I am one of millions of Americans dealing with the unemployment crisis, only I have not lost my job. Recently, my husband lost his job and our world has dramatically changed. Not so much because we are changing the way we operate our finances or dealing with new health insurance carriers, and all that goes along with a job loss, but our roles in our marriage have taken a drastic leap.
I am a media junkie. I work in public relations so maybe that is why I am constantly glued to all things news. Whether I am watching local or cable news, reading the paper or surfing the net, I am always plugged in. But in all the coverage on this unemployment crisis, I have seen nothing about the changing roles in marriages that take affect when a man loses his job.
My husband was the promotions director for the number one classic rock station in New York City . He worked there for 10 years; a third of his life. Working his way up the ladder, he met celebrities, went to hundreds of concerts and received lots of perks, but worked harder than anyone I knew. He had survived layoffs at this company before, but this time, it was a massacre. Nearly 90 people from his New York office were let go and over 1,800 nationwide.
Having lost jobs myself, I knew what my husband was about to experience. There would be many ups and downs, a roller coaster of emotions were awaiting him. He would soon feel angry, depressed, lost, alone, invaluable, scared; the list goes on. Anyone who has lost a job, no matter what the reason, knows what I am talking about.
When my husband called me to tell me he had lost his job, I ended up taking a personal day and left my own job to be with him. While he didn’t ask me to, I knew that he would not know what to do with himself after things slowly started to settle in.
I helped him sign up for unemployment and contact his now former employer about his contract and bonuses he had yet to receive. I made him lunch and stroked his hair and told him everything would be alright. I also told him that he’d have to be patient as he started looking for a new job. Forget the fact that it’s hard enough to find a new job, but in this economy, with this many people out of work, especially in the New York City market, there were a lot of odds stacked against him. My husband has a lot of patience with me and for friends and family, but when it comes to personal goals and ambition, he becomes restless quite quickly.
Aside from all the sadness and anger about losing his job, we also came to the realization that we would be losing a home that we were in the middle of purchasing. We had been approved for a mortgage, our bid had been accepted and we were in the process of setting up the inspection when this all happened. We knew we had to throw in the towel on our dream home when there was only one income supporting us, despite a severance package. I was fine with this, as I was not 100% ready to move, but it broke my husband’s heart in a million different pieces that this was happening at the same time that he lost his job.
I hate to admit it, but I am a bit of a needy person. I don’t handle being sick very well or making decisions on my own. While I like to think I am an independent woman, I do depend on my husband for so much. Suddenly, I had to step up and be this entire support system, something that my husband had never needed in this fashion. Don’t get me wrong, I have been there for him whenever he has needed me, but usually, I need him more than he needs me. Not only did I have to help him, I had to deal with my own emotions and fears about my husband, the breadwinner, the rock of our unit, losing his job and how that would affect us.
It’s been a roller coaster for us both, but I can’t share my peaks and valleys with him right now; not that he wouldn’t be open to hearing what is on my mind, but I don’t want to add that stress to his plate. He is up at 7:00 a.m. every morning looking for jobs, even on weekends! One Sunday morning, I told him, “It’s Sunday, a day of rest, give yourself a break!” It breaks my heart knowing what he is going through as a person and as a man; a man who feels he should be supporting his wife through a paycheck and not unemployment. Don’t even get me started on that one!
It has been more than an emotional ride that I have taken through this whole transition, and that is what I think people forget when they talk about this economic crisis. We hear about the families and how they may not be able to put food on their tables or the educations that may suffer. There is constant chatter about struggling two income families not being able to make ends meet to pay the rent or car insurance, but no one talks about the generation who doesn’t have children to feed or put through school, but still has the same challenges and struggles. I am one of those people.
Since my husband lost his job, I feel I have lost a part of him. A piece of his spirit is gone. And while that may not make a great news story on CNN next to the family who can’t buy milk and eggs for their family of six, it makes headlines in my house. I also have lost things through this life change. I used to relish in my time alone. My husband may have worked late or had an event or went out with friends or colleagues after a long day and I had some “Michelle Time” as I like to call it. There is less “Michelle Time” these days. I would never tell my husband that, because he spends his days looking for work and then looking forward to me coming home. He spends most of his days in front of a computer or on the phone; networking, emailing, job searching. Sometimes I want to come home and just do some personal things on my own and I feel a sense of obligation to be with him since he has been alone all day. We are no longer playing on an equal playing field and sadly, it’s not by choice.
I know my husband will find a job, and while it might take longer than he would like, it will likely be better than his previous gig. I know we will find a house when the time is right and it will be even greater than the one we originally found. This job loss won’t define us, but it will help us learn more about each other and grow stronger. It would just be nice if mainstream America and the media remembered that there are others who have been affected by this terrible economic downturn in our country.