Because of the Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday I wanted to find something for this week’s blog that would speak to thankfulness (is that a word?). I also got to thinking about ways the holiday season brings out the worst in us and decided to settle on a subject that’s rarely easy to discuss with our loved ones–namely money. So I asked a friend to talk about what it’s been like for him and his family to experience a lay-off in a down economy; what conflicts it’s caused, how they’re dealing with the tension, major points of contention, etc. Posting his thoughts today are my way of not so subtlysaying, “If you have a job, be thankful while being kind to those around you this week. And, if you don’t have a job, be thankful while being kind to those around you this week.” Sean’s done a great job of finding the silver lining in an anxious situation. I love that he and his wife have taken the opportunity to do a little self-reflection and work on the problem together rather than playing the blame game. So, without further ado, here’s what he had to say:
My wife and I almost never fought about money before I was laid-off. And, for a short time following the lay-off the money argument was relatively scarce due to a decent severance package, billable hours from a few small projects I found, and an agreement to slash our budget. Our third child was born in May, and by the time I was dropping off my laptop and Blackberry to the HR director in July, my wife was happy to admit she was looking forward to my help on the home front. Perhaps this was serendipity, or providence; perhaps we were exactly where we should be at that time in our lives: job free.
Divine guidance or not, our new life-style has had its share of difficulties. With the novelty of being job free wearing off, and the last paid quarter of our healthcarebenefits expiring, the anxiety about our future is growing. It’s easy to lose focus and hope in the face of dire statistics about ineffectiveInternet job postings and the expected year-end hiring slow down that accompanies the holidays. I admit that sometimes my motivation to find work is sporadic at best and that every minute I spend on the computer isn’t dedicated to sending out resumes and drafting cover letters. Some days, none of them are. Of course, those always seem to be the days my wife REALLY wants to know how the search is going (in great detail!). I try not to get defensive or annoyed, but I fail. And she sees through it every time.
Another source of contention between us is time. Quality time and family time were rare and cherished occasions when I was working 60-70 hour weeks, spending days, sometimes weeks, on the road. Now we’ve got nothing buttime together. We’ve become ubiquitous to each other, irritatingly omnipresent as we literally spend 24 hours a day co-parenting, co-cooking, co-cleaning, and co-habitingwithout end. We came to the conclusion that each of us needed to start scheduling “me” time during the week if our marriage was going to survive any more of this togetherness!
As my wife does her part to brace our family for extended unemployment, slashing the family budget has become its own part-time job for her. For the first time in our lives we’re looking at our account balance as a limited and precious resource. If we spring for that car repair this week, are we spending food money our kids will need three months down the line? So when I considered buying a $500 plane ticket to Cleveland in order to deliver a six-figure proposal (a long shot at best), I came up against this obsessively frugal mentality. Classic idioms such as “it takes money to make money” became the toxic advice of irresponsible dare-devils, willing to risk their family’s safety and security for some desperate uncertainty – or so my wife tells me. The fight escalated, turning into a bitter dispute over support, faith, and what respect we still had for each other.
There’s a popular book out that compares the love a significant other feels to a gas tank. When the tank is full (when we feel loved) we have spare love to give. When we give love without feeling it’s returned, our tank drains. By the fight’s end, it became obvious that both of our tanks were pretty low, and the stress and disappointment of my job free days were playing a major part in that. Our solution was to go out of our way, twice a day, to speak the love language (the preferred method of demonstrated love) of our spouse. It’s a technique we’ve successfully used in the past, but this time around I encountered some difficulty. My wife loves the honey-do’s and chore lists. It makes her feel special to know that I’m willing to actually DO something to take a little off her plate and make her life easier. To my surprise, I learned that anything I’ve completed for her in the past no longer seems to qualify. My current job free state has relegated the special deeds and extra considerations of yesterday to mandatory and expected contributions today. This one, I’m still working on… Stay tuned.
Note from Vivian: If anyone is interested in learning more about Sean Casey’s superb sales and customer service training skills, or has been holding a job open in the Southern California area waiting for a guy just like him to come along, please contact him at email@example.com. I’m sure he would be very thankful!