This guest post is from Renee. Be sure to read the rest of my series on surviving a layoff.
It’s been slightly over a year since my husband was laid off from Hewlett Packard after his 10-year stint there and the good news is that we’re still here…. we’ve survived. I remember Day One like it was yesterday:
My husband worked from home and we made it a practice to catch breaks from work and homeschooling our 7 (soon to be eight) children by taking walks up and down the street to get out and catch up on the day. On this particular day, if there was any look of grave concern on my husband’s face, I totally missed it.
“It looks like I’m being laid off,” my husband remarked as we walked passed the neighbor’s house. He’s not one to joke around, but I looked for signs anyway. No joke, this was the real deal and even though it had happened to various co-workers over the years, I wasn’t prepared for it.
I can tell you that once you get past the initial shock, there’s an air of confidence and hope that moves in, almost immediately. In many situations, a lay-off occurs in an already stressful environment: a boss acts differently when he knows he’s about to drop a bomb and the tension could be there for days, weeks, even months beforehand. Knowing your man gets to be released from that stressful environment is secretly rewarding, even though the paycheck doesn’t get to follow you. And then there’s the “God has always taken care of us” promise and the looking ahead to better days.
Let’s call that the “honeymoon” phase of a lay off situation (but hang with me, there’s a happy ending). You should know that the first month is a flurry of emotion of ups and downs. Here are some you can expect:
- Your husband’s true personality comes out more than ever: if he’s an introvert, maybe he’s out for drives a bit longer than usual. I married an extrovert who needed social time and found some of those needs met by connecting with old MK friends on Facebook. My advice: give him that time.
- Even though he’s taking on more of your responsibilities at home, your husband will feel useless: he’s used to being more or less in control with his time and now he shares it with you. It might help to wake up each morning with a goal he sets for the day; then give him time to work on it.
- Remember all the papers you signed when you bought your first house? Triple that: medical coverage (we highly recommend Christian HealthCare Ministries), life insurance, closing accounts related to the job, returning equipment, retirement and pension paperwork…
- Passing by the old workplace, seeing the brand/logo of the employer on equipment and letterhead, and catching any information about the employer on the news will put a knot in your stomach: And if it happens to you, know that it’s happening ten times as much to your husband. He’s given years of time and loyalty to one place and now it’s been stripped from his identity.
- Don’t expect sympathy cards: while you’ll have some close friends and family who check in on you and support you, the majority of people will not know how to react and will probably not say anything. Or worse, they’ll ask, “could he have done something to prevent it?”
- The spending tendency: I don’t know if this is normal but I occasionally made small but unnecessary purchases to fill this need to buy something “luxury” that I wouldn’t normally buy. Thankfully this was always small, like a tall peppermint mocha with extra whip, but there was that weird “better buy this while I still can” thought that ran through my mind…. similar to how I eat junk food the night before a new day of resolving to cut out sugar.
There are some positives:
- It’s like a vacation: your husband is now around to play with the kids, give you time to grocery shop alone, and clean the garage.
- Your days are your own: if it weren’t for Sundays popping up every now and then, we’d lose complete track of the days of the week.
- Revamping your spending: you and your husband have time to sit down and look at your budget. This is a great time to form life-long habits that will cut your expenses dramatically. This can be a bonding, almost romantic, time with your husband as you make plans together. (Do you need to be on the same page with finances? Make sure you plan this time together with little interruption from younger family members so you can focus. Follow Dave Ramsey’s podcasts.)
- The sky is the limit for possible streams of income: we were in the fortunate position of having my small, side business start to grow. We decided to decline my husband’s unemployment to instead devote his time to join me in growing the business (and even start another business) rather than take the first job offered to him. It’s been a year of very hard work and long hours, but it’s paying off. A bonus is that our children are acutely aware of what it takes to start a business and have made some business-savvy moves for themselves.
Remember that hope I mentioned earlier? Even though it comes and goes, when it comes, it’s easy to fuel up on it and think outside the box. Is there a new direction your husband would like to take with his employment? Can he set aside time to learn something he loves while taking short-term job assignments? Do you have friends who appear to be living a life you want? Ask how they do it.
As with any tragedy or hardship, there are so many lessons to learn along the way and surprises to be had. They wouldn’t necessarily have happened without the large wrench thrown into our plans. But I encourage you to remember that God truly has always taken care of you: prepare for a long, hard road, but perhaps it will be a journey to bring you to new heights.
Guest post by Renee Harris: Jonathan and Renee Harris homeschool and raise their 8 children and run their two businesses (www.hardlotion.com and www.drinkbands.com) from their home in Northern California.