Working Mom to Unemployed Mom: Survival Tactics for the Shift

unemployed

April 1st began like most days in our home; my husband and I aren’t big into April Fools’ Day pranks and, aside from trying not to fall for any fake Facebook posts, our life went on like any other day.

This April Fools’ Day in particular turned out to be far from a joke. By 10:30 a.m., my position was eliminated and I was unemployed. I packed up my newly situated “work-from-home” office and returned it to the regular home office, navigated an unemployment application for the first time in my life, and by 3:00 p.m. I was thoroughly drained of energy.

By 6:00 p.m., we learned our son’s daycare was closing, permanently.

While neither my job nor our daycare was perfect, they were stable. We have a three-year-old and debt and bills and dreams. Luckily, for now my husband’s job seems to be secure and they are very supportive. I’m told this is the best unemployment assistance our state and federal governments have ever provided, and therefore I should be grateful.

Except I’m not.

Of course, I AM appreciative that the state and federal government has taken swift action to provide more support, and that assistance is more flexible and easier to access. I cannot imagine the calamity we would be facing as a family or a society without state and federal help. I am not, however, grateful to be in this situation at all.

Despite the situation, I am not bitter. Not only do I think bitterness is a complete waste of energy, I just do not have the time to bemoan the situation. I have a child and a husband depending on me. So instead, I find strength through a few survival tactics.

Accept the Situation

First, I am not in denial. Part of acknowledging this crummy situation brings along a lot of not-so-fun emotions. Ones I don’t want to feel, like sadness and uncertainty. Even though I know it’s irrational, I am still embarrassed and ashamed of myself. I hear my internal dialogue start running and I mentally attack myself for a few minutes.
But then, I catch it. And sometimes I have to literally talk to myself out loud, in my firm mom voice (the one usually saved for parenting) and say, “These thoughts are not productive. You can do this. There is no use worrying about what you could have done. Focus on what you can do.”

Solve One Problem at a Time

I focus on and solve one problem at a time. At first, I was overwhelmed by the compounding problems. How am I going to get a job without full-time childcare? Then, I decided there is no use worrying about the childcare problem until I have a job. I can solve one problem at a time. Of course, I am also assessing and making childcare plans, but it isn’t the primary problem.

I am mindful of whatever the most urgent task at hand is. Breaking my stress into small, achievable goals helps me feel a sense of control and progress. So, when I apply for jobs, I focus on that single application. When I play with our son, I am only playing with our son. When I make a meal plan on a now-smaller budget, that’s what I am thinking about. It’s easier said than done, but when I feel overwhelmed, I become mindful of what I can do at that exact moment. Then, I do that one thing and leave the rest for later.

Ask for and Accept Help

While this may seem an obvious one, I ask for help (well, sort of). It’s hard for me, but one of the first things my husband and I did when I lost my job was to look at our budget and see where we can find some savings. One thing we are trying to keep is our son’s babysitter for a few hours each week. Ever since our daycare first closed (that time only temporarily), our son’s babysitter cared for him a few hours each day while I worked from home. It was beneficial for me to be productive and our son wasn’t stuck in front of a screen all day. She is still coming by a couple of hours a day so that I can research and apply for jobs, maintain connections with my professional network, and attend virtual meetings for my volunteerism. But maybe even more importantly, it just gives me a couple of guilt-free hours to focus on me, which is also what I need right now.

I’ve had colleagues ask me if they could do anything to help. I am honest and actually accepted when people offer to do X, Y, and Z. When people offer help, they usually WANT to help; they feel good and useful while helping. I am in no position to turn away help at the moment, so to me accepting their offers is a win-win situation.

Reach Out to Family/Friends

Lastly, I seek out my personal champions for support. I have found so much comfort in my friends and family during this time. These are the people with whom I can be honest and simply get thoughts out of my mind, which prevents a spiral into the darkest of emotional places. Just one day after I lost my job, I attended a virtual happy hour with a group of some of my favorite people. I was honest with them, and they listened. They supported me without going on and on about it. They offered guidance and shared their personal areas of expertise. And then, they also let the conversation move on so it could be normal and not all about me.

I don’t want anyone who is facing a similar situation right now to read this and think my life is all sunshine and rainbows. It’s not. It was hard to get out of bed the next day, it is still hard to wait for what is next in my professional career, and it is sometimes hard to enjoy my surprise quality time with our son while things seem so apocalyptic outside.

This sucks, and it’s really, really hard.

But there is hope. As a community, we have each other. We may have our partners, friends and family. As moms, we have our children. As women, we have our resilience. And personally, I know I also have my skills, experience and tenacity. I refuse to let this define me, or beat me, or fizzle my fire.

I know I am not alone. We are in this together, and together we are stronger.

For more information on unemployment help, visit https://www.usa.gov/unemployment and https://www.jobsnd.com/unemployment-individuals/resources-unemployment-individuals

For more information on how unemployment assistance has changed due to COVID-19, visit https://www.dol.gov/coronavirus.

Previous articleA Different Kind of Pregnancy Brain: COVID-19 on the Mind
Next article5 Tips to Help Your Picky Eater
After meeting here during college, Caitlin and her husband, Tanner, settled in North Fargo and live a pretty upper-midwestern life full of trying to appreciate the small adventures. As a mom to a son born in 2017 and a daughter born in 2021, Caitlin tries to balance all of the mommy things with taking time for what makes her a human outside of being a wife and mother. Along with spending her days working as a program manager, she enjoys finding unique family experiences in the Fargo-Moorhead area, volunteering, reading, and simply being honest about the realities of motherhood in all its vehement glory.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.