My Unemployed Life: I Felt Emasculated

My name is Shane and I'm unemployed.

I'm one of the millions of people trying to find a job in a stagnant economy. As a former mortgage broker I witnessed first-hand the collapse of the real estate bubble and experienced the anguish of losing my job due to cutbacks.

At age 45, trying to find another job in the housing market was a study in futility and frustration. No one was hiring. Companies were letting people go and not in the mood to take a chance on new hires.

Adding to my anxiety was the fact that my wife, Raven, and I had had our first child a year prior to me losing my job and we now had another little boy on the way.

We considered ourselves lucky. We had no debt. Both cars were paid off and all we had to worry about was our mortgage. Our monthly expenditures were something we could handle on one paycheck. Because Raven works for a major telecommunications company, we had the added luxury of a good medical and dental insurance package.

And yet I couldn't shake the feeling that I had been emasculated.

An unexpected role

All my life I'd been told a man must provide for his family. Suddenly, I wasn't contributing anything to our bank account. Raven was the sole breadwinner. I felt relegated to the role of a 1950s housewife: I was the one getting up and getting our son, Van, ready for his day. I was the one making sure the house was clean and the meals were cooked. I shopped for groceries and ran errands. It felt as if I had fallen right out of the Michael Keaton movie 'Mr. Mom.'

And things only got worse.

I found myself turning into one of those suburban housewives you see in any subdivision. The kind that gives up trying to look like anything other than what she is -- a harried, baggy-shirted, middle-aged parent in pajama pants. The last vestiges of my manhood slipped silently away the day I realized I was the only man pushing a stroller around the neighborhood park.

I started seeing myself as a loser, someone with no worth. My depression sunk so low that I would have had to look up to see the ninth circle of Dante's hell. I thought I would break.

A new outlook

It was then, at the lowest point, that an amazing transformation took place.

I started to enjoy my life. The time I got to spend with my son became a joy. I had feared that I was less than a man because I wasn't the breadwinner, when in fact the opposite was true. This epiphany hit me when I realized my son's favorite TV show was 'Yo Gabba Gabba.' His favorite color is red. He loves bananas and he thinks cats are very funny. These are little tidbits I didn't know about him prior to losing my job.

I now understand what an important and difficult job it is to be a stay-at-home parent. Before my unemployment, I thought being a good father was just bringing home a paycheck. I was so far from the truth.

Being a good father means being there for your son every day and handling the mundane things that help him to grow. Instead of telling him how to be a man, he now gets to see how to be a man. He follows me around the house like a shadow. Whatever I'm doing he wants to do. If I'm working on household repairs, he wants to work on repairs. If I'm doing yard work, he wants to do yard work. If I'm on the computer, he wants to be on the computer.

He makes me laugh every day.

A new understanding

Before my unemployment, all the domestic chores were piled on my wife's plate. I was raised to think that a man went to work and that homemaking was the province of women. Suddenly, I've been forced into the 21st century. I now wonder how I could have been so blind, taking my wife for granted. I have a much bigger appreciation for all that she does and determination to see that I'm a partner and helper to her and not someone who constantly takes.

She has become a happier person since my unemployment. Slowly I am becoming the man my wife and son need. It is an amazing feeling.

There are other unexpected benefits to being unemployed as well. We save over $1,000 a month on child care. Strangers do not raise our children, and I now refuse to judge my life on what I do for a living or how much money I make. Instead, I will judge my life on the boys that I turn into men and then give to the world.

As for the job situation, I have decided on a different career path. No longer will I search for a job that isn't there and one that inspires no real passion. Instead, I've decided to follow a dream. It might lead to somewhere wonderful or to a dead end. I don't care. I'm no longer afraid of failure.

I'm no longer afraid to try.

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