My Unemployed Life: I Felt Emasculated

My name is Shane and I'm unemployed.

I'm one of the millions of people trying to find a job in a stagnant economy. As a former mortgage broker I witnessed first-hand the collapse of the real estate bubble and experienced the anguish of losing my job due to cutbacks.

At age 45, trying to find another job in the housing market was a study in futility and frustration. No one was hiring. Companies were letting people go and not in the mood to take a chance on new hires.

Adding to my anxiety was the fact that my wife, Raven, and I had had our first child a year prior to me losing my job and we now had another little boy on the way.

We considered ourselves lucky. We had no debt. Both cars were paid off and all we had to worry about was our mortgage. Our monthly expenditures were something we could handle on one paycheck. Because Raven works for a major telecommunications company, we had the added luxury of a good medical and dental insurance package.

And yet I couldn't shake the feeling that I had been emasculated.

An unexpected role

All my life I'd been told a man must provide for his family. Suddenly, I wasn't contributing anything to our bank account. Raven was the sole breadwinner. I felt relegated to the role of a 1950s housewife: I was the one getting up and getting our son, Van, ready for his day. I was the one making sure the house was clean and the meals were cooked. I shopped for groceries and ran errands. It felt as if I had fallen right out of the Michael Keaton movie 'Mr. Mom.'

And things only got worse.

I found myself turning into one of those suburban housewives you see in any subdivision. The kind that gives up trying to look like anything other than what she is -- a harried, baggy-shirted, middle-aged parent in pajama pants. The last vestiges of my manhood slipped silently away the day I realized I was the only man pushing a stroller around the neighborhood park.

I started seeing myself as a loser, someone with no worth. My depression sunk so low that I would have had to look up to see the ninth circle of Dante's hell. I thought I would break.

A new outlook

It was then, at the lowest point, that an amazing transformation took place.

I started to enjoy my life. The time I got to spend with my son became a joy. I had feared that I was less than a man because I wasn't the breadwinner, when in fact the opposite was true. This epiphany hit me when I realized my son's favorite TV show was 'Yo Gabba Gabba.' His favorite color is red. He loves bananas and he thinks cats are very funny. These are little tidbits I didn't know about him prior to losing my job.

I now understand what an important and difficult job it is to be a stay-at-home parent. Before my unemployment, I thought being a good father was just bringing home a paycheck. I was so far from the truth.

Being a good father means being there for your son every day and handling the mundane things that help him to grow. Instead of telling him how to be a man, he now gets to see how to be a man. He follows me around the house like a shadow. Whatever I'm doing he wants to do. If I'm working on household repairs, he wants to work on repairs. If I'm doing yard work, he wants to do yard work. If I'm on the computer, he wants to be on the computer.

He makes me laugh every day.

A new understanding

Before my unemployment, all the domestic chores were piled on my wife's plate. I was raised to think that a man went to work and that homemaking was the province of women. Suddenly, I've been forced into the 21st century. I now wonder how I could have been so blind, taking my wife for granted. I have a much bigger appreciation for all that she does and determination to see that I'm a partner and helper to her and not someone who constantly takes.

She has become a happier person since my unemployment. Slowly I am becoming the man my wife and son need. It is an amazing feeling.

There are other unexpected benefits to being unemployed as well. We save over $1,000 a month on child care. Strangers do not raise our children, and I now refuse to judge my life on what I do for a living or how much money I make. Instead, I will judge my life on the boys that I turn into men and then give to the world.

As for the job situation, I have decided on a different career path. No longer will I search for a job that isn't there and one that inspires no real passion. Instead, I've decided to follow a dream. It might lead to somewhere wonderful or to a dead end. I don't care. I'm no longer afraid of failure.

I'm no longer afraid to try.



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Sandra

Shane, you hit it on the nail my friend. When I first chose to be a stay at home parent I felt the exact same way but it took me a lot longer than it took you to have that "epiphany." Being the one that raises his/her own children is truly a priceless gift. To enjoy the company of your child is a fleeting moment in time that you will never get back. I am so happy to hear a man speak so eloquently about his emotions and it may sound cliché-ish but sometimes things happen for a reason. Life sometimes simple wants us to learn something new but it’s up to us to listen.

I am happy to hear that instead of struggling against the tied you're enjoying the ride. There will be moments of regress, wondering if you measure up to what society says is worthy because as you stated, we live in a society that puts too much emphasis on money. When you start to question yourself shake it off while listening to your child's laughter and know that you put that smile there.

We seriously need to change the way we view ourselves as parents and look at what it means to be a good parent. Our kid's happiness does not come on a dollar bill, it comes with the sincere time we offer them. Good for you!!

January 31 2011 at 12:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Robert Stout

Don't look down...Your worst fears will be confirmed...Your wife will gradually tire of having you as a housewife and will begin to abuse you...

January 31 2011 at 5:51 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Robin

Good luck to you Shane! I've made the same conclusions so you're not alone. But somehow I got a job (as do my wife), still we split all household work 50-50. Now this makes me feel like a real man.

January 31 2011 at 5:47 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mary Finn

Shane, don't forget there are things you can do to bring in a small amount of money while you are looking. Consider finding freelance work as a writer on sites like elance.com, constant-content.com or associatedcontent.com. Some internet sites are hiring tutors and you can look on craigslist.com for focus groups, mock juries and other one-off things.

Good luck

January 31 2011 at 2:10 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
blueknine

Here's ONE of the top 2 problems with our Congress ....medical care = having a job. Are they kidding me (& you)????!!!!
Pretty simple, this friggin' government of ours doesn't get it that the two should be mutually exclusive. Since when does getting health care have ANYTHING to do with having to have a job. WHERE'S THE FRIGGIN' PUBLIC OPTION FOR THE THOSE WHO HAVE LOST THEIR JOBS (ESPECIALLY THROUGH NO FAULT OF THEIR OWN). At least those unfortunate folks who got whacked by corporate america would go to sleep each night with not having the added stress of wondering if they will be healthy enough to go out to look for a job.
It's absolutely insane that having a job is an ABSOLUTE prerequisite to having the human RIGHT of being well enough to stay on one's feet. Health care is NOT a privilege despite what this corporate run government thinks. We, as tax payers, must demand some form of BASIC public option care. No, it won't be as lucrative as a corporate sponsored program. But it, at least, would give basic health care. Basic care is usually enough to get one back on their feet until a job (better heath care) is found.
Truly insane how congress and the president allow the public option to fall off the table with so many US citizens (outst the NON-US citizens, get 'em outta the country already) out on the 'streets' (which equates to NO health insurance). It blows my mind how the rediculous but very real equation of: having health care = having a job goes in the toilet and ignored.
Let's wake hope america and take care of those who do want to get back to work (that's 99.9% of those laid off). And I'm one of the lucky ones who was not laid off and continue to have a salary and health bennies. I'm willing to have part of my Fed taxes go forth into a BASIC public option care program for times like these. How about you? Get over it those of you who are lucky enough to be employed. Think about this..tomorrow it could be very easily be you on the unemployment line looking for health benefits. Wouldn't i be good to at least know that your heath is, at least, reasonably not a concern while you look for a job. It seems too obvious.
I feel for you all who lost jobs and more because of, for the most part, corp greed and satisfying the shareholder.

January 31 2011 at 1:53 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
JohnB

Tommy, you start the revolt and let us know where it begins. Does it begin in you padded room? They giving you internet access in the hospitals now? LOL total mental case.

January 30 2011 at 10:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Atlguy

You were a memeber of the group that drove us into the ground -the mortgage industry. Did you ever think about the consequences or only about the commission?

January 30 2011 at 10:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Sid

I got to the third paragraph in this article and stopped reading it. You know... the part about having ANOTHER child AFTER being unemployed. Really?! So it's not bad enough that first of all this guy is 45... Won't find a job in a LONG time in real estate because yea... that's pretty much done for the forseeable future... And THEN brings another child into the world while his is collapsing. STUPID!!! Because NOW in a couple of months his wife isn't going to be working either and unless her company gives her PAID maternal leave they will be SCREWED! This guy deserves what he gets... but the children DON'T! People can't just keep having children and expect that they will be MAGICALLY taken care of. He AND his wife are COMPLETELY irresponsible!

January 30 2011 at 11:48 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
David

Guys, I think this is less about unemployment and more about the effect of unemployment on the author: a return to his family, rediscover his priorities, and how he's trying to make things better.

Yes, there are people who have no incomes. Yes, many people are in worse condition. Yes, he's one of the lucky ones - who also participated in the financial system collapse. And everyone remember two things: 1) anyone who isn't part of the solution (Americans and their personal and country's debt) is part of the problem, and 2) this article is about his silver lining in a great big cloud that has affected all of us.

P.S. I know what it is like to be in his shoes. My job was so demanding (I'm an engineer) that it was ruining my family life. My wife stays home with our kid, so when I lost my job, spent months unemployed living off our savings, my family life.... you guessed it, improved. I became a better husband and father and worked hard to find employment. I found another job - 90 miles away from them and a sizable pay cut - and only see them weekly. But on the whole, everything is still better than it was. And I'm grateful for that.

January 30 2011 at 9:49 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Flora

i make $300 to $400 a week using this program thought i would share with anyone who is interested the URL to this website is moneywitch.com

January 27 2011 at 3:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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