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Be sensitive when your spouse loses a job

By VERONICA CHEROP | March 30th 2014
Be kind when your spouse looses the job (Photo:Courtesy)


The generation in their 60s and above usually got government jobs for keeps. Once they were employed, they relaxed and the thought that that job would ‘walk away’ never occurred to them. They waited for retirement, dutifully filing their payslips as they counted the years to retirement.

But things have changed, even for those in ‘secure’ public service jobs. Those working for private companies and non-governmental organisations know you can be perched in a good position one day, only to be declared redundant the following day, and sent tumbling into joblessness. Some dismissals come without warning, with the termination letter explaining something like, “Due to diminished business, we have to review our operations…”

Firms have their ups and downs, so such letters will continue to be written, and some employees will be their unfortunate recipients.

What do you do when it happens to your spouse?

Before you complain aloud about the financial burden that will rest on your shoulders, remember that your partner urgently needs empathy. If possible, help your partner to entertain the idea that the organisation made a huge mistake by letting him or her go. Coming from a spouse, such assertion is powerful, and will promote faster healing, acceptance of the situation, and moving on.

Assure them that losing that particular job is not the end of the world, and that one door may have been closed, but if they look carefully, they will see several doors open before them.

Once the shock of losing a job has been absorbed, it is the time for the family to sit together and review immediate financial expenditure as well as long-term investments. How are you going to live on one salary when your lifestyle has previously been sustained by two pay cheques?

Just like the Government is trying to cut the wage bill and seal loopholes of wastage, your family must streamline expenditure immediately. At the family meeting, inform everyone what has happened, and the fact that they may be inconvenienced for a while, until you put your house in order.

Once this is clear, work out the actual cutting of expenses. For example, you can weigh the cost of dropping and picking the children from school versus school transport, and pick the cheaper option. It could also be time to ‘rest’ one car, if the family was using two. If you were buying your fresh foods from the supermarket, you could start finding your way to the open-air markets, where vegetables and fruits are much cheaper.

Cut back on costs in the kitchen, where the greatest wastage in the home usually occurs. If you save Sh500 here and Sh200 there, you will find the total is good enough to reduce some of the strain on the single earner for the family.

Caution to the employed partner: Do not complain about how hard you are working for the family. A person who has lost a job takes some of these statements to heart, and they could be used against you once your partner gets a source of income.

Also, if you give pocket money to the jobless spouse, just make sure it is sufficient, and never ask, “How come you have already finished the Sh1,000 I gave you yesterday?” Such questions can crush the job seeker’s already fractured ego. Neither should you ask for the money you gave to be accounted for.

Also, do not ask every day whether they have been promised a job anywhere. Some will interpret this as your telling them that they are now a bother.

You must learn to be more sensitive, loving and available.

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