Tuesday, May 5, 2009

After third layoff in nine years, solace found in faith, new roles

By Kip Mooney
Blog Editor

GARLAND - Don Workman has been through this before.

In October, Perot Systems laid him off, marking his third unexpected bout of unemployment in nine years.

These days, he packs lunches instead of crunching numbers. Instead of rushing off to work, he helps get his elementary-age daughter Chloe ready for school. (His eldest daughter, Courtney, attends Liberty University in Virginia.) His wife Donna serves as the income provider, working as an executive assistant at a law firm in Addison.

Rudy Ray Seward of the sociology faculty said he has seen this gender role swap around the world.

"In Ireland, I know they've had the same kind of issue over there," Seward said. "Up until fairly recently, they were going through rapid economic expansion but most of the jobs they created were for women, so it's not a totally new situation but maybe it's a more significant number of people."

He said the change has underminded the role of men as primary breadwinners, and some men have viewed it as a threat to their identity.

And Don can certainly attest to that.

"For me, her being the breadwinner and me staying home, is killing me," he said. "It messes with your head because it makes you feel inferior, it makes you feel like you can’t provide for your family and it’s not like you’re not trying. It begins to wear on you, especially after three times, like, dude, enough already."

But the financial and emotional support from his wife has kept him afloat in these shaky times.

"Donna’s been a big help to me," he said. "Being a single man going through that, I think I’d have gone crazy right now honestly because going through this alone and going through it with a family is a whole different thing. Knowing you have people you’re responsible for, it kind of keeps you going."

His volunteer role efforts at Lavon Drive Baptist Church, serving as leader for the college ministry Singled Out, have kept him going too.

"A lot of times, people worry about themselves too much," he said. "It’s an encouragement for me. We’re like family. Being with them encourages me."

His faith has plays a huge part in his life, but he says it's still hard to trust in something outside himself, especially in uncertain financial times.

"It’s a two-headed monster," he said. "I have this faith in God and at the same time you’re going ‘This isn’t working.’ It’s this battle, but from the other times I’ve been unemployed I’ve learned that I don’t have control over anything. The circumstances I’m in aren’t any fault of my own, it’s just the way things are. It’s a daily struggle. Ask God to give you strength, and God gives you the common sense to get off your tush and get out there and do something.”

Through his networking contacts and job applications, Don has applied for numerous jobs, but says he hopes to work a smaller company, free of the office politics.

His biggest prospect is a management consulting firm out of Irving. Despite the challenges it would bring--namely traveling across the U.S. and Europe for half the year--he'd take the job were it offered to him. The company would agree to let him work from home when he's local, a big plus since he's now willing to combine his two roles.

"There's always a way to make it better," he said.

The stay-at-home dad in popular culture

By Kip Mooney
Blog Editor

It doesn't all have to be serious. The stay-at-home dad has been the subject of numerous sitcoms, songs, and feature films. Here are a few links:

Lonestar - "Mr. Mom"

The song's not very good, but relates the ups and downs of fatherhood.

Mr. Mom (1983)

John Hughes wrote this film in the wake of the economic downturn of the early '80s. It's a little dated but Michael Keaton keeps things lively. And who wouldn't want an ironed grilled cheese?

Little Children
Tom Perrotta's satirical novel focuses on the struggles and temptations of the stay-at-home dad. It's a dark but captivating read. Oscar winner Kate Winslet and Patrick Wilson (Watchmen) starred in the 2006 film adaptation.

The 140-character resume: Job seekers use Twitter

by Kip Mooney
Blog Editor
Based on an article appearing in the Wall Street Journal

Social media site Twitter, where users constantly update their status in under 140 characters, might be used for more than just an update on users' lunch menu.

Now, users like Alexa Scordato are finding job opportunities.

She simply messaged Boston-based social media company Mzinga with her job search request and had an interview set up by the end of the week.

Job hunting on Twitter can be more laid-back than professional networking sites like LinkedIn, but just as effective.

San Francisco PR professional Amy Ziari now links to her Twitter account on her resume, which she says adds personality to a rather blah description of goals and qualifications.

The basics are simple: Keep your posts short and appropriate, and be precise about what you're looking for. It's all part of a new digital job landscape, and job seekers may need to get a handle on how to navigate it.

Read the full article here.

More information on marketing yourself on Twitter:
Sarah Evans: How to Find a Job on Twitter

The New Model: Men and women share roles

By Kip Mooney
Blog Editor
Based on an article appearing in the Boston Globe

The days of traditional gender roles are long gone.

Now more than ever, couples are sharing the roles of working and childcare. And, according to a new study published by the Family and Work Institute, 60 percent of both men and women reject the "male breadwinner is best" model.

While the officials behind the study found the results surprising, this trend is not completely out of the blue.

Over the last 30 years, both men and women have increasingly dropped this ideal. Not just the current generation of working-class, but older generations as well. A little over half of workers 63-plus still find the man as sole provider role best.

Now, more women than ever before are returning to work after having a child. Increased flexibility from their spouses and employers have afforded them this option.

"I don't think that having a child should stop me from advancing in my career," Boston resident Stacey Hurley, assistant manager of Isis Maternity. "There's lot of ways to work around that." Hurley and her husband Ryan, a physical therapist split the chores and care of their 2-year-old daughter.

The couple are taking turns pursuing post-college education and careers. Ryan just finished his doctorate and Stacey plans to return to school to get her master's--something she put on hold in wake of the baby.

But this new model of sharing roles might become the new standard, and experts say it can be better for everyone.

"When you get couples to support each other, the sky's the limit to what they can achieve," Jessica DeGroot, of non-profit group Third Path Institute, said. These couples "can watch each other's backs to help each other create their preferred balanced approach to life."

Read the full article here.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Women forced to find work after husbands lose jobs

By Kip Mooney
Blog Editor
Based on an article appearing in USA Today

2.5 million lost jobs since November (and 13.2 million in the last six months), taking a big chunk out of the workforce. A staggering 82% of the new jobless are men, which has forced their wives, many of them stay-at-home mothers, into the working world.

For Alex and Antonia Lawson, the loss of Alex's auto sales job last year forced his wife (whom he calls "Tuppy") to abandon her dream of making ceramic art for a part-time gig at the Apple store.

"It's all so bizarre," Tuppy said. "But I'm going to do what I have to do, and do it the best I can."

Not everyone took to the new situation so well.

When Sean Gorman lost his pool repair job, depression engulfed him and he separated from his wife Christina.

"I felt like, 'I cook, I clean, I shop, and now I'm the only one with a job?' " she said. "That got physically and mentally draining real fast. He apologized and came back home."

Yet she remains optimistic, maintaining a roll-with-the-punches attitude.

"Times are a-changing, and you got to roll with the times," she said.

Read the full article here.

Dads' (r)evolution: Tackling mom's roles in wake of layoffs

By Kip Mooney
Blog Editor
Based on an article appearing in the New York Times

PELHAM MANOR, N.Y. - Men all over the country, but also here in upstate New York, have experienced it all: the highs of success with Fortune 500 companies, the lows of unexpected unemployment, and the newfound joy of a more active role in parenting.

These men, who once worked at well-paying jobs like hedge funds and insurance companies, have combated depression by adapting to their new roles as stay-at-home dads.

While unemployment can deal a blow to the ego, this evolution of dads taking on roles once held solely by women—grocery shopper, child chauffeur—has helped salvage some sanity and identity that would have been lost without it.

“A man is supposed to hunt and gather and bring home and provide, and when they don’t, that goes to their identity,” said Jane Robbins, a PTA member. “If they can find some solace in being the parent, if they can take that out of it, God bless them.”

Read full article here.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

U.S. Unemployment Rate 1999-2009

Just how bad has the economy gotten? Here's a graphic from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, tracking the rising unemployment rate over the last 10 years. Remember, you're not alone.

Click to enlarge.