Sunday, November 22, 2009

When husbands lose their jobs

Read this article, which talks about what happens when a husband loses his job and finds himself supported by his wife.

It won't come as a surprise to my regular readers to know I fully support the so-called "traditional" roles of man and wife. Tradition, of course, is the less important part in this; traditions might change, while God's plan for us never does, and He was the one to command Adam to work in the sweat of his brow, and Eve to bear children. So of course it's natural for the woman to take care of the nest and the family.

But of course, we all know things might not go according to our initial plan. Husbands may fall ill, lose their jobs, strike up a bad financial bargain, or all of the above. A woman who married someone financially stable might feel it's unfair if the situation changes unexpectedly, though certainly, no one can guarantee it won't happen.

I firmly believe this role reversal, when the wife becomes the main breadwinner, is not really a solution; it's unhealthy. Men were not made to be cooped up inside the house and women were not made to be far from their homes and families. It's easy to feel desperate when a "traditional" family is suddenly thrust into such a situation.

Here we have another example at how feminism did a huge disservice to women. In the past, if a family was going through a financial crisis, the wife was expected to be frugal, and perhaps do some work temporarily, preferably from home. Now, we are expected to jump into a "career", as if that will be a solution to all our problems, as if there aren't enough couples with two incomes who are up to their ears in debt because they don't know how to handle their finances wisely.

I take issue, however, with some attitudes expressed in that article I linked to. Like, for example, losing respect for a husband who lost his job. Many men lose their jobs through no fault of their own; they are likely to sink into depression as it is, when unemployment lasts for a while. The last thing that would encourage and motivate them would be vibes of disrespect and scorn coming from their wives. It becomes an evil circle: a man is unemployed, his wife treats him like a useless loser, and he feels like one, which prevents him to take off again in the working world.

It's easy to become frustrated and tell an unemployed husband, "you've failed your part, I'm going out there to do your job because you're inadequate." But wouldn't it be wiser to trust God and trust this husband he gave you, and tell him you know he is doing his best? Wouldn't it be wiser to support and motivate him, and tell him you fully trust his abilities, and perhaps help him look for a job, and motivate him to take advantage of his time of unemployment to learn useful skills? I truly believe it would pay off in the long run.

I understand, of course, that there are also situations when the wife is as supportive and encouraging as can be and it doesn't help. We don't live in a perfect world and some men are lazy and irresponsible. But I honestly believe that most men want to take care of their families and be good husbands and fathers.

As you know I'm not speaking only theoretically. My husband is currently looking for a job, and some tell me I should invest in my career instead, such as, for example, go ahead and start studying for a Master's degree. I do believe this attitude is not only short-sighted, it would convey that I secretly believe I can do my husband's job better than he could. And in the long run, I think I would pay for it dearly, especially when more children (God willing) come along and I'm stuck with a "career" I can't realistically handle.


Buffy said...

Good post.

Just to add there are lots of ways a husband can support his family without earning a wage. For example, growing food, keeping livestock, building a home, keeping the home in good condition, trading home-made goods or skills for other commodities or skills.

In other words the man's role in supporting his family should not just come down to the money he brings home.

Anonymous said...

It was rather interesting for me to read the blog. Thanx for it. I like such topics and anything connected to them. I would like to read more soon.

Persuaded said...

Not surprisingly Anna, I support your choices as your dear husband looks for a new job. As a single mom, I don't have that exact challenge, but I am often... very often encouraged to "go out and get a job" instead of choosing to live within my meager budget and trusting the Lord. I can say in complete honesty and with complete transparency that the Lord has never let me down, even this very concrete "earthly" matter of finances. Never. Not one single time. There have been times when I have gotten into a bit of a jam financially, to be certain. But in each and every one of those times, the problem has been an unwise choice or two on my own part, a foolish impulse expenditure and not a lack of provision. And you know, even in spite of my occasional foolishness, our family has never suffered actual want. We have a lovely home, good food, nice clothes. Our Lord gives good things... if we trust Him for our provision.

I'll be praying for your family's situation my dear♥

Teartaye said...

I take issue, however, with some attitudes expressed in that article I linked to. Like, for example, losing respect for a husband who lost his job.

So true! My Uncle's company recently went bankrupt and his wife is furious with him. She's resentful she had to get a job, angry that he's now "useless," making a big deal about having to sell their home and fancy cars...

That was the other thing that bugged me: The couples in the article all seemed to have large houses, kids in private schools, etc. and it's treated like a horrible tragedy when they have to downsize their house.
A struggle, in my eyes, would be if the husband's loss of job mdade it hard to feed the kids. Needing to move out of a McMansion to a reasonable home? Not so much.

Anonymous said...

Shalom, Anna,
This article really hits home. My husband retired in Sept., and the day after, he was hired to work at the only place he ever wanted to work after retirement. Due to our thriftiness, and having no debt but our home (which will be paid off, Hashem willing, in Jan), we are able to make it. So, trusting in G-d is what gets us through. One the other hand, I am a nurse, and am thinking about going back to work part-time so our savings doesn't go down, and as a "cushion" (my husband's income has gone down considerably). One daughter is in college (living at home), and the other I am homeschooling (she is in her last year). My husband wouldn't mind if I went back to work, but has not pressed the issue. What do you and your readers think? Should we stay home forever? I have lots to keep my busy here: gardening, cooking from scratch (my husband is on a special diet), just living a frugal lifestyle takes time.
Mrs. G

Mrs. Santos said...

Dear Anna~ My husband has been unemployed for over a year. I was just thinking of how amazing it is that we have done so "well" this past year. I don't work outside of the home. I have struggled respecting my husband...not because of his lack of work...but because of the anger and depression he goes through. This has been encouraging for keep on encouraging HIM in all of this. God bless you as you put your faith in God who is our strong tower and our provider.

Mrs. Santos

Star said...

Yes, all that is true but it isn't all about the man. That situation does rather put the woman in the position of 'second in command'. Some women choose to have a career and feel more fulfilled in doing so, whilst some men like to be at home with the family. Certainly, the woman is best placed at home with the children when they are small, but if she doesn't make some kind of life for herself outside the home, then when the children grow up and 'leave the nest', she is going to feel redundant in her own job. That is not a comfortable place to be.
I hope your husband soon finds a new job.
Blessings, Star

Lisa said...

Great post, Anna, and you are so right about how feminism has done women a disservice on this issue. A woman who continues to maintain the hearth and home when the husband is unemployed is looked at as being lazy and irresponsible.

I will pray your husband finds work soon, and that God will continue to provide for you in the meantime. My husband lost his job earlier this year(he has since found another), so I certainly understand the uncertainty that comes with this.

Thanks for your beautiful blog!

Anonymous said...

Hi Anna,

Thanks for the post.

Do you have any thoughts or feelings about fathers and their daughters? Do you think it is best for a father to support his unmarried daughter, if it is within his means to do so?


Angela said...

I agree with you completely. We are here to help our husbands, not to take on their responsibilities or force ourselves into the roles of our husbands. I believe feminism is one of the adversary's greatest tools for tearing apart the family. I will pray that your husband soon finds work.

Susan M said...

The defining point in our marriage was about 12 years ago, when my husband lost his job after I had left a successful career to be home with our two babies. My first reaction was, "I'll go back to work." His "no" set us on a path that would involved living for some months in "poverty" (we didn't know it at the time) and eventually brought us where we are now, with a large home, two cars, a secure income and three children who have never seen the inside of a daycare or public school.
I would like to believe that we would have been OK no matter what, but I am much more afraid of the damage our marriage would have suffered if he'd answered differently.
Please hang in there. We'll be praying for your husband's employment.

Michelle said...

I just love your thoughts on this! You are so right, IMO. Our husbands need our support and encouragment, not our criticism and nagging.

The cycle you mentioned is absolutely correct in my experience, concerning anything that is my husbands responsibility. If my husband struggles with something (be it his job or his spiritual duties to our family as leader) and I try to step in and do it for him, I'm sending him a message that he is not good enough and that I can do his job better...thereby making him feel that he can't do his job.

Anonymous said...

I think an unemployed man would definitely feel like a loser, as a man's career is tied very much to his identity...and to experience the scorn of his wife would only emasculate him that much more.

I pray your family's circumstances will improve soon. It will be a test for both you & your husband, to be sure, as you seek the best way to navigate this difficulty.

God's blessings,

Anonymous said...

It seems like the men in this article sort of "gave-up" on being the Heads of their household, continued sulking, while their wives had no choice but to "pick-up the slack" and help support the family. I could be more sympathetic if both spouses were working in some form or another to support their families, but just for the man to say, "Oh well, I lost my job," and let the wife continue to do everything without any support (financially, domestically, or otherwise), in my opinion, is a sham!

Jo said...

When men become unemployed society does look at them as "having a problem", especailly men who have had good, well paying jobs for a long time. They then struggle with self-confidences and some (those in the older age groups) find it almost impossible to find work. With male suicide so high (and no sign of reducing) we should be doing everything we can to help them.

I don't object at all to women working - it becomes a problem when work becomes her life and she works long hours to "keep up with the boys" - also in jobs that take them away from their families and the children don't get to spend any time with their mothers.

Milehimama said...

My husband lost his job in September, but I love having him here all the time! We have experienced a role reversal - I'm a writer, so I picked up a lot more articles,etc. and while I'm doing THAT he's been taking care of the homeschooling (well, except for math, LOL).

It can be difficult, but doesn't have to be. Although since I do work from home I am able to avoid the pressures to jump into a career, mainly because with 8 little ones (my oldest is 11), no one expects me to run out and get a job. My husband is a good man, father and husband who respects my role at home though, and that's made things smoother.

OTOH, I think it is quite sad that no one expects my husband to be able to "handle" the kids. I see that so often - Dad can't take care of the kids, Mom has to do everything, a denigration of fatherhood. Though, I suspect, he is eager to get back to work because at his job, things are done and STAY done.

Thursday's Child said...

I agree with you, however, depending upon the situation it may be absolutely necessary for the wife to work. Even if the husband finds a new job, in a bad economy it may not pay nearly enough. Hopefully she can work part-time or a flexible enough schedule to help keep things at home running fairly smoothly.

Also it doesn't hurt to stay on top of things career-wise, at least in education/experience. We never know when, God forbid, we could lose our husband instead of him just losing a job. In that case, where a family's entire support depends upon Mom, she needs to be as prepared as possible to earn a good salary. Minimum wage barely keeps a bird alive, forget a whole family.

It sounds as if I'm disagreeing with you but I really don't. Keep up the good work!

Harshika said...

My husband also lost his job this week! we have a 1 yr old son and i stay home to look after him and the house. We have house mortgages etc...but my husband is so wise and brave. I kind of offered to look for work and he was disheartened to hear that because he is more than capable of providing for us! He said that to I agree, the wife going out in a panic is no solution!

Above all, Jehovah Jireh provides! It can be a tough season but instead of panicking and trying to fix the problems ourselves, trusting God is the best thing we can do.
This post was so encouraging. Thanks.


Mrs. Anna T said...

"Do you think it is best for a father to support his unmarried daughter, if it is within his means to do so?"

"Should we stay home forever? [after the children are grown]"

Those are two interesting questions about two sides of the same coin: staying home when you don't have young children anymore. I will try to write about them in a separate post soon, because right now, time just doesn't allow to answer here (little Shira is calling for mama, or rather, mi-mi, as she calls me now :o))

Anonymous said...

Scorn is a terrible thing. These women should not be scorning their husbands for something that is not their fault.
On the other hand, I would expect an unemployed father to spend a lot of time trying to find work and to fully share the housework and childcare. I surely can understand how resentment would build if a man lost his job and didn't take over some of his wife's duties.
Finally, sometimes a wife just needs to take a job. I don't see how one can live long-term without an income. God helps those who help themselves.

Anonymous said...

Goodness, surely making your husband feel like a loser comes from a sinful heart. My husband has been out of work for a little over a year, and I am working as a special education teacher. This has worked for us. He is so wonderful and takes care of our little girl during the day. In my eyes, he is a hero. No, this is not the life I was expecting when I married...but it is the life God has given me during this season and I am blessed.

Pendragon said...

It seems odd to me to look back with longing for a time when your only options as a woman during times of financial crisis were frugal living and temporary jobs. Even though I have been reading this blog a long time, I still cannot quite see the world through a mind-set that would say it is a bad thing for women to be able to get jobs that pay a competitive wage rather than, say, starve and watch their families starve.

I think I have mentioned on this blog before that my grandmother grew up wondering where her next meal would come from -- because her father got sick and the only way the family could stay afloat was for her mother to take in laundry and sewing jobs that paid just a pittance. Maybe if she could have actually gotten one of the jobs open to men at the time, my grandmother would not have had to suffer as a child (memories, by the way, that still haunt her to this day).

I understand that it can be unpleasant to deal with judgmental people. If you go to work, people criticize you for being a lousy mother. If you don't go to work, people criticize you for being lazy. But it seems that having to put up with other people's crummy attitudes is not nearly the burden of having few options for providing financial respite to one's family.

messy bessy said...

This is quite timely since my husband has been unemployed since August, just having finished a professional degree at a time when the market for that particular career has plummeted.

And it is so hard. So, so hard, to watch him struggling to find ways to meet our obligations, and to not try to direct his search or give him "pointers" or nag about what he's doing etc etc. But despite these troubles I still do firmly believe that he is meant to take care of us financially, and I am to provide the center of the home.

We use our government financial assistance to buy food, and we have been collecting unemployment pay, and let me tell you that if I could find a job tomorrow that would make it so we didn't need to do these things, I doubt I would take it, although surely I'd be tempted.

It isn't that I think women should not have access to careers, as Pendragon above says. After all, I had a career before getting married, and if marriage wasn't God's plan for me, I'd have one still. But what I do think is that the organic unity of the family trumps the easy way, sometimes. A husband's role is love through self-sacrificial providing and protecting. Having the wife take over that role seems to me to be a big mistake, long term, although for short periods it might be necessary (like illness, for example).

It would be great if those of you who believe in the Lord's providence could pray for my husband.

Anonymous said...

Please correct me if I'm wrong, or if I have misunderstood.
Messybessy - you take government assistance? Beyond your husband's unemployment pay? I am all for socialism, but I do believe one should look for a job before getting aid. It is not a woman's perogative to decide to stay home if other people have to pay for it.

And I agree with Pendragon's comments above.

angela said...

I am amazed by your wisdom and honesty and courage. I just want you to know I am a huge fan!

Anonymous said...

I agree with what you have written in part. My question is what do you do with the lazy husbands? The ones whom you have tryed for years to encourage and help get a job? But they seem to be comfortable sitting one the couch collecting unemployment and depending on others for help?
My husband lost his job 3 years ago, I have done his resume, job searched for him, and taken care of the home and kids. He looks on and still expects me to be "the wife". What do you do in that situation? None of my encouraging and helping have done anything that I see, except for make him feel confortable knowing that I will take care of everything.