In 2001 my husband, Daniel, came home to Syracuse, New York, from military service. He had experience as a paratrooper and no way to use that in the real world. We were newly married, and now he needed to plug back into civilian life.
The first thing he did was touch base with people he knew, as well as hit the unemployment office and fill out 17 applications. He didn't get one interview.
He was out of work for a month, so he was happy when he found a job detailing cars at an auto auction. All day long he cleaned tires, scrubbed interiors, and shined exteriors of cars and trucks. There was nothing glamorous about this job. It was backbreaking work. But he did it. And when no one else would take the change they found in the seats, ashtrays, and floorboards of the vehicles, Daniel would. Everyone else saw those pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters as garbage. He saw them as a way out.
Day in and day out, he cleaned cars and collected change. It added up?to gas for his truck, to pay off bills, to spring for a night out. And this was all money that was extra from the small check he was making cleaning cars.
All the while, he was scouring the newspaper for something else. He had previously worked in residential construction; he found something in commercial construction. It wasn't the exact job he was looking for, but it paid more, and it was something he liked doing. He did the job of a laborer?picking up after everyone and being a gopher?until he found a better opportunity in commercial construction. And each time he left a job, it was a move toward his goals. Also, he left each job in good standing, with the company wanting him back anytime he was ready.
To this day he'll run into one of his former colleagues, and they ask when he's coming back.
It took five years for my husband to find his way to the right job for him. During that time, he was out of work for only a few weeks at a time. When he got too discouraged, he'd just go and take any job that was hiring until he could get back on track with his plan.
"As a man, you definitely have concerns about how to take care of your family," he says. "But you don't want your family to see that. You don't want them to see that you're really worried."
Through this experience I also learned some things, including what to do if your husband finds himself unemployed:
? Be positive in speech and actions. Sometimes things just happen. So don't blame him, and don't nag with comments such as "You're not trying hard enough" or "How are we going to make it?"
? Don't change your routine, especially the things you do with your husband. Remember, you're still a team.
? Be mindful of the budget. You're not going to be able to spend money as freely as you may have before. Sacrifice now so things don't get too bad down the road.
? Don't focus on what other people have and compare yourselves to them. You may be at a different station in life than they.
? Try to be thankful for what you have and remain positive, while realizing that it might take some time to adjust to the new situation.
? Don't look for a job for him. That will undermine what he's trying to do, plus it's humiliating. Men tend to be goal-oriented, so they likely have a plan.
Men, if you're out of work, here are a few suggestions from several men who have faced this situation:
? You need to take a job that will pay the bills, even if it's not what you're used to doing.
? Swallow your pride. This is not all about you. You need to realize what your family needs you to do. If you can help it, make sure your unemployment doesn't last so long that your family suffers.
? You can't just make up excuse after excuse. Be responsible and do what you have to do to take care of your family. God will honor that. He will bless what you put your hands to, even if it's a job that you think is beneath you.
? Realize that it might take some time to adjust to the new position you're in.
? Be patient. Sometimes you do everything you can, but you still have to wait.
? You can't simply live off of a dream. Work a job, and do your dream on the side. That way you're taking care of your responsibility and not abandoning your dream.
? Get a mentor to help you talk through things. Sometimes you need someone to say "What about this?" Your spouse might not be the person to do it because they're worried about what might be happening or how to pay the bills.
? Get a mediator to help you and your spouse talk through the stresses. It must be someone you both trust to help you discuss "How can we move forward?" rather than "How are we going to pay the bills?"
? Have plan B, plan C, and plan D, if necessary.
? Never say never. While you must follow your moral convictions as you seek employment?not taking a job that requires working on the Sabbath, lying, selling alcoholic drinks or cigarettes, etc.?you shouldn't close your mind to possibilities. For instance, don't say, "I refuse to commute," "I'll never work in sales," or whatever.
? Have faith in your Creator. He can get you through any situation.
Gina Ogden is a features editor in Syracuse, New York. She and her husband, Daniel, have a 2-year-old daughter.