What do you tell a child when you’ve lost your job? How do you position it so they can learn from your experience? How do you balance being ‘real’ with your emotions versus glazing over so they don’t see you struggle (or is it okay for them to see you struggle)? These are all questions I’ve been forced to consider over the last couple of days, after corporate restructuring left me jobless. So far I’ve tackled my new reality with the mentality that I will use this experience to teach my kids how to overcome adversity as a human being, as a single parent, and as an employee.
First things first. After I was escorted out of the building, my first question wasn’t, “What next?”, but rather, “How do I work through this with my kids?” I made arrangements with a friend to pick them up from school so I could have some breathing space before I saw them. I thought through the messaging in my head, took a few deep breaths and then gathered the kids.
Second, I prepared mentally for any questions that might arise, knowing each of my kids’ personalities. I thought through things like, “Mommy, why did you get fired?” or “How will you pay the bills?” Because I wasn’t fired, I wanted to give my kids terminology to use that was real and appropriate when sharing with their friends….because I knew they would!
Third, I went for a walk. I made myself do something I didn’t want to do so I could be more clear-headed than if I’d curled up on the couch like I wanted to. I also talked to a close friend and got out all of the things I needed/wanted to say about the situation, so that there was some kind of outlet for me prior to seeing the kids. These two actions were probably key in determining whether I got through the evening with any semblance of success or not.
I determined that kids need to know the truth, they need to understand that sometimes things in life are hard, but that how we walk through those difficulties will also determine how we get to the other side. Once I got them home and gathered them together in one spot before they scattered, I told them methodically that I had lost my job and no longer worked for XYZ company (along with 2 other employees), that yes I was disappointed and sad, and that it was due to changes in the company and not because I’d done something wrong. I also told them that it was a life learning experience for all of us, and that we will use it to learn how to get through the tough stuff. I shared with them that life doesn’t always turn out how we expect it to but that it’s in our hands as individuals to take not only the high road, but to take the challenge and turn it into something great.
As soon as our conversation was over, I asked if they had any questions for me. My youngest said, “Nope!” and got at her colouring page. My 10 year old asked if I had to take all the work stuff off my computer and when I said yes, he responded “Yay! Mommy won’t have to work so much,” followed by, “and we’ll get more time on the computer!” My 13 year old said, “Now you can get the house cleaned.” True to form for each of them.
Whew, dodged that bullet. They’ve been totally fine for the most part. Of course, my 10 year old has questions upon questions, but because I took the time to mentally prepare myself, nothing surprised me and I knew what I was going to say if asked.
Now that I’ve walked my way through that process, it’s time to figure out the rest of the story…what’s next for me and my three?