Being made redundant twice with young kids taught Dan van der Meer a valuable lesson.
Holy sh*t! I’m about to turn 40, I have three kids under the age of five, and I’ve just been made redundant.
That was the scenario I faced some five years ago that, sadly, many dads (and mums) are facing more and more these days. The dreaded ‘R’ word.
It’s a sad reality of the modern working landscape we traverse daily. For many, the safety of a ‘career’ job is pretty much extinct.
That’s not much cop when you get the dreaded tap on the shoulder, especially when you’ve got a family to support.
I was working in a dream job, in a dream workplace. I was in a role that completely suited me, as a career, as a workmate, as a husband, and as a parent to my three kids.
When it all got taken from me in dramatic fashion, it knocked my wife and me for six Adam Gilchrist style. Straight out of the park.
I went through what most people probably go through … the old seven stages of grief. I was shocked, I was angry, I was saddened, I was bitter.
I guess the beauty of being a dad though is that I literally had to dust myself off and start looking for a new opportunity. There really wasn’t much time to feel sorry for myself, so I hit the ground running.
It’s worth mentioning here that, after a few twists and turns, everything worked out for me.
I’m back at the dream workplace I was made redundant from, some two years after it happened in the first place. But I’m one of the lucky ones.
Looking back at that time now, and remembering what redundancy meant for me and my family, there is one thing I would have done differently.
I would have taken my time to find the right job to move on to.
What I did, in the throes of the redundancy shock, was accept the first job I was offered, one week after I got the dreaded news.
Quite simply, I panicked. Despite a five-month pay-out, the perceived burden of responsibility for providing for my family was too much to bear.
As it turns out, the job I took was completely the wrong fit. Wrong for me, and wrong for my employer, so much so that six months in I was made redundant, AGAIN!
Twice in eight months … who knew?
Knowing how redundancy had turned out first time around, I took more time to assess my options.
I knew I had to provide for my family, but I also knew that for my own sanity, I had to try and get a job that suited me.
It’s like anything as a parent, the more content you are in your day-to-day life, the better version of a parent you tend to be. (Well, that’s the plan at least.)
So, armed with my new-found experience dealing with the dreaded ‘R’ word, I took my time and didn’t rush at the first available job.
Only, this time around, Murphy’s Law would dictate that there were no jobs in my field.
“The toll bells of providing for my family were ringing loud and clear.”
One month of searching passed by … then two … then panic started to set in. Again, the toll bells of providing for my family were ringing loud and clear.
In hindsight, my headspace at the time was a bit all over the shop. As every day without a new job passed, my ambition to find one that was right for me dwindled dramatically.
It very quickly became more about my family, and my feelings essentially became irrelevant. I just had to take the first job that became available.
So, when that new job did appear out of nowhere, I took it. A new job in a completely different field.
It was a job that I knew wasn’t right for me – it was so far wrong for me it wasn’t even funny – but it was safe, it was employment, and it meant I was again able to provide.
It does pose the question though: at what point do we have to forgo our own career goals to ensure our family are happily clothed, fed and housed?
For me, I knew it was time to swallow my pride and take the next available job when my wife and I were having continual discussions about how we could pay for the creature comforts we’d become used to around the house.
The things that you generally take for granted – heating, three meals a day, anything related to the kids – that’s when sh*t got real and I knew that the next offer I got, I’d probably have to take it, regardless.
Again, in hindsight, the relief of knowing I could again provide far outweighed any personal resentment of taking a job I knew wouldn’t be right for me … well, for a little while, anyway.
So I took the new job – a job that paid much less than before – and again, despite being able to provide for my family, I was starting to feel like I was becoming less of a husband and dad.
I was so miserable in that new job that I took it home most nights. The only time I felt like the old me was skipping out of that place at 4.30pm on Friday.
That old me quickly diminished come Sunday night, knowing the dreaded Monday morning was imminent.
Still, I lasted almost two years before planets aligned and I got the call from my initial workplace. I jumped at the chance to go back and my life as a husband and dad suddenly made sense again.
But not all dads are so lucky. The fact is when you are responsible for the lives of others, you do what you have to do to put food on the table. That can take its toll, mentally and physically.
It almost drove me out of my mind for those two years, dealing with the redundancy, job-hopping, and ending up in ‘the safe job’.
But you soon realise as a dad that the people you are providing for are your life. At the end of the day, if they’re safe and happy, then you probably will be too.
For most of us, the little people we create end up becoming our reason for living, and if that means suffering through the banality of a job that, frankly, just doesn’t suit, then so be it.
It’s the paradox of parenthood. There’s a balance of having a job that doesn’t drive you mental yet provides reasonably for your loved ones.
Sadly, for many of us, that balance is hard to find.
READ MORE FROM DAN VAN DER MEER:
- Are boys trips the secret to your sanity as a dad?
- My son and I are locked in an alpha-male battle
- The one tip I needed to rest easy as a new dad