Focus on the Family

Confronting Unemployment

by Jay MacInnes

For many, identity and occupation are linked. Our self-image is often formed by our career accomplishments and how those affect our family's perception of us. It's no wonder, then, that a career change can throw every aspect of life into a tailspin.

Initially, it's exciting to land that dream job or receive a promotion, with a larger paycheck to boot. The new position may afford a nicer house — and maybe a few more luxuries. But how long will the excitement last? Even positive change can be stressful. Will you have to work more hours or weekends? Will you have a long commute? Can you live up to the boss's expectations?

And if that new job is in a new city, you're in for even more stress. Relocation challenges the entire family, particularly where school-aged children are concerned. Leaving friends behind can extend the turmoil.

Unwelcome or unexpected career changes can be even worse. Companies fold and people are fired. In some cases, a working environment becomes so unbearable that resignation seems to be the only option. Depression, fear and anxiety are all common feelings during times like these. You may wonder how your family will pay the bills. Will your spouse have to take another job? How can you regain your self-confidence?

The average American will change careers five to seven times before retirement. That means a lot of upheaval. No matter how many times you change jobs, you never seem to get used to the stress of adjusting.

Keeping the lines of communication open with your family and including everyone in the decisions can ease the transition, providing a sense of security for the changes ahead.

Coping When Your Spouse is Unemployed

Here's how to safeguard your marriage and family relationships when a spouse loses his job.

by Roberta Rand Caponey
The loss of a job can put the vow "for better or for worse" to the test.

Unemployment rates high on the list, along with death and divorce, as one of life's top stress-inducing events. Fortunately, there are plenty of resources and guidance for those coping with their own unemployment. But what about the rest of the family? Unemployment impacts spouses and children, too.

Joe's wife JoAnn says she feels a combination of sympathy and anger towards her jobless husband.

"I don't know what to say to him when I come home from my own job and he's obviously had another rough day of dead-end leads. The house is a mess and he's lying on the couch in his underwear," she explains. "I know he's had a rough day, but can't he make himself useful while he's waiting for callbacks?"

A Delicate Balance

Unemployment places strain on a marital relationship for obvious reasons. Aside from the financial burden unemployment places on a household, a spouse who continues to work faces his or her own issues in dealing with a displaced, depressed family breadwinner. A wife whose "secondary" job is now a couple's only source of income may suddenly shoulder the burden of paying the bills. Not only that, but she must also play the role of counselor and cheerleader to a traumatized, demoralized husband.

A woman in this situation walks a fine line between compassionate helpmate and tough-talking coach. If you happen to have a "caretaker" personality, you may have to watch a tendency to give your spouse unspoken permission to stay stuck in self-pity and inaction. Push too hard and you risk coming off as cold and uncaring.

Anticipate What's Coming

As soon as possible after a job loss, you and your husband should sit down together and strategize not only the job hunt, but ways you can head off (or at least minimize) conflicts that come with unemployment stress.

The days ahead aren't going to be easy. Put your heads together to come up with a "plan of attack" — because that's exactly what you'll need to handle the pressures that can undermine a marriage in these tough circumstances.

Marriage and Family Survival Plan

Your spouse is facing a tough time, but you are, too. Pray to God for the energy, compassion, patience and insight to get you through this challenging season. And remember: like all the seasons that make up a life, this too shall pass!

Abiding Unemployment

What do you do between the last job and the next?

by Donna Partow

Unemployment doesn't just affect individuals; it can devastate entire families, too. Throughout America, an estimated 9 million people languish on the unemployment rolls. Their families suffer the financial and emotional consequences as the job search drags on for months — even years. …What can you do if unemployment knocks at your door? We've found that although the stress of unemployment has remained, these four things have helped our family. Perhaps they will help you, too.

  1. Take the opportunity to reflect and reassess. One positive outcome of Cameron's unemployment was his participation in a Christian career development program that helped him assess his God ordained gifts. We're convinced he'll be a more effective employee when he does land a job.

    We've also re evaluated our family priorities and set new goals together. A closer look at what it takes to run our household deepened my husband's appreciation for me. And serving as the primary breadwinner opened my eyes to the pressures he faces.

    My husband now recognizes the wisdom of having a home based business on the side. The next time he finds himself out of a job (unfortunately, statistics predict there will be a next time), he'll have something to fall back on. Eventually, we'd like to work together.

  2. Handle your children with care. Initially, we encouraged Leah to pray daily that Daddy would find a job. We removed the item from her prayer list after she pleaded earnestly with God to help her find a job "to take care of our family."

    Then a close friend pointed out that whenever Leah requested something, I would respond, "When Daddy gets a job." Now, I give her a yes or no answer.

    We've learned not to put life on hold. Rather, we're learning to live more simply. For example, I used to promise Leah that we would go to McDonald's "when Daddy gets a job." Now, we go all the time — but we eat at home first and order only a 59 cent ice cream cone. We can have just as much fun for less money. A little creativity can keep life normal for your children.

  3. Stay involved. Unemployment breeds isolation. Suddenly, you don't have any co workers, fellow carpoolers or lunch mates. Some formerly unemployed people avoid you because you bring back unpleasant memories; others fear it may be contagious. You should resist the temptation, however, to withdraw, even though socializing is awkward.

    I remember one social situation given entirely to Cameron's job hunt. Although everyone meant well, we were embarrassed to hear such comments as "Did you try this?" or "When I was in that situation, this is what worked for me." We felt as though we had tried it all — and it wasn't working.

    We are most encouraged by friends who understand our need to occasionally talk about our struggles, but who also know we are interested in other topics.

    Of course it's often tempting to just sit home, but it's just as important to have some fun with your family. With a little investigation, we've found free or inexpensive activities at church and in our neighborhood.

  4. Keep things in perspective. One day when I was feeling particularly low, I received news that a friend's son had just died in a roller blading accident. That call certainly put things in perspective for me.

    As we look around, we see far greater hardships than the loss of a job. When I focus on our blessings, I realize how much we have to be grateful for.

    Although God hasn't delivered everything my family wants, He truly has provided for our needs. On many days, that thought keeps us going.

Reaching Out to Your Unemployed Friend

When You Lose Your Job

Believe it or not, there are ways to cope if you lose your job.

by Brad Lewis

Whether you've been laid-off, fired, downsized, outsized or right-sized doesn't really matter. If you've been forced out of a position without a new one in sight, the road you're traveling is likely full of speed bumps, potholes and detours!

What You're Feeling

What You Can Do About It

Making Ends Meet

While looking for a job, seek help from these sources rather than credit cards.

from Crown Financial Ministries

My husband is out of work. How can our family make ends meet?

We realize that this can seem like an overwhelming situation, and we encourage your husband to persevere in looking for another job. If he can't find the job of his choosing, it may be necessary for him to take one or more part-time positions in order to make ends meet while he continues to search for the job that he really wants. For more information on this topic, please read Crown Financial's Unemployment Fact Sheet.

When emergencies arise and you do not have savings to meet the need, Scripture says that your family and your church should help. We encourage you to ask for help from these sources rather than turning to credit cards.

When you experience a loss of income, we believe that you need to switch to "survival mode."

This could include:

If you cannot make even the minimum payments on your bills, we suggest that you take the following steps:

  1. Establish a budget. (See Crown's free, interactive Budget Guide.) Allocate the minimum payment to as many of your creditors as possible and pay something to every creditor.
  2. Send a copy of your budget to all your creditors with a letter of explanation and a humble request for them to reduce the interest and/or accept what you can afford to pay.
  3. Enclose a check to each creditor for the amount you have allocated.
  4. If they accept your proposal, pay that amount faithfully until it is totally repaid.
  5. Do not use credit for any purchase or procedure. This is especially important to avoid further debt.

If you would like help setting up your budget, you can meet with one of our volunteer budget counselors. These volunteers offer free, in-person assistance, and they can show you how to establish a budget, to become debt free, and to honor God in your finances. If you want this kind of financial counsel, please call us at 1-800-722-1976 and we will be glad to give you the name and phone number of our nearest volunteer budget counselor in your area.

In the meantime, you may also want to download Crown's Budgeting and Debt and Credit article lists.

Out of Work: One Family's Journey

At first, they met the challenge joyfully. Now, they look for creative ways to greet each jobless day.

by Donna Partow

The roar of my husband's electric razor startles me into bleary-eyed semiconsciousness. The alarm clock reads 6:30 a.m. Within minutes, Cameron will don a suit and tie and head out the door. He won't report to work, though. Instead, he'll pound the pavement of Phoenix, enduring the blistering heat and the searing heartache of constant rejection.

My husband, you see, is unemployed.

Day after day, Cameron searches: Networking, knocking on doors, circling want ads - even dialing job hotlines until midnight. Occasionally, he lands an interview. It's hard work, this business of being unemployed. Hard financially, emotionally and spiritually.

Meanwhile, I've learned what it's like to be the sole provider for my family — a responsibility that's given me a new appreciation for my husband. My workday goes into full swing around 10 p.m., after I've gotten the family off to bed. I write newsletters, brochures and articles often until four in the morning. I sleep for a few hours until I get up with our 3-year-old daughter, Leah, and shift into her morning routine. Then I nap with her in the afternoon.

This new lifestyle began after our family faced a series of setbacks in New Jersey. After much prayer, we decided to sell our home and head for the promised land of Arizona. Traveling cross-country, we joyfully taught Leah a children's song about God leading Abraham to a new home.

Those first weeks were upbeat. The once perpetually exhausted Daddy suddenly had all the time in the world for his little girl. We took long walks. We talked and dreamed. We became more active in church and enjoyed a time of spiritual renewal. We watched eagerly for the "Aha" — that moment when God would reveal His wonderful plan for our lives. (Translation: A great job with better pay and a beautiful home in Scottsdale.) Months passed and the "Aha" never came.

We're afraid it never will.

Instead, we've settled into a time of wondering. Wondering if we missed God's way. Wondering how bad it will get before it's finally over.

Confronting Unemployment

A continued list of helpful resources, links and organizations.

Popular questions on this topic: