In South Louisiana, we all cringe when we hear the dreaded words “Workforce Reduction Plan” and “Lay-offs.” It is not the news you expect to receive at 8AM on a Tuesday morning via a phone call from your spouse. I know because I have been on the receiving end of two such phone calls. You see, my husband has had the bad luck of working for two Fortune 500 companies that have had huge financial setbacks and resorted to lay-offs.
Most of us know someone who has been laid off – especially in the oil and gas industry. Layoffs can be especially hard on men – they equate their self-worth with their ability to provide for their families. When they are laid off and little or no severance is given, benefits are voided right away and there aren’t a lot of job prospects on the horizon, it can lead to decreased self-esteem, depression and strained relationships with family and friends.
And while my husband jokes that he dreams of the day I am in a position that allows me to solely provide for our family, so he can be a stay-at-home trophy husband, I’m confident he needs a job to keep him occupied and happy. After going through this twice in the last five years, I want to share what I have learned in hopes that these tips can help you should you ever find yourself in our shoes.
Adjusting Your Budget
The first conversation that needs to occur between you and your spouse after a lay-off should be about family finances. Look at your budget and decide together what you will cut from your budget and when. Is the gym membership necessary three to six months down the road when there are still limited job prospects and no interviews scheduled? If you aren’t already, get on the same page about what to spend on and how you can continue saving money during this period. This is never an easy conversation but it is an important one.
I realized early on that my spouse still needed something to do during the day when I was at work and our child was in daycare. After the first few days of him being at home, I began leaving a list of tasks that needed to be done around the house. If I didn’t have time to make a list, I would text him a list. I deemed certain days during the week his day to pick up and care for our child so that I could attend late meetings in person or run errands. I even loaned my husband out. He has pressure washed my parents’ home, helped friends out with work on their property, assisted with food prep for a local soup kitchen and spent the day working with my dad at the deer camp. This gives him a purpose and gets him out of the house for a few hours.
Keep a Schedule
It is so important that your spouse stick to a schedule. While your spouse may need a couple of days to decompress and mope around the house, it isn’t good for anyone to continue a pity party for a prolonged period of time. Our schedule means waking up around the same time each day, helping with morning routines and taking care of honey do’s during the day. Staying in bed, sleeping at odd hours (or not sleeping at all) and staying up late watching movies or mindlessly scrolling through social media isn’t helping anyone. Consistency is key. Sticking to a schedule, along with To Do’s each day helps to keep busy and makes your spouse feel needed.
Reconnect As A Couple and A Family
While a lay off can be stressful on everyone involved and can throw your daily routine into complete chaos, continue to be supportive and positive about your spouse’s future endeavors. Know that this is temporary and don’t take the extra time they have for you and your family for granted. Let him plan a fun day for the family. Take trips to the park or walks through the neighborhood together. Your spouse will need to lean on you. Show him that you can be strong for the both of you.
Work on Yourself
We are all works in progress. Take this time to make sure your spouse’s resume is up to date. It is worth the time and money to work with a resume writer or job coach on updates. A great resume can set them apart from other applicants. Encourage your spouse to sign up for job posting alerts on job sites if they haven’t already. Get the word out that your spouse is looking for a job. You never know what recommendations friends, family and social media acquaintances may be able to give. Encourage them to read articles and books related to their profession. Recommend they watch motivational or industry-related TED talks on YouTube. Doing this can give them (and you) a refreshing outlook on your current situation and the position you want your spouse and your family to be in.
Most importantly, know that no matter your spouse’s job status, your family, friends, and community are rooting for you and your family. Keep your head up and know that everything will be alright.
Update: My husband went on a few job interviews in late March and early April. He received a job offer 1 week after his last interview. He accepted and starts his new position in May.