Unemployed single parent

The other day my three-year-old girl exploded out of the house, saying “Beautiful Daaaay!” while sprinting to her bike. She was greeting the day. I wasn’t. My summer class was cancelled, two freelance contracts dried up, I had a birthday, Wife was going home for a week to help with a family illness, my son finished preschool, and I was mired in the insecurity of being an adjunct and a freelancer. Instead of being infected by her exuberance I was jealous. It sucked. I sucked.

Wife left at 4:30 this morning, kids are getting over hacking-cough colds, and I’m deviating from the weekly Sunday column because for the first time I am a fully unemployed single parent. An experiment worth noting.

Why share it? I don’t know. There may be ugly motivations that could be pegged as attention-seeking behavior, or the validation that comes from people responding to what you’re doing, or the inflated self-importance of mining the minutiae for some thread of connection, however one-sided. That’s not the essence of the impulse, I hope. And it’s not for posterity for Wife and Kids: we keep books for them (the weekly entries have thinned to monthlies) and she’ll be too busy to be checking a computer. Maybe it’s an attempt to put a block on the bulldozer of time, to slow it down to enjoy it now instead of in hindsight.

Photo credit: Marialynn Duffer

I’m using the screen of language to keep people from looking in but maybe that’s what the impulse is all about, to have a conversation. In that hour reprieve between their bedtime and mine, to share the bits that make the bigger picture a whole lot clearer. In an essay on perspective, my teenage nephew got over the grudge against his mother’s chicken pot pie by looking at it fresh, trying it as if for the first time, without all his predisposed baggage. That’s why I’m writing this, for perspective, to make peace with my ugly pot pie. To curb the anxiety over money, career impotence, middle age, and other pot-pie-ish preoccupations that keep me from rushing headlong into the day.


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  1. #1 by Daniel on 05/26/2011 - 9:12 AM

    Being unemployed is a terrible, useless feeling. I dealt with the depression that came with it for almost 2.5 years while i was looking for something new/better after the company i worked for closed. the feeling that i was a failure for not doing something that wasnt even close to my number one priority (how many people would still work if they had 10 mill in the bank?) was really weird and confusing. why did something i didnt like doing control that much of my mind

    and yet, things end up being okay. you’ll make it through and find something that will alleviate the money worries (i work up in cold sweat panic attacks more than once, and that wasn’t cool). things will be okay. and if you want to scream about everything, gimme a call and we’ll grab a beer. cause, yeah, i definitely understand where you’re coming from.

    • #2 by Duffer on 05/26/2011 - 8:02 PM

      Yeah, Danny, things have a way of working out. We’ve been pretty lucky to have this arrangement and the abrupt money fluctuations is one of the tradeoffs to the scheduling flexibility. I think I’d prefer this to the alternative of working too much and regretting that during the next rite of passage for the kids. Getting a job isn’t nearly as difficult as planning a beer with you.

  2. #3 by Carly on 05/26/2011 - 9:46 AM

    Thanks for the perspective Rob. I needed to read this. Hang in there without your lady this week.

    • #4 by Duffer on 05/26/2011 - 8:15 PM

      Check out John’s link. How the hell are you?

  3. #5 by Duffka on 05/26/2011 - 12:22 PM

    Technically to be unemployed a person must be looking for work. People that are not working are not it the labor force and therefore are not unemployed. Duffer you are a “discouraged worker” according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. If only the economists of the world would count domestic production of family services as employed we have a considerably larger workforce. Many of the people I know with young kids consider work to be a retreat from the real work at home. Look at this way, if you had to pay somebody to do all the things that you do with and for your kids it would be about $50,000. See there you have it–employed by the definition of opportunity cost.

    • #6 by Duffer on 05/26/2011 - 8:06 PM

      An adjunct and a writer like me is always looking for work, Duffka, so what would the BLS classify that, “desperate worker”? Could be a blanket term in the recessery. Would there be a sales tax refund for the domestic production of family services?

  4. #7 by john on 05/26/2011 - 3:00 PM

    • #8 by Duffer on 05/26/2011 - 8:14 PM

      Thanks, John. He covers a lot of ground in five minutes, like a plane bracing for impact. Perspective is only the first thing you lose.

  5. #9 by ArtialySprouts on 05/27/2011 - 4:57 PM

    Unemployment has hidden nuggets under the crust. Like the carrots in the potpie (not the chicken, ahem). Or like riding a mini bike in your pajamas. Priceless. You can’t do that in a cubicle.

    • #10 by Duffer on 05/28/2011 - 2:16 PM

      Hidden nuggets. Gold miners might be the only ones not disgusted by that phrase. And you. Nugget miner.

  6. #11 by wife on 05/30/2011 - 11:46 PM

    I guess I found some time to check the computer. Nice helmet by the way. Its past midnight n I’m getting up at 7 am to take mom to her radiation appt. Enough said. I will probably not run from the house yelling “what a great day”like Maria. Out loud anyway. So thanks for sharing cause without kids to remind me why we work so hard and worry so much I might just mistakenly think there is no reason. I hope you spare some time even if it is just a moment of tomorrow in that ridiculous helmet or shoes of Maria. Love.

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