Adventures in UnEnJoyment

For the first time in over five years I do not have fulltime work, joining the ranks of millions hit by the Great Recession. That my husband is also being hit hard in his own career as a financial advisor compounds the stress of losing my income. I’ve been out of work over a month and still haven’t received my first unemployment check. Really, how DO people survive who don’t have a partner (or an already over extended mortgage to draw on) to rely on during the gap?

In a conscious effort to use this “break” as a time to cultivate patience rather than fear, I’ve made an Unemployment Gratitude List.

1. It’s Summer! For the first time since my kids were in diapers we can spend the summer together, going to the beach and playing with friends rather than constantly hustling from one day camp to another. One of the moms has organized “Camp Co-Op” where we each take one day a week to host kids at our home, and drop off our darlings with different families the other four days – for free. This is no small thing, as the bargain rate for full day camp at the local parks & rec for my two kids would hit me at $450 per week. Saving this fee – which is the same amount of my (hopefully soon to be forthcoming) unemployment check – basically doubles my benefits in my mind. And getting this time to spend with my kids is unquantifiable.

2. Time for a Pause. In my experience, being a fulltime working mom is for the flipping birds. Exhausting and challenging, to put it mildly, but that’s life and I’m grateful for the one I have. While the search for work is taxing, I am trying to be present and patient and take things one day at a time. While sending out resumes, I am also re-envisioning how my next career move would ideally look for this working mom. I’m starting a website/blog for the heck of it – just to do something new.

3. Health & Wellness. The party is over – I’ve turned 40, and while aging doesn’t bug me, the death of my metabolism does. I packed on 30 lbs. in the past three years of being at a desk job. I’ve taken up Zumba at the Y and have renewed my yoga practice. When I’m out and about with the kids, I take a moment to reflect where I’d be at the office at that point of the day and it makes the fresh air smell that much sweeter.

4. Purge, Baby, Purge. Straight up, we have TOO MUCH STUFF. Kids = stuff, period. While they are at Camp Co-Op it will be time for some ruthless letting go. An OCD friend who owes me a favor is going to help me with the big purge. Once all the crap in my garage is excavated, I will finally have the time to turn it into the art studio/play space I’ve long envisioned as a haven for my kids. I might even prop up that old easel of mine and do a painting for the first time in over a decade. Cut & paste therapy, woot!

5. Together We Can Make It Happen. In the new world order of our floundering economy, volunteering is ever more essential to keep the richest parts of our community afloat: public schools, help for abused and recovering women and children, arts education, the physically and developmentally disabled, ad infinitum — I am energized by every hour I can spend right now pulling my weight for the causes that stir me. And paid overtime in the inspiration it yields.

I know the outlook is bleak for getting jobs right now, but being a glass-half-full kind of gal, I trust the right thing (or things) will come out of this transition, that I am where I am meant to be right here, right now, and that some how my family will survive and thrive. Especially once I finally get that first unemployment check.

Have you had to deal with similar employment gaps in your life? How have you handled it? What did you learn?


About the Author

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Liberty Bradford is an artist, educator and social justice advocate. Her website, is launching in July 2011.

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