Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Unemployed Provider

Life is good. A loving wife, two adorable daughters, a house in the burbs, cars paid off, and a job that pays the bills.  I'm holding it down like a real man should.  Phone rings.  What? Huh? I just talked to her a few hours ago.  Dead?  Is that what you just said?  Yes, your mother is gone.  This one phone call started a snowball of doom that would roll through my life for the next two years.

Snowball of Doom

I don't think you ever get over the death of a parent, you simply just learn to cope after a few years of grief.  Four months after my mother's passing, I get the news that I will be laid off from my job.  Being that my wife is a stay at home mom, that equates to no income coming into the house.  Houston we have a problem.  I'm the spiritual, emotional, and financial provider of this house and I'm unemployed.  The problem grew bigger and bigger as the months turned into a year and I still hadn't been able to land a new gig.  I was actually unemployed for a total of 20 straight months.  Yes, twenty--that's no typo.  Also during this stent, both of my grandmothers passed within three months of each other.  Here I am without a job and I just lost 3 matriarchs that always cheered me on when things went wrong.  I felt overwhelmed.  I really thought I was unfit for this role of a husband and father.  This was mainly due to the fact that at that time I found my worth and measure in the amount of dollars (or lack thereof) in my bank account. Our society conditions men to view themselves in this way.


The Journey To Find The Real Me

The snowball of doom felt like it was going to take me out.  However, it was the beginning of my journey into understanding who I really am. During my unemployed season, I looked earnestly for a job and took odd jobs here and there to try and make ends meet. My family was sustained somewhat by my efforts, combined with support from family and friends. I was grateful, but it just didn't feel good. I found myself angry at God because I was supposed to be able to provide for my family and it seemed like I was making no headway on finding gainful employment. I thought and shared with my wife that she and the kids would be better off if I weren't around. I had a life insurance policy that would have them set.  My wife confronted me on that one day, saying, "you know firsthand the pain of growing up with no father, why would you even think about wishing that on your daughters!!?" Thankfully, she spoke the truth and her words cut me deep.

I continued the job search, but I also decided to change my perspective. Instead of spending all day looking for jobs, I set boundaries on the job search and became more intentional about spending quality time with my kids. I began to do things that I couldn't do if I were on a job.  Several days, I found myself at the beach watching a sunrise.



My youngest daughter and I celebrating her birthday during the "unemployed years"
Other times, I would take the kids fishing or spend the afternoon with them at the beach. I soon began to figure out that my kids weren't complaining and neither was my wife. So, I began to wonder why I didn't just loosen up and at least try to enjoy this extra family time.  There I was, beginning to live life again, with almost no money in the bank...yet I was still a man that was greatly loved by an amazing woman and two wonderful daughters. During this time out of work, we made some memories that will last us a lifetime.  Somehow, this all began to give me the confidence I needed to go on day in and day out during those 20 months.

My bride and I visiting Hershey, Pennsylvania
Just knowing that my kids and my wife loved me unconditionally, helped revolutionize how I defined myself. I no longer look at those day as "unemployed days," but I look at them as days of gainful employment as a full time father and devoted husband. I am blessed to have had so much "extra" quality time with my kids during that almost 2 year period. How many dads can say that they've spent 20 months of almost uninterrupted time with their children? While I couldn't provide all of the dollars and cents like I wanted to, I was able to provide my family with emotional security. That is priceless. We did so many things together and I believe it will help them have a level of emotional security that they wouldn't have experienced, if I'd been punching a clock. At first it seemed like a really bad thing, but I was determined to turn it into something positive for us all. God's word says that He can turn all things around for our good.  He surely did it in this situation for me.

How to Create Good out of Bad

Since then, I have successfully found my way back into my original career path of television production. My current job pays pretty well and I'm doing what I love. Of course nothing  compares to being greeted at the door everyday by my fan club of three. Thanks to them I was able to take that   snowball of doom and used it to build a snowman with my daughters.


 I want to encourage all fathers out there to take an account of what is going right in your life. Regardless of your situation, you can still be a great father. You owe it to yourself and your kids to focus on the positives that you bring to the table. After all, in their eyes you will forever be their superhero, so you might as well swoop in and save the day. So here are some easy ways to do just that:

  1. Get rid of negative relationships (Getting rid of the draining friendships gives you more time and energy for your kids)
  2. Take each child out individually for an hour at least once a month (It doesn't have to be a full meal--grab a slurpee together and talk).
  3. Make family dinner a nightly tradition as much as you can (Play High/Low where each person tell the best part (the high) and the worst part (the low) of their day.)
  4. Spend at least an hour a week doing whatever your child likes to do (I play with Barbies quite often).
It doesn't matter how difficult your situation is, God's grace and a positive perspective is all you need. Things can get rough in this life I know, but take it from me, you CAN get past whatever mountains you're facing. Your days are not your own, but they are Dad Days that you've been given for a reason. How are you using them?