Sunday Reflections: The Myth of Just Moving Where the Jobs Are
Today is a Sunday. I have now spent 11 days away from my husband and children, sleeping on a friend’s couch while I work at a job in Ohio while my family lives in Texas. I was here – alone – for my 20th wedding anniversary. I was here – alone – while my oldest daughter graduated from elementary school, finishing the last day of 6th grade. I was here – alone – while my youngest daughter graduated from Kindergarten. That last day of school I cried on the phone with my girls, telling them I was so sorry that mommy couldn’t be there.
And this is all because for the second time in 4 years my husband and I are having a hard time finding jobs for both of us in the same state.
Whenever I read articles about unemployment, poverty or the economy, I like to read the comments. It’s an insight into what various members of the general public feel about this world we live in. And without fail, there will always be two judgmental strings of thought: 1) lazy people need to just get a job and 2) if you can’t find a job where you live, just move to where the jobs are. It sounds simple, but it’s not.
This is the second time my husband and I have tried to move to where a job is and once again, it’s not going well. This idea that a family looking for employment can just pick up and move where these magical jobs are is more complicated it then it seems.
Here’s what happened the first time, back in 2011. My husband’s company was being downsized and his job was being eliminated. The writing was on the wall. So after over a year of trying to find a job locally in Ohio, he was finally able to find a job in Texas. This meant we would have to sell our home, move our family, and hope that I could find a job. The reality was, the economy where we lived was so depressed and our house was worth so very little compared to what we owed that we couldn’t sell our house. The reality was, moving meant leaving everyone we loved, a community we felt a part of, and the established childcare that we had built up. The reality was, I was only able to find a part-time librarian job which meant that we struggled every month to pay our bills, feed our kids, and every time someone needs a doctor, the car breaks down, or there is a school project that needs extra supplies we are thrown into a financial crisis and tailspin.
Fast forward to 2014. Our renters moved out of our home in Ohio, which eventually resulted in us losing our home entirely and
becoming a statistic. The library I worked at got new administration and it now operates with at least 5 less MLS librarians. I applied and even interviewed for a few jobs in Texas, but the job I got offered was in Ohio.
That was now almost a year ago. And in the course of that time my husband has applied for well over 200 jobs in the Ohio area. He has had maybe 10 interviews. He has been offered zero jobs. Zip, zilch, nada.
So for the past 6 months I have been flying back and forth from Texas to Ohio to work at my library and earn enough money to help try and feed my kids while the rest of the family stays in our home in Texas. I have missed far more days of my kids life than I ever would have imagined. I cry a lot. I sleep on the couch of a friend and walk to and from the library. I call my kids on the phone and tell them I’m so very sorry. I pray a lot. We apply for jobs and just keep hoping that sometime soon – very soon – we both find jobs in the same state.
And the truth is, we’re lucky. I have friends that pick me up from the airport. I have friends that let me sleep on their couch. I have friends that feed me. I have friends that go spend the night with my children on the nights that my husband works. I have friends that pray for me. I have friends that listen while I cry. There are people helping us and that may be the only reason we’re surviving.
My husband and I have done everything they say you’re supposed to do. I have a Master’s in Library Science with 20 years of experience. My husband also is educated, experienced, and hard working. We love our kids, we work hard, we pray a lot. But finding jobs has not been easy for either one of us in the post 2008 world. And we know so very many families just like us. Families with teenagers that have moved, lost homes, lost incomes, and are now struggling to make it day by day, paycheck to paycheck, just to survive.
So the next time you feel the urge to scorn those around you who may be under or unemployed, please resist the urge to say just get a job or just move to where the jobs are. The reality is this: You have to be lucky enough to find a job in your area that pays a livable wage to support a family on. Then you have to be lucky enough to be chosen for that job over what often appears to be 100s of equally qualified and needy candidates; I know for a recent library job they said they had over 100 applicants. If the job is in another state, you have to hope that you can sell your home of 10 years if you own it. You have to ask your kids to leave their friends, their school, their support network and start completely over again, alone and in a new place with no emotional support or childcare options. And then you have to hope that when you get to this new place your spouse can find employment in their field as well. And then you have to hope that you both keep those jobs, that the company isn’t downsized, closed, etc. That’s a lot of ifs and if just one of them falls through the pieces of your life come crashing down around you. I know, I have been there. I am there.
In a few hours I will get ready to go to work at my library. It’s a great job, I love it, and I know that they have been more than generous and kind in allowing me to go home and see my kids while my husband tries to find employment here. I also know that at some point there will have to be an end to that generosity and kindness and if my husband hasn’t found a job here in Ohio by then I don’t know what I’ll do. I lay awake at night on my friend’s couch worrying about that, what happens next . . . I just want to be able to work a job I love as a YA librarian and come home every day after work to hold my kids and ask them how their day was.
Believe me when I tell you, the majority of financially struggling families who are under or unemployed are people just like my husband and I. You never know what is going on behind the doors of houses in your neighborhood. Some of those families are eating ramen noodles and PB& J for dinner, some have no cable, some are praying that they find a new job because they just got a pink slip in their check . . . some of us our sleeping on couches over 1100 miles away while someone else tucks our children in at night so we can make money to put food in their bellies. 1 in 5 children will go to bed hungry tonight. My children won’t go to bed hungry tonight, but they’ll go to bed without a kiss from their mother and that makes my heart break.
More on Teens, Hunger and Poverty in our Teen Issues series:
- Can We All Just Stop Saying the Internet Is Free Now Please?
- Rich Teen, Poor Teen: Books that depict teens living in poverty
- Working with youth who live in poverty
- Sunday Reflections: This is what losing everything looks like
- Sunday Reflections: Going to bed hungry
- Sunday Reflections: A tale of two libraries
- Sunday Reflections: Are schools disriminating against the poor?
- Sunday Reflections: Poverty doesn’t always look the way you think it does
- Sunday Reflections: All I Want for Christmas is the Chance to Go to College
- Feeding Teens at the Library: Summer and Afterschool Meals
- The Economy as Villain in The Year of Shadows by Claire LeGrand
- Book Review: PANIC by Lauren Oliver
- Book Review: HUNGRY by H. A. Swain
- Not All Educations Are Created Equal
- Teens and Poverty: PBS Newshour Discusses Being Homeless and Trying to Graduate High School
- Sunday Reflections: Dasani, Poverty, and Education (by Robin)
- Sunday Reflections: Torchwood Children of Earth, a reflection on how we think about children in poverty among us
- Teens and Poverty: An updated book list
- Teen Homelessness and NO PARKING AT THE END TIME by Bryan Bliss
- Impoverished Youth: Over Half of Public School Students Now Live in Low Income Homes
- Sunday Reflections: Becoming a Statistic
- Boom, Crash, the Sound of the Economy
See also Stacked: Socioeconomic Class in Contemporary YA Lit: Where Are The Poor Teens? Guest Post by Librarian Faythe Arrendondo and Kate Brauning: Writing Poverty in YA
Filed under: Sunday Reflections
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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