Agony Aunt for Mums

Problem Corner: When the Mum is supporting the family.

Agony Aunt for MumsSo many people I know have been affected by redundancy like us.

It is now a FACT OF LIFE and something that no one should be ashamed of (easier said than done).

This guest post is from a lovely blogging friend of mine Muddling Mummy.  I’m sure many Mums who are having to work at the moment feel the pressure, especially when they are the only income.  Maybe this is how many Dads feel too?

I’m going to put some ideas to help her out at the bottom, but I would love you to include your tips too or stories to show her that she’s not on her own.

 

Redundancy – 11 months on

This isn’t a post I thought I would ever write – both of us had assumed that, even though the jobs market is super grim, that he would find another job – he had a few leads, people were making positive noises and all in all it didn’t look too bad really

Roll life on another 6 months and it doesn’t look terribly rosy – whilst we can talk a good talk in front of family and friends there isn’t another job on the horizon and we are looking at going into another year with this hanging over us

People are interested in what is happening with him – they say how well he looks, ask after what’s he is up to and worry about how he is coping about this whole thing.  Nobody ever asks me if I am ok, nobody ever notices the pressure that this situation has created for me

We are lucky that I kept on working after the girls arrived – partly because I wanted to carry on with my career, partly because we knew that two of us working in the same, vulnerable industry meant that having two earners gave us flexibility and the chance that we’d have at least one income if things got sticky.   My income is ok, we can manage ok on it but we are seriously considering that I move back to a full time contract – the hard won 80% seems like too great a luxury at this stage and the money would definitely come in handy

I’m also having to face head on that it is my career now that needs to be pushed ahead – I’m having to have difficult conversations about promotion and starting to have to really push onto the career ladder.  I don’t mind, in fact a small part of me relishes the chance, but I do regret that I am being forced into doing something that I am not quite ready for.

Again, nobody has mentioned that they notice that I am working longer and harder and that I am the breadwinner keeping my family together – I feel as if I get zero credit for this and all the stick from not fitting in with the largely stay-at-home mummy group at my daughter’s school.

All of this is made harder by my husband not having really picked up terribly much on the home front.  Following Lisa’s tips for helping to deal with redundancy we spent a few evenings in the first grim week writing down ideas for things he could do in this unexpected break – we have tried to view this time as a sabbatical and a chance for him to spend time doing fun things.  Again I am beginning to feel that whilst he has had an extended period of doing what he wants to, I find myself still picking up a lot of things on the home front and having to work harder – I can feel resentment starting to bubble up and his blank lack of understanding of the small, boring things that make up running a household doesn’t help

I honestly don’t know how to fix things – I feel as if we are on different sides of a widening chasm and I don’t know how to build bridges across – another part of me is upset that it has to be me that notices that things aren’t right and that has to fix this.  That has to fix this on top of everything else.

Who knows how long we could go on like this – the job market looks worse not better than a year ago – I can see a future where I have to embrace being the sole earner, I have to really work at my career and I will be the one supporting the family but I’m not sure I can see a world where my husband changes his spots and starts supporting me emotionally and practically through that.  That expectation gap worries me because I can see it slowly pulling us further apart

I just wish that someone, anyone acknowledged that this is hard for me too and gave me some credit for all I have done and am doing – it sounds selfish, it probably is but the bottom line is I don’t think we can carry on like this and I don’t want to be another statistic of a marriage that failed when a job fell away

 

My Answer

Oh honey I know you were worried that you were being too self-centred.  No of course I don’t think that.  I just think that you are feeling unappreciated and stressed.

I’m so glad that you contacted me, it’s time to do something about this, because the resentment is bad news for your health and relationships.  Sorting it out now before it all goes pear shaped is a good plan.

BUT, because I love you, I’m going to give you some tough love.

You need to stop being so blinking competent!  You need to stop giving the impression that you can handle everything.  I know you talk more honestly on your blog, but I’m less convinced about how ‘honest’ your mask is in real life?

I’m a good example of what happens when you ‘keep on keeping on’ and I promise you, you don’t want my Fibromyalgia as an eye opener to how much you need to take care of yourself more.

I wonder how many men feel like this all the time?

I bet loads of other women are feeling exactly like you at the moment; forced by the recession, debt, bills, divorce or redundancy in their other half to work more than they want to.  You are not alone.

The good news is that we had exactly the same problem with the length of time before a job came along the first time that the Big Hairy Northern One was made redundant.  This time round the search for a new job was a lot quicker, but that was down to a couple of things:

1) Our previous experience of how long it can take, so how important it was to get over the wallowing stage more quickly

2) The Hairy one’s openness to new ideas landing him a fabulous 4 day pw contract that is giving that ‘time out’ option at the same time as providing for the family.

So the ideas I have for you are to help you:

1) Reduce the resentment so that you can talk openly with hubby

2) Get the ball rolling on the job front.

To reduce your resentment:

Is it possible to have romance and kids?

1) Write 50 (that’s FIFTY!) reasons why there is some kind of benefit, silver lining, upside or something you are getting from the fact that you are the only earner and may potentially have to go back to work full-time. (Go deep, each time you find a benefit then ask yourself ‘and because of that I get’ or ‘and that means that’).

2) If you get too excited about working full time, then write 50 downsides to the fact that you are having to work, I want you balanced, not one way or the other.

3) Think long and hard (maybe chat with a mate too) before considering giving up your part-time status.  It will be difficult to get back.  If you are considering a 3rd child I would be very wary to give this up.  Easier to cut back on spends and have a tight budget, than to give this up.  At the same point in time having a career is important to you, and if you decide this is your opportunity to have an ‘excuse’ to go back to work full-time with a focus on your ambition, then go for it.

Chat with hubby:

1) Write a list of the things that you would like help with around the house or with the family.  Facts work with men, so keep it as factual as possible.  Avoid all statements like ‘You have done xxx or You have not done xxx’.

2) Tell hubby that you really need a chat about how things are going and ask him when and where he would like it within the next week.  (Go out for coffee or somewhere else, not at home if possible).

3) Explain that you are overwhelmed, and how you feel.  Not using the word ‘You’ in the conversation, i.e. not loaded at him for putting you in this position, just sharing whats going on with you.

4) The plan is that he listens, and you can then share your list of what he can do to help.

5) Then you guys come up with a plan of action of something that he does every day to progress the job search: contacting people, updating CV’s, thinking out of the box about options etc.

Next Chat with hubby:

Book to then have a weekly chat with him once a week in an evening, to see how things are going, how you are feeling and how he is progressing.

If at this point he doesn’t pull his socks up, then it’s time to get the frying pan out.  No, I’m joking!

But it is time to do an ‘intervention’ and explain to him that he needs to get his act together and get a job.  Sometimes being ‘nice’ doesn’t help people.  Sometimes they need to be told sort their act out.  Even if he is suffering for depression or lack of confidence, that’s understandable, but he needs to DO SOMETHING about it.

After Christmas

If there is no increase in support, and no change in his behaviour, then find a local relationship counsellor (I would pick someone with experience in CBT too and go private rather than wait for Relate).

I am not a fan of counselling, but it has it’s place.  One thing is that it gives a safe place for you guys to talk about how you are both feeling, and the other is that it can help people HEAR things that they don’t hear when their other half says it.  It won’t cost lots, probably only £30-£50 per session.

Tell me and we’ll come up with another plan!

But hopefully you’ll be all sorted and much happier by then!

 

Readers Ideas/Stories

Anyone else with a similar story to share or ideas for MuddlingAlong Mummy, we’d love to hear from you!