by Susan Wenner Jackson
As I’m sure many working moms experience, I sometimes feel ambivalent about my choice to work full-time rather than care for my daughter at home. There are days when I think, “Maybe she’d be better off if I just sucked it up, lived extra-frugally and spent my weekdays with her instead of going to work while she’s at the sitter…” But a scary brush with layoffs last week had me feeling really good about earning a decent income.
My husband witnessed one of his coworkers (in a very small office) get the pink slip. Later that morning, he learned that many more employees of his parent company (in a distant office) were axed, too. All of this was quite out of the blue, at least from his perspective. His superiors assured him and his remaining coworkers that no further layoffs were planned, and their jobs were “safe.” Whatever that means, in this economy.
Meanwhile, he and I are IM’ing and emailing about what could/might/should happen, with him freaking out and me reassuring him that everything would be OK. I have a feeling I would have been freaking out, not reassuring, if I were a stay-at-home mom whose family depended solely on his income for survival.
Instead, I knew that we could do OK on what I make, even if he got laid off and was out of work for a while. And though I am not expecting any layoffs at my work, I feel safer knowing that he’s employed, too. I guess it’s possible we could both get laid off at the same time, but it’s not likely. (Everyone knock on wood, now!)
This experience reminded my mom of the days when my grandpa would get laid off, back in the 1940s and 50s. He did various types of factory work, and it was common for such workers to get laid off, only to be called back to work within days, weeks or months. Mom recalls my grandma, who was a stay-at-home mom to two girls, going nuts when this would happen. Here she was, depending on Grandpa for every dime to pay for their groceries, clothes and mortgage payments. And she didn’t have the background or opportunity to go out and earn an income while Grandpa waited for another factory job to open up. It must have been a truly helpless, terrifying feeling.
I still sometimes feel sad that I have to be apart from my daughter all day during the week, and I doubt that will ever go away. But I can remind myself that what I’m doing not only contributes to our family income—it’s also a strong safety net in these frightening economic times. That’s something to be proud of.