August 2007: Can their problem be solved?
We farm with my in-laws, go to church with my in-laws, and socialize with them quite often.
Now they want to vacation together, along with the rest of the family. Since the rest of the family doesn't farm with them, they think this is an OK idea.
How can I put my foot down without being the horrible daughter-in-law? My husband doesn't like to rock the boat, and he only takes time for one vacation per year.
A family business offers the benefit of being able to work closely with people whom you also happen to know well, love, and trust.
Families who own farms have an even greater potential for closeness. Farm-owner managers usually live within a few miles of each other and the business. Generally, there's no such thing as telecommuting for farmers; everyone shows up.
Such closeness is rare in twenty-first-century America.
The benefits are obvious. The downsides, too, are obvious to some, although many choose to ignore them. Or they rationalize that they're different so the negatives don't apply.
Most employees can leave the tensions and disagreements behind when they go home. But on the farm, home is right there on the job.
For most employees, the boss controls life at work but can only come through the front door when invited. On the farm, however, the boss may drop over regularly and unexpectedly to play with the grandkids or to talk business.
For most employees, a vacation is a sacred benefit -- not only a rest but also a break from work and coworkers. On the farm, a vacation is often a guilty abandonment of the partners and, thus, kept as short as possible. M.Q. knows all this. She's accepted the reality of her life, and knows that it involves working, worshipping, and socializing with her in-laws.
She knows vacations are re-creations essential to mental and physical health and require a change of both scenery and the usual cast of characters. A vacation with extended family would provide only half of that requirement. Still, she senses it wouldn't be good to resist the idea of a family get-together, and she's right.
Some compromises are essential here. M.Q. should accept the pros of the extended family vacation such as enhanced relationships among the siblings, spouses, and cousins; and the way family unity is fostered by having fun together.
By agreeing to this trip, she'd take her husband out of the middle and put an obligation on him to give something to her in return.
His job is to recognize his wife's legitimate request that they protect their own family's vacation time.
If he's uncomfortable with an additional week or two of vacation, he may be more amenable to a few long weekends away. Two three-day weekends can be more therapeutic than an extended trip.
Whatever they decide, this is not an either-or dilemma. It's a time for creative compromise between loving spouses who face conflicting but important demands on their time.