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There is only one success--to be able to spend your life in your own way.-Christopher Morley
Easy For Me To Say -- Jobs and Couples
By David
Posted October 23, 2009

It's been a while since I wrote about the Great Recession. The last few times I mentioned it here, it was in connection with private school tuition, and I wondered whether Jewish day schools could survive it.

This time, though, it's about the loss of jobs among some people I know. I have several friends and acquaintances who have lost their jobs during the past year. For them, almost nothing has been the same. When people are younger, they seem to care very little about moving from one job to another. Each position is viewed as a learning experience, and switching jobs is almost like moving from one lecture hall to another in college. But it's different now. We're in our forties, have families to support, mortgages to pay, and the Cohens with whom to keep up. So, losing a job may have been acceptable for a little while, maybe even a welcome respite from a job that was not all that much fun. Or so it seemed to them initially.

As the days turned into weeks and the weeks into months, their family finances took a turn for the worse, as did their moods. Their confidence in their ability to find another job has slowly morphed into a realization that it may not be possible to find another position for quite some time. Those who collected unemployment payments from the government are barely able to pay their bills, and those who didn't are even worse off.

'When I Grow Up'

Some of my friends face another daunting decision, which is what to do with their careers. More than just waiting to find another job in the same industry, they must move on, even if it means branching out to a new field. For most men in their forties, trying to switch careers is not something they relish. Sure, they would love to somehow land in a position that is fun, challenging, glamorous and, of course, extremely well-paying. But the reality is unfortunately much different. Asking yourself 'what should I be when I grow up' is much more difficult at middle-age than it is at twenty-five.

The Great Recession Affects Couples
The Great Recession Affects Couples

At this point in their lives, they want stability for themselves and their families. With family and financial obligations mounting, there's no time to start at the bottom of the ladder in a new occupation. The freedom to do whatever strikes their fancy, or indulge their fantasies, just isn't there any more, because there are others to take into consideration. My friends are, to a great extent, trapped within their own lives with no way out of the stress and uncertainty.

The result is mutual resentment between husband and wife. Not for all, but for some. They resent their wives as a source of additional pressure and lessening support while they sit at home jobless and uncertain about their future. Maybe they feel inadequate as bread-winners, which causes a whole slew of other problems. The wives, on the other hand, are scared. Their lives are not going as planned, and they find it increasingly difficult with time, to justify their husbands' apparent lounging around the house playing with Facebook and Twitter instead of poring over the Help Wanted ads. In truth, the husbands are looking for jobs, but it's just not a full-time occupation, and doing anything else while under their wives' scrutiny, is a problem.

Team or Teamless

Yes, it's easy for me to give advice, as my company has managed to thrive during the Great Recession. I'm not unemployed, nor strapped for cash. But I readily admit that there were certain times this year in which I really wondered whether things would take a turn for the worse. When I see my friends hurting, I not only empathize with them, but I also know full well that but for the grace of God, there go I.

As it is, I've noticed that the truly difficult times in my friends' lives really highlighted those whose wives support them and those whose wives could have done better. Not surprisingly, the ones with the supportive wives have been able to work together through the stress as a team. The others didn't fare as well, and I have to wonder if their relationships will ever completely recover from the divisions that have now been exposed.

I can't really fault anyone for how they feel and how they react to certain things. These are extreme times and it's understandable that not everyone handles adversity with the same level of skill. I can only tell my friends to keep in mind that what defines their lives is their character and their values, their love for their children and their ability to persevere even as they temporarily fall behind in life's silly game of Monopoly.

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