Both Can Be True
“Dad, you’re never home!” My son, Rhett, cries, burying his face in his hands. Then he throws himself on the kitchen floor. “You’re never here at dinner, and I just want to be with you!”
I glance out the kitchen window, the sky is still dark, but there’s a hint of red on the horizon. My husband, Rich, is packing his lunch for another day of seeding winter wheat.
I stop washing the dishes, slightly nodding my head. Rich glances at me, and I catch his eye, but I turn my head away from him as one teardrop slides down my cheek. I quickly brush it away before taking off my gloves and turning off the hot water.
Rich sits down on the floor next to Rhett and begins to rub his back. “That’s not true, buddy. Just last weekend, you came with me to the field, remember? And a few weeks ago we all went to the zoo together. And the lake,” Rich pauses, pulling Rhett onto his lap. “And today you have school, so you can’t come with me.”
“I know! But you’re never home for bedtime, and I miss you. That’s all,” Rhett cries, curling into a ball on Rich’s lap.
Harvest ended weeks ago. But now, the winter wheat must be seeded. So often, it feels like the seasons on our farm and ranch roll into each other, with no time to catch our breaths.
I know this is just another season. But the tears roll down my cheeks just the same. Not just because I feel sorry for my son being sad but because his feelings echo my own.
Feelings I haven’t been brave enough to voice out loud.
For weeks, I’ve been holding my thoughts back. I’ve been unable to tell my husband how I’m struggling, how it feels like he’s never home. How I’m tired of putting the kids to bed alone, breaking up sibling fights like a referee: three against one. How I long to have someone else in my corner, not feeling so alone.
But I keep my thoughts to myself because this is the life of a farmer's wife. The seasons dictate our life. The crops must be planted on time, then cut on time. For me, it’s hard to hold joy and stress at the same time. I cannot seem to let both emotions be true. It feels like if I complain too much about my life, I’m saying I hate it.
So I keep it to myself.
Later that day, I load Nora into the car to pick up her big brother and sister from the bus. The big kids smile and wave to me as they walk toward the car, their backpacks slung over their shoulders.
“Where’s Dad?” Rhett asks as he tosses his backpack onto the front seat, then climbs in and sits down.
“He’s treating seed in the yard,” I say, putting the car into drive. “Oh, yay! I wanna show him the air seeder I’ve been building,” he says, a huge grin spreading across his face.
I smile back at him; this flip in his feelings from this morning is a relief. Despite his meltdown before school, I love how much he still loves farming.
Once we get home, I drop the big kids off with their dad at the grain bins. They run toward him, wrapping their arms around his legs. The tears Rhett shed this morning before school is long forgotten.
The kitchen is dark, except for the light above the oven. All the kids are asleep. Rich takes a drink of water at the sink; his back is toward me. I clear my throat, “I’m not sure why, but this harvest was my hardest yet. And when Rhett cried the other day, I felt it too. It feels like harvest rolled right into seeding, and it’s been hard.”
Rich turns toward me, “I’m sorry; I didn’t know. We’ll be done seeding in a few days.”
“I know. Sometimes it just feels overwhelming, but then, I feel like I can’t complain because nothing can change in the busy seasons. And you already have so much going on; I don’t want to seem like I’m just whining and complaining.”
He sets the glass down on the counter and sighs, “I don’t want you to feel like you can’t talk to me about things like this. Would it help if I took Nora for a couple of hours tomorrow morning?”
I nod, feeling the weight lift a little from my shoulders, not just because of his offer—but having released the words I’ve been stifling.
The next week, after the kids have gone to school, Nora points to the door, “Outside! Go shop!” “You wanna go to the shop and see Dad?” I ask, nodding toward her.
“Yes!” she yells, jumping up and down.
“Okay, let’s get your shoes on and go see Dad.” After helping her get her shoes on and getting my shoes on, we walk out the door.
It’s still warm out, but the heat of August is behind us. Nora runs ahead down the gravel road, and I follow behind her. There’s no wind and no signs of anyone else around. It’s a quiet day in the middle of nowhere.
Rich hears us coming and rolls out from underneath a tractor in the shop. Nora runs up to him and kneels on the oil-stained concrete. The shop cat darts past, and she runs after the black cat.
Rich smiles at me, “I’ll be home for dinner tonight.”
We talk for a few minutes about everything and nothing before Nora and I walk back home. These few minutes in the shop remind me of one of the beautiful things about farm life—time together. During the less busy seasons, the kids and I can walk to the shop to visit their dad, sometimes multiple times a day. We spend hours together as a family driving from field to field, checking the crops. Time the kids wouldn’t be able to spend with him if he worked in an office. Time I wouldn’t get to see him either.
The beauty and the challenges of this life often go hand in hand. While telling Rich about my struggles doesn’t change everything, it doesn’t mean my feelings aren’t worth sharing. And it doesn’t mean I hate our life by saying it’s hard.
When I’m honest with him, I can be more honest with myself.
I know the seasons will keep coming. And there will be times when I feel overwhelmed, tired, and lonely. But like my son, I want to grab all the emotions—the good and the hard and let them live together.
Because I know both can be true at the same time.
Stacy Bronec is a wife to a farmer, a mom to three, and a freelance writer in central Montana. Together with her husband's family, they raise grains, pulse crops, and run a cow-calf operation. She writes stories to make sense of the beauty and challenges of rural life and shares some of them on Instagram and her website. Her writing has been published in Coffee + Crumbs, Her View From Home, Motherly, and others. She is also a regular contributor at The Mom Hour.