Unemployed dad and the kids who love him

Well, Sam Davies lost his job. And his kids kind of don’t really care! Turns out kids are barely aware of that part of your life!

Photo by: bionicteaching

The phone call ending my employment was not entirely unexpected. As a remote employee of a healthcare technology firm, I lived in emails, conference calls, and iMessage, and for nearly three weeks, there was a marked decline in anyone requesting my time and attention. When I asked my boss what was up, he told me that we’d talk soon–we did, late afternoon on a Friday, with HR. I’d been laid off.

I’ve been a remote employee for various firms for the past 10 years and people who aren’t seen every day are often the easiest to cull when culling needs doing. The last time laid off, I was on paternity leave after the birth of my second daughter (who is now almost six). They had me call in to an important “all hands” meeting. When they went through the PowerPoint of the new org chart, I wasn’t on it.

This time, the call (and my employment) ended just as Kat arrived home from picking the girls up from school. I texted her to come up to the office, and then I told her. After we muttered a few good expletives to the ether, Kat went downstairs and I told the Internet about my day.

When I came downstairs, my nine-year-old daughter asked me “Daddy, did you lose your job?” She was looking at me like she knew she was asking about “grown-up” stuff and was maybe a little afraid to be asking. I sat down next to her and answered in the affirmative. She asked me why it happened, and I tried to explain the difference between being laid off and being fired. Then I assured her that we had enough money saved up that we’d be OK for a while. She gave me a nice hug.

After the initial emotional shock wore off, I was prepared to wallow deeply under a blanket, but I was thwarted by my loving family. Coincidentally, I lost my job on the Friday that my girls started their Spring Break, and I had no excuse to stay home. Instead, we explored the city, hitting up several parks and the science museum, and generally enjoying each other’s company.

But, I had to make a real effort to be present with them. Sheer worry occupied a large section of my thoughts. What was going to happen? Would we need to use up all our savings, what’d happen then? Should I try to find any job as soon as possible or take a deliberate, but non-irresponsible, path to a more fulfilling one? The kids didn’t have any of these worries, so I did my best to compartmentalize those feelings while we were together.

But the worries haven’t gone away, nor should I ever really expect them to. The outpouring of offers of help from friends and family have made me think the world is a pretty OK place, and I’ve taken every opportunity offered to talk with people. Many have been through similar situations and it’s helped to hear that, yes, you will feel all the feelings over and over and over again.

Some days I bicycle around town, complete errands, and manage to apply for jobs and talk to friends for advice. Other days, I hide under a blanket and watch Netflix. Some days I feel like losing my job will be one of the best things that could’ve happened to me. Other days I feel like I’m useless and that I contribute nothing to the world. Apparently, this roller coaster ride is not uncommon, and I’ll probably be riding it for awhile.

My girls don’t care if I had an active day or a more slothful one, they just want to hang out with me when they get home from school. They don’t seem fazed at all. Aside from the actual day I lost my job, it really hasn’t come up. They wake up, go to school, come home, and to them I’m just “home from work” a little earlier. I get two more hours of time with my kids every day, and I should make the most of it while I can.

I’m only three weeks into the unemployed life and it’s scary. It’s scary because I can’t help but think of what happens if three weeks turns into three months or three years. I’m worried that I’ll disappoint my kids in some way I can’t define, that all of their toys will get taken away like in A Little Princess and they’ll have to go live in an attic somewhere. I’m worried that I’ll fail them and not be able to provide for them and that they’ll suffer by my inadequacies.

I know this is silly. I know that they just want a dad who loves them and spends time with them. I know that they are strong and resilient and as long as we have food and shelter and each other we’ll probably be OK. I just want to be my best for them, and it’s hard when I feel like I’m failing.

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Sam Davies

Sam Davies is the father of two daughters (ages five and eight) who lives in Northside Richmond. He and his wife Kat are trying their best to not raise sociopaths.

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