Earlier this year, my husband got laid off from his job. He worked at a startup that was very mission-driven, but ultimately, like all businesses, needed to make their sales quota to remain fully staffed. We had anticipated for about a month that these layoffs were coming. Every department had a few casualties. The morning of, I was at work and saw him calling my personal cell. I knew it was important because my husband hates talking on the phone, so I looked around for a conference room I could duck into. For those who work in corporate America, I’m sure you could guess that in my moment of need, no conference rooms were to be found. Instead I sat on the floor of the printing room and braced myself.
He told me “It happened.” I waited for his reaction and instead of the avalanche of emotions I expected from my sensitive, art school educated, poetry writing, post-hardcore fan husband, I heard this calm, level-headed response: “It was inevitable, and now I can find something new that is a better fit for me.” While no one enjoys layoffs, we are very lucky and grateful that 1. I still have my full-time employment and the ability to pick up some monthly expenses we normally split 2. My husband is a super saver and has had a healthy emergency fund for years 3. He received a decent severance and was approved to receive unemployment 4. We received some generous gifts during our wedding from our friends and family, so we had started a “Carlson-Drumm family fund” that has never been touched. Between the two of us, he could spend a few months looking for a new job, versus needing to find something right away.
Two years ago, about eight months before our wedding, we both had similar job situations where we needed to find new employment asap. There was immense pressure because we had already committed to our wedding venue, sent out guest invites, and put down a non-refundable deposit. We also were paying for the wedding ourselves and needed the steady paychecks to fund our catered, Dough donut-filled dream wedding. Now, our situation is different - my husband, who spent over a decade working in NY agency world, can take some time to think about and search for a job that will lead him to long term happiness. While he’s had amazing work experiences throughout his career, he’s had many a situation that led him to being over-worked and overly stressed, which has affected our day to day life together.
The first year of marriage is said to be the toughest, and throwing in a stressful life event like being laid off will certainly test a relationship. However, it has led to us having very interesting conversations about what we want to prioritize for our future together. As his partner, I realized all I cared about was for him to find a job that was stable (which agencies are not always), challenged him creatively and intellectually (he’s been stuck in a social media spiral, as have I), and make him feel valued (while he is great at managing people, motivating his team, and finding creative solutions, pushing through the political hierarchy of agency and start-up life is still a challenge). The past two months have admittedly not been the easiest for either of us – especially for myself who always needs to know what’s happening three steps ahead of the time. However, we also are both trying not to make the situation seem dire. It’s an opportunity for us both to see what’s out there and potentially improve our quality of life. For a first, we don't want to have climbing the corporate ladder be the main focus of our life – we want to enjoy the life we’ve already worked hard to get.
While there is an emphasis in New York work culture, and our entire millennial generation, to constantly hustle, look for the next opportunity or promotion, and think our work defines us, I would encourage everyone to remember that work is just a means to an end. Without building relationships, pursuing your interests, and remaining grateful for what you have, it’s a lot more challenging to weather whatever storms will come your way. I know that if I were ever to be in the same situation, I know he will be there for me, no matter how much Pollyanna optimism or pizzas are needed.