Ed and I are now three months in to married life and two months in to farming full-time together!

That’s right, we don’t do things by half.

I’d be lying if I said the transition from having separate work lives to working together, side by side every day has been easy! We’ve had out moments, usually when livestock is involved, and at times we’ve seen sides to each other which if we’re honest, aren’t our most attractive.

But at this point, I wouldn’t change it for the world as there is definitely something really special about getting up and working towards a common goal together.

I know plenty of couples who make it work including my parents who have worked together in the recycling industry for many years and some of my closest friends both within the farming community and in other fields too.

It’s still very early days for us in our new dynamic but it’s encouraging to know it can work. Like any relationship we know it won’t all be plain sailing but we’re committed to it for the long run.

I’ve been reflecting on what it takes to make a successful working relationship when you work with your other half over the past few days and these are my thoughts.

Be kind and look after each other….

This one is true whether you work together or not but is perhaps even more important if you do.

My day now starts and ends with Ed, like it did when I worked off the farm, but is now also filled with Ed in the middle too. We spend a great deal of time together one way or the other throughout the day (with the cows of course!) So if we aren’t kind to each other or look out for each other – there’s no one else there to have your back.

We make sure we do this through small gestures like taking it in turns to make each other a cup of tea in bed in the morning at the weekends.

Being sure to say well done and praise each other when we’ve done a good job or completed a difficult task during the day.

And generally just being there to help each other out when we need it, be that opening gates, wiping mud off our faces or grabbing the other end of the calving aid when required!

Be respectful….

Let’s face it things can get pretty fraught in any business – throw in some cantankerous old cows, flighty calves,  the pouring rain, and flying sh*t and you have the perfect mix to make the stress levels pretty high!

Swear words have been known to leave my mouth at this point and at times, because you are of course completely comfortable with your other half, you can say things more bluntly and in a way that you wouldn’t do to someone else in the same situation.

Not taking out your frustrations and remaining respectful to your partner at all times has got to be up there on the importance list! Even if it is sometimes one of the harder things to do.

See the funny side in things….

The above being said, when things do get tough, and cross words do get said – make sure you’re able to have a laugh about it.

We had a situation the other day where I was picking out calves from cows at the gate, a routine which normally works really well. However this day, the cows decided to complete barge past me, knocking the gate out of my hand on the way through, ending up with all of the cattle in the yard, instead of just the cows I had wanted. I tried unsuccessfully to separate the two groups again and ended up pissed off and frustrated with myself that I couldn’t do what I needed to, the calves just wouldn’t play ball.

I had to ask Ed for help! Which being kind – see what I did there – came over to help me. He stood at the gate while I brung the calves around.

It took us longer than it should have as the cows were now adamant they also wanted to go back in to the shed having been so desperate to leave it only minutes before!

Anyway you can imagine the exchanges between us, but then as we shut the gate separating the two groups – finally – successfully.  Ed turned to me, cracked a joke and laughed. In that moment the tension was diffused and I started to laugh too.  I realised that being wound up with what had happened wasn’t any use to anyone.

You can’t both be the boss….

Say no more really!  Accept know when to bow to the others greater knowledge and experience, listen and take instruction and or trust that their decision is final.  I wouldn’t expect the boss to always be the same person by the way,  as ultimately you both want to feel equal in your work and non-work relationship so don’t let any ego get in the way of doing the right thing.

Division of labour….

I think it’s important to identify and define what roles you’re both going to take when you work together so that there is some clear lines of responsibility – even if you cross over and can both do the same tasks equally so well. This may also help you establish who is the boss in what scenario.

Ed and I have worked out who does what around the yard for example – so I’ll take responsibility for feeding the cattle corn while Ed will do the silage.  I take the lead on the accounts work and Ed does the field work. You get the picture…..

We play to our strengths and ensure that neither one ends up with all the ‘rubbish jobs’!

We also try and share the load at home – after all this is the 21st Century!  There’s no such thing as a pink or a blue job around here.

It’s great to work together as a team.

Have space…..

From each other so that you don’t lose your independence and all important ‘you time’, something which is vital for any successful relationship.

And from work!

We sometimes have to consciously stop ourselves from talking about the farm or the cattle long after we’ve shut the farm gate.  Don’t get me wrong I know it’s  different when you run your own business but everyone needs a night off.

I have personally found it quite difficult to switch off mentally as our work and home are  physically in the same place but I’ve found taking the dogs for a walk – even if it’s around the farm, to be a great way to switch off and take in and enjoy my surroundings in a way that isn’t related to working.

I’m also a massive fan of a long hot bath and a face mask to unwind.

I guess it’s all about getting the right work life / home life balance and ensuring there is some separation to be had.

There you have it, my musings on the subject.  I’d love to hear from any other couples who work together about you find it and what tips you have on how to successfully work with your other half too.

Thanks for reading.

Nic

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