Can a farmer’s wife have an off-farm career? Yes – but she’s got to really want it, writes Loretta Aston as associate solicitor, mum and farmer’s wife.
The article written by Danielle Dunn immediately struck a chord with me. I am that farmer’s wife who makes it work, I thought.
I completely agree that being a farmer’s wife is a job in itself and, with two small children and a full-time job as a solicitor, it can feel overwhelming at times, but you can do it all if you really want to.
Our family farm is in Shropshire. My husband owns approximately 202ha and farms the whole lot himself with occasional help (mainly at harvest) plus me.
I am not from a farming background, but my family has always had a rural connection.
Since I met my husband, I have always had my own career away from the farm but over the years I have learned to drive a tractor, do baling and wrapping, work ground down, sort cattle for market (wild ones at that) and help calve a cow. My trailer reversing skills are now well polished.
We have been married for 16 years and have two children both under school age.
I returned to work after the birth of our son and worked part-time until the birth of our second child two years later.
When our second child reached 18 months, I returned to work full-time, as it is very difficult to do my job part-time.
Due to the nature of my work, my jobs on the farm include the paperwork, record-keeping and cattle movements, which my husband does not particularly enjoy or have time for, and being an NFU panel solicitor means I am on hand to give my husband 24/7 legal advice.
There is no such thing as an average day, but we have to try to stick to a routine.
We get up at 5.30am and I sneak to the shower so the children do not wake too early while my husband makes us a coffee.
He looks after the children when they wake while I do my hair and makeup (one of the good parts of going to work away from the farm is that you get to dress up).
At 6am he goes out to check the stock and feed the cattle while I wash, dress and have breakfast with the children.
At 7.30am we leave the house. My husband does the nursery run and I have a 100-mile round trip to work each day.
I arrive at the office for 9am and my husband drives back to the farm from nursery checking any outside stock on his way.
I arrive home at 5.15pm and if possible we try to collect the children together from nursery.
This is something we enjoy doing together as we can both see what they have been doing that day.
When we get back to the farm I cook dinner and bath the children and my husband finishes whatever he has not been able to get finished during the day.
I am lucky that I have a fantastic boss, it helps that he is a farmer’s husband and helps run a family farm in Snowdonia.
The firm I work for offers flexibility and I have good holidays, but that’s not to say I can get away with not working as hard as my colleagues who are not mothers or farmer’s wives.
It is a blessing that my parents help with the children and I do have help with my ironing.
Do I feel guilty working? Yes, of course I do, but I know that if I work I am helping our family. My salary gives us nice holidays and we can enjoy quality time together and we don’t need to worry if farming hits a bad patch because we have a separate income stream.
“My husband and I are a team, and our business is our family not the farm. The farm is one part of our business and my career the other, and we both add to the same pot.”
My children are confident and social and I know they love nursery because they are full of excitement and enthusiasm when they tell me about their day.
Living on a farm makes you capable to tackle most things and come up with solutions.
You do not operate on a 9-to-5 basis and if there is not enough time you make it – you get up early or go to bed later and this strong work ethic does me good in my career away from the farm.
My husband benefits from hearing what is new in the office and he likes hearing about courses and seminars I have attended and people I have met, particularly as I am part of an agricultural law team.
Work at what you know
My advice is to earn money at what you know, and what you are good at. It wouldn’t make sense for me to stay and work on the farm, as it just would not pay.
My husband and I are a team, and our business is our family not the farm. The farm is one part of our business and my career the other, and we both add to the same pot.
In recent years we have bought more land and expanded the farm. I am proud of what we achieve and hard work seems to make us happy because we are doing our very best for our family.
I do not believe any wife or mother should be criticised about their choice to stay at home or go out to work, it is hard to juggle family life either way, but I do think that if you really, really want to work away from the farm you will make it happen.
There is always a way to juggle work, farm, child care and family time and if you ca not, then perhaps deep down you have made your choice and you feel it is the best option for you to stay at home.
Loretta is an associate solicitor in the agricultural law team at Lanyon Bowdler