by birth, farm girls by marriage...special and with purpose.
I'm finally comfortable with not knowing everything about farm finance, livestock terms and lingo...because I'm willing to learn or let it go (to the accountant!). I know if someone mocks my lack of experience or understanding, or doesn't want to teach, I can find help elsewhere. I can let it finally slide. I AM strong and I have great purpose in our family and business. I have some awesome gifts to bring to the table, some of which might just make someone laugh in good humor, which, I think is great! Laughter is some good medicine! I also do pretty good at working cattle even though I could stand to lose fifteen pounds to hop the fence before lil' ole' bull butts a bruise on MY butt. It's just like playing defense, reading the offense on the basketball court!
Do I wish I could do our payroll and taxes? You bet! But I'd really much rather be in the field, or being creative with my time. In all reality, I stress over numbers...so it's not my gift!
Do I wish I had a reputation of getting up at 6 am every day to do chores, have breakfast on the table, and be all the things? Sure. But, I tend to get in trouble when I try to be all the things. I start to glitch. Literally!
And I'd like to live in God's grace rather than the world's unrealistic standards.
Do I wish I could drive a semi? No. The answer is no, and always will be...a no. But I sure admire our friends who do, with their babies in the cab, no matter how hot or cold it is outside!
Every "farm girl" is different, brings different gifts to the field, and should be encouraged, celebrated, accepted for her strengths AND weaknesses instead of compared or held to an unrealistic standard. Many of us who marry into the farm, are picking up the slack and holding our own where others have left it for other occupations.
And last but not least...close the gate before any mean, think they know it all from far away, non-supportive heifers or bulls get in to your field unless they just want a good gate slammed on the head. Just sayin'!