I remember distinctly where on the gravel road we were when my farming husband relayed a strange question from a crop protection survey: What’s the one thing we could help you do better on your farm? “Show us how to have more fun!” was hubby’s quick reply.
The male gender bias here is intentional as the dilemma is this: farm men are not having fun.
What does fun mean to you? It is travel? Or a hearty laugh with family or friends as you work on the farm? Or a special set-aside time where you go away to hunt, fish, golf, play floor hockey, hike or light a bonfire at the lake?
Let’s start with a definition, or a question. What does fun mean to you?
It is travel? Expedia’s travel study found 62 per cent of the ag industry surveyed felt vacation-deprived. Is it play? A hearty laugh with family or friends as you work on the farm? Or a special set-aside time where you go away to hunt, fish, golf, play floor hockey, hike or light a bonfire at the lake? No Expedia bookings required.
As an extrovert, fun for me is doing something with other people because other people give me energy. I love to be deep in conversation face-to-face with friends and family. Brene Brown’s latest book Braving the Wilderness explores the importance of connection to others, especially sharing emotional connection face to face. Sometimes men enjoy this collectively at football or hockey games, being present at the live event, not merely facing the blue light of SportsCentre TV.
Why aren’t you having more fun in your life?
This question makes you feel uncomfortable, so you might as well just stop reading now. But hang on. “Why?” is the question of intent. Your intention to grow a profitable farm is honourable, but what are you sacrificing on the journey to build your empire? I coached a young couple desperately trying to create new boundaries to protect family time on winter evenings and weekend Sundays. They risk a crumbling marriage and possible divorce if the marriage relationship is not repaired.
Answering the “why” is a good step toward solutions. You get to choose how you spend your time and who you want to connect with. Marilee Adams, author of Change Your Questions, Change Your Life, would encourage you to adopt a learner mindset around seeking ways to add more fun to your days. One idea is to shut off the TV and play games again. We just learned to play cribbage.
Why you’re not having more fun could be because…
“There is too much work to do on the farm.” Can you ask for help? Hire help? Say enough is enough and take a break to walk in the woods? What might you need to let go of? Work and play are called polarities. They are an unresolvable problem in the quest for balance that can only be managed, not solved forever. The upside of more play in your life is a more productive workforce when the farm calls.
“My health is failing.” Consider what you can do to be healthier, meanwhile build on what you can do. For example, take the grandkids skating on the pond. Have weiner roasts. Teach the next generation how to change spark plugs on the antique tractor you are restoring.
“I am too old to have fun.” Hogwash. When did age become a barrier? An attitude of gratitude will propel you into new ways of having fun. Embrace art, music and creating things anew again. Weld me a new piece of farm junk art.
“My friends have all moved away.” Okay, you’re the last farmer standing in your field. Go for a community supper, go help a neighbour, serve somebody and get re-connected again. If all the lonely guys congregated at an auction sale over pie, they wouldn’t be lonely would they? Reaching out is the first step to finding ways to have fun. Carve out time to make new friends. Explore www.mensheds.org.au. I know of a group of men who enjoy hanging out in a garage once a month to fix things, listen and BBQ.
“People don’t just visit anymore.” Not true. People choose not to use their cell phones to ask if you would like to connect, and they assume you are too busy to spend time chatting. Ask any person recovering from an injury and they will tell you how precious texts, phone calls and visits are towards the feeling that you matter and belong. We ran errands one Sunday to three separate farms and each family begged us to stay for a visit. Who in your circle of friends needs to visit with you?
“I think I might be depressed because I haven’t laughed in months.” Take this seriously. Visit your doctor to see if there are physical reasons you are not having fun. With all the Internet options for funny videos, you might just need to be more intentional about using comedy to tickle your funny bone.
“My wife thinks dancing is fun and I don’t dance.” Where is it written that you can only do things as a couple? Your wife can go to dance class, and you can do another activity that fills your soul. If you danced when you were dating, then I suggest you go to dance lessons together and re-kindle the original spark.
You have forgotten how to be present. Nature is renewing. Amazing sunrises and cloud formations are cheap entertainment on the Prairies in all seasons. Take time to pause and be present to your surroundings, including the flora, the fauna and the amazing folks who show up at the farm. Take the time to build the straw bale fort, the snow quinzee hut or slide down the ravine or coulee. Re-connect to the things that brought you joy as a child, and do them again now.
The farmer’s fun factor is a choice. Talk about your play options. Then get out and do them!