No one has any concept what a woman goes through when her husband is unemployed unless she herself has experienced it. I was thinking of this the last couple of days after a few conversations wherein I felt totally displaced and misfitted to my stage and location; these are FRIENDS who have known me for years, and they don't seem to know me anymore--not since he lost his job have things been the same in our relationships. I chalk this up to misunderstanding rather than malice. They are friends, after all!
No one can understand the sudden change of priority that takes place when a husband unexpectedly loses work. Yes, there are the financial stresses which never are silent and still, but the other changes are more subversive and harder to comprehend. There's stress on the marriage at sudden larger amounts of time together and the way this interferes with daily routines. There's stress in relationships with the children as more decisions are shared between Mom and Dad, as Dad is home during the day more. There's the temptation for Mom to pick apart Dad's decision making and discipline in front of the children. There are more meals to prepare when he is home more. There is more laundry when he is working hard physically to earn money for the family. There are disruptions in Mom's (and the children's) social life as she reconstructs her time to meet the needs of her family better. An unemployed husband likely depends on his wife's ears and intuition more than a man who is fully engaged in his work. Her ears may already be tired from listening to children all day, and then she finds herself needing to listen still more to her man and even DREAM a bit with him when she's tired and ready to dream, herself. These needs limit her time to chat with friends and to do "fun" things outside of the house...some of which is good because it IS harder to spend money she doesn't have when she is at home! These needs are also incredibly stressful and draining, as the need for UNITY in the marriage is compounded by the momentous nature of a career change--coupled with more with-kids-time and less opportunity to really have uninterrupted conversation as a couple.
It is hard on the woman whose husband has lost his job and has experienced a long and fruitless search(say, nineteen months)when she is questioned by friends and family incessantly about what he's doing to try to find work. It's frustrating to her to feel the need to defend her man and his decisions, because no one can see more clearly than she just how hard he IS working to find a job, how much stress he IS enduring because of the financial lack, and how much he needs people to really and truly come alongside him in PRAYER, BELIEVING in God's providence and timing...NOT to question his motives, his plans, or his efforts. Real help comes in the form of a pat on the back, an offer to help out somehow financially, keeping their children for a much-needed-but-unaffordable date night, a phone call or card of encouragement, maybe even a business contact...it is not so much in the constant questioning. The unemployed man and his wife are spending PLENTY of time questioning, that much is certain. Just because they have not bared their souls or presented all of their family and friends with their ten-step plan to FIND WORK NOW does NOT mean that they are not thinking about it!
Do you have a friend or family member looking for work? Have you wondered how to encourage them?
Let me suggest some ways to help:
1. Pray for them. Ask God to provide for their needs in tangible ways for His glory. Pray that they will have eyes to see Him at work, and that they will have wisdom to pursue "paths of righteousness for His name's sake" as they move toward their next assignment.
2. Realize they may need your help. Can you cook a meal? Even just once might offer a chance to feel a slight break from the pressure of needing to provide EVERYTHING; you might indeed be God's provision for Tuesday night's supper! Put hands and feet to the good intentions. Offer to mow the grass, take the kids for an evening, or just have the whole family over to hang out. The change of scenery from their home to yours might be just the mental rest they need RIGHT NOW. Unemployment means a LOT more time at home, all together, in the same four walls.
3. Avoid asking too many questions. It's demoralizing to be asked "How's the job hunt coming?" all the time. It reinforces a sense of failure to have to say that it's NOT going well, still. Trust me, if your friend finds a job, YOU WILL HEAR ABOUT IT. Until then, don't ask that question. Ask how you can help. Ask how you can pray. Ask if they still like chocolate syrup and bacon, but don't ask THAT question.
4. Listen. If your friend needs to talk and vent frustration or work through an idea for a great new business plan, consider that your cue to be a great ear and maybe even a firm shoulder to cry on...isolation is a really big monster in the closet for the family whose breadwinner is unemployed. Let them know you are just THERE if they need you to be.
5. Check in. Call. Text. Remind them that they are missed in the circles they're not frequenting so much anymore. It's very hard to keep working hard on a job search when you feel like no one would miss you if you were gone. Friends and family can provide much-needed connection and emotional support during the stress of job hunting, waiting, and maybe even relocation if it comes to that.
6. Celebrate successes. Big, small. Share your blessings and thanksgivings for God's provision in your own life AND help your job-needy friend celebrate his too. Point to the Giver of all good things when it's so tempting to have a downcast countenance. Thankfulness is contagious, but don't PREACH it. Live it.
7. Give grace. The season of unemployment presents many unexpected financial, time management, and interpersonal challenges that are frankly overwhelming. Try to put yourself in that position before getting your feelings hurt over how things seem to have changed. Your friend needs YOU more now than ever. Be available.
That's my observation. Do you have points to add to my list?
We're still watching and praying for God's next step for our family. We appreciate YOUR prayers on our behalf.
We know He makes all things beautiful in His time.
Blessings to you!