My Dairy Man spends a lot of time out on the dairy. Like, a lot. He usually hits the dirt around 7 a.m. and I see neither hide nor hair of him until 8 or 9 p.m.
The time between when I get home from work and when I see the hardworking farmer can be a lonely time. In the first few months of our marriage (harvest time), it was actually much worse. I resented it. I felt like I barely had a husband. When he finally got home, we would scarf down a quick dinner, spend 20-30 minutes catching up, and then head to bed so that we could wake up to do it all over again. It got better when we actually started living on the dairy, but the Dairy Man’s life is still at the mercy of the farm. If something breaks, he has to fix it. If an employee needs assistance, he has to help. If the cows get out, he obviously has to wrangle. Regardless of the time, day or night, the dairy almost always comes first.
This reality has been the most challenging adjustment as I learn how to live as a modern farm wife. I grew up in a family that treated work very differently. My dad was home for dinner almost every night; no one was calling him at 4 a.m. to report a problem; he could plan his days and we could plan on him.
But farming is very different. Long hours and lack of freedom come with the territory. This is your name on the line, your reputation, your livelihood. There is a high level of personal investment. Farming is like any other small business … if the business were on steroids. Farming will never, ever be a 9-5.
Honestly? I’m still adjusting. I suspect it may take years. The all-encompassing nature of the farm still shocks and annoys me. My Dairy Man will spend the rest of his life trying to find balance and I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to accept that we often won’t achieve it.
A few months before we got married, Dairy Man and I were in a premarital counseling session that changed everything. While addressing my fears of living in the country and marrying a farmer, I came up with a laundry list of worries: living in the middle of nowhere, dealing with my husband’s work schedule, and giving up career options to follow him. Would he make enough time for me? Would I get lonely? How could I survive when the nearest mall or Starbucks was 45 minutes away? What kind of future would I have?
When I stopped to take a breath, Dairy Man started talking. He talked about his love of farming and his eagerness to grow and innovate on the dairy. His passion was palpable; his eyes were gleaming; his ambition was remarkable. And then he said, “But I feel so guilty about all of this because I know Jess is unhappy. And I understand, but I just don’t know what to do.”
BAM. My selfishness hit me like a load of bricks. And it hurt. It hurt to see that I was unintentionally stomping all over his dreams. It hurt to know that I was taking the joy out of something he loved so much. That’s when I decided to stop digging in my heels. I chose him and thus, I chose this life. If we were going to be happy, I would have to start being ok with this.
I’m proud of my husband. I’m proud of how hard he works and how big he dreams. He inspires me to do more and push myself harder. I need to reciprocate. Even though the stiletto-wearing city girl from five years ago would have been horrified at the prospect of living in the land of sky, dirt, and cows, this is exactly where I’m supposed to be.
And so, when I am eating yet another dinner alone, I remind myself why I’m here. The Dairy Man and I both have things to learn, but we’re on the same team. Even if the team uniform requires old jeans and rubber boots.