My question for you is this: how can a stay-at-home wife and mother best support her husband when he’s out of a job? I’ve tried at various times being helpful (as best I could, though I’m not sure it was received as such) and staying out of it entirely. I’ve also suggested finding a job myself – this, I think, was a mistake, or at least the way I phrased it was a mistake. My husband definitely took it as criticism of his abilities.
My current strategy – keeping my mouth shut and staying up all night worrying – is neither helping nor particularly healthy, I imagine. We’re not facing eviction or anything yet, but we are burning through our retirement savings. Is there anything (aside from scrimping as much as possible) I can do to help the situation, or is this simply a ride-it-out and trust moment?
Help during a time like this can be difficult, to say the least. We tend to think that help has to be a very active thing. That if we are not doing something, and something big at that, it can’t be help. Especially when we are afraid because when we give into our fear and help in a way that makes us feel better, that usually makes this situation worse. When it comes to our husbands, especially in this kind of situation, help will often look very different than we think it should or even want it to.
I don’t think it wrong for a wife to offer to go back to work in this situation, but as Emily said, wording is very important. Timing as well. It should be brought up as one option of many and mentioned once for him to consider and then not brought up again unless he truly wants to consider it. There are those who will try to convince you that not wanting his wife to work is weakness on the man’s part. This is typically not the case. A husband wants very much to care for his wife, to provide for her and their family. The drive to want to do this on his own is a strength. A strength we should never belittle or try to take from him. It is part of his masculinity and not for us to define, especially when we are afraid.
First, the easy stuff to help with. Scrimp, scrimp, scrimp. Find cheap recipes to make for meals, including making your own bread. There are some very easy bread recipes out there (look into sourdough and try to find a starter from a friend that you don’t have to buy. Also, no kneed yeast breads). One can make a loaf of bread for less than a dollar a loaf and the taste is out of this world. If anyone has any ideas for inexpensive family recipes, leave them in the comments. Use your grocery store circulars. One can find really good deals in those from time to time. Ask friends for their Sunday paper’s coupons that they don’t use and get online and print coupons from there (if it’s cost effective. Take into account the price of paper and ink to do this). Lastly, depending on where you live, look around your area for fruits and greens that are wild. Things like plantain leaf, purslane, and dandelion greens are amazingly healthy and right out your front door. It might seem unorthodox at first, but it’s one of those things you might not stop doing. They are very tasty.
Drive less and walk more, if possible. This is one of those things that can have a double duty as, if your husband comes with you, you can spend time with your family, keep it fun and light and enjoy each other even in this difficult time. Again, please leave any other ideas in the comments.
Now, lets get to the help that he really needs from his wife. In this situation, the help that a husband needs, more than anything else, is to know that you trust him and aren’t afraid. He needs to know that you 100% support him and trust him to get a new job so he can continue to do his job of leading his family. He is feeling like he failed, dejected and afraid. He doesn’t want you to know any of that, at least not all of it so he will put on a strong front, for you as much for himself. Nothing can take down a vulnerable husband faster than a wife who is afraid and is trying to take control of the situation. So, what does a wife do? First and foremost, she learns to let go of the fear. This is the most difficult thing for her to do. You’ll have to fake it at first, but lying awake at night worrying is going to wear on both of you. Even as you’re faking it, your husband will have an inkling that you are afraid, that little bit you can’t hide in your eyes. You must work to be truly not afraid. You must work to put your trust completely in him, so much so that you are literally 100% unafraid of this situation. The way in which this will build him up and give him confidence is not in me to describe. But your complete faith in him will drive him to do whatever he can to get back on his feet.
If your Christian, PRAY. Give your fear to God. All of it. Remind yourself, that even should the very worst, come. You will still be together as a family. Nothing can pull you apart as long as you don’t let it. This should be a huge comfort to you, because no matter what, you will be together. Have faith that God will pull you through and trust your husband implicitly to do that. He won’t be able to do it without you. Also, find that which brings joy to your life. When the fear is poking up, put your entire focus on that thing. If you like to garden, plan your garden. In your head, make the most beautiful garden you can and plan every inch of it. Find something like this that you can force yourself to focus on.
So, how is this, what many people will see as passivity, truly helping? It seems as if we are doing nothing and if we aren’t actively doing something everything will fall apart and we will fail. Or the things that we can do, the scrimping and making our houses a home, are simply secondary and doing nothing to directly effect the situation. Don’t make this mistake. We are wives and the very best thing and most direct thing we can do to help in this situation is to let our husbands know that our confidence in them is unwavering. That they are literally our knights in shining armor. Let them be that. This is not passive, it is not wrong and it is not weakness. Rather, the ability to let go of our fear is a true feminine strength. Strive for this, this feminine strength that with practice we can find and do not let others convince you it is weakness. As when you do find it, the masculine strength it can inspire in your husband will amaze you.