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How I Tried To Keep It Together For My Kids When I Lost My Job

Feb 3, 2020

I grabbed my notepad like I always did when my boss called me into her office. I like to take notes and it gives me something to do with my hands. As soon as I stepped into the huge space with the boardroom table, I locked eyes with the HR Director. I knew right then I wouldn’t need my notepad — I was being let go.

I have many faults but crumbling in high-stress situations is not one of them. At that moment, I absolutely melted down. I started hyper-ventilating and found myself babbling over and over about reducing my salary. You see, I was a director and even in that surreal moment, my brain was already doing the math. 

Included in the calculations: Three kids — two in post-secondary with a third on the way. One mortgage. One woman in her mid-50’s in a highly competitive marketplace. 


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Emotions were high and scattered. I had a finite amount of time to figure this out and the clock was ticking.

The fact is, I was job hunting long before I was called into that boardroom. I could feel the shift in priorities, and I was worried. So, beating myself up for not being more emotionally prepared was pointless — the writing was on the wall, even if I didn't want to see it.

"We often forget kids are highly tuned-in to what their parents are going through."

One thing I did know for certain: my industry was going through a radical disruption and competition was fierce. How much would my age be a factor in getting a job? I looked in the mirror and suddenly wrinkles I had never seen before stared back at me. I’ve always had an abundance of energy and a youthful outlook. As I began this journey, I knew I had to tap into that energy and put my best foot forward.

My children were watching me. They always do. We often forget kids are highly tuned in to what their parents are going through. The look of concern was etched into their faces. As the main income earner, the three of them knew I faced enormous pressure but mostly they were worried about my pain. Putting my best foot forward may have been the goal but the shock and rejection had created a pair of cement shoes, and I was struggling to take the first step.

They heard me cry and saw my puffy face when I came down from my room. They watched as I headed out the door for yet another networking coffee only to return feeling dejected. I kept the lines of communication open the best I could by sharing stories about the people I was meeting and the latest job competition. I reminded them often that stress was a normal part of job hunting. I had good days when my usual energy was back and I radiated a semblance of normalcy. And there were the tough days when I simply slogged through the job boards, attended another webinar on resumé writing and reached out to a new contact.


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But it was the dark days that were the hardest to hide. The days when I felt hopeless and the pressure made it hard to breath. I couldn’t stop thinking I was failing at providing for my children. On those dark days I often kept to myself or admitted openly it was simply too difficult to hide the stress.

"With the help of an exceptional counselor, I realized letting go of the house was the answer."

Groceries, dentist bills and the cost of tuition swirled in my head but when I dug deep, there was one fear that bubbled up to the surface — I didn’t want to lose our house. I had done everything in my power since my divorce to keep their childhood home as a place of stability. It’s often the first question children ask in times of crisis: “Are we going to have to move?” My daughter has one more year left of high school and I wanted to hang on to the house just a little longer. Many told me to sell and rent a place in the neighbourhood for a year and then figure out where to go. Good advice for some but for me, the thought of the instability flooded me with anxiety.

I kept telling myself the answer was to find a job. This of course contributed to the pressure. The focus seemed to shift from survival to saving the house. After six months of unsuccessful job competitions and endless applications, something shifted. With the help of an exceptional counselor, I realized letting go of the house was the answer. There was no need to bubble wrap the kids. They would adapt and cope with whatever I needed to do. 

I sat the three of them down and explained my decision. They were emotional but supportive. My daughter, the one still at home, was the most upset. But in the coming weeks, she worked hard on her mindset about the concept of moving. After nearly a year of searching, I landed a contract job. It’s enough to keep up the mortgage payments but I’m proceeding with my plans to sell this spring. I’m not sure where we’re moving and if my contract will be renewed, but the money is coming in for now.

As a family, we’re going through all sorts of old stuff and asking if “this sparks joy” as we declutter and prepare to radically downsize. It’s an exercise that has a lingering tinge of sadness. I’m working hard to stay open-minded and positive through this journey. So far, it’s been a little messy but I can now see something new in my children’s faces. The worry isn’t there as often. It’s been replaced with a confidence and pride that their mother is going to be OK.

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Article Author Karen Horsman
Karen Horsman

Karen is the former national parenting columnist for CBC. She is the mother of three and working in the field of corporate communications.

Sharing stories and learning from others is at the centre of Karen's world. When she isn't writing or connecting with fellow adventurers, you can find her walking a local forest with her amazing puppy.

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