Wanting to move on from the farm

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

To me this is very complicated. I come from a very small town out in the middle of nowhere. My parents are farmers and I am what we call a hired man for them, (I help them farm but don’t have any land or investment in farming myself.) I have been helping them all my life. I’m 32 male, not married. These are the problems I have been experiencing lately and am very confused in how to deal with them:

1. I am wanting to find a wife and settle down and start a family.
2. I am wanting to move on from the farm and start a different career in a more urban area.
3. I am not getting along with my father/boss.

Now to describe what exactly these problems are.
The first problem is I am like a normal guy and am wanting to find someone who wants to share our lives with. I am getting lonely. All my friends are married and seem to not have time for me so I don’t get to even visit with others much. The problem here is I live in a very small town (300 people) a long distance from any larger urban area. There are no single women in my age range nor any I am interested in any where close to where I live. I have tried long distance relationships but I can’t seem to make them work.

The second problem is I am losing interest in farming. I feel secluded staying out where there are no people around you all day stuck on a tractor for what can be days depending on the time of the year. I am not a very social person and blame this partly on the seclusion I feel in this career.

The third problem is me and my father do not get along. We have a true love hate relationship. We have always argued and fought throughout our life. We would have a very verbal disagreement and then not speak and avoid each other for days sometimes. The past couple of years he has escalated his bitterness towards me. When we have our busy times primarily when we are seeding the crop and when we are harvesting the crop it can be very stressful and when problems arise he turns around and blames them on me and this causes constant tension between us. He literally will blow up at me for nothing. And in the past couple years, even if we are not arguing he is always giving me dirty looks and his voice has changed in a more snappy demeanor. I feel I never start an argument with him. I usually just blow off my problems thinking that is just life and we all have to deal with them. But when he starts a fight I don’t back away. I feel that I am not going to let him get away with blaming me for these life problems. The past couple years though sometimes I have just tried asking him what exactly his problem is with me but he refuses to talk about that, he just continues yelling at me over his generic problem I caused. So I usually just turn around and yell back accomplishing nothing.

Most people would just obviously leave a problem like this if they had to work in this environment. But this is my father and working for your parents on the farm is a long family heritage. This causes a huge amount of guilt when I think about leaving. It is just me and my parents working on the farm. I know if I were to leave, some of the work would not get done if I was not there to do it. This farm is much too large for just one man to handle, but my father is too stubborn to realize this and will not downsize. If anything he wants to buy more land and machinery and the only thing stopping him is my mother and I. I dont feel hiring help would solve this problem either. There is not much for available workers to hire in the area because of the remoteness. If we could find another worker I don’t believe they would last very long having to deal with my father’s bitterness. For these reasons I have huge guilty feelings stopping me from leaving. If I was to go through with leaving, I fear the farm would fail and it would cause huge amounts of resentment towards me from my father. So for years I have just stayed and put up with the lonliness and tension.

The winter is slow for us on the farm. I have been considering leaving for the winter and going to the city for 5 months and try working a different career and socializing with new people. This is not the easiest to find employment because of the economy right now but I would still like to try it. My father will not talk to me about this because he does not obviously like the idea. After the 5 months I will return in the spring and help start to seed the crop. I have also been considering going to University. I look at job ads online and all the interesting ones require an education. I am having alot of trouble figuring out what to take because all I really know is farming which I have lost interest in. And going off to University would mean my intentions are to walk away from the farm. I am leaning towards engineering but like everything else in my life I am just unsure. But that doesn’t have to be decided many months down the road

I realize everything I have told is biased on my side of the story. But like I had earlier discussed my father will not discuss his problems or what the solutions are. He just feels better blaming me for them while being self assured I will not have the guts to leave. The only person I ever talk to about this is my mother. She wants me to do what I want to do but she doesn’t understand the guilt I get from even considering leaving. I am not sure what your reply will be nor what your advice will be. But hopefully talking about it will help me deal with it and make a decision.

A: What a difficult situation. You are feeling torn between your loyalty to heritage and family and the pull to make a different life for yourself. My guess is that your dad is terrified that you will leave him to do a job he knows in his bones he really can’t do on his own. Further, he senses that you are held on the farm only by the bonds of family love and guilt and that chances are you will give it up when he dies. Rather than face his fears and his (and the farm’s) mortality, he gives you a hard time.

On your side of the equation: All that you say may be the absolute truth. But could it be that you are scared to take even 5 months off to explore another life? Blaming your dad for his lack of support may be a way that you keep a dream alive without having to take the plunge and find out what you’re made of out there.

From where I sit, you’ve got a reasonable plan. Since I know next to nothing about farm life, I take your word for it that your dad can handle things for 5 months. You are in your 30s. You don’t need to ask your dad’s permission, although you might like his blessing for this venture. If you are ready to try out life in the city, firm up your plans and announce what you are going to do with as much gentleness and kindness as you can muster. Reassure your folks that you will be back in time for planting. Calmly let your dad know that the issue is not something that you will argue about but that his support is important to you.

The success of this conversation depends on your ability to stay calm and clear and reassuring. You don’t have to convince your dad that you have a right to go or that you are doing the right thing. He probably can’t be convinced. You don’t have to be angry or upset. If you are clear about your decision to take a break, there is nothing to be angry about.

I don’t know if you will find a different line of work that is appealing. I do know this: In order to be happy on the farm, you need to feel you’ve made a choice to be there. Being away for even a little time and having the opportunity to explore other choices will make it more possible for you to consider whether the farm is a good option. Once you have that figured out, it will become clearer what you need to do next.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

Photo

 

 

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 25 Nov 2009

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2009). Wanting to move on from the farm. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 26, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2009/11/25/wanting-to-move-on-from-the-farm/