Managing Job Loss: When The Breadwinner Loses His Job

Let’s take a look at the situation when the male partner has been laid off and the female spouse or companion is bringing home the bacon. According to this site, 82% of the people who’ve lost a job have been men. While we may wonder at this amazing disproportion, let’s not forget that males are still the vast majority of the workforce. When the responsibility falls on the woman’s shoulders, the relationship may suffer or be strengthened, depending on each partner’s reaction. Words like “emasculation” or “Mr. Mom” jump to mind when describing the new roles, and few men relish the change.

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When The Breadwinner Loses His Job

One of the ugly consequences of facing a job layoff, especially for those who used to hold high-level jobs, is the risk of depression. The more specialized the person is and the higher the position, the greater the difficulty to find employment. Take the case of this unemployed fellow, who at first tried to find another job, but over the past few months has grown more and more depressed, such that he no longer bothers to look for employment anymore. There aren’t many open slots for vice-presidents in financial institutions (they are mostly broke), and unless the guy who’s laid off is lucky enough to receive a golden parachute, his life style and his self-esteem are going to be severely affected.

Manage Job Loss When Gender Roles Are Changed

Among traditional families and older generations, the typical role of the woman, even those working all day, has been to take care of the house. One can still find a few examples among recently married young men who had a mother who took care of everything, from cooking to keeping things in order. One of my younger female colleagues has been bitterly complaining about her husband who made the mistake of reproaching his lack of clean clothes at home. She didn’t contest this matter; in fact, she resisted the temptation to argue, knowing that a bitter dispute would follow otherwise.

But with job loss, things can become more complicated. I do remember losing my job on a couple of occasions during my 40’s and 50’s, and feeling more and more hopeless the longer I stayed at home. My feelings of worthlessness back then were accentuated, the longer I hung around at home doing nothing. One time was just before Christmas and the whole family could feel my angst. I now realize that without their total support, I would have wallowed in self-pity for much longer instead of looking for options.

Put The Family First

Many thousands of Americans who are still working, live with the sword of Damocles hanging over their heads, threatening to fall at any time. The family life is thus disrupted and children suffer the most since they don’t quite understand why their father is in such a bad mood every day. Hence the need, guys, to take a good look at yourselves and stop the downward emotional spiral. Feeling sorry for your precious ego isn’t going to help. Your family comes first, no matter what; if you have to wash dishes and mop the floor while the Mrs. brings home the bacon, then so be it. You’ll finally understand that house chores involve heavy work that must be shared. There is no shame at all in assuming what used to be feminine roles, since the end result will be emotional harmony in the family. After all, jobs will return! So let’s be thankful for the loving support of our loved ones.

6 thoughts on “Managing Job Loss: When The Breadwinner Loses His Job”

  1. You have to put the family first!

    I hear a lot of people moping around because they don’t like their jobs, and the recession has “forced” them to accept what they have and stay put. Instead of bringing their “A-Game,” they continue complaining and being negative at work. (In many cases, they lose their jobs because of this).

    If you have a family you’re responsible for, that should be priority #1. You should get your thoughts focused, your responsibilities straight, and get your “stuff” together at work to make sure you’re continuing to provide for the family.

    Now, as far as the topic at hand, I don’t think there’s any shame in playing Mr. Mom for a while, or even permanently. What exactly is so bad about spending more time with your kids??? (Granted, you also have to cook and clean, but I happen to love doing both). I say – enjoy the extra time with family, the jobs will eventually come back.

    Even for non-executives and other people who held high positions, the danger of depression is still strong. Many people I know who lost their jobs mope around all day, but that is their choice. Many others found jobs almost immediately by staying focused and understanding what they had to do.

    Great post!

  2. Thank you, W, for taking the time to show all of us macho men that there is nothing shameful in assuming the Mr. Mom role. As you state, what’s wrong with being with your kids all day long; the family as a whole gains in understanding, even while many working moms complain that the man doesn’t pull his share of the domestic work. Very true also, depression is always a lurking danger and one must be ready to fight, mentally, this most damaging illness. I know, I went thru it and didn’t leave my house for one week, till a good friend pulled me out forcibly and affectionately.
    Excellent comment!

  3. Jacques, I know exactly what you are talking about when you say that depression is always a danger when the bread winner is laid off of work.

    My husband was out of work for 6 months. It was so difficult for him to watch me assume the role of the breadwinner. Something he and I both learned by reading a great book on how to find, keep and maintain a job, titled, “The Job Coach for Young Professionals” by Susan Kennedy and Karen Baker was that a person must never succumb to the depression. They need to keep pressing forward. The only way to get a job is to be persistent. The worst thing a person can do is to give up on finding work.

  4. You have no idea how depressing it is to lose your job when you are the primary (female) breadwinner. My husband is retired, but I’ve always been the primary earner in the family. However, I was never appreciated in this role, and while my family is happy to spend the money I make, I was always made to feel somehow disloyal because I was more successful at work than he was – so I was never congratulated for raises and promotions. And now that I’m unemployed, and back in school for the meantime, sitting amongst students less than half my age, I couldn’t feel more stupid and worthless. I wish someone understood.

  5. Great post. I recently lost my job and was the primary breadwinner. I have 3 young kids and I have to really try and not bring them down with me. I’ve actually found it quite enjoyable spending more time with the kids. The only problem is that my wife hardly works and we are simply not bringing in enough $$ to support even our basic needs. We live in a rural area and job opportunities are scarce. There is opportunity to grow our own food and hunt for sustenance I suppose 🙂

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