Today we had a picnic lunch orchestrated by our six year-old daughter, Hannah. It was in honor of her Daddy and his last day at work. The festivities came on the heels of a particularly tough week. Part of the strain came by way of a bout of mastitis I had. It seems that along with the joy of a newborn, the mom (that’s me) is often bombarded by an array of strange ailments requiring remedies ranging from cabbage leaves to fish oil. Sigh.
So, there I was on Monday morning with a 102˚ fever and every muscle in my body aching profusely. Meanwhile, my husband Phil, was in a meeting at work discussing the firm’s present realities. They were coming to the agreement that his last day there would be that Friday. Not the best start to the week.
Three days into antibiotics, I resumed my post as mommy and realized that we needed to talk to Hannah about Phil’s impending job departure. Having been with the firm for five years, it’s a place in which we’ve all invested. Even Hannah has run the halls countless times, finding Jelly Bellies to eat, visiting employees and dizzily spinning in office chairs.
When I told her that Friday would be Daddy’s last day, her eyes immediately filled with tears. She then shied away from actually crying and instead wanted to understand why. I explained that his company used to be a big company that needed the skills that Daddy has and that now it was a smaller company, so his work there was done. She asked if he was retiring. I said no, Daddy is a bit young for that. Then she asked if he’d get a new job, and I assured her that he would do his best. From there, she headed down a familiar path – that of idea generating. Our little external processor went to work producing optimistically-charged solutions that she’s sure would solve the problem. She had three suggestions.
First, she told me she’d walk Daddy down the street to Peets to find a newspaper for him … because they have jobs in newspapers. (We still don’t know where she learned that you can find a job in the newspaper.) Next, she assured me that if we ran out of money that she would share the money she had (six dollars) in her money box with us. Lastly, she thought it would be nice to throw Daddy a surprise party in honor of his final day. Her plans included a picnic lunch, cupcakes and lots of stuffed animals.
Taking everything into consideration, we landed on her third suggestion as the most viable (and fun) option. And so, we went about throwing a party for Phil. The surprise element stayed in place for the better part of the morning. By midday, though,her enthusiasm had gotten the best of her and Phil was clued in on our plan. Cupcakes were then baked. Food was prepared. Everyone – stuffed and real people alike – then graced our front yard on wrinkled beach towels in the nicest of attire.
While losing your job is no small deal in today’s economy, I’ve been struck by several things through this experience. First, what we’ve gone through this week on all fronts amount to first-world problems. Being that sick while having a new baby, a six year-old and a soon-to-be unemployed husband was a total drag. I felt inadequate in my ability to support all parties involved. I and my stomach loathe taking antibiotics. Yet ultimately, I found myself feeling really grateful that I had access to a physician and the medicine I needed. I felt thankful for my bed to sleep in and the food that gave me stamina to keep feeding my baby. These are little things to us, but things that so many in the world don’t have. It pains me to think of the different outcome countless women experience because of their limited access to the things I take for granted.
As far as the job goes, I’ve ended up traveling a similar emotional path. Unemployment is not ideal. It can be really painful. The past few months have been stressful ones for us – as we’ve known this was coming. Still, we’re okay. While we don’t want to be naive, we also don’t want to ever miss the fact that even in our present unemployment, we’re rich beyond measure and ought to continue looking beyond ourselves.
Finally, I continue to stand amazed by the wealth of insight a six year-old child has to offer. Hannah getsthat Daddy leaving the firm is unfortunate and that finding a new job takes time. Still, in the midst of these circumstances, her natural response was to first feel the pain, and then to celebrate. She wanted to honor Phil for what he had already accomplished. Through this she reminded me once again that when pain is present, so is grace. I pray that each of us take courage in this truth when the inevitabilities of life creep in.