By Kip Mooney
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.