What’s in a name?
My Blog, Instagram and Facebook handles are all, “An Accidental Farm Wife”. But who am I? Am I the farmer’s wife? A farm wife? A farm woman? Or a farmer? Maybe all of them! Let me explain:
A fellow blogging friend and new first time author, Lorna Sixsmith wrote this article that really got me thinking about my title of my relatively new profession. http://irishfarmerette.com/2015/02/27/farmer-female-farmer-farmers-wife-farmerette/
In her article she states in regards to the term- farmer’s wife, “To be honest, I’d never refer to myself as anyone’s wife – either in terms of whatever his occupation is or in regard to his name. I might say I’m married to Brian but I would never describe myself as his wife; nor do I tend to describe him as my husband unless I really can’t avoid it.”
While the feminist in me shouts hooray, huzzah! I DO actually refer to Luke as my husband, my farmer, etc. I am completely comfortable referring to myself as his wife. For me, it’s another hat I wear-not a definition of self.
Professionally, I refer to myself as an educator, a business owner or a linguist- depending on which job I am referring to. I currently run a small business- the preschool on our farm. I also participate in ongoing training from my master’s degree in linguistics by teaching classes. Overarching all of these, are my church affiliations and service; I also volunteer in my kids’ classrooms, and tutor some young friends in Spanish- I am definitely an educator.
BUT – what is my role on the farm?
I like to question traditions regularly. Do I try to keep a clean house and make nice meals because it’s expected of me in order to be a good wife? Absolutely not, but if the “good” wife label comes my way, I’ll wear it when I can. In reality, I do it because I love my children and my husband and I want them to eat healthy meals and we all have more peace in our home when it’s clean(ish)– speaking relatively clean here.
When we moved to the farm seven years ago, I wasn’t sure what I wanted my role to be. I love my mother-in-law, but we are two different people as far as our interests and efforts go. Some overlap, but not a lot- and that’s fine. After all, how do we progress if there are not intergenerational differences?
Assuming leadership of my husband’s family farm, was a hard adjustment for both of us. My farmer grew up seeing his mother involved in activities that aren’t necessarily at the top of my priority list. She is a remarkable woman, and a force to be reckoned with. I tried-and failed-to fill her elegant boots, to do everything she did-because that’s what a “farm wife” should do. It wasn’t his fault or her fault or even my fault- more a HUGE learning process. I have learned that I couldn’t be her and manage the interests that I loved-and it was a difficult realization to come to, but one that has given me more peace, more purpose.
So I pursued clarity. I sought talk therapy and the advice of MANY friends. From these efforts I learned acceptance. To accept what I am and she is, and who my farmer is, and that it’s OK to be who we were, are, and will be. Acceptance is a skill, and it doesn’t come easy for most of us. Letting go of expectations, whether our own or someone else’s is tremendously hard.
Still, farming is a unique lifestyle. I looked for a support group for farm women. AND… I. FOUND. IT. To say it was life changing simplifies it. Almost immediately found that there most certainly is not a cookie cutter farm woman. More like an entire bakery.
I have met farm women who are very much involved in the daily farm operations. Several who are “The” farmers themselves-those who labor kneading the doughy base of their farm. Many, like me, do supportive farm work-our work is the icing-the sweet, supplement that adds to the beauty and quality. There are some farm women who don’t do much at all on the farm, except for love and support their farm husbands-they are the sprinkles providing little splashes of love to the doughy grind.
These women get that sometimes we just want to scream and yell about the pressures we face without much (any?) monetary compensation. Yet, don’t diminish us with pity. This is, after all, a field we nearly unanimously chose. If not ourselves, our farmers farm because they love it. Farmers understand the importance of balancing love of work and family against the knowledge that our labors ensure our Nation’s security. That as a group we are providing the essence of what sustains all manner of human endeavor. Food. It’s a job, a calling and a challenge. I am continually grateful to those who rise to it.
Farmers and their families embrace this in a similar way to Military families. It is a vow of sacrifice, which is often manifested with poverty, injury and even death. Farming is a dangerous, essential and sometimes thankless job. I get emotional thinking about it. I am ashamed that I ever considered farming a less-than impressive occupation. My farmer has a master’s degree as well. Many years our combined incomes qualify us for earned income credit. We laugh at this fact and through our disappointment, yet still cling to the knowledge that we are doing something meaningful- giving service by the sweat of our brow.
I was ok with my title of “just” a farm wife. Because like the title of mother and educator, which are also titles that do little to describe the heartache and turmoil AND the joy and bliss that accompany them. I am ok with less glitzy titles.
Then this past December, my farmer approached me and said, “I need someone to drive tractor for our Christmas tree lot wagon rides”. I have always LOVED four-wheelers, motorcycles, etc.- so I jumped on that opportunity. It was cold- bitter, bitter, cold some nights, but so fun, so important and so visible.
I now drive tractor for our preschool wagon ride tours. I have done something tremendous-no longer solely the glossy frosting or cheerful sprinkles on our farm. “Miss Hilarie the “farmer’s wife” has “leaned in” ALL in. I’ve defined MY role and set my roots. My other titles nor the titles of generations of women before me don’t define the grit, determination and faith it takes to start a 1962 International Harvester when the starter is going out (the fact that prayers were the only thing that worked is DEFINITELY the subject of an upcoming post).
Still trying to figure out this new role, and the title it should carry. Weigh in if you like. Which has the best ring to it for my “farming” title: Farmer Hil? Farmer Rie (kind of sounds like farmery- like it is its own noun)? Farmer Hilarie? Farmer Mommy-Dearest? Something else? My farmer has taught me that any farm name- for animals or people—needs to be as few possible syllables. Not many farm dogs named “Rumpelstiltskin”-more like “Roy”. Names need be something that is easy to holler (and anyone with any farm experience KNOWS there are times you need to holler!)
I’m going to let you all help me decide, but know, whatever it is it will be hollered with pride—I’ve earned it.