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When parenting cuts into farm time

For a lot of years I have been reading your column in Successful Farming magazine, but so far I haven't seen anything like our problem.

About 15 years ago, after two years of working for someone else, our only son came back to farm full time with us. Grandfather passed away a couple of years ago. Now it is just our son, my husband, and me.

He got married and they lived in one of our farmhouses. His wife helped with harvest when needed and the kids rode along sometimes.

Three years ago our son became too friendly with a family friend and his wife filed for divorce, moved out of the house with the children, and his new girlfriend moved in.

Since then, my husband has covered for our son. That's because our son doesn't work on the farm when he has his kids. Several times each week he quits early to get the kids, and they visit every other weekend.

My husband already has hired someone during the busy seasons and we've paid for that help. But I don't think it's our responsibility to solve this problem.

I told our son last summer to think about what he wants to do and let us know because his father can't keep on doing both jobs. But he doesn't talk to us anymore.

He has become very hostile toward our whole family. His salary and benefits, if we include free housing, gas, and insurance, are over $70,000.

I think we're correct in wanting to ask him to find a part-time replacement person and that he should pay for that help. My husband and I have gone to a counselor, but it's hard to find someone who understands farming dynamics.

What do other farmers do in this situation? I'm sure with all the divorces we're not the only ones with this problem.

The obvious way to handle T.M.'s stated problem is simply to decrease her son's salary to reflect the reduced number of hours he's working, using those dollars to pay for a part-time replacement.

But their son is not just labor. T.M. and her husband should be asking deeper questions about the future of the partnership with their son. He's become hostile to his parent/partners and doesn't talk to them anymore. Given this situation, making up the lost hours seems to be the least of their problems.

A prime consideration is the grandchildren. They're probably very important to T.M. and her husband, and the couple's desire to have access to their grandchildren will impact their decisions. As an alternative, T.M. could consider taking care of the kids some hours so her son could do his work.

The live-in girlfriend doesn't seem to help with the kids. Her help could be part of the solution, although I suspect she's the core of the problem. What role does she play?

Ultimately, these parents have to ask their son a much more difficult but critical question: Are you willing to act like a partner or not?

For a lot of years I have been reading your column in Successful Farming magazine, but so far I haven't seen anything like our problem.

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