Saturday, March 14, 2009

Susie's story: "The chance of a lifetime"

Susie Kirsch has lived in Charlotte for a little more than two years with her husband, a daughter, and now a new baby girl. Her husband had a stable marketing job. Susie worked for a non-profit. Like so many here and elsewhere, they thought they were safe from the recession.

Susie told you her story here last month - how her husband went into his yearly evaluation hoping for a raise, but left without a job.

"I, too, fear for my job security, as the non-profit I work for is primarily government funded," she said then. "What will we do if I get laid off?

We've been bringing you stories from around Charlotte, voices that speak to the struggles and successes you'll find throughout our city. Tell us your story, too.

Here's Susie's update:

I have returned to work following my maternity leave, and my husband is now well on his way to learning how to be a stay-at-home dad to our 2-month-old daughter. It's a job that I think he has found to be the hardest of all his fancy professional titles. We now call him 'Daddy Day Care.'

I find that I can relate a lot with Laurie's story of the new norm. It is what plays out in our household every morning. I'm up early getting ready for work, preparing lunches and carting our oldest daughter off to school. She doesn't mind the change one bit and is still too young to truly understand why daddy stays home in his jeans and sweatshirts all day, so we don't have to deal with any questions that we might not have known how to answer.

Before my husband’s layoff, I would leave the house before anyone else had woken for the day and take the long commute up I-77 to my office. I did this so that I could leave early and get my daughter from school and we could have a nice afternoon together. She now spends her mornings with me, and her afternoons with daddy, and at the end of the day my husband and I see the silver lining in this all.

What once was him coming home late and barely seeing the kids is now his time to bond and create a special relationship with them both. For him, this is a chance in a lifetime, and our daughters will never forget it. I guess that is one way to look at a layoff - chance of a lifetime. A chance to reevaluate careers, priorities and what is most important in life.

Maybe this economic downturn serves a greater purpose, a possible paradigm shift from "keeping up with the Joneses" to "the hell with the Joneses - they are the ones that got us here in the first place!"

Don't get me wrong, I used to love the Joneses. I honestly wanted to be one. I longed for a fancy car and a big beautiful house with a three-car garage, granite countertops and a flat screen TV I couldn’t afford. Now, I find myself annoyed with the Mercedes and BMWs that pass me on the roads and the mansions I drive past on my way home (especially when I see a foreclosure sign on one).

It is no longer a glance of longing, envy or jealousy, but now a look of "Really? Do you really need that? Can you really afford it?" and by afford I don’t mean a seven-year car loan, or subprime loan.

As a nation, we’ve maxed ourselves out to try and one up another, to put on this front of success, wealth, happiness, perfection. Can we say greed and gluttony? What has happened to human decency and honesty? I guess that went out the window when executives started getting paid more money than any one human being is worth, selling their souls to the corporate devil.

I think that this life experience has taught my family what is really important. Our Golden Parachute, if you will, is each other. We work hard every day to try and find the positives in our situation. While I won't lie, some days prove to be a lot more difficult than others, I have two beautiful daughters to smile at and they always smile back despite the number of zeros on my paycheck or the labels on my clothing. (Well, the 2 month old is still learning to smile back at me!)

To all the men out there finding themselves in this same situation - wives off to work while you man the domestic fort - I commend you. It is not an easy job. But just remember, although you may have been laid off and feel like your manhood has been diminished from what it once was, being a good father and husband is more manly then a chubby paycheck.


Anonymous said...

Bravo!! Finally, someone who "gets it." This IS a paradigm shift and it will eventually be a positive thing for those who are willing to wake up from their slumber and discover what life is really about.

Deelsu said...

Bravo is right! I agree with you on the Joneses! It's not all about material things but instead about family and fostering relationships. Best of luck to you and your family. I always remember that everything happens for a reason!

Anonymous said...

Susie, this was a really nice essay and I so agree with you that this has been a huge wake-up call for me about what's important. I find myself questioning every purchase, and I'm not going to feel guilty about putting money away for our future rather than propping up the false economy we all built over the past 20 years. Best of luck to you and your husband.

Anonymous said...

"As a nation, we’ve maxed ourselves out to try and one up another, to put on this front of success, wealth, happiness, perfection. Can we say greed and gluttony?"

So it's all our fault as consumers now, is that what you're saying? Never mind the part the government, banks, and other financial institutions played in bringing about this recession, right?

Wanting the best for your family doesn't mean you're a greedy glutton.

Anonymous said...

I certainly understand people adjusting their lifestyle due to ecomonic issues and applaud her for that. However, to now suddenly question anyone that has a nice car or larger house sounds a little like envy! Trust me, I am cutting back like all others but also have a Mercedes S550, Acura MDX and a great home in Piper Glen. However, I wrote a check for each of them, including the house, as a result of years of investment and sacrific. Best of luck to you but PLEASE people don't think those with nicer possessions are leveraged to the max (most aren't) or think it is wrong to have nice things simply because you don't or I could do without them. We could all do without something but I can afford things, purchase them and feel no guilt. Frankly, the country will be better in a couple of years when everyone again aspires to succeed economically and purchase nicer things. That will mean we are FINALLY back!

Anonymous said...

ANONYMOUS: March 14, 2009 4:47 PM
'Frankly, the country will be better in a couple of years when everyone again aspires to succeed economically and purchase nicer things. That will mean we are FINALLY back!"

lol. We are spirits in the material world and those who wake up and discover who they really are will move FORWARD and free themselves from the indentured servitude of materialism. Think about it.

Anonymous said...

I understand her point of view on this as well as some of the respondents. What it comes down to is the question of whether working for all these possestions is worth what you are sacrificing to get them. If you aren't sacrificing anything then good luck. But if you barely have relationships with your children or spouse as you work to pay for something you knew you couldn't afford in the first place then who is benefitting here?

Anonymous said...

You do get it!! The true test comes when your husband goes back to work, and you are tempted to purchase things that you want but know you really can't afford, and time with the kids is replaced occassionally with work you bring home, and, and, and.

Anonymous said...

I also have a strong objection to the "I hate/blame the rich" mentality. Many "rich" people have worked incredibly hard, sacrificed, invested wisely, etc. to be able to afford the finer things in life, if they so choose. So what? Place blame for our country's predicament on the irresponsible and over-leveraged. Not on the wealthy.

Anonymous said...

I don't believe that she was trying to blame the ALL of the wealthy, the ones who have truly earned it, but instead the ones who have faked it. We have to honestly believe that some of them are to blame, as well as everyone else we are holding responsible. Yes, the banks gave bad loans, but some of them knew what they were getting into when they signed the paperwork.