It was our 21st wedding anniversary recently. I’m almost getting embarrassed that we’ve been married for so long, it makes me feel very old even though I was almost a child bride!!
This tractor was delivered on our wedding anniversary in 2005!!
We’ve been farming now for 11 years, for the ten years before that – Brian was working as a scientist (5 of which he spent studying for a PhD on a part-time basis), I was in college for five years as a mature student and worked as a secondary school teacher for the remainder. Life was very different then, not only was it pre-children but we were both working 9-5 with good holidays. Brian’s commute was only 15 minutes and mine was 45 minutes. We were both home by 6 with the rest of the evening free to cook dinner, do some decorating, relax in front of the television, go out or relax with a book.
So, how does life compare being married to a full-time dairy farmer to being married to someone who works 9-5. The lifestyle is pretty different, to say the least.
|Being married to someone who works 9-5||Being married to a Farmer|
|Brian got 32 days holidays a year plus bank holidays!!||Got away for a 32 hour break this summer|
|Plenty of free time in the evenings, usually home by 6pm||Working late is the norm. Finish at 6pm for two months during the winter.|
|Most weekends off||Sunday afternoons off|
|Got up about 7:30am||Often up by 6 am|
|He did all the cooking, I washed up etc||I do all the cooking and everything else in the house|
|We often did the grocery shopping together||He goes grocery shopping about once a year ? usually when we are on holidays|
|Going away for weekends could happen spontaneously||Even a few hours away takes careful planning especially if a relief milker is needed|
|Had Monday morning blues||Every day of the week is the same|
|Happy Friday feelings||Enjoy Saturdays ? no reps calling, no post, no phone calls|
|Occasionally away for a week on conferences||Never away|
|Sometimes sleep is interrupted by thoughts about work||Always have a good night?s sleep ? unless it is during the calving season|
|You take special days off work to celebrate e.g. birthdays, anniversaries||You take them off if they don?t coincide with silage, drainage, reseeding, haymaking, straw loading, calving …. ie very unlikely|
|If you aim to leave by 10 am, you?ll be driving out the gate at 10:15 am||If you aim to leave at 10 am, you?ll be driving out the gate at 11:45 am|
|Switches off relatively easily when away from work||If away on holidays, always thinks of cows at milking time|
|Dinner parties||Cook for silage men!|
|He?s there on time for dinner (especially since he cooked it)||Could be one or two hours late for dinner|
|He spends time in the garden||Gardening is relegated to occasional Sunday afternoons|
|Time off is spent at home and it feels like time off||For true time off, have to get away from the house/farm for the day unless it is a Sunday afternoon in the garden|
|Share the driving when you travel||You usually drive, he sleeps or is entertained by looking to see what is in the various fields.|
|Share the parenting equally||You?re a single parent for 10 months of the year|
|Share ?bringing children to activities||He brings them once a year|
|You spend some Saturday mornings at the hairdressers||You spend Saturday mornings feeding calves, moving cattle or on the sideline of a football pitch|
|He sees cutting the grass or putting out the bins as jobs for the man of the house||You do it ? it?s connected to the house so it?s your domain!!|
|Decorating or DIY can be done all year round||He can only do it during the two ?dry? months of the year (dairy farmer) so you save it for him for all those early evenings when he?s in at 6pm.|
Money is also a hugely different scenario. When working as an employee, you get the same salary every month. ?As a farmer, income can be erratic and so is the overdraft. ?We pay ourselves a salary every month so it’s the farm account that’s erratic, however, we could do with paying ourselves a bit more. ?As employed, you might invest money in your home. Being married to a farmer tends to mean that farm improvements come before house improvements!
I have to admit I’m not the type of person who makes a big deal about anniversaries (birthdays are a different matter though), I’m probably less romantic than Brian when it comes to them. I remember when working in one job there was one person I really couldn’t stand and she always made a huge deal of her anniversaries, I used to conclude that she was definitely celebrating that her husband had stayed with her for so long! The fact that he left her some time later didn’t surprise me at all.
Brian was drawing straw for 5 days, milking first, breakfast, then bring home 2 loads of 28 bales, dinner, another load, milk and unload the last load. He came in for dinner one day and said he’d finish it by Tuesday evening and looked at me strangely. It took me a minute to realise that Tuesday was our anniversary and that would scupper our day or evening out. We went out for dinner on our own last year to celebrate our 20th anniversary but this time, the children were insistent that they were coming with us. ? They have got to the age that it is really nice to bring them out for an evening meal. I know time together as a couple is important too but it’s not going to be that long until they are either embarrassed to be seen with us or we are ’empty nesters’. We decided to go away for the day on the Wednesday with the children, so it was intended to leave by 11. We left at 12:15 and got to Lullymore at 1:30.
Mercifully, Brian isn’t one of those farmers who likes to milk at 5pm every evening. I hate being tied to time too. While most farmers would have the 10 hour gap between milkings during the day and 13 or 14 hours during the night, we often seem to do it the opposite way, milk at 6:30am and milk and 8 pm! ?We had a great day at Lullymore, the kids thoroughly enjoyed the crazy golf, the walk, the train, the play area. We enjoyed it too – the only part that’s a bit poor is the garden with the flower beds of regularly planted bedding plants – I much prefer deep herbacous borders of tumbling plants and flowers. We brought a picnic and topped up with tea and cake and were last to leave at 6pm.
We got away a couple of weeks ago too – for 31 hours! We got a relief milker to do the evening and morning milking and Brian milked when we got home that evening. We went to Druid’s Glen, a lovely hotel in Wicklow, stopped off in Glenalough on the way there. The hotel was lovely, a really nice meal, good bar and they had DVD players and a library of DVDs so we all fell asleep while watching Despicable Me! ?Husband did squirm a bit during the evening meal when he was wondering if his cows were alright after being milked by a stranger.
After a yummy breakfast the next morning, we went to Mount Usher again. This is a great hit as there is a treasure hunt through the garden with numbers 1-87. The children get a huge kick out of finding the next numbers (and some of them were tricky to find) while we can stroll around and enjoy the gardens. We went to another gardens then (I forget the name but it was nice too, much wilder and free), yummy lunch at the Tap Cafe, a walk along Brittas Bay beach and home. That was our summer holiday 🙂
We spot a dangerous Warg at Wicklow Arboretum
We’ve experienced both – a decade of the 9-5 and just over a decade of full time farming – which would I prefer? ?While I loved living in the UK and having the time to spend decorating in the evenings and weekends as well as the freedom to head away, I lived for my weekends and holidays when I was working. When you’re farming, it’s like you are working at your hobby all the time, the only thing is that you need to get away from it all occasionally, especially if you want to recharge the batteries and give yourself space to think outside the box. It would be nice to be able to afford more help and work shorter hours but I’d much prefer being self employed to 9-5, despite all the things I’ve said in the table above.
Another difference that I was reminded about recently when a 9-5er commented on how she’d had a fun weekend and would be able to tell her workmates about it on Monday morning. I’d forgotten that people did that! For me, when the weekend is over, it’s over – unless I blog about it of course!
Do farmers make good husbands? ?I’m reading through old newspaper archives for stories on farmers and marriage and just found a report of a public debate in Limerick in 1955, entitled ‘That Farmers do not make good husbands’ – the women all had praise for farmers as farmers but not as husbands! Mind you, it was tougher for wives back then. Husbands would go to the mart expecting and knowing their wives would do all the heavy work as well as the housework. ?While she was still knitting or darning at the end of a long day working, he was chatting to other farmers at the local pub. ?Many farming women worked a lot harder than their husbands back then.
What do you reckon – which would you prefer to be married to – a farmer or a 9-5er? Mind you, there’s plenty of other occupations that aren’t 9-5!!
Imen McDonnell (@ModernFarmette)
First of all happy, happy anniversary! I missed this post Lorna. Secondly, LOVE the table of comparisons, can safely say that I can related to all of them, except having those winter months off which we keep discussing, and it keeps never happening =( But, the thing that springs to mind as I read through the post and the comments is an even larger question in my mind, which is: do you want your kids to grow up and be farmers too?
I know – am trying to nail Brian down for a week away in January – we need a break before the calving starts esp as it will be even busier than last year and we didn’t get to improve our calf feeding facilities this year either.
I’d love to see one of the kids farming but I think they have to have it in their soul. It is too tough an industry to do it welll unless you love it as well as having the ability to think outside the box. Will wants to work in NASA so that’s a long way home to milk the cows! I can’t see him farming tbh but you never know. Kate is more intuitive when it comes to animals and she loves food so I’d love to see her doing something with the milk to add value to it – she just needs someone to milk the cows for her! Dairy farming is one of the toughest esp if they keep beef animals too. Time will tell – it will be their decision. We’d love to see it continued on, can’t see us selling it and living on the proceeds really, would be a tough one. However, no child should be pressured to farm – they have to want it in order to continue it on and make the most of it.
Great post! I don’t have 10 years’ experience to back it up yet, but I’m on the side of farming or something self-sustaining and far removed from the routine of 9-5. It’s not necessarily an easier life, but I think it’s a better life. (Ask me again in a year, though!) One thing you haven’t listed in your table is stress levels. In my 9-5 there were very high levels of stress. I’m sure farming is hard work, but is it stressful?
It can be stressful – but it’s often about things you have no control over so you have to relax eg sick animals or the weather. What stresses my husband ( and me tbh) is having to be somewhere by a certain time – don’t mind working till midnight if not under pressure so I guess we can control the stress more easily. There are financial stresses too though when income has be erratic and outgoings seem never ending 🙂 we don’t tend to stress about money – I don’t think you can when you’re a farmer but having said that, a bad year would be v stressful
Very interesting post, Lorna. What’s most interesting is that your table doesn’t reflect whoat you really feel about your life. I’m glad your new life makes you so happy. Though I’d have to say for myself, having grown up in a house where my father was a vet, whose hours were dictated by the long hours kept by farmers, I’d go more for the urban 9 to 5!
I guess I wanted the table to be more reflective of the comparison in general although with my spin on it. Interesting that you commented on that though, am conscious that I haven’t put enough of ‘me’ into the book yet so a good reminder on that too 🙂
As your future editor, I heartily endorse your remark.
M T McGuire
Im thinking, here, that marrying any kind of job for lifer is probably best avoided unless you, too, buy into what they do. 🙂
Sounds like you have fun even if its hard work.
Lorna, I am a huge fan already, but I am going to share this post with all my ”townie” friends. A great read. My favourite comparison is – (THEN) Dinner parties (NOW) Cook for silage men! xx Ursula
Thanks Ursula – I have to admit that other farmers wives are much more domesticated than I am but I just can’t face doing everything for a dinner party ie cleaning, the table and the cooking would just kill me – I’m not a natural cook at all 🙂
Congratulations on the wedding anniversary. The farming life would not be for me, I like my weekends off and by off I mean in bed while the rain pours down outside. We have something in common, I am going back to college as a mature student myself in October.
but you miss out on those beautifully sunny mornings at dawn too ;0)
What are you going to study? I loved college as a mature student. I was there from 24-29. The MA was one of the best years of my life, just soaked it all up. Enjoy 🙂
History, English, Language and Linguistics, Geography, Media and Communication Studies, Philosophy and Theology.
It is a sort of introductory/sample course for mature students to decide what they are good at and would like to pursue further.
but you miss out on those beautifully sunny mornings at dawn too
Haha. You’ve convinced I’m moving into the farming business…farming will never be the same again.
That sounds like bliss tbh. I did History and English at BA, Irish Studies at MA, I taught English at secondary school, Media and Communication Studies at A Level and then one year of lecturing in Communication Studies. Hope you really enjoy it – look forward to reading about it on your blog
Great post. I really enjoyed it.
My husband works over an hour from home so with travelling he leaves at 7.30am and is home at 6.45pm. It was a long day when our children were small but easier now. The best thing is the weekends. He gets home Friday and you get that Friday feeling. I have a good friend a farmer. His wife was a great buddy of mine but sadly died at 39. From the day she died he has had someone come in on a Sunday so he had a day with his children. Whilst missing a woman at home to cook and look after children was very difficult, farming life also gave him extra time to spend with them in the months and years after she died. It allowed them remain very much a family unlike what would happen if my husband was left by me. ( and I do threaten it occasionally. 🙂
yes, the long commute when added to a normal working day can make it into a very long day. That’s one of the advantages of farming – the commute can be measured in minutes or seconds.
Losing a partner is terribly tough at the best of times and yes, at least with farming, you can take a child out spreading fertiliser with you or for a walk to bring the cows in. I often see farming neighbours (whose wives work away from the farm) and they will have 2 or 3 children on the tractor with them – sometimes I threaten my husband with that (esp when they were younger) as he just doesn’t have much patience for delays. You keep up or you get out of the kitchen (farm)!!
What a wonderful post 🙂 Gives a great insight into priorities when things change in our lives. Your photos of the family are just gorgeous. My Hubs work hours changed from regular sort of 9 – 5 to a 12 hour day/night shift, not the same as your life, but a change for us. Really enjoyed this post Lorna, and loved your comparison list 🙂
Thank you Colette, I think shift work can be hard to adjust to too, esp if you have small kids.
Our babs was 3 when Hubs started shift work… was hard as she couldn’t understand where Daddy was. Happy Anniversary to you both .
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