Friday, July 15, 2011

The Demoralization of Unemployment

I moved to Colorado in September of last year.  I began the process of getting certified to teach in Colorado in March of 2010, as soon as I knew for sure that we were moving.  I finally obtained all the materials I needed for the complicated application process and submitted my application in May of 2010.  Even though I submitted the application well in advance of the school year, the process of certification in Colorado is so slow that it was only in December that I finally received my teaching certificate - and then it was only for one of the areas that I had been previously certified to teach in Alaska.  So, I had to begin again the lengthy process to get additional endorsements added to my certificate.

Meanwhile, the deadline had passed for most of the school districts in the local area to hire substitute teachers for the year.  Thus, I have been unemployed for over a year now.  At my age, this is simply no longer trivial.  I am 61 and people doing the hiring don't want someone this old.  They don't want someone with as much education as I have (too expensive) and all of my experience, unfortunately always seems to be in the wrong areas.

I am finally hired to sub in at least two local school districts, so I will be working some (I hope) in the fall.  But meanwhile, I have learned what being unemployed does to someone's self esteem.  In spite of a number of significant accomplishments over the years, in spite of really good recommendations from people I have worked with and for, in spite of knowing that I am smart and capable, it feels pretty terrible to be looking for jobs and not getting any.  Fortunately, my husband has good jobs and plenty of work, so I am not hurting financially.  It is only my ego that is suffering.

Friends of mine who are near my age have retired and I guess I could to.  But I WANT to work.  I feel like I still have a lot to offer, if only someone would let me offer it.

All this is a long way of saying that I am getting closer to imagining how difficult it is for someone whose family really NEEDS the income from a wage-earner, but who cannot get a job.  It is discouraging to apply for job after job after job and get little or no response.  People tell me that they have 100 applicants for this job or 300 applicants for that job.  But each time you apply and get nothing back, it is another blow to your self esteem.  How can you even get it together to tout your accomplishments if you do get that precious job interview?  After so many months of discouragements, I can hardly even remember the significant things I have done.

I will be OK, but I feel bad for many people who really won't be.


  1. Hi Laura,

    Another aspect of being unemployed is that your family will start to see you differently and treat you differently even though you are still the very highly qualified and talented person you've always been.

    If one more person "insists" that they pay for my lunch I will puke it up on their feet. I hate the arguments that go with it and my mother is doing the same thing.

    Today I received an email from my sister who "announced to the family" that she was going on holiday and brother "M" was going to be the communicator for Mom's health and change in living situation until she returns."

    I've been with my Mom for 5 winters while she travelled to a warmer climate in Canada. I moved her in and moved her out of the city she visited and spent all 5 months with her each year. I know her well, travelled with her while she was able to travel and became very acquainted and have spent so much time together. So now I moved back to the city she is living in as she can no longer travel in the winter.

    No where in this email I received today did it say, "call Me" if there is any information you need to pass on to the the other siblings. Nothing!

    It's like I don't even exist because I'm on the 'dole'.

    Instead sister asked brother x to be looking after her finances and the other brother x to be the communicator and daughter x to be overseeing all health matters and then upon her return she will be the chief at least that's what the email communicates.

    I don't even exist and sister x does not even acknowledge my very special relation with Mom because I am not rich like her and don't have a job so no income.

    The demoratization of the unemployed is being felt by many people in their 50s and 60s who are looking for work in a country where discrimination in the workpalce and the family is rampant.

    It's a sad day today for me to realize that my siblings are caught up in the 'judgement society' where you are what your income is and 'what you do' for a living in order to have a place in the family decisions and in particluar Mom's life during her last days.

    Thanks for listening,
    unemployed and demoralized by my family

  2. Most of my working life, I have fought the stigma of making much less than one of my siblings. He was employed in the military-industrial complex and frequently said that I knew nothing about the "real world" because I chose to work in education and academia.

    I am now working as a substitute teacher and consider myself a very good one, but it is a pretty thankless job. It is hard work, with little respect from anyone. (Most people's thought: "she must not be any good if she can't even get a full time teaching job.") And, I only work about 3 or 4 days of the week. Even if I worked every day for a full school year, that would only be $95 per day X 180 school days = $17,100. Since I work between 3 and 4 days a week, usually, that would be around $12,000. Humiliating.

    It is a shame that you have become invisible to your family. It is almost like having some strange, and possibly contagious disease. People don't want to associate with you. I hope you get through this phase of your life and come out stronger. I think it has made me more empathetic with the poor and unemployed.