The Playroom: The farmer’s wife

Author: Maraya Steadman '89, '90MBA


If cancer is actually linked to cell phone usage, I figure my husband’s got seven, maybe seven-and-a-half years left. Normally, I do okay with the cell phone thing. Except this week — we’re on vacation.

But here’s the thing. He can’t help it. To love the man is to accept the phone. There should be a bumper sticker on my husband’s car: “Love me, love my phone.”

And let’s be realistic, if we rewind 150 years and put me out on the Illinois prairie at some barn-raising, I’m not going for the guy sitting under the tree reading Thoreau and lamenting the loss of all the trees going into this construction project. The one who can’t be bothered to help build the barn.

I’m going for the guy who was there two hours before everyone else showed up, standing there in the pre-dawn hours trying to figure out how to build this thing. The man who works as hard as any man out there, that guy over there, the one at the southwest corner yelling at some other guy because the other guy doesn’t have the first clue about how to build a barn.

And when I go up to say hello, Elijah will lean over and tell my front-runner, “Stay away from that one, my sister says she can’t sew and she’s real bossy, always telling the other girls how to make better potato salad.”

As my future husband watches my broad shoulders and child-bearing hips walk away in a skirt with a crooked hem he’ll think I’ll do just fine for a farmer’s wife, and he’ll say, “Potato salad, eh?” My husband loves potato salad.

Years later, as I am raising kids and hiring hands to slaughter hogs and running a farm, he’ll be traipsing all over the state teaching everyone how to build a better barn. Because that’s who he is, what he is. My husband will never be content to simply get up when the sun rises and go to bed when it sets. That’s the twist, the joke’s on me for not marrying the guy sitting under the tree who doesn’t like to work, or eat.

I like to eat. So maybe I should be more tolerant, love the man and love the phone, and try to convince myself that a ring tone that blasts out AC/DC’s “Money Talks” isn’t obnoxious.

Still, I think about the Illinois prairie sometimes, about simplicity, maybe taking everything down a few notches, buying some dirt, raising grass-fed beef and happy chickens, being a farmer’s wife like my great-great grandmother. How would it be, how would it have been, and, really, would it be any different?

Driving over to Elijah’s sister’s wedding, my husband would be telling me all about barns and loads and trusses, boring me out of my bonnet talking about work. I’d be glaring at him, because with the wagon full of all these kids he should be thinking less about barns and paying more attention to that team of horses.

And when we get there and he goes off to talk to Elijah about barns instead of participating the way I think he should, I’ll start thinking, Why don’t they come up with some sort of an invention so that my husband can sit next to me but still be able to talk to other men about all these damn barns?

Maraya Steadman, who lives in a Chicago suburb, is a stay-at-home mother of three children. She can be reached at