The Oddities of Gratitude

Health. Family. General well-being. Caffeine. Like most, I am thankful for many things, which seem to be amplified during the holiday season. One thing for which I didn’t expect to feel gratitude was the loss of my husband’s job.

We sort of knew this was going to happen. His company was bought and, invariably in those situations, there are many job casualties. This deal was in the works for quite a while before it was finalized, and so we had some time to mentally prepare. And when we turned down the opportunity to move to Denver for him to work for the new company, it was just a matter of time before the inevitable phone call came that showed him to the door.

And so, in early October, my husband commuted to his office in midtown Manhattan for the last time and turned in his laptop and company ID badge. He stopped buying a monthly train pass and sent the last of his suits to the dry cleaner.

After working for 30 years, he was out of a job for the first time.

And he is, in a word, thrilled.

NYC office

My husband is a very, very prudent guy. He plans, analyzes and takes methodical thinking to some serious next levels. He isn’t reckless or even impulsive. And so I thought this situation, although not a total surprise, would make him hyper-focused on job-hunting and generally angsty about what comes next.

Nope. Not yet, anyway.

What the practical side of him has produced instead is a very clear awareness of what he has been given: time he has never had, to use for things that he normally can’t do.

Those things are wide in range, both time-consuming and simple. Seeing the kids off to school. Sitting at our kitchen table to have a cup of coffee instead of running for the train. Repairing the garage. Golfing. Taking me out to an occasional lunch.

Like so many people who work hard every day, his job meant that we didn’t see him much during the week. Between the commute to the city and his workload, he was usually gone for about 12 hours each day. It meant a quick goodbye to the kids before school in the morning and little to no time to see them before they went to sleep at night. The fact that he is here now to drive them to school or pick them up or bring them to any of their activities and see them in action is thrilling for them.

At first, his presence in the morning was odd. It felt like something was off. Our AM routine here is a well-oiled machine that is one minor timing error away from becoming a shit show. There is simply no room for dawdling. We are running late before we are even awake. And so, when my husband rolled down into the kitchen on the first morning of his home-everyday tenure as we were in the midst of the madness, it was more than he bargained for. While it was clear that he wanted to help, it was like watching someone mistakenly walk into a rave and then try to back away slowly — while I ran laps around him, in a sweat, to make it out the door with the kids and the backpacks. For a man who has managed massive corporate projects and teams of people across multiple time zones, the before-school F5 tornado was a pinnacle of insanity he hadn’t yet mastered.

In the weeks that have followed, he has since learned the best approach in the morning is 1) keep your head down 2) find a place to be helpful 3) do not speak with me until the second cup of coffee has reached its halfway consumption mark and 4) accrue massive bonus points for making the lunches that I swore I’d do last night but didn’t because I fell asleep on the couch.

We are all finding our way in this brave new world.

In all seriousness, this notion of having another set of hands during the day is remarkable. And because I’m keenly aware that this arrangement will not be permanent, I need to maximize my returns. As such, I have outsourced some of my most painful domestic tasks to him.

  • Goodbye, math homework assistance.
  • Sayonara, school lunch prep.
  • Tally-ho, car pools (at least some of them, anyway — divide and conquer!).

And do you know what has been really life-changing? I don’t have to schlep my three year-old to any of his siblings’ activities. None. If you, at any point in time ever had a three year-old — or have just been in the presence of one — you know that there is no bigger dream-crusher than a small yet headstrong child who was unwillingly woken up from his nap and brought somewhere he doesn’t want to go. No more, my friends. No more. People see me at school pick-up — all hands-free, completing full sentences and possibly even carrying a hot beverage — and I am probably unrecognizable without bending over a stroller to negotiate with a writhing child while picking up the trains he has thrown along the sidewalk. Was that how things used to be? How uncivilized. I just can’t recall.

Beyond the daily domestic grind, do you have that to-do list for items in your house that need attention? Not things like buying groceries or folding laundry. I’m talking about the long-term tasks that nobody ever has time to tackle and you swear that this weekend, this month, this spring break, this year you’ll get to them. But, alas, no.

My husband and I took that list/scroll and agreed on the things that the gift of time would allow him to tackle. You know how people on TV want a new Lexus with a bow for Christmas? I just want the fucking hell hole that is our spare room to be organized enough not to disgust me before 2016 ends. He is an organizational master and I can’t wait for him to MacGyver the shit out of that room.

Longer term, we are thinking about some travel on the horizon. It seems counter-intuitive to book vacations now, but my husband is a big proponent of making the most of his time off. He knows that he’ll never have this again — the extreme flexibility to go places and take trips, big and small, near and far. We have always been alike in making travel a priority instead of spending on other things like expensive clothes or cars. I mean, my yoga pants are sort of on point, I guess, but that’s about it. My husband drives a 2003 car with almost 200,000 miles on it and I am rocking the minivan. But we’ve both always agreed that travel was important to us. So, while we have him home, we are going to try to get as much of that done as possible within the confines of the school calendar. We shall see — you know what they say about the best laid plans.

To be clear, there are some downsides to this entire new full-time-husband-at-home arrangement, in case I made all of this sound like kumbaya, coffee and rainbows. It’s not. As much as I love having another set of hands at home (he shot down the manny reference, and even balked at Domestic Intern, but whatever), I’ll be honest and say that it does take some getting used to. I kind of like my alone time — is that bad? Also, not to be petty, but the amount of junk food sitting around this house has skyrocketed to completely unacceptable levels. Why, I had no idea that Ring Dings came in holiday packaging. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the curious emergence of my husband’s affection for retail. Remember the first time you went to Target without any kids in tow and had a decent chunk of time on your hands to just browse? Yeah, he’s just getting around to that. It’s a whole new world for him and his red cart. #cantstopwontstop

There is also a slightly alarming Clark Griswold side of him that was previously unknown to me. With the holidays upon us, he has used his newfound time to significantly up his exterior seasonal decorating game. He always hangs some lights on the house at this time of year, but we like to keep it simple. Or, apparently, we don’t. Apparently, when someone doesn’t have to go to work, he likes to go to Walgreens every single day and pick up yet another box of lights to hang on anything that will stand still. If you don’t know where I live, I am pretty sure you can now see my house from space. And — bonus — nothing helps your unemployment status more than a soaring electricity bill.

And, while I’m actually sitting here writing for once, I’ll say that I’m mentally residing in this very weird, limbo state. I’m happy he’s home. I’m worried he’s not working. I want him to enjoy his time off. I worry that I don’t know how long it will be. I am confident he will find a job. I worry where that job might be. I want us to make the most of this opportunity. I don’t want to be broke.

{I’m a worrier.}

It’s a bit of a see-saw. I mean, I can’t speak for everyone, but it seems like a long-term income is generally a good thing.

But I know that, once the holidays are over, the job search will kick into high gear. What will happen next is anyone’s guess. And so, even in the uncertainty of this situation that we can’t control, my worry is actually second to my gratitude. I am thankful for this time — a time I know we’ll look back on at some point with nostalgia. Holiday Ring Dings, excessive lights and all.




Did you like this? Share it:


  1. Absolutely get it and I assume you will be lending out your domestic intern/mannu to your besties once your list is complete – yes?

Speak Your Mind