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On Parenting
Posted at 07:00 AM ET, 08/05/2011

Unemployment costs more than a salary for many families

The Post has just launched what editors call a “reader-powered experiment.” It’s asking six families to describe in their own words how their unemployment is affecting their lives. They will each write blog posts through the rest of the summer, available on The Post’s special “Help Wanted Project” page.

These families’ accounts are intended to illuminate the fuller effects of statistics that we have all come to know: Fourteen million Americans who can’t find work; 10 million who have taken part-time positions or have given up on the job market. The average length of unemployment is now nine months.

Half of the six participating in the project are just like many of the unemployed: They are parents. One father, Marc Johnson, lost his job on Capitol Hill in January. His first child was born in February.

Johnson’s recent post struck me as revealing of what many families have endured in this economy. The financial hit is devastating, but sometimes it’s the more subtle psychological struggles and role reversals that are more damaging to a family. Below is an excerpt from his piece. The full post is here.

“My daughter is an absolute joy. However, there have been a few days where I look into her eyes, and cried.

Alaiyah generally just stares back, not being able to comprehend what is going on with her father. I cry, because I don’t know how I am going to pay the rent. I don’t know how I am going to pay my car note. I don’t know how I am going to pay for day care, her formula, her clothes, etc.

My wife is still working, but her salary isn’t able to support all of us. When I worked on the Hill, my salary paid for the big expenses of our household. Now, my weeks are full of worry, asking the same questions…“WHY?” and “HOW?” My daughter depends on me, and I can’t provide for her.

I look into Alaiyah’s eyes, crying, thinking that I am the worst father in the world. My wife is a wonderful source of strength and support, and reassures me that I am a good father. However, I unfortunately don’t share her confidence.

So … I look into my daughter’s eyes once again, and before I feel worse, my daughter looks at me and smiles, as if to say, “Daddy … I love you.” I then wipe the tears from my face, kiss her cherub-like face, and gather up the strength to push forward another day.”

— From “When I look into my daughter’s eyes,” by Marc Johnson.

Are you a parent who has been looking for work, or has your partner? What toll has it taken on the family?

By  |  07:00 AM ET, 08/05/2011

 
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