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Spaghetti boiled over and the steam scorched my hand. My children fought over a cheap restaurant toy while the cat meowed for attention. I glared at my son as he lectured me about kitchen safety, then I shooed the kids into the living room, and glanced at the clock. "6:30! She's late again!" An unemployed husband's work is never done.
There was a time I lived in paradise. I had my own luxurious office cubicle, steaming coffee, and a lightning fast Internet connection. My company was living high off the high-tech hog. I was the manly, primary wage earner while my wife, Paula, stayed at home and reared our children. We were living the "perfect" American, Leave-it-to-Beaver dream.
In 2001, I was laid off along with a couple million of my closest friends. After I recovered from the shock, I sprung into action. I scoured want ads, networked with acquaintances, and pounded the pavement until my feet ached.
And I had nothing to show for it. No job, no offers, no office cubicle.
Paula watched me struggle. "Don't worry, Kevin. You'll get another job," she reassured me.
I laughed. "Of course I will! Don't worry about me, Honey. I'll be out of your hair before you know it!"
In the meantime, a friend offered Paula a job at a local preschool. She didn't even type up a résumé! This job just fell into her lap while I'd been banging my head against the wall.
After we discussed it, Paula took the job while I stayed home and continued to look. Eventually, I found temporary work.
When the director of the preschool quit, Paula was promoted, which meant her job became more demanding. Soon she had to take college classes for state licensing purposes. She faced pressures at work while I felt pressure to find a permanent job and satisfy my male ego.
I never believed a layoff would happen to me. Yet experts say the average employee will change careers seven times in his or her working life. The fallout from the technology bust and September 11, 2001, continue to affect the economy.
It took me a year working at my temporary job to learn some important things about how to handle those clinchers that life throws you. And when Paula and I learned how to cope with them, we were able to keep our marriage intact and our sanity in check. Here's some help in case a pink slip ever comes your way.
Let your spouse cry. It's okay! When I was laid off, I didn't want my wife to weep. Sure, I'd worked for the same company for ten years. Sure, our world had turned upside down. Sure, I was going to be home a lot, but was that any reason to cry?
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