Study: No Job Better Than Bad Job

Having no job is better for your mental health than a bad job, according to a study cited by Time magazine. Read on:

Australian National University researchers looked at how various psychosocial work attributes affect well-being. They found that poor-quality jobs — those with high demands, low control over decision making, high job insecurity and an effort-reward imbalance — had more adverse effects on mental health than joblessness.

The researchers analyzed seven years of data from more than 7,000 respondents of an Australian labor survey for their Occupational and Environmental Medicine study in which they wrote:

“As hypothesized, we found that those respondents who were unemployed had significantly poorer mental health than those who were employed. However, the mental health of those who were unemployed was comparable or more often superior to those in jobs of the poorest psychosocial quality… The current results therefore suggest that employment strategies seeking to promote positive outcomes for unemployed individuals need to also take account of job design and workplace policy.”

I believe this study in that I have always thought that there was nothing suckier in this country than having a job you hate and being broke. Shudder. What do you all think?


Latest BPN Drama: Pregnant with Unemployed Husband

Considering that unemployment is disproportionately affecting men, I thought I would share with you some parts of an e-mail thread at Berkeley Parents Network started by a pregnant mom whose husband is unemployed.

I am sorry, but I deleted the original letter written by the mom, who by the responses, sounds like she is married to an intelligent man who is not ambitious and has frequent bouts of unemployment. If I remember correctly, her letter sounded quite harsh and my initial thought was that she simply wanted to stay home with the baby. But like everyone else who commented in the thread it doesn’t sound like this couple has any other option but to have her work outside the home and make him “Mr. Mom” — for now.

Here were some of the responses:

I really saw myself in your posting, and I know you’re in a stressful situation. Mine was very similar, and my husband ended up taking care of our son until he was 2 1/2. Before our son was born, we never assumed that my husband would end up as the primary caregiver — but it ended up being the only feasible option, as he wasn’t working and daycare was expensive (and not much to our liking for infants). You might be surprised at how well your husband does as a parent, especially as he bonds more and more with the baby. As the woman, you probably feel as though you should be the one to stay home (I know I felt that). However, your situation is what it is, you’re the one with the job, and remember that you are doing an enormous amount for your baby by supporting him or her financially. Also, your child will end up having a strong bond both with you (that’s inevitable — you’re the mom!) and your husband, which is healthy. Our son is now four and he’s very close to both of us. I don’t feel that I was an absent parent by any means, and I know the day will come when my son recognizes how important it was that his mother had a job. Also, having one parent who doesn’t work (whether it’s the father or the mother) comes in very handy when you have a child. You just have to try to get past the very powerful assumption that the working person has to be the father. Anyway, wishing you happiness and the best of luck – it will be fine!
Been there….

I’m pregnant with our second child and my husband has been unemployed for 3 years. Circumstances are a bit different, as he’s working on a novel and not actively seeking employment, but I can relate to your feelings about coming home after a long day to a house that’s not as clean as you’d like and to feeling the pressures of supporting a family financially along with the pressures of just being pregnant (and being a mommy). We have used a nanny part-time since our son was 1 yr old so he has time to write and the rest of the day, he is Mr. Mom. I’m very lucky to have a husband who loves spending time with his son, proactively cleans up, and responds well if I ask him to do something specific around the house. I also found it emotionally much easier to go back to work knowing that my infant was being cared for by someone who loves him just as much as me.

My first piece of advice would be to reconsider daycare, especially if your husband is open to staying at home even for a few months. You mention you don’t make enough to support three of you, but in my experience it’s cheaper than paying for full-time daycare. Crunch the numbers and you may even find that daycare is more than covering regular expenses plus a once a week housekeeper! Secondly, I recommend you let go as much as possible with housework standards. Ask yourself: Is this unsanitary or just messy? Is it worth an argument? Would it be better to just cuddle together and talk about our new baby for 20 min instead of scrubbing tile? My standards have definitely gotten lower post-kids but I’m dealing. Finally, don’t underestimate the issue of male pride. He’s likely going through emotions too that he may be unable to express in a constructive way. Go easy on his ego as best you can and stay focused on the positive aspects of your marriage. Good luck and best wishes for a healthy and happy pregnancy and birth.
Pregnant with Unemployed Husband – Again!

As is the nature of BPN, at least a couple letters were pretty harsh, and based on the original letter I wish I had, I thought a bit unfair to the husband.

Oh, NO! I read your posting with growing horror. I don’t want to add to your stress of being pregnant, but you are so right to be worried. I was married for fifteen years to a man who was basically unemployed for most of the time. His reason for under- or unemployment was that he wanted to be a writer, and indeed, he did write faithfully every day — he just didn’t publish. Ever. I wanted to marry him, admired him for his discipline and goals, and thought (idealistically) that it would be fine for me to work to support him if he would just help around the house and have a part-time job. But the part-time job soon fell out of the picture, he never showed much gumption about trying to be published, he was a good caretaker of our son but when the son went off to school he still wanted after-school care for him so that he would have more time to….? Write? Yes, but also read the paper at the library, putter around with music, etc. etc. I realized after a long time that he had invented his own dream world that I was now supporting, and it got heavier and heavier. I tried to get him to consider training for employment, supported him in a degree program (he dropped out), etc. until I finally gave up and divorced him. And THEN I had the pleasure of paying spousal support, since he had never worked and was having difficulty entering the job market… three years later, he’s still working part-time, using the rest of the day to… write. Even though this may not resemble your husband in every detail, believe me, in your loving kindness you have signed onto something that will benefit no one — not you, not your husband, and not your baby. I am led to say so particularly when you describe your attempts to get him to find a job. Do you end up checking ads or training opportunities for him? Red flag. He needs to find out what kind of employment would best suit him, get prepared for it, and go to work. You have seen that he is not cut out to be Mr. Mom (which I will admit is an arrangement that can work in some cases, but it wasn’t what I had and most likely would not be what you would have), and you are going to need some material HELP. Sorry if I sound harsh, but your posting just hit some very sensitive chords with me. Good luck in turning things around while you still can!
no longer idealistic….

How eerie. I was involved with a very similar guy for several years: intelligent, unambitious to the bone, apathetic about cleaning, paid his half from stocks, horrible resume – couldn’t get work. I too was a nag. I felt I had to be or nothing would get done. I’m sorry to say I think there’s no antidote for lack of ambition. It seems to be built-in to some people. It will be interesting to see if he changes with the birth of his child.

I wasn’t pregnant, however, and I do believe you have every right to complain. If he is to be Mr. Mom (which is unfortunately the default here unless he gets a job), he should be preparing all the meals, keeping up the house, and basically doing all the things a SAHM typically does, but maybe ramped up a bit since you have to deal with huge hormonal shifts, gestate his child for 9.5 months, remain employed, and deal with nausea.

We had a talk about what we each felt was acceptable time between chores. He felt fine with only cleaning the bathroom every several months. I felt the ideal was weekly. I said we should both compromise and have it done once a month and we agreed to that (his job was bathroom, mine was the rest of the house; laundry was separate and he did his own dishes). And quite honestly, I would check over the bathroom after he did it and pointed out all the things he left unclean and needed to fix. After so many months, he did it right the first time, hoping to avoid my wrath.

Come to some reasonable compromise on chores, making sure that you both agree to whatever the terms are. His buy-in is crucial, otherwise he will shine you on. Add a clause to your verbal agreement that if he doesn’t meet his half of the agreement, you will hire a housecleaner at his expense (which really, he should be providing anyway because you are a working, pregnant woman).

For those of you experiencing unemployment how have you divvied up chores and childcare?


Women To Surpass Men in U.S. Workforce

In case you missed it, the New York Times ran an article about how women are poised to overtake men in the workplace.

A whopping 82 percent of the layoffs during the ongoing recession has befallen men, according to the Times.

Women tend to be employed in areas like education and health care, which are less sensitive to economic ups and downs, and in jobs that allow more time for child care and other domestic work….

In recessions, the percentage of families supported by women tends to rise slightly, and it is expected to do so when this year’s numbers are tallied. As of November, women held 49.1 percent of the nation’s jobs, according to nonfarm payroll data collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. By another measure, including farm workers and the self-employed, women constituted 47.1 percent of the work force.

Women may be safer in their jobs, but tend to find it harder to support a family. For one thing, they work fewer overall hours than men. Women are much more likely to be in part-time jobs without health insurance or unemployment insurance. Even in full-time jobs, women earn 80 cents for each dollar of their male counterparts’ income, according to the government data.

Actually, the women profiled in the Times story seemed to be in a tough spot. Not only were they working for low wages, but their newly unemployed husbands were not helping them at home.

Women like Ms. Mohammed find themselves at the head of once-separate spheres: work and household. While women appear to be sole breadwinners in greater numbers, they are likely to remain responsible for most domestic responsibilities at home.

On average, employed women devote much more time to child care and housework than employed men do, according to recent data from the government’s American Time Use Survey analyzed by two economists, Alan B. Krueger and Andreas Mueller.

When women are unemployed and looking for a job, the time they spend daily taking care of children nearly doubles. Unemployed men’s child care duties, by contrast, are virtually identical to those of their working counterparts, and they instead spend more time sleeping, watching TV and looking for a job, along with other domestic activities.

Many of the unemployed men interviewed say they have tried to help out with cooking, veterinarian appointments and other chores, but they have not had time to do more because job-hunting consumes their days.

“The main priority is finding a job and putting in the time to do that,“ says John Baruch, in Arlington Heights, Ill., who estimates he spends 35 to 45 hours a week looking for work since being laid off in January 2008.

While he has helped care for his wife’s aging parents, the couple still sometimes butt heads over who does things like walking the dog, now that he is out of work. He puts it this way: “As one of the people who runs one of the career centers I’ve been to told me: ‘You’re out of a job, but it’s not your time to paint the house and fix the car. Your job is about finding the next job.’ “

Many women say they expect their family roles to remain the same, even if economic circumstances have changed for now.

That is a lot of stress on a marriage.

Are any of you returning to work following a spouse’s unemployment? What is your new setup like?