Balancing farm work and family life

Balancing work and family life is one of today’s hot topics. When it’s done right, it can be a source of health and well-being. But can one balance farm work and family life? Let’s see how a better understanding of farmers’ work-family balance can help shed new light on the specific challenges in their lives.

Research on balancing work and family demonstrates that family and work are not two independent aspects of life, but rather an interaction of social roles (being a worker, a parent, a spouse), which may negatively or positively influence each other. On the negative side, the balance of work and family can include conflict between the different roles in which the demands of the family and those of work are mutually incompatible (conflict based on time, pressure and behaviour). Time conflicts emerge when time spent in one role reduces time for the other (e.g., long hours are require during the harvest time). Conflicts based on pressure occur when stress triggers difficulties in fulfilling one’s obligations in another role (e.g., financial pressure). Behavioural conflicts can arise when behaviour leads to difficulties in satisfying the demands of another role (e.g., being overly committed to work). On the positive side, participating in several social roles creates opportunities and resources that can help the person function in another role (e.g., participating in community activities results in social support). Essentially, balancing work and family is bidirectional. Work can either interfere with family life or facilitate it and vice versa. In both situations, one can observe these influences on the well-being and mental health of the worker.

Knowledge on work-family balance has significantly developed with regards to individuals whose work and family life are separate. However, a farmer’s situation is quite different. According to Statistics Canada, almost 85% of farms are family-owned business, which means work and family share the same space. This characteristic specific to farm owners raises several questions on how agricultural workers manage their work and family life. Does this phenomenon affect the mental health of farmers in the same way? Can we apply the same models in order to understand the ways in which work and family interact and affect the mental health of farmers?


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