Lessons Learned from a Layoff 

Lessons Learned from a Layoff  July 30, 2017

As those of you who follow this blog’s Facebook page are aware, I was unexpectedly laid off from my job of eight years in April. April 19, to be exact. I was absolutely blindsided by the layoff, as was the rest of my former team (one other team member was let go besides myself). From what I understand, it was purely a cost-saving measure, and my former company gave me a generous severance package, including two weeks’ pay in lieu of notice.

I had never been laid off before, so it was a new experience. Thanks for the severance package we didn’t have to panic immediately, and we were able to give our daycare two weeks of notice instead of pulling the kids out immediately.

The layoff happened mid-morning, and I spent a good chunk of the day wandering around the house in shock. I called my husband to tell him the news, and after he’d gotten over his shock, he instructed me to go out and do something just for me. Go to the library, go to a movie, browse a bookstore, go shopping, but he wanted me to do something. I took his advice and went to Chick-fil-A to eat, and then did a little bit of shopping. And it did help, at least a little.

The next few weeks were spent in a flurry of paperwork — I spent long hours applying for government aid as well as scheduling last-minute appointments before my various insurances ended (the kids were covered under my plan too, so I had to scramble to make other arrangements for us).

It wasn’t until I was no longer working that I realized how much of my identity had been bound up in being an employee. I felt lost, adrift, and oddly unsettled. To be frank, I hadn’t liked my job, but I’d stayed with it because of the benefits — flexible schedule (including the ability to work from home most days), good benefits, decent pay. And on one hand I was glad not to have to do the work anymore, but on the other I wasn’t quite sure what to do with myself now that I was no longer an employee.

I did appreciate the extra time with my kids, but it was quite a shock to realize that my dreams of being a stay-at-home-mom didn’t quite match the reality. I think part of that was due to having a nursing baby, but all the extra free time I thought I’d have evaporated like steam from a kettle. It was all I could do to keep up with basic housework, and the kids made messes faster than I could clean them up — even though they all had chores to do every day. Some nights I’d crawl into bed and think, “Why on earth didn’t I get anything done today?” And it was usually because the baby wanted to eat all the time and the three-year-old went through the house like a tornado, and because I had to referee arguments between the older kids, and a dozen other small things that ended up taking up all of my “extra” time.

Job-hunting consumed a great deal of time as well. We knew that once the severance ran out, we would need income of some kind, even if it was just what I could earn doing a part-time, work-from-home job. I applied for those types of jobs as well as for full-time work, and I signed up with a local temp agency specifically geared for writers, editors, artists, etc.

I had a phone interview for a very promising job, a position as a copy editor for a local media company, in late May. The phone interview led to an in-person interview, and then a second interview with one of the company’s VPs. I also did an editorial assessment and provided my references. I was extended an offer in late June and conducted salary negotiations. Once those had been wrapped up, I ended up starting my new job on July 17.

Ironically, I was offered a part-time, work-from-home gig the same week I was offered the full-time job. Initially I accepted both, thinking that the part-time job could help supplement my income (which was a pay cut from my previous salary, even after negotiating), but I quickly realized that one full-time job was about all I could handle, and I ended up declining the offer of the part-time position.

I have to admit, I was a bit apprehensive about going back to full-time work after three months as a SAHM, as well as commuting to an office every day after nearly a year and a half of working at home full-time. To complicate matters, we had to find a new daycare as our old daycare was unable to take our two youngest kids back.

However, I’m happy to report that things are going very well, even better than I’d anticipated. We found a great new daycare that is actually less expensive than our previous one, and the kids are thriving. The commute is only 30 minutes one-way; while not as convenient as working from home, it definitely beats the 90-minute commute (one way) that I drove for almost seven years. My new commute is the perfect length of time to say a rosary, as it turns out, so I’ve been successful incorporating more prayer time into my day. As an added bonus, my house is actually cleaner now that the three-year-old is at daycare all day.

Most importantly, I LOVE my new job; it really does make a difference to love what you do. It’s been a very long time since I’ve had a job like that. I don’t dread going to work every day anymore. While I wish I could get more sleep at night (my six-month-old still wakes up to nurse once or twice), I greet the day with enthusiasm and look forward to working. My new supervisor is wonderful and my coworkers are lovely people. The culture is wonderful and the office (a brand-new building!) is terrific.

The layoff also helped me realize that my long-cherished dream of being a stay-at-home-mom was grounded in fantasy instead of reality. Being a SAHM didn’t mean I magically had a clean home and plenty of time to do chores. It was more convenient when it came to things like scheduling doctor’s appointments, but otherwise I found that it wasn’t the utopia I had imagined it to be — and I think I romanticized the situation in my head because I was so miserable at my old job. And while I did enjoy being a SAHM, I’ve found that I can also thrive while working full-time outside of the home, now that I’m in a job I love and that I can really succeed in.

In hindsight, my layoff was a blessing in disguise, and I can honestly say I’m glad it happened.

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  • Jennifer

    Thank you so much JoAnna for your honesty in this post. I really needed to hear this today. I too have always dreamed of being a SAHM. I don’t love my job. The hours work out and the pay and benefits are good. The idea of staying home has consumed me at times and has been a conflict in my marriage. I am grateful for your perspective and I can absolutely see myself feeling the same way you described. I sometimes sit at my desk completely exhausted and overwhelmed from what I need to get done at home and dream of my fantasy life as a SAHM. I’ve tried to look at many options to work from home, but I really am not confident that they would work well either. I try to figure out how to work part time, but with my position it would be giving up too much. My other friends who have been SAHM’s have told me the loneliness and boredom was more than the could bear and I should just stay put in my current position. My boss is flexible (for now) and I’ve been there for 16 years. I still may always wonder what it would be like for our family, but after reading your experience hopefully I won’t dwell on it so much.

  • Maea

    This is so insightful, Joanna! And refreshing.

    I’m not a mother, but I’m married and work full time. Your post caught my attention because I’ve been laid off twice and I can understand the surprise, shock, and struggle that seems to come at once. Right now, I’m in the process of job hunting.

    Your thoughts on being a SAHM grounded in fantasy vs. reality were interesting. A lot of SAHMs admit that the house is hardly clean, let alone tidy looking. I remember reading a blog where a mom said she felt like she did laundry all the time, and her home seemed more like a daycare. For some reason in American culture, there are a lot of ideas out there about SAHM and they don’t align with reality. I read The Practical Conservative’s blog a lot, and she discusses those same issues.

    The truth is none of us can have it all, all the time. There is always a balance and we have to make our decisions using our conscience. I’m glad to see you found a job where you can thrive and your family is doing well!

  • Alia

    I could have written the same exact reply. I too am grateful for this post. My thoughts about being a SAHM consume me so much at times and it emotionally hurts. In reality we need my income to get by and my husband would not be ok with me leaving my job. I should instead be grateful that we have an amazing daycare, I work close to home and have pretty great hours. I am also married to a teacher so he gets to be home with the kids in the summer time and school breaks. We should focus on our blessings instead of letting our desires consume us.