ANABEL BACON: Hey, it’s Anabel Bacon, one of the producers here at Death, Sex & Money. Last month, we asked you to tell us your stories about being laid off. And we heard from a lot of you...including a listener named Stephanie.
Stephanie: Hey there DSM team.
Stephanie’s 24, and works as an occupational therapist… and she sent us an email about her dad, Steve. He was laid off two years ago.
Stephanie: My dad is in IT work. However, with decades of managerial experience, nearing "retirement age" and no formal computer science degree, prospective job interviews have been few and far between. At first my dad was hopeful to quickly get a new job, but as the time passes I can tell he is losing hope.
Stephanie and her dad have always been really close. And as he’s been looking for work, they’ve talked about his job search together a lot. So this week we’re trying something a little different.
Stephanie: Hey dad.
Steve: Hi peanut.
Since Anna’s out, we asked them if they’d be willing to continue their conversation about work...and let us record it. Steve was at their family home in Ohio. Stephanie called him from North Carolina, where she lives.
Stephanie: If we were just sitting at home, just having this conversation, where do you think we would be in the house?
Steve: Probably in our living room or maybe down in my office
Stephanie: Yeah, I would say the living room or I would be sitting on the counter in the kitchen and you'd be cooking something. Because we all know mom can burn water.
Steve: That's very true.
But they’re getting ready to sell that house, because Stephanie’s mom has been the only earner in the family for the past couple of years, and the financial strain of living on a single paycheck is starting to really hit.
Stephanie’s pitched in to help pay bills a couple of times. But back when Steve first lost his job, she was just graduating from college, and starting to look for work herself. So for a while, they were in the same boat.
Stephanie: How did it feel when we were both applying for jobs?
Steve: It felt very weird, thinking that, OK, here's my daughter, she's starting out, she's finished school and she's applying jobs and here I am. And now we're both out there in the market competing against everybody else trying to find a job. And it was just not a position that I ever thought I would actually be in where we were both out looking for work at the same time. So it’s been a struggle, because I am 61. A lot of people don't want to look at me.
Stephanie: What's the spectrum of jobs that you've applied for, skilled or unskilled?
Steve: Oh, I've applied for director of I.T. infrastructure or vice president of I.T. And I've applied for working at the deli at our local Kroger's, or being a cashier at Lowe's. So it makes it really depressing to sit here and look at things I know I can do, and can do well, but know that people know how old I am and they're not going to even let me move outside of H.R.
Stephanie: Through this whole situation I guess I would be lying if I said I didn't feel some sort of guilt. It's nothing that you've ever said or done, but like looking back and thinking about, you know, going to private school and how much that cost you know, K through high school, and swimming...that's not a cheap sport. And moving away for a job...I would be lying if I didn't say that I do feel somewhat, I guess a little bit guilty about having all these experiences. How that might have freed up money to not have you guys in that situation right now.
Steve: Well, you shouldn't feel guilty because number one it was never anything that you had a choice in it was what your mom and I wanted to do and we had the money to do it. And you know you had to find a job where you could find a job and yes it took you away you're still you know you need to. You need to start your life and have your life be the best it can be. So you've got nothing to feel guilty about and you shouldn't feel guilty.
Stephanie: I know I shouldn't, but it doesn't, that doesn't change it. You know? Just acknowledging that.
Steve: I know. How has the last two years affected you and how has it changed you?
Stephanie: Well, I think it's definitely stressed the importance of setting myself up for financial success. I don't really think I've always been super conscious of how much stuff costs. But another thing that the last two years has kind of taught me is I can't control everything. And by God I really wish I could. And sometimes I just need to give up what I must. And the only thing I can do is just pray about it and change my own actions, what I do have control over. So for example, you know, the decisions that I've made to get a two bedroom apartment on the off chance that your downsizing could mean you move here to North Carolina as a just in case backup plan. So I'm going to be there for you guys. Just like if the situation were reversed. You'd do the same thing for me.
Steve: Well, that's that's true. I'm very proud of you and the way the way you are, but at the same time it makes me feel bad and sad that I've put you in a position where you feel like you need to help take care of your mom and me. It does make me feel like I'm...I'm letting you and your mom down. Because I'm not doing the thing that a husband and father is supposed to do. And that is provide for their family.
Stephanie: Well. I can't change the way you feel.
Steve: Nope. No you can't.
Stephanie: I can't. I wish I could but I can't.
Steve: You can't. And again, it's...it's something that is part of my DNA, part of my upbringing. And whether it's right or wrong it's the way I am. And I know that's an ancient old-fashioned way of thinking, but I am an ancient, old-fashioned guy.
Stephanie: Dad you describing yourself as ancient, I don't think it's going to help you on any job interviews [laughs]
Steve: Well, in an interview I would not refer to myself as ancient.