Children of the unemployed

CHILDREN OF THE UNEMPLOYED

Unemployment not only affects the individual who’s lost his or her job, but also that person’s family. Despite being home almost every day, I realized this week that I haven’t spent quality time with my 7-year-old son. Oh, sure, I go to his ball games and drive him to his summer camps, but don’t play with him like a child yearns for. Why? I always feel guilty if I’m not spending my weekdays plowing through the job boards & the social networking sites, or writing letters to potential clients. The pervasive feeling that I am not providing for my family rubs off in my behavior with my son and wife, and that negativity shows. My responses to my son’s questions are often too cryptic or caustic, because I get that nagging feeling that I’m wasting time if I play games with him. It’s as if I forgot how to have fun – forgot to let go of the financial and career pressures that are with me every day.

Yesterday was the first full day I’ve spent alone with my son in a long time. We started the morning with errands at the bank, hair salon and auto shop, but then ended up in the comic book store looking at Star Wars toys and baseball cards. Then we had a rare lunch outing at a Japanese restaurant before heading home. At home, I introduced the “Go Fish” card game to him and he took to it like a – well, like a fish to water. He loved the game. What he enjoyed more, though, was having his daddy’s undivided attention in play. We must have played five games before I convinced him to write some more in his summer diary if he wanted to practice hitting fly balls in the backyard. For the first time, he wanted to pitch to me, so I used our fence as the backstop. When the sun became too hot we returned inside to finish his book about the pitcher named Nelson in “Haunting at Home Plate,” a rare baseball mystery I’ve been reading to him for the past several nights. This time, we finished it.

My son doesn’t realize that daddy’s job is to find a job. In his mind, I write for the Internet, which isn’t far from the truth as I write cover letters, job applications, and business proposals that so far have yielded no income. The stress of job hunting and preparing and performing on job interviews the last year-and-a-half has meant my health and family have suffered. No more. This is the last week before school starts for my son. I will make it a week his dad gives him his undivided attention.

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