One family’s struggle with unemployment

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at:, or follow me on Twitter.

This is a sad story:

I fret that I’m setting a bad example for my kids. I’m afraid that they see me as a cautionary tale, not a role model. When I talk to them, I try to emphasize the importance of hard work and being careful with money. I hope this is the side of me that gets through to them, not the man on his computer, endlessly clicking through applications, unable to muster up the courage to even tell most people the truth.

Most of all, I worry about my wife. I worry that I’m burdening her as the sole breadwinner of our family. Sometimes when she comes home from work, stressed by a bad day at the office, she sees me sitting on my computer in the living room and tells me she’s jealous that I get to stay at home all day. I tell her that she’s the lucky one, waking up and going to an office that needs her, taking home a paycheck for her efforts. But she can’t relate to my day-to-day frustrations, and I can’t relate to hers.

I’ve taken on way more cleaning, cooking, and chore responsibilities since I’ve been not working. I’m not really any good at it. I now have great sympathy for all the housewives out there expected to cover those duties: Housework categorically sucks. No one likes to do it.

There’s a sense of embarrassment that goes along with it too. It’s more socially acceptable for the wife to stay at home and do chores while the husband works. While I’m not ascribing gender roles, it’s safe to say my wife and I both feel somewhat uncomfortable that the situation is reversed in our case. She tells me she’s always pictured herself being the one to stay at home, which is hard for me to hear. I worry that she thinks she married a loser.

It’s less the fact that I became unemployed that I want to hide from people. There’s no shame in losing a job. The real embarrassment is when I can’t get another one, especially in a thriving area like Silicon Valley. I worry that my gainfully employed friends will think there’s something wrong with me when they realize how long I’ve been fruitlessly searching.

I would guess that his unemployment is totally caused by the age bias in Silicon Valley. The tech firms work on the assumption that workers should be in their 20s and 30s, a bit like athletes. And honestly, it takes a rare kind of confidence to hire someone who is a lot older than you. If you are the 30 year old CEO of a startup, hiring someone is 47 seems uncomfortable — it is much more comfortable to hire people who are like you, in gender and age. This is part of the reason the tech industry has come to exclude women and many groups of men.

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