Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Surviving a Layoff With Your Spouse

Before I get started I must say that Tysdaddy wrote a beautiful post yesterday. Please read it if you have not already.

Hubman and I have been together for almost 20 years and married for almost 17 years. Hubman has always had steady work due to his choice of industry or being a student, but I have not been so lucky. There have been about six periods in our marriage where I have been without a job due to either layoffs, getting fired (quick life lesson: don't disagree with the bosses wife) or moving to accommodate Hubman's career. Two of the periods of unemployment were mercifully brief and since one move was rather temporary, it was established that I would work temp jobs for the duration of the move.

However, I had a few periods where I was unemployed for a few months and that my friends is grueling and stressful. I know that there is supposed to be a he said/she said component to this task, but I am going to go off that track a little and give some thoughts about how to survive job loss together. Some of these thoughts come from my ten years' experience as an HR Professional.

For the Spouse who did not lose their job.

1. Both of you experienced a loss just like your spouse did and the spouse that did not lose their job is also going to feel the loss. However in trying to be supportive, your feelings get lost. Make sure you have a trusted confidante to talk to during this time.

When I lost my job in construction it was very frustrating for Hubman. He was in the 4th year of a four year PhD program, and I was the primary breadwinner. Also due to the stresses and deadlines of his program, he could not take a second job to help out with income. He had a fellowship and some GI Bill benefits, but as far as we were concerned, going to school was Hubman's first and only job at this time.

We also had the frustration of the fact that we were planning to move about a year after I lost my job and the loss really screwed up our plans, as all I wanted to do was finish out the year. If the company had laid me off a year later, while I would have not liked the layoff, it would have been nice to be collecting unemployment and basically get paid to pack up.

There was the frustration that we lived in a small town that simply did not have many jobs to begin with that were not minimum wage waitressing jobs, which were usually done by hot co-eds. I would say that the six months of unemployment was one of the most stressful periods of our whole marriage. Oh, and did I mention I had a baby less than two months before I lost my job. Fun times, friends, fun times.

2. For the first 24-72 hours your spouse is going to be kind of in shock. Losing a job is a real loss, like a death, and depending on the nature of your spouse they may cycle through the seven stages of loss quickly or take some time. But during that 1st 72 hours use that time to file for unemployment, and deal with insurance issues. This is also a good time to call anyone you owe money to and negotiate with them while you are current on everything, and work out a six month emergency budget.

3. Give your spouse lots of love and support. If they lost their job because they were fired for doing something stupid, it is ok to be mad at them, but chances are they already feel horrible about it and due to your anger level, things are going to be said that you may later regret.

4. Don't overwhelm your spouse with a honey do list. Give them a week to relax and sort themselves out, get the resume together, call the network, etc. However once the week is over its a good idea to have the spouse do something that gets them out of the house everyday, so they are getting up and dressed.

5. Offer assistance with their resume and cover letter, unless you are still angry about the job loss. You might find yourself being kind of nasty about any errors in the resume and letter which is not helpful to the spouse.

6. This is the most important one. On the issue of job hunting, decide how much communication you want from your spouse about the status of the hunt and agree on it. There might be days, especially after the first week or two of contacting people where there is NOTHING to apply to. Don't treat your spouse like a child who does not complete their homework.

7. Be patient with the job search. Even if your spouse is applying to jobs, he or she may be one of hundreds of applicants. I have a friend who works in HR for a school district. She ran an advertisement for a secretary. The job pays about 42K. She had 350 applicants in 48 hours. This is going to be a slow process.

8. It is ok to tell people your spouse is out of work. These days, there is no shame in it. It is also a good way to network.

If you are the spouse that is out of work:

1. Remember that your spouse might be negative out of fear of never replacing the income, that you will never find another job and that you all will soon be homeless. Be supportive of your spouse and if you are home, take on the lion's share of home responsibility, especially if the working spouse is taking on extra hours to make up for the lost income. Your spouse is experiencing a loss too. Try to be respectful of that.

2. Be ready to report on what you have done that day. Even if the answer is, there was nothing to apply to and I spent time fine tuning my resume or looking into some additional schooling or I went to every temp agency in town and put in for work. Always have an active answer.

3. Keep yourself busy. Its easy to fall into a depression and want to stay in your sweats all day, eating cheap junk food and watching tv. Don't do it. Now is the time to tackle home projects, organize things, volunteer, EXERCISE! whatever keeps you out and engaged. And remember, the more people you interact with, the better the chance that you will find someone who can help you. And if you take a nap during the day, do NOT mention that to your spouse.

4. Try to find temporary work to supplement your income. When you collect Unemployment Insurance there is a certain amount you can make before you mess with your unemployment payments.

I know that this was not a true he said she said, and I apologize to Shelle and Tysdaddy for going off the track a little, but I hope that you find my advice useful.

If you would like to stop by and say hi, please do so. I am usually not safe for work on Thursday's and the rest of the week is the luck of the draw, except for Friday, when I talk about food.


Shelle-BlokThoughts said...

This was just a perspective post anyway girl so you are JUST fine!

I love your advice for each spouse... and I think now more than ever people need a short list like this to look to and help them because there are so many people out of work right now! It's frightening!

I like how you said Job Loss is like or can be like a death and you one or the other spouse might go through the normal grieving process.

Such great relevant information! Thanks Veronica! Awesome post!

Another Suburban Mom said...

Shelle: Thank you for your kind words.

Anonymous said...

Nice post.

Hair Bows & Guitar Picks said...

What a great well written post! Thank you for sharing.

Becky Andrews said...

This is such a super great post - very well written. My husband was laid off last year (twice with the banking industry) ... your suggestions are so right on in what has helped us get through this time and enjoy the time together and not add to each other's stressers!

OneZenMom said...

Great post, and great advice! Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I have always (for the past 20 years) been employed or in school, often both until Jan 2009 when I was laid off. It was horrible- as if I had been fired or something. Having never left a job for any reason other than my own it was a difficult adjustment to saty the least. I wish my husband had understood more how to deal with me and the emotions I was feeling at the time, and even now 13 months later- and still looking for employment. It is frustrating to see jobs that offer barely half my previous salary as my only option. The positive spin out of the past year is that I have been able to be home with our 2 preschool aged children. I still dedicate time daily to the job search, resume sending and updating. But the void my work once filled is still evident.

Unknown said...
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The Bare Essentials Today said...

GREAT advice Veronica. I love the perspective from both sides. Very informative and there were some great tips in there.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this helpful post, Veronica. You've experienced this from many angles, and your words ring true.

I can't stress enough the importance of doing the simple things each day. Get out of bed. Get dressed. Do something. Anything. And don't slip into a long period of procrastination. I am a chronic procrastinator, and climbing back on the horse is a bitch compared to just staying in the saddle, even during the slow parts of the ride.

Anonymous said...

Well there is surely some excellent advice in this post and should be forwarded to anyone going through ob loss or that of their spouse right now.

Good Job.

Anjeny said...

Great post, Veronica. Your advice is very insightful although I tought that the third one where the spouse is out of work..you advice the person that if they take a nap during the day, NOT to mention it to the spouse? Why is that? Is it because you think the spouse might not understand and will probably have a fit about it or is it because the spouse is not taking a nap? Please elaborate on that one.

Other than that...the advice is a very helpful one and I know it will be most helpful to all those who are going through this ordeal.

Hubman said...

Can I make one request, my dear? With the exception of career-related moves, let's try not to need this advice in the future, okay? Please?

Another Suburban Mom said...

WannabeV, HBAGP, Becky The Bare Essentials, and Zen Mom: Thank you for your kind words. I was kind of nervous about getting so technical with this post.

Anonymous: I am sorry about the situation you are in. Visit the email link on my blog if you want to talk offline about it.

Tysdaddy: You are so right. Getting out of bed and doing stuff every day is so important.

Sage: We agree two weeks in a row?!!! Up is Down, Left is Right! I am going to hide under the bed and eat cookies until the moment passes.

Anjeny: I should have wrote thatI do not reccomend taking a nap every day as that is a hard habit to break and messes with your sleep.

Also, unless you are sick or have sick kids, I would not nap and then tell the spouse. Think, you are working crazy hard, extra hours, what not, and your spouse is home NAPPING. Talk about stoking the resentment.

So no nap, and if you do nap, no bragging about it.

Another Suburban Mom said...

Hubman: Not in the plans, my dear.

Anjeny said...

Oh ok...got it...thanks.

jam said...

veronica, very nice post. my husband became unemployed in january. we're in better shape this time around then in the past. i try to do little things to put a smile on his face each day. hopefully, he'll find a job soon. every day he looks for work; takes care of the house and cooks.