As told to Mara Altman
No. 1: Max Perez
Job: IT director at a financial-services firm
I arrived at the office at 8 a.m. like every other morning, and I saw my boss in the hallway. He said an HR person had called him, and he was concerned. A half-hour later, he was laid off. Then an HR rep called me in. People around me noticed my body language; I was unable to speak. HR read the “laid-off script” to me. I’d worked with these people for eleven years. Some looked sad; they couldn’t make eye contact. I just sat there thinking of how to tell my wife the bad news and being scared of not having health insurance—we have two small children and one on the way.
Now my work is finding work. I sit at home, behind my computer. When I was first laid off, I would go to a chat room with all unemployed people. I thought, Wow, I’m not the only one, and it was comforting, but now, after two months, it’s just depressing.
Recruiters call about new positions, but it’s always the same old story. They say you are a great fit, and then you don’t hear from them for days. Nothing pans out. I feel helpless, like a failure. It’s your manhood, you know? I’m the only provider at home.
I’ve been anxious, so I scheduled a doctor’s appointment. He said, “Go to the gym, do yoga, meditate. Just relax; everything will be okay.” But it’s hard to relax. I go to the gym to try to clear my mind, but it makes me crazy. All the flat screens have talking heads reporting on the failures of the economy. There’s a church around the corner, and when the bells go off I imagine I’m in France. I’ve never been there, but I’ve seen enough movies to conjure a picture. I can almost forget about the mortgage and the $75,000 line of credit that my bank just closed on me. But then that dump truck rumbles past and spits me back into my reality.
I can’t believe how expensive everything is. A box of diapers is $45, but the little girl has to go, right? I used to buy my clothes in Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s, but at Target I pay less than $100 for a suit. I tried to feed our dog the cheaper generic brand. He threw up; I guess you can’t go cheap on everything.
My wife is very supportive, but she’s not used to the fact that I’m home all the time. When she tells the kids to do something, they go, “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy!” and run to me. She’s losing some of her grip on them, and it causes friction.
But the kids are like my therapy. I’m starting to realize the importance of health and family. I’m bonding with them more. They are so innocent. They don’t care if Daddy has a job or not. To them, I’m just Daddy.