The Dilemma

Wherein I provide a brief overview of our situation and what led up to it as a prelude to my next post – our plan!  Imagine:

You are the parent of a handful of bright, beautiful, school-aged children and your goal, naturally, is to provide a life full of love, nurture, and opportunities for them.  You are environmentally conscious after a successful career in environmental planning and permitting that spanned over a quarter of a century and you’d like living lightly to be one of the messages you pass on to your children.  You are fiercely independent and have been since you left home at the age of 17 to put yourself through college and graduate school.  Self-sufficiency is another lesson you’d like your children to learn.

You plan but not rigidly; you are flexible and ready to jump if the soil beneath your feet starts to shift.  So when it does (your son (born prematurely with a heart defect) can’t live at the high altitude of the Colorado mountains) you leap reflexively and without a lot of angst, sure you will land back on your feet at sea level.  Bad timing and an unbelievable set of circumstances (the friend of a friend who rents the house you cannot sell due to the collapse of the housing bubble turns out to be a psychopath who believes God has provided him with a free house so he refuses to pay rent and in the five months it takes to go to court the bank forecloses) are only the beginning of your personal slide.

The collapse of the housing market reverberates through the construction industry, and developers close up shop and projects are abandoned on the drawing board.  Pretty soon no one really needs an environmental permit and the six-figure, 60+ hour a week job dwindles, first to a part-time position and then abruptly ends all together.  Your landlord, who attends the same church as you, hears the news and evicts you and your family (and unlike your tenant you do leave the house you rented in California).

OK, so now you are living in tents at the state park campground, job hunting at coffee shops, showering at the YMCA.  You still think it’s just a temporary problem and you work hard to sell it to the kids as an adventure and keep their spirits up.  Your severance check comes in and you buy a little travel trailer and arrange to have it delivered to an RV park in town – it will be your base while you send out resumes and snag the next job.

And you send out resumes for the very few jobs in your field, and even get a couple of interviews but everyone says you are too experienced for the position for which they are hiring. You finally land a part-time, temporary job in your field and it looks like it might actually become something – they are talking about a permanent position and even have you fill out all the reams of forms for benefit coverage.  You think you might visit a dentist for the first time in 2 years, and get your eyes checked.  Then the day before your insurance kicks in they lay you off – there’s just not enough work.  In the back of your mind you kind of feared that as the business had very high overhead and overpriced proposals, but you had gotten your hopes up even so.

And then you start noticing job ads saying “must have unbroken employment record” or “unemployed need not apply” and you’ve stopped getting any response to the many resumes and applications you send out weekly.  You widen your net – applying for jobs in Hawaii, Florida, Oregon, Illinois and Washington, but your applications disappear into a silent cyberspace.  You’ve already applied for all those jobs you don’t want to do and for which you are way over-qualified; why just before Christmas you had a retail store manager laugh in your face and say emphatically that he’d never hire you because it wasn’t worth the time it would take to train you since you’d only leave when you found something better, as he thrust your application back at you.

You’ve also applied for jobs that are way outside of your field (director of nutrition services for the school for example – for that position you took an online course in food management and got your food safety certificate) and have been told you aren’t at all qualified.  You do not get a response from most applications.

All the while you’ve been falling back on one of the things you do well – write.  And you’ve managed to build up a small clientele of folks who need something written, edited or proofread from time to time.  This keeps the wolf from the door.  You gave up some of your independence, bending down to necessity and sought government funded health insurance for your children to keep them healthy but beyond that you take care of your own – you aren’t a welfare mom.

But eventually you realize that the constant stress of living on the edge financially, without a support system, in a small and cramped space – what was to be your ‘stop-gap’ measure – has taken a more severe toll on you and your children than you thought and what’s more – there is no end in sight.  You feel old and tired and not at all hopeful.  You need more space, less stress, and more friends around for moral support.  You need a way to take care of your family that does not include checks from the government and you’ve reached that turning point – either find a way or give up.

Hanging on only works until you reach the end of the rope and since just letting go is not an option, you grab the kids, twist and swing out together in a different direction and leap, hoping you have enough momentum left in you for a new adventure!

This entry was posted in 2nd Career, Family, Future, hope, job search, kids, moving. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to The Dilemma

  1. Theresa says:

    After your move, have you considered dumbing down your resume? For example, say you were an admin previously instead of your higher title? Perhaps lower your education level on paper? Maybe even stretch your dates of employment? Yes, i realize it is lying. However, you will be far away from your current location, and many employers these days do not check these things. Maybe you would be able to get into a lower end position that could at least pay more than retail, and a stable schedule to arrange childcare around.

  2. bogart says:

    What @wondering said. I am delighted to contribute to the social safety net and wish we did more to assist moms and dads who need help in making sure their children are well fed, safe, and well educated. You’ve done an amazing job with very little but I wish you didn’t feel bad about accepting the little help that is available.

  3. Barbara says:

    This may seem trite but..

    “When you come to the end of all the light you know, and it’s time to step into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing that one of two things shall happen: Either you will be given something solid to stand on or you will be taught to fly.”

    You and your family have done the best with your past and current situation. With more support close by, space for all to enjoy and a complete change of scene the results may amaze you! I am pulling for you and sending positive thoughts and prayers.

  4. wondering says:

    RE: “you aren’t a welfare mom”

    It should not be considered shameful to use the social safety net. It exists for exactly this reason. I know there is a lot of awful hateful framing about people who use it but that is because those nasty framers would rather that the poor and working class just quietly disappear and die than pay a few dollars more in taxes. Bloody Scrooges (are there no work houses!) the lot of them, who don’t care for anyone but themselves. We should NOT be adopting/accepting their frames of reference.

    • Martin says:

      Would you accept a loan from a friend?
      No strings attached, interest rate free, given purely on assumtion you’ll pay it back in time – on your time line? Remembering you consistantly helped this friend many a time before, possibly for years/decades?
      You’d probably consider the loan no?

      That’s what you have done over your working career, each part of your taxes going to the welfare pool. To allow a helping hand in return, during the time of your need, is exactly why this system is in place. Once you get back on your feet, part of your taxes will pay it back, and the cycle resumes.

      To try to label yourself negatively with a ‘welfare mum’ tag would be easy but wrong, tho perhaps you know personally people who abuse the system, and pride is pressing – affraid to be labeled by the same tainted brush.
      And granted, to eventually come out of your journey with a “I did it my way” epilogue is also desirable, but wouldn’t it show a fundamental misunderstanding of what your taxes paid over the years and into the future are partly for?

      • boxcarkids says:

        Well, maybe I should change that bit of the post, because I don’t really want that to be the one thing people take away from it. As you know comments on my blog are moderated – and there are a certain number (beyond the obvious spam that wordpress catches for me) that don’t make it through moderation. And a fair number are people who complain in rather strident and hostile tones about ‘welfare moms’ so yeah, I suppose I have a bit of a chip on my shoulder about being grouped in with a clearly dispised group! Aside from that I was brought up to take care of myself so that plays into it as well.

    • boxcarkids says:

      True, and a good point. I know some people who are making very good use of the system – a set of siblings who were orphaned when the oldest was about to go to college. With social services help she is working, going to school and raising her younger siblings and I’m sure at some point all three of them will be able to make it on their own and have successful lives.

  5. Barb says:

    Very well written and it again reminds me of just how little control we all have about what happens in our lives. Even though I have not had all your hardships, I have had more than my share too. I am in my late 50s and still am trying to replace the full time teaching job I lost 3 years ago! That was a career change job requiring expensive training. But I thought it was worth it because we all know teaching is more stable (HA HA – joke’s on me). My previous career in the corporate world got me “job eliminated” 3 times. I never imagined, as I suppose you did not, that at this stage of life I would be in this spot. I don’t make near enough to support myself with 3 part time jobs (15 hours a week K12, 8 hours a week teaching adults and the odd subbing jobs).Whoa- sorry to be Debbie Downer, but I can really commiserate with you. But we have to soldier on and keep trying. There really is no other choice. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

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