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So Your Husband’s Been Laid Off: What to Expect the First Month

This guest post is from Renee. Be sure to read the rest of my series on surviving a layoff.

It’s been slightly over a year since my husband was laid off from Hewlett Packard after his 10-year stint there and the good news is that we’re still here…. we’ve survived.  I remember Day One like it was yesterday:

My husband worked from home and we made it a practice to catch breaks from work and homeschooling our 7 (soon to be eight) children by taking walks up and down the street to get out and catch up on the day. On this particular day, if there was any look of grave concern on my husband’s face, I totally missed it.

“It looks like I’m being laid off,” my husband remarked as we walked passed the neighbor’s house.  He’s not one to joke around, but I looked for signs anyway. No joke, this was the real deal and even though it had happened to various co-workers over the years, I wasn’t prepared for it.

I can tell you that once you get past the initial shock, there’s an air of confidence and hope that moves in, almost immediately. In many situations, a lay-off occurs in an already stressful environment: a boss acts differently when he knows he’s about to drop a bomb and the tension could be there for days, weeks, even months beforehand. Knowing your man gets to be released from that stressful environment is secretly rewarding, even though the paycheck doesn’t get to follow you. And then there’s the “God has always taken care of us” promise and the looking ahead to better days.

Let’s call that the “honeymoon” phase of a lay off situation (but hang with me, there’s a happy ending). You should know that the first month is a flurry of emotion of ups and downs. Here are some you can expect:

  • Your husband’s true personality comes out more than ever: if he’s an introvert, maybe he’s out for drives a bit longer than usual. I married an extrovert who needed social time and found some of those needs met by connecting with old MK friends on Facebook. My advice: give him that time.
  • Even though he’s taking on more of your responsibilities at home, your husband will feel useless: he’s used to being more or less in control with his time and now he shares it with you. It might help to wake up each morning with a goal he sets for the day; then give him time to work on it.
  • Remember all the papers you signed when you bought your first house? Triple that:  medical coverage (we highly recommend Christian HealthCare Ministries), life insurance, closing accounts related to the job, returning equipment, retirement and pension paperwork…
  • Passing by the old workplace, seeing the brand/logo of the employer on equipment and letterhead, and catching any information about the employer on the news will put a knot in your stomach: And if it happens to you, know that it’s happening ten times as much to your husband. He’s given years of time and loyalty to one place and now it’s been stripped from his identity.
  • Don’t expect sympathy cards: while you’ll have some close friends and family who check in on you and support you, the majority of people will not know how to react and will probably not say anything. Or worse, they’ll ask, “could he have done something to prevent it?”
  • The spending tendency: I don’t know if this is normal but I occasionally made small but unnecessary purchases to fill this need to buy something “luxury” that I wouldn’t normally buy. Thankfully this was always small, like a tall peppermint mocha with extra whip, but there was that weird “better buy this while I still can” thought that ran through my mind…. similar to how I eat junk food the night before a new day of resolving to cut out sugar.

There are some positives:

  • It’s like a vacation: your husband is now around to play with the kids, give you time to grocery shop alone, and clean the garage.
  • Your days are your own: if it weren’t for Sundays popping up every now and then, we’d lose complete track of the days of the week.
  • Revamping your spending: you and your husband have time to sit down and look at your budget. This is a great time to form life-long habits that will cut your expenses dramatically. This can be a bonding, almost romantic, time with your husband as you make plans together. (Do you need to be on the same page with finances? Make sure you plan this time together with little interruption from younger family members so you can focus. Follow Dave Ramsey’s podcasts.)
  • The sky is the limit for possible streams of income: we were in the fortunate position of having my small, side business start to grow. We decided to decline my husband’s unemployment to instead devote his time to join me in growing the business (and even start another business) rather than take the first job offered to him. It’s been a year of very hard work and long hours, but it’s paying off.   A bonus is that our children are acutely aware of what it takes to start a business and have made some business-savvy moves for themselves.

Remember that hope I mentioned earlier? Even though it comes and goes, when it comes, it’s easy to fuel up on it and think outside the box. Is there a new direction your husband would like to take with his employment? Can he set aside time to learn something he loves while taking short-term job assignments? Do you have friends who appear to be living a life you want? Ask how they do it.

As with any tragedy or hardship, there are so many lessons to learn along the way and surprises to be had. They wouldn’t necessarily have happened without the large wrench thrown into our plans.  But I encourage you to remember that God truly has always taken care of you: prepare for a long, hard road, but perhaps it will be a journey to bring you to new heights.

Guest post by Renee Harris: Jonathan and Renee Harris homeschool and raise their 8 children and run their two businesses (www.hardlotion.com and www.drinkbands.com) from their home in Northern California.

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  1. I can totally relate to this post. My husband is in year 3 of his layoff and has decided to start his own business because the corporate job opportunities he would normally be highly qualified for are just not available. It has been a long, difficult road for us. We’ve both struggled emotionally with our change of lifestyle, but we’ve ultimately grown leaps and bounds in our faith and in the quality of life we now live. I have an eBook coming out the end of this year about a Christian wife’s perspective on how to cope with the emotional side of unemployment. I think there are plenty of women out there dealing with this very heartache…and not to take away from what the man is going through, but it’s easy for the wife to get lost in the emotion. Friends and family forget to ask her how she’s dealing with all of it. She can’t talk to her man about her feelings without potentially sending him into a deeper depression over his humiliation over not finding work. It’s a lonely place to be. But one where strength and courage from God are very necessary. I feel like God called me to write this book, even though it’s terribly frightening for me to do…but I can only trust that He will do with it whatever He needs in order to serve His purpose. Anyway, sorry to get off on a tangent about ME, but I just wanted to share that I can definitely relate and you offer many wonderful truths in this post.


    • I totally agree that often times the women gets forgotte about in the mix since she didn’t literally lose her job. I struggled a lot with this too, not having anyone to talk to or even ask how I was doing.

      I would go to church and everyone would ask how my husband is doing and how he’s handling it. My mother-in-law would come up for a week and say how concerned she was for my husband and his feelings over and over again but never asked about my feelings.

      It is definitely a lonely place to be!

      • Brit, thanks for responding to my comment. It’s comforting to know other women have been there and understand the loneliness.

        • Rosann,
          I look forward to reading your e-book! (I know that “frightening” feeling – I couldn’t even go back and read my own post here when I saw that it was published… ) And I’m interested in finding out more about your husband’s home business (maybe our husbands can connect) We’re convinced that the Lord has shown us that starting a business will not just pay the bills, but it’s teaching our children that they can have their own businesses as they continue their home education.

  2. I hope your business goes well. How neat that you and your husband are working together. keep us updated.

  3. Such a good post! I can relate to a lot of what you said. We had a lot of people that did just what you said, ignored it because they didn’t know what to say or do.

    It was very hurtful at the time, but now I understand more.

    • I found that it was really similar to going through a miscarriage, in some ways. People don’t know how to help or what to say and it’s really only those close to you who have the best understanding.

  4. Thank you for this – we are in month 2 of the layoff.

    • Veronica, I hope you have a few supportive people in your lives. Every experience is different so hopefully yours will be a short journey through it but if it’s not, cling to your Lord and to your husband and you’ll come out stronger. Renee

  5. Oh how I know this road. It happened to us in Oct. 2008. My husband has worked in the same building as an engineer for 30 years. That day he turned in the annual budget report at 9:00 and went on with his day….at 1:00 (just after lunch) he was called into the office and told his service was no longer needed. No warning at all. Just zip gone. He called me on the way home to tell me. Now you must understand, my husband has had only 4 jobs in his entire life. (he is 59) So the loss of this job was a huge deal to him, much more than money. He knew everyone in the building. My husband is not one to sit around. If he is awake, he is busy. That is just David…on the way home he called a few friends to tell them what happened and he had a job interview lined up for the NEXT day. I was so mad at what happened, but he was more hurt.
    To make a long story short he got the next job he interviewed for. He is a wonderful engineer. He was working just fine, but he was not ‘happy’ in the job. There was no thinking required in the job. The money was fine, but it was just not the same for him. Then a funny thing happened. A new company brought the building. The first thing the new owner did was talk to the people in the building. They all wanted David back. They called him and made him an offer. So David is back in his old job, at the same building, making more money. His stress is back, but it is a good stress if you understand.

  6. AllieZirkle says:

    I was poking around to see if there was an update on Smockity’s hubby’s layoff… Is the part time work still working out? How about other opportunities? I’m just curious how things are going…

    I lost my job in January 2011 and am finally past the depression and haze that comes with a lay off. My hubby is employed as a junior high teacher. We’re making it work, one day at a time.

    :) Allie

    • Just curious. Why did your husband have to decline unemployment to help build up your home business? Was it because he thought he could not meet the requirements for job hunting required to collect benefits?

      In any event, I am happy for you that this is all in the past.

    • Allie,

      Although your post is long past and I pray you’ve had a good job for a long time, I understand that it can be depressing and devastating for a woman to lose a job, too. Some times as devastating as it can be for a man. Some women love their jobs, others provide part of the family income when young children aren’t part of the picture, others are primary breadwinner because they are single parents or their husbands receive disability payments that can’t support a family, and still others are single and are responsible for supporting themselves. There are more of us out here than may meet the eye.