Tuesday, 14 October 2008

In the Beginning There Were Tears

What to do when the breadwinner becomes the man about the house? That's the question hubby and I have been tiptoeing around. We, and he, have gone through a major readjustment to our daily lives and to how we perceive each other and ourselves this year.

Hubby came home from London with his tail firmly between his legs in April after months of fighting for his job and negotiations to get the best redundancy package he could. You see, it's a bit complicated. He was let go for political reasons masked as economic reasons. The mask was quite thin, and everyone saw through it. To avoid the bad publicity of going to a tribunal, his old firm paid him off. Then they got rid of the woman who got rid of hubby. Sweet revenge! But it's not the same as a job.

A man defines himself by what he does, and if he does nothing, then he is nothing. Of course, we women know that's not true. But people do look at you and treat you differently if you're in employment than if you're not. I have experienced that for the past 16 years.

Our friends swiftly divided themselves into two categories: those who were supportive and those who weren't. The supportive ones have kept in touch, have invited us out, asked how things are on a regular basis. Some of them have been in the same boat. They understand when I say I'm waiting to exhale. The others have been notable by their absence. No phone calls, emails, dropping by. Nothing but a great big zero. Actually, in the beginning when I still thought they were friends and actively sought out their company, they would make comments like hubby is a "pain in the arse" and "it's his own fault" if none of the other men talk to him.

Are you shocked to read that? I was shocked to hear it, and I haven't gone out of my way since to see or speak to those two women (Frenemy, of course, and Mildred, who I wrote about previously as well).

It's a tough and uncertain time for a lot of folks. I know we are more fortunate than many in the same boat. I also know just how quickly one's world can change.
That's why I was relieved and gratified to read an article in Sunday's paper about redundancy: that it can feel like bereavement, that it can change the dynamics of a couple's relationship for better or worse, that it can make you a better person if you allow it to. At last, someone wrote about what we've been going through these last six months. I'm not making it up.

We've worked our way through some of the worst of the bereavement. For a few months I cried every morning when no one was around, and sometimes in the middle of the night. I don't do that so much anymore. I try to look forward and think of what to do if this drags on for much longer. We have learned what matters most in life, that a walk with the dog can be infinitely more entertaining and fulfilling than a meaningless evening out. I have tightened my belt tremendously, halving our food shopping bill for example. It brought back memories of my young adult life when I didn't make much money and had to be very careful how I spent it (though I always seemed to have money for alcohol!). I want some new clothes, but a quick perusal through the cupboards revealed clothes I could wear if I lost 10 pounds. So I am working on that. I keep telling myself that I can't control a lot in my life at the moment but I can control what I eat.

Back to the dog: for anyone going through a similar experience, I highly recommend having a dog. Jake has been the saviour for hubby, who walks him twice a day every day. When nothing else could make hubby smile, Jake would sidle up to him and sniff his bum. Guaranteed to work every time (but I'm not going to do that). Hubby and I read the paper together every day and discuss the turbulent world markets and what it all means. Hubby's quite knowledgeable on this subject, and he has taught me a lot.

In the beginning I was reluctant to tell people hubby had lost his job. It felt embarrassing. It's easier now, especially when so many seem to be losing their jobs. It's made me consider how I've behaved in the past toward others in the same situation. Was I rude or thoughtless or insensitive? Was I supportive and helpful? Is there anything I can do now to help others in the same boat? Staying positive is the most important thing. Something I tell myself every day is it doesn't cost a penny to smile. If you smile, the world smiles back at you (though some may question your sanity).

And I plan to keep smiling, no matter what, especially when I'm around Frenemy and Mildred. Let them wonder what I'm up to. I'll never tell.


J said...

People are just amazing, aren't they? I learned much about friendships - and family - during my unemployment last winter. One family member, whom we see more often than most, never once asked how the job search was going or even acknowledged our situation, or has ever asked how the new job is.

Your attitude is admirable and I am certain it will help hubby in the end. It's *hard* to keep positive in the face of unemployment!

I'll continue to send good energy, for all of you.

Expat mum said...

Well at least you can see they weren't true friends. What the hell's wrong with someone losing their job. It's not like you're suddenly going to start sponging off them.
You should use the well-worn phrase that people use over here - "between jobs". It somehow conveys that you are taking your time to consider your options and doesn't have so much baggage attached to it.
Good luck.

-Ann said...

I've been made redundant 4 times in the last 8 years. So I know a little something about being unemployed. It can really suck. Especially if you liked your job.

And you're right, it is very much like a bereavement. I don't mean to be a negative nancy on this, but I read something awhile back about how people adjust to most things, good or bad, within a period of months. The only exception to this general rule was job loss.

A job loss can be harder to handle than a death. It can effect the way you see yourself for much longer than the redundancy actually lasts.

It sounds like you've got a good attitude and Jake sounds like the perfect dog to have around the house in this situation. I wish you and hubby the best of luck. (And really, I've said it before....you are so much better off without Frenemy.)

Kaycie said...

Ann is right -- stay away from Frenemy.

My hubby was laid off some years ago when his company moved their IT department from Tulsa to Texas. He was out of work for several months, and it was quite difficult for him. I was still working back then, and I think that was the hardest thing of all for him. I have an idea of how you feel.

I hope you guys have good luck coming your way soon!

Fire Byrd said...

with friend like frenemy.....
You could always come over on the 22nd of November to my and my mates frock swop. Going to swop party clothes, shoes and bags for women size 12/14. Cause we only seem to wear party clothes a few times and then they are boring. So if you want a new party wardrobe then let me know, cause we still have places.

Trixie said...

You can always find out your true friends in a crisis. Normally you can count them on one hand.

Those true friends are the ones that count the most baby, and you don't need the others.

Phewy to them!

jenny said...

I, for one, know how you feel... Hubby has finally found a part time job and it is a bit of a relief to know that someone "wants" him, after more than a years' worth of applying for jobs. He went through a depression, though he will deny it, and has only over the past summer become more like himself again. I miss him around the house when he is gone, but maybe now I can exhale a bit.
I don't think my thrifty and belt-tightening habits will change though, because I rather like the way things are now, if you can believe that.

Hang in there, honey, things will improve.

Fred said...

For many years, I was the guy who handed people their termination packages. That's one of the reasons I left the corporate world. I jumped ship not knowing what the future held, and it worked out.

I guess that's the message I'd tell your hubby. It will work out. It always does.

Lulda Casadaga said...

I was laid off once and it was rather devastating to say the least...But, i survived...if it happens again I will sue for age discrimination! HA...but I would not fall to pieces...
My husband was laid off 2x after me. Let me tell you all I was much nicer to him than he was to me during those hard times. :(

Anyway, you would think my mom or his relatives would have offered some monetary help...hell no! That was a sad and sorry part about that time. Yes, even family can be a sorry lot!!

wakeupandsmellthecoffee said...

j: Thank you. It's the hard times that show us what counts in life.

expatmum: I've used that phrase more than a few times. I also use the euphemism "he's at home now." It's really nobody's business but it saves some explanations.

-ann: That's a lot of layoffs. You must have thought "not again" every time. Jake is a great dog to have around anytime.

kaycie: I expect no more or less from Frenemy. Mildred is the one who hurt. Thank you for your good wishes.

wakeupandsmellthecoffee said...

fire byrd: That is a really good idea. I can't make that date but hope all goes well for it. By the way, a friend of mine thinks your lingerie idea is a very good one and is thinking of going forward with it.

trixie: You're so right.

jenny: I know what you mean about the thrifty habits. There's something quite satisfying about saving money. Hope all is well in your home.

fred: Thank you for those words of wisdom. It's just kind of like being held upside down on a roller coaster for the moment. You know you're not going to fall out, but still you feel fearful.

lulda: Welcome to my blog! How sad about your family. Do you speak to them now? I wouldn't say mine has been much help either, but they're all in the same or worse situation.

ChrisB said...

I found it interesting your comment about a man defining himself by what he does. Although I know it's not the same, I noticed that when I retired suddenly people viewed me very differently now I no longer had a responsible job status.

It's good to hear you are weathering the storm and are still smiling. I have found that economizing has brought back many memories of all the things I used to do when my children were young and I was a single parent. I actually feel quite empowered that there is no longer any expectation that I keep up. Your *friends* sound very shallow I wonder how they would cope if they were in a similar situation.
The unconditional love of a dog is very therapeutic.

Flowerpot said...

keep your chin up Wakeup. Having been through that I can only empathise with what you're going through. It will get better.

Anonymous said...

Ignorance is a part of some people's lives. They don't know any different. Because usually it's how they have been brought up themselves.

Your husband is still the same man, you have love for eachother and you respect eachother just the same.

CJ xx

laurie said...

oh you are so right about men identifying with their jobs. i worry a lot, with newspapers in such decline, that something similar will happen to us, and i have no idea how my husband would handle it, but, i suspect, not well. men are raised to think of themselves as what they do. women are raised to think of themselves as who they are (and, sometimes, who they are with).

i do think we cope better than they do.

as for your friends, i suspect they are embarrassed and don't know what to say, and so they find avoidance to be easier. it's very wrong of them, but i fight the same tendencies in myself when someone i love goes through a hard time---it's hard to know what to say, so i put off saying anything.

good luck to you both. the tide will turn. it has to. we can't all be out of work at the same time.

Miss Snuffleupagus said...

Idiots. Always good to have things like that happen to remind you who your real friends are.

Angel said...

Hi, I wandered in and wanted to say that I enjoyed your post and see its truth. It's funny how we find out who our friends really are when we're going through a difficult time. ((hugs)) to you.

lady macleod said...

Oh my friend I am so pleased I came over today. THIS is lovely! Well written and obviously from the truth - a message of how to truly live life from the heart. Well done! Well done indeed!
My heart does not ache for you, but rejoices in the discoveries you have made. How lucky is your husband to have you? I'm sure he can make a list.

Hungry Hippo said...

When I went through a difficult time work it totally changed my friendships. People who I would never predicted or who I thought I had nothing in common with were absolutely brilliant and gave loads of emotional support. On the other hand, people I thought were closer to me seemed to fall away and not see what was going on.

sally in norfolk said...

difficult times can sometimes bring out the best in you and your relationship.....

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Tom said...

I'm not one to write up comments,but there's a certain synchronicity concerning how I came across your website. I was researching a quote from Virgil for something I was writing,(I,too am unemployed) and I did a search for "In the end, there are tears." I keep pondering what that means(I have a bad habit of trying to connect unconnected things) But perhaps it means that the tears are always there, beginning to end, more prevalent sometimes that others. We just go on from there, which, of course, is easy to say and far more difficult to do. I find that keeping up the spirits becomes a part time job for me (full-time employment for the dog) Well, what can I say. If I were Virgil in my situation, I might say:
"Illegitimi non carborundum." Tom