Sunday, October 09, 2005

down but not out

Husband took the scenic route through college, finally finishing his last course this spring at age 28. He followed me to Oregon and had an awful time finding a job in this over-educated, under-employed town. His first job was a disaster - I think he actually lost money at it. As that one fizzled out (they didn't even have the grace to fire him), he spent several months at home playing video games all day. I'm sure he was depressed, but I was trapped in a demanding field schedule, and I wasn't very understanding about how frustrating it is to be looking for jobs and not finding anything.

Fortunately, two years ago he got his present job on the basis of a good reccomendation. It's been another straight commission sales job, but at least this company treated him fairly humanely. He spends about 6 months working in the local area, and the other half of the year working about an hour or 2 away (over some treacherous windy mountain roads), so he spends 4 nights away from home each week. The separation has been really hard on me (especially months 4-6), because I feel like I am left with running the household and trying to manage my own work, and with no one to turn to for companionship. He likes his work area away from home, because he earns more money there, but he spends his evenings at the bar or sitting in a dingy hotel room watching crappy tv.

So that's the background, now for the present situation. Husband's company got bought this spring, and it with the purchase came months of agony over the future of his job. Would all of the sales staff be laid off? would they be assigned different districts? would we still have health insurance? After he finished up "Away from Home" he got assigned a new district, about an hour from home but no mountains. And with the new district, came a new boss, and 8 am meetings every day of the week. Never mind that they weren't paying him to sit in meetings, just comission on sales. And the new boss was awful - giving the reassigned reps the worst clients, demanding better performance than that acheived by his own staff, and constantly threatening to fire them. On top of the lousy boss and meeting schedule, Husband's company is not well regarded in his new district, making it even harder to maintain good sales numbers (i.e., income).

So we've been on pins and needles for several months now about if and when Husband would lose his job. A month ago, they converted all the commission reps to salary - a mixed blessing. Sure our income would be steadier but his earning potential is lower now, and it's much easier to fire a salaried rep than a commission one. Last week, they put husband on "probabtion" giving him one week to make extraordinary (and nearly impossible) improvement. If a miracle didn't occur, my husband was going to lose his job yesterday (his birthday, no less). The stress was even affecting me. Basically, my husband was telling me that I needed to plan on being the primary breadwinner for ... indefinitely, and that he really wanted me to get a tenure-track job somewhere straight out of my Ph.D. rather than taking a post-doc and saddling him with another move and another series of dead-end jobs.

On Thursday, husband's awful boss was fired. Husband did not get fired on his birthday. Things are still very uncertain. He has not been given our home district back, though other reps have now been assigned to work here. 8 am meetings are done for now. But I still feel like he could lose his job any day. He has a strong track record but his last few months have been pretty abysmal. I guess it'll depend on whether the new boss looks at his whole history or just the most recent campaign.

Husband and I took a stress survey a few months ago. I scored mildly above average, his score was in the health endangering category. His family is wrapped up in their own troubles, and haven't even called husband yet for his birthday (yesterday, remember). On top of everything else, we've been trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant. Last week, husband went to the clinic and gave a sperm sample. They say his count is low. Is there any wonder? And yet, my well meaning friends keep telling me not to be stressed. Husband is the one that needs the cheerleaders. I love him dearly and I hate to see him so stressed all the time. But I don't know how to fix the situation. It's not like he can quit his job - we need the health insurance and see above for how hard it is to find a decent job around here. I've been trying to be a good wife - I got him an ipod for his birthday - figured a tech-gizmo would cheer him up and distract him. Trying also to just be relaxed around him and do nothing (i.e., watch TV) if that's what he wants. But it's hard when I also am feeling all the demands of grad school. Sometimes I feel like it's just against the world. At least we have each other.


BotanicalGirl said...

Hang in there.

I just found your blog and from the periphery it sounds like we have a lot in common.

My boyfriend/fiance tried starting his own business this year, and we failed fantastically and lost a ton of money, plus he had no benefits during that time. He got a salary position a few months ago, but the budget is still tight. Stress city.

Good luck with trying to have a baby. I want a family someday, but God knows when that will happen at this point...

K said...

Yes, hang in there. Sometimes it helps me to think that somehow everything will work out, but sometimes it doesn't help because who believes that stuff anyway?

My husband and I are both in grad school right now. We graduated from college together and jumped right in to grad school. Sometimes I think this was a bad idea, because we're both dealing with the grad school stresses at the same time. However, having a job can certainly be as stressful - or even more stressful I'm sure. I'll find out soon enough when I'm done with my master's and my husband still has ~5 years left in his PhD program.

By the way, I love your blog.

Rhyax said...

Yes, it sounds like we do both live in the same over-educated, under-employed town. My wife and I just moved here and she is having a hell of a time finding a job. She has a master's degree and experience, but there are so few opportunities. So I totally sympathize with your situation. It can be incredibly stressful. I envy the grad students around me who are single. They can go anywhere they fancy without having to worry about how it will affect a partner.

I added you to my Blogroll and will pop in from time to time, when I have a moment to breathe between classes, teaching, reading, writing, etc.

ScienceWoman said...

Rhyax: pleased to make your acquaintance, but please don't tell me that it's going to be just as hard to find a job tis time around.