Two weeks ago, I kept our six-year-old son home from school because he was running a fever. While I snuggled on the couch watching Muppets in Space with him and his three-year-old sister I couldn’t imagine life being any better.
Sure, there had been many days when I regretted being a stay-at-home mom, but I felt that after three years of trying to figure out my new role in life I finally had it right. I’d come to terms with the fact that some days I’d be unhappy, that my house wouldn’t be clean all the time and that I’d have to handle many of the home repairs myself.
But that afternoon my husband came out of his home office after a conference call with his Winnipeg-based supervisors and told me that his employer was eliminating his position effective April 26. Like many Canadian businesses, the downturn in the economy has affected their sales and my husband isn’t the only person being laid off. And now, like many Canadians, the breadwinner in our family is jobless.
And just like that, our world was turned upside down.
When we moved from The Prairies three years ago to my small hometown in Ontario’s cottage country, we often joked that if my husband lost his job we would bag groceries to make ends meet. But in a small town that survives on seasonal tourism, even grocery bagging jobs are hard to come by. With a skill set honed over the years in a specialized field in a large city, my husband is overqualified for many of the jobs that are listed — with the exception of a mushroom-picking job that would require him to learn Spanish, and the handful of expressions he picked up from years of watching Dora and Diego just won’t cut it.
The jobs he’s most qualified for are in big city centres hours away from where we live and would require moving our family again — something we’re not eager to do yet. While I haven’t been out of the workforce that long, the thought of interviews and resumes fill me with dread — not to mention investing in clothes other than jeans and race t-shirts isn’t an expense we can afford right now. And how can I forget the panic of finding the right daycare for our children? Or the stress of trying to find ways to reduce expenses in our already frugal lifestyle? To be honest, it’s not potentially losing our home that I’m most worried about, but not being able to afford fresh fruits and vegetables (I’m projecting — we’re not that broke yet).
We haven’t talked to our children about my husband losing his job because, so far, our lives haven’t changed. I’m sure they’ve picked up on our anxiety, mostly due to sleeplessness because we are both up all night scouring the job boards online. We haven’t ruled any job or business opportunity out, except for maybe home daycare because we’re pretty sure a tiny cabin perched on a waterfront rock face, surrounded by poison ivy and frequented by bears doesn’t instill confidence in the parents who would trust us with their children.
But, despite looming joblessness, we’ve kept a mostly positive attitude and a sense of humour. We realize we are fortunate to have our health and the health of our children — both worth more than all the money in the world.