Applauding Moms Who “Can’t Afford to Work”

CNN Money recently ran an article entitled ‘Moms:  I can’t afford to work.’ http://money.cnn.com/2012/04/18/pf/moms-work/index.htm?iid=SF_PF_Highlight  The story explains that after subtracting child care and all the other normal expenses associated with working, many moms are finding that it doesn’t pay for them to work. This is true even among college-educated mothers making above average salaries.

Several women were interviewed for the article.  One woman, Sunah Hwang, calculated that after paying child care expenses, she would bring home $18,000 and in her words, “It wasn’t worth $18,000 for us to let somebody else raise our son.”  I applaud Ms. Hwang and other mothers like her who are making the choice to give up some extra family income to stay home and raise their children. Ms. Hwang explained that the family has made some sacrifices, including family vacations, to get by on one income. It’s not easy, but they are making it work. 

I was blessed to be able to stay home with my children when they were young and to work part-time in their schools when they were school-aged.  Giving up my job to stay home with my children was a sacrifice I was happy to make, despite the years I had spent in college and graduate school.  And in some ways the sacrifices continue even today.  After being out of the job market for many years, I don’t have as much work experience as most women my age.  I don’t make the salary I would be making if I had been working continuously for the past 30 years.  However, I would not trade a higher salary, a more impressive job title, or all the material possessions in the world for the time I spent at home with my children.

Since I was at home full-time, I was able to take care of many of the family chores while Steve worked.  This allowed him to spend more time with the boys in the evenings.  Steve protected his weekends and evenings to have as much time as possible with our sons.  We will reap those benefits for the rest of our lives.  Our sons have been raised with our Christian beliefs and strong family values.  We have a close relationship with each of them and enjoy spending as much time we can with them.  They, in turn, are devoted to their families and are committed to making the sacrifices to allow their wives to stay home with our grandchildren.

I would encourage parents to consider the joys and blessings of having one parent committed to raising the children, even if it makes sense financially for both to work.  You will give up some income if one of you quits your job, but the benefits you gain will more than make up for it.

Blessings Through Tears

Laura Story’s song Blessings is the song which I most identify with at this time.  Our family, like most families I know, has endured some very difficult situations in the past few years, but in the midst of the difficult times we have felt God’s presence every step of the way.   His strong arms have carried us through unemployment, bereavement, and uncertainty.  We have absolute assurity that our God is in control of our lives and our future.  Athough we would never pray for God to bring difficult circumstances our way, we recognize that He uses those circumstances to reveal to us our need for Him and to help us grow in our faith.  Life on Earth will be challenging some days–many days–but as the song says, “This is not our home.” 

 

Blessings

We pray for blessings
We pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
All the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

We pray for wisdom
Your voice to hear
And we cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt Your goodness, we doubt Your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough
All the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we’d have faith to believe

‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
And what if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not, this is not our home
It’s not our home

‘Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
And what if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise

 

 

Rehired: 6 Tips for Getting Your Old Job Back

Millions of laid-off workers are still unemployed and would like nothing better than for their former employers to call and offer them their old jobs back.  This is the situation my husband has been in for most of the last three years. 

After sending out countless resumes and going on a few interviews, he was still unemployed. We’d examined many options for a second career for him.  We kept coming up empty. The bottom line was, he liked his former job and he was good at it. His preferred option was for his former employer to re-hire him, even if it was only part-time or if it involved a pay cut.

Three weeks ago he got the call he had been hoping and praying for.  His former company has some projects right now that they need his help on.  There is no guarantee that they’ll still need him in a few months, but for now, we are grateful that he has work.

Steve took care when he was laid-off to maintain his work relationships and not burn his bridges. I am sharing the following tips from my observations of my husband’s journey back to re-employment in the hopes that they may help someone who is in the midst of the difficult situation Steve was in.

1) Understand your employer is having a difficult time too.  You company is laying off workers in an effort to save their company.  Your employer did not cause the current economic crisis.  The company is a victim just as much as you are.

2) Be grateful for the opportunities your former employer gave you while you worked there.  Speak positively of your former employer at job interviews. Even if you never want to work for your former company again, you may need a reference from your old boss.  Also, companies that are hiring are looking for employees with positive attitudes.

3) Keep in touch.  Drop by or call from time to time. Let your former boss know you are still looking for work.  A door may open for you to go back to work at your old job, or your former boss may know someone who is hiring.  Steve occasionally went out to lunch with his former boss and the few employees who had been retained.  He wasn’t a stranger and they didn’t forget about him.

4) Don’t hold a grudge.  When Steve’s boss called to let him know his help was needed, Steve was glad to go back.  Steve was never angry with the employees who were not laid off.  He was grateful that they kept their jobs.  When there was some work for Steve to do, his former co-workers were happy to have him re-hired.

5) Volunteer to help out without the expectation of pay.  While unemployed, Steve offered to help his former employer put together a few job proposals with the understanding that Steve would be hired to do the work if they got the jobs. Unfortunately the company did not get most of those jobs and Steve did not get paid for his time.  However, working on the proposals kept Steve’s job skills sharp and earned him his employer’s gratitude. When a job did come through, Steve was called back to work.

6) Give a little.  Steve offered to work for 5% less than his previous rate and without benefits.  That made it easier for his employer to afford to hire him back. Taking a pay cut might not be easy, but it is a whole lot better than receiving no paycheck.

Have you been rehired after being laid off?  Please share any additional tips you have that might help others to regain their former jobs.

Long-term Unemployment: Lessons Learned from King David

As Steve and I continue on this nearly three-year journey of unemployment, I lean on lessons learned from the trials and tribulations of David as he awaited the fulfillment of God’s promise that he would reign over Judah.

As a boy, David was anointed by Samuel to succeed Saul as the king of Judah.  David was a full grown man with wives and children when he ascended to the throne.  Quite a few years passed between the promise of kingship and the fulfilment of that promise.  

The years of waiting were comprised of great victories and great hardships.  David faced and killed the giant Goliath and was appointed a commander in Saul’s army. He led the army in many battles with tremendous success.  Yet, Saul became increasingly jealous of David and sought to kill him.  David was forced to hide in caves and live the life of a fugitive for many years.  Still, he continued to believe God.  He could look forward to the day when this difficult phase of his life would end and he would return from exile to rule over his nation.

It is easy for me to get discouraged about the state of our economy and the lack of job prospects for Steve.  Two years and nine months is a long time to be unemployed and there is no end in sight.  In these moments, I reflect on the trials that David went through and the place he arrived at when the trials were over.

1) David’s troubles were not of his own making.  David did not seek to become the king of Judah.  He served King Saul and honored him.  Yet, he found himself running from Saul.  Likewise, Steve’s unemployment is not the result of any action or decision on his part.  He is a victim of a poor economy and bad decisions made by others.

2) David had victories in the midst of his hardships. While a fugitive, David continued to lead an army and had great success.    Despite the loss of the majority of our income, we have learned to be wiser with our money and have been victorious over credit card debt.

3) God’s hand of blessing was on David during this time.  God supplied David with food and shelter, and David married two of his wives and fathered several children during this time.  God continues to bless our family, as well. Our family has grown in the last three years, with the addition of a daughter-in-law and our first grandchild; a second grandchild is on the way.

4) David became discouraged at times.  In spite of David’s close walk with the Lord, he was human.  He grew weary of the struggle and faced discouragement.  David poured out his frustrations in psalms.  In Psalm 55, David wrote, “My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught at the voice of the enemy for they bring down suffering upon me and revile me in their anger.  My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death assail me.  Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me.” (verses 2 – 4)  We know that we will have moments of discouragement.  In those moments, we need to take our eyes off our problems and focus our attention on God and the blessings He has bestowed on us.

5)  David trusted God.  The same man who cried out in despair also wrote, “I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever.  I will praise you forever for what you have done; in your name will I hope, for your name is good.” (Psalm 52: 8, 9)  Our hope is in God.  Our lives are in His hands, and our trust is in Him, for He is good.

6) David’s troubles did not last forever.  Although David was a fugitive from Saul for years, there came a day when Saul died and David was crowned King of Judah.  David knew that God had promised him the kingdom and he looked forward to the day that God would fulfill that promise.  God has a plan for our lives.  Jeremiah 29:11 tells us, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Steve and I are at peace knowing that God has a wonderful plan for our lives.  Even in the midst of this trial, we can see His hand of blessing and His plans being fulfilled.

If you are in the midst of a trial that seems like it will never end, please know that God has a wonderful plan for you.  He will never leave you nor forsake you.  Suffering and trials are part of God’s plan to help us focus on the important issues in life and to learn to depend on Him fully.  I pray that you will turn to God in your moments of despair and allow Him to fulfill his purposes for you.

Rebuttal to “10 Things HR Won’t Tell You About Your Resume”

A few days ago AOL posted an article entitled “10 Things HR Won’t Tell You about Your Resume.”  The article was condensed from a Reader’s Digest article (April 2011).  In it the following quote was attributed to former HR executive Cynthia Shapiro, “Once you’re unemployed more than six months, you’re considered pretty much unemployable. We assume that other people have already passed you over, so we don’t want anything to do with you.”  http://jobs.aol.com/articles/2011/04/05/10-things-hr-wont-tell-you-about-your-resume/

As the spouse of one of the 6.5 million long-term unemployed persons in America today, I was appalled.  Our nation is in the midst of one of the worst recessions we have ever faced.  Employment figures for March showed that 13.5 million Americans, or 8.8% of the work force, are currently unemployed.   They comprise individuals from all age groups, races, and socioeconomic classes. 

I would wager that most of these 13.5 million individuals are jobless through no fault of their own.  Many, like my husband, are highly educated.  Others got their training on the job.  Most of them worked hard and did their jobs well until the economy collapsed.  Some of them may have been passed over by potential employers, but many haven’t gotten jobs because there simply aren’t jobs in their fields at the moment.

 Haven’t Reader’s Digest and AOL heard that you don’t hit a man when he’s down?  13.5 million Americans are down on their luck now.  They don’t need HR experts to make them feel worse than they already do.  How about giving them a bit of encouragement?  Tips on how to stay busy and feel relevant while unemployed would have been much more helpful.

 I’m not an HR expert, but I have some tips that I’d like to share.

  1. Volunteer.  Volunteering will get you out of the house and interacting with people. You’ll be helping others and, in return, your self-esteem will get a boost. 
  2. Take a class.  Keep up with the latest advances in your field.
  3. Indulge your passion.  Most of us have leisure time activities we haven’t indulged in years because we’ve been too busy with work and life.  Unemployment has given you free time—take advantage of it to have some fun.
  4. Keep up with the news.  You need to stay in touch with what’s happening in our nation and the world.
  5. Get active in politics. Research political candidates whose ideas align with your own and support them, particularly those who might have good ideas for improving the economy and ending the recession.  If you can’t give financially, you can help out in many other ways.
  6. Catch up with family and old friends.  Write letters, email, or call.  You can’t use the excuse that you don’t have the time. 
  7. Cross some projects off your honey-do list.  We all have tasks we’ve been meaning to do sometime.  You’ve got the time; you might as well get busy.
  8. Experiment with new recipes.  One of the true blessings of having my husband out-of-work is that dinner is ready when I come home.

I’m praying that the economy improves soon and that Americans who want to work will find jobs.  In the meantime, I hope these tips help those of you who are out of work tostay busy and feel appreciated.

Do you have tips would you like to share?

Letting Life Get Me Down

I’ve been a bit bummed lately.  After spending more than $1,000 on a root canal and crown in an attempt to save one of my teeth, I had to have it pulled yesterday.  So, now I have a hole where I should have a tooth.  It will have to heal for several months before I can begin the process of having an implant put it.  I don’t completely understand the procedures involved; I only know that it will be about a year before it is complete.  And, it will cost me another $1,000 or maybe more, and probably some discomfort.

I will be glad when the hole in my gum heals and I can eat normally again.  Hopefully, this is the end of the pain and infection I have battled for the past two months.  It’s been a real pain.  I’m ready to be off antibiotics and pain pills.

I know it’s not the end of the world.  It’s just something I’m going through, and millions of people have had similar experiences.  A friend shared that she is missing a couple of teeth because she didn’t have dental insurance and couldn’t afford root canals when those teeth needed them, so she had to have them pulled.  Ouch! I felt guilty for whining about my situation. I’m fortunate to have great dental insurance and to be able to pay to have the tooth fixed properly. 

Francesca Battistelli has a new song on the radio called This is the Stuff.  It’s all about how the little things in life get you down. The first verse and chorus are:

  I lost my keys
In the great unknown
And call me please
‘Cause I can’t find my phone 

This is the stuff that drives me crazy.
This is the stuff that’s getting to me lately.
In the middle of my little mess
I forget how big I’m blessed

This is the stuff that gets under my skin
But I’ve got to trust You know exactly what You’re doing
It might not be what I might choose
But this is the stuff you use

 

 

Lately, I have related well with this song.  It seems we take one step forward only to slip two steps back.  Of course, an infected tooth is a much bigger deal than lost car keys, but compared to the problems faced by many people, it’s pretty minor.  The gum will heal, and the implant procedure will be completed in time. 

Life is full of problems, both large and small.  It’s easy to get so bogged down by our problems that they become our focus.  God allows difficulties in our life to show us our need for Him.  When problems come, we need to keep our focus on God and rely on Him to see us through.  Tomorrow is Sunday.  I look forward to worshipping with others in my church.  It is exactly what I need to get my focus back where it should be—on my Creator.

Two Years of Unemployment and Counting

January 5, 2009.  My first day back at work after the Christmas holidays. Steve’s  first day of unemployment.

My husband, Steve, an engineer, worked for a small, family-owned firm. Work had been slow throughout the fall, and the boss had toyed with the idea of cutting hours, but had put off that decision until after the holidays.  Steve went back to work fully prepared to have his hours cut.  Upon arrival, however, he and most of the staff learned that their jobs had been cut.

Steve called me shortly after 10 to give me the news.  He had packed up his belongings already and was back at home.  Fortunately, my job was still secure.  Unfortunately, my job accounted for only 30% of our family’s income.  At that moment, as shaken as I was by the news, I felt a strong sense of peace. My foundation was firm.  God is my fortress; in Him I trust. 

I took off the next day and provided moral support as Steve applied for unemployment and began a job search that held little hope of success.  We took immediate steps to cuts our expenses.  In God’s providence, we were about to become empty nesters.  During the previous four years, we had helped to put our three sons through college, but we had just made the final college tuition payment for our one son still in college.  With careful spending, we could survive on my salary and Steve’s unemployment.  Money has been tight at times, but we have never lacked for anything we needed. 

Steve’s unemployment benefits ended a few months ago.   But by the grace of God, we have been able to not only pay all our bills, but have also managed to save some money. We know that we have it much easier than many other families who have been affected by long-term unemployment, and we are truly thankful.  But, some days I despair that Steve may never have a job again.  That’s not to say that I don’t benefit from his being home. Steve has taken over an ever-increasing share of the household chores.  I look forward to coming home from work and being able to relax knowing that dinner is cooked, the shopping has been done, and clean clothes are hanging in the closet.  After years of taking care of my family, it’s nice to be taken care of.  I will miss these things when he finally does go back to work.

I read yesterday that unemployment benefits are running out before Christmas for 2 million Americans.  My heart goes out to them, and I will remember them in my prayers.

We’re approaching the end of two years of Steve being unemployed, with no end in sight.  Yet, every day we are reminded of God’s faithfulness.   In many ways, this period of long-term unemployment of our family’s major breadwinner has been a blessing.  It has reaffirmed that our faith is not in our government, the economy, or earthly systems.  Our faith is firmly rooted in God.  It has opened our eyes to how much we have and how little we truly need.  When Steve goes back to work, we will have a better balance in the management of our household and our money.  After all, everything we have is a gift from God.  We want to do our best to honor Him by being the best stewards we can of all that He has given us.