Wednesday, August 19, 2009

All dressed-up and no place to go

Kinda like Forrest Gump sitting on this bench, an unemployed adult male is an awkward thing to watch. In the spirit of full disclosure, let me say that I'm not a behavioral scientist, just a recently unemployed male who's speaking from a first-hand, front-row position. I'm sure that there are exceptions but men are wired to be hunter-gatherer-providers. When we're not doing that hunter-gatherer-provider thing (a.k.a. we're unemployed), we're just a fish out of water and it's usually not a pretty sight.

Sure, the first few days are good. We catch-up on things we've been meaning to do around the house or maybe play a round of golf. Secretly, we're wondering what people are thinking:
  • "I wonder why he lost his job?"
  • "Does he expect his wife to support him while he just sits around the house?"
  • "Does he think she's his Sugar Mama?"
  • "How long is she gonna put up with this?"
  • "Is he really looking for a job?"
  • "Is he being prideful or too picky?"
The truth is that when we are not providing for our family, men are unfulfilled. Some men may not realize that this is the source of their frustration but I'm convinced that when we are not fulfilling our God-given responsibilities, we know that something is just not right. I want to be the provider and when I'm not, nothing else can substitute for that.

Early in our marriage, Julia made more money than me. You may want to read an earlier post I wrote about her in which I boasted that I married-up. My first career lasted 20 years and the vast majority of that time I was the principal bread-winner. In my subsequent career, she again outpaced my income. Julia was fully supportive of my career change but I confess that I've never been completely comfortable when Julia brought home more income than me. It's not about the money but rather, it's about what the money represents . . . provision. The people who know me well will testify that I'm not particularly competitive, I just understand my role and responsibilities. I'm not driven to be wealthy but I am driven to be the family provider.

So what does a wife do when her husband becomes unemployed? Shoot . . . how would I know? I've never been the wife of an unemployed guy! Here are my thoughts anyway:
  • Affirm his self-worth
  • Acknowledge that unemployment robs him of at least some of his dignity
  • Encourage but don't nag
  • Pray for him
  • Pray for the right opportunity to present itself and for him to recognize it
  • Help him identify as many of his skills and talents as you can so that he can better see what options may be open to him
  • Encourage him to "cast his net wide"
  • Be patient
Just for the record, my wife has done an exceptional job on each of these. Remember that this is a season in your life and some seasons can be tough but no season lasts forever.

What do you see as the challenges for unemployed men and their families during these challenging economic times?

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