You may recall, I wrote about being a working mom and the questions people often have for me. Since being laid off in June, I've once again noticed a strange phenomenon happening when people first hear that I am temporarily without work.
The world turns black and white. I am suddenly wearing a polka dot cotton house dress and pearls, my hair perfectly coiffed. And my neighbor/grocer/nurse at the doctor's office/whoever is before me bats his or her eyes upon hearing I am unemployed and says "Well golly, that's terrific!"
That's right, we've traveled back in time.
I know that we have entered a time warp because, after sharing I have been laid off, the first sentences from conversationalists after "I'm sorry" have been:
"That's so great that you get to spend more time with your kids."
"I suppose you'll be staying home with your kids now, huh?"
"What a wonderful opportunity to watch your kids grow up."
"Now you can be a full-time mom!"
Then there's the awkward part of the conversation where I mumble the words severance, daycare, finances, looking-for-a-new-position....
And here's the reality...will you join me in 2015 again?
How awkward would it be if my husband were laid off and he got those same comments? When a father is laid off, do we assume he is going to become a stay-at-home dad? No, we assume he will make job-searching his new full-time job.
And so it is with me, a mother looking for work:
I have continued to send my kids to daycare to maintain consistency in their schedule and to give me ample time to find a new job. If they are home, I have about one hour per day to look. (Job searching should take about 30-40 hours per week.) Being laid off has given me more time with my kids. In an I-feel-guilty-that-I'm-not-looking-for-a-job-on-a-weekday, what-if-I'm-missing-job-postings, my-patience-is-short-because-I'm-so-stressed-out kind of way. And those opportunities have come up because daycare was closed, not because I have created them.
On those days, I am staying home with my kids. However, sudden and unexpected unemployment was not the "opportunity" my husband and I were looking for in order for me to be a stay-at-home mom. Being laid off did not cause us to look at our finances for the first time and say, "What have we been doing? We can TOTALLY afford to live off of Gerrit's income! I can't believe we never knew!" You may have guessed that being unemployed can come with a lot of financial questions....even if *gasp* you're a woman!
Finally, the other working-outside-the-home moms and I have ALWAYS been full-time moms and we ARE watching our kids grow up...too fast. Just like our stay-at-home mom companions. While we're on that, can we ban the term "full-time mom?" It's hurtful.
And so dear friends, let us learn together. When you feel yourself about to pull a phrase from your 1947 edition of "A Guide to Comforting Friends," just pause. Take a breath. And simply say, "I'm so sorry. That really sucks." I might even recommend, for my God-fearing friends, to leave out the phrase, "I'll pray for you." Instead, go home and pray. And AFTER you have prayed, tell your friend, "I prayed for you today." No empty promises, but instead a reminder of a faithful Friend (not you, silly. You're so vain. God is our Friend.)
There ya have it. No assumptions of current life situations. No time-warping. No empty promises. Easy-peasy.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go put on my pumps and make a pot roast.