For the last three years or so, my husband and I have had a running "joke" every time he calls me from work. I always say, "What? Did you get fired?" Maybe it was our way of making light of (and dealing with) the fact that on any given day, it could really come true. We would frequently have conversations revolving around the likelihood of his being given the proverbial ax and what he thought his chances were each week. I always knew we were teetering on the edge of being a one income family, my income. So, when he called last Monday afternoon to say that he was on his way home a little earlier than usual, of course I asked, "Did you get fired today?" His answer..."Well, they're calling it a layoff, not a firing."
BAM! The ax just fell.
There were no dramatic tears or pacing the floor or cries over the horror of it all. I simply said, "Well, hurry home so that you can change your clothes before taking H to gymnastics practice." And that was it. He unceremoniously joined the Between Jobs Club.
My husband has been gainfully employed since he graduated from college in 1989. (That was one of my pre-nuptial requirements - a steady paycheck.) Never once in those twenty-three years has he been without a job. I know, I know... he's lucky. We're both lucky that we've never had to sweat over how we're going to pay our bills or provide for our kids. I realize now what a gift it has been that we weathered the economic hard times with our heads above the water.
The last week has been a firestorm of emotions. In the beginning, I was almost relieved. It happened. Fine. Move on to something new. There are millions of people who are waking up each day without a job. Our situation isn't special...except it is to me. MY family is the one who has to cut corners until something new comes along. MY family is the one who is holding off on any and all spending until further notice. MY family is the one who is now a statistic, a scary, this-isn't-happening-to-us statistic.
Even though "optimistic" and "hopeful" have never been words that anyone would use to describe me, I thought I would take a few minutes to explore the positive aspects of being unemployed. Mainly because if I didn't laugh at our predicament, I just might cry. So, here goes...
1. I finally have a valid argument for getting rid of cable. Do we really need RFDTV? Is it the end of the world if we don't have seven different versions of ESPN, HBO and Cinemax? What do I hate more than having twelve hundred channels that keep my family glued to the television? Having twelve hundred channels and not a dang thing worth watching on any of them.
2. We get to live like we're in college again. Ah, the golden days of ramen noodles, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, and those giant bags of cereal that weigh seven pounds but only cost a buck fifty. Heck, I even remember the time we drank swill beer out of soot-covered cans because they were free from a bar that burned to the ground. We sure knew how to stretch a dollar back then.
3. NO CARPOOL LINE FOR ME. Okay, folks, this is huge. If you hang out with me on Facebook, then you know that the afternoon school pick-up line is the bane of my daily existence. My husband now gets to enjoy thirty minutes trapped in a car as the mom in front of him leans out of her door every sixty seconds or so to spit her tobacco juice onto the pavement. I will not miss those Dads cranking "Feel Like Makin' Love" from their car stereos while I try to avoid eye contact with the PTO ladies in line beside me. I just hope there isn't another Mom laughing at my husband because he's fist pumping every time he gets a strike playing the Ten Pin bowling game on his phone.
4. I will not be doing laundry or emptying the dishwasher until further notice. Period.
5. My kids get to hang out with my husband. They're riding bikes. They're going for walks. They're playing in the mild, winter sunshine in the middle of a February afternoon. Yes, he needs a job, you know, ummm...NOW, but my second grader said to me this week, "I really like having Daddy home." He won't be out of work forever (PLEASE don't let it be forever), but they are enjoying living in this moment with him while it lasts.
We're going to be fine. What else is there to be? There is no giving up or throwing in the towel. Whatever comes our way, we'll deal with it and make it our own. (I have lots of experience with that.) It may not be in the house we live in now or the town that I have called home for forty-three years, but I've come to realize that money isn't what matters to me any more. I'm just looking for peace and happiness, and you can find that anywhere. It won't even cost you a penny.