Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Lay Offs and the Three Year Old

Last Thursday, I found out via the company rumor mill that I was on the list of people who would be laid off yesterday. I had been 75% sure I was on the list, so the revelation was no great surprise. But I was still angry and upset about how I found out. (And so, for the record, are the people who laid me off. The rumor mill was the result of one guy's big mouth. And he is not a director of the company, so I can disparage him... but I still won't. I think he just didn't think about what he was saying.)

Anyway, I couldn't hide the fact that I was upset from Pumpkin, who wanted to know what was wrong. So I tried to explain to her that I was about to lose my job. At first she didn't get it, but I kept trying, and now she thinks that Mommy needs to find a new classroom. Which you know, is close enough for a 3.5 year old.

Today, I went to the orientation for the outplacement services that I've been given. Since that started at 9 and wasn't far from day care, I dropped the girls off this morning, which is not our usual routine. Pumpkin wanted to know where I was going. I told her I was going to school (again, close enough for a 3.5 year old). Her little face lit up, and she said, "Did you find your new classroom, Mommy?"

No, honey, not yet, I explained. It will take a long time. This is just a class to help me learn how to look.

Pumpkin nodded, but I don't know how much she really understands. I think I would have tried to tell her what is going on even if the events of Thursday hadn't forced my hand. I don't know how much will get through, but I hope it will demonstrate that when things don't work out, you just pick yourself up and try again, and that you move on, even after things that make you really, really sad.  I think this is the way our jobs will be in the future- I think the lack of security and the need to be able to cope with a lay off and a period of unemployment is going to move from just the risky, start up driven type businesses like biotech to the rest of the economy. In fact, I think this is already happening. I want to prepare my kids for this reality, and this lay off is giving me a chance to start doing so.

So I muddle through, trying to explain things to Pumpkin, but also trying not to scare her. One of the good things about the lay off is that I can take some extra time with my kids. I'm keeping Pumpkin out of day care on Friday, and we're going to have a mother-daughter day. She's very excited, and is talking about how we're going to go the zoo, and maybe also to the merry-go-round (which she calls "the secret" because Hubby originally tried to talk about a trip to the merry-go-round by calling it a secret). I'm looking forward to it, too.

Pumpkin has a tendency to repeat everything to everyone, and of course, none of this is really making much sense to her yet. I really wonder what she's saying at day care. I can almost hear her explaining earnestly to her teachers about how her she's going to the zoo because mommy needs to find a new classroom, and how we'll go to the secret, too. She's very verbal, so it will all be crystal clear. But I don't think it will make much sense. Maybe I should send a note....


  1. Pumpkin's reaction is too cute. I try to explain to E the difference between my school (grad school) and her school...and then she gets confused because I usually say I'm going to work, except that she knows I go to school - so I tell her that my school usually feels like work, and then she suggests that I should try her school instead. Have a great trip to the zoo!

  2. I'm sorry about the layoff. Are the job possibilities you're looking at local to you? mr. flea is job-hunting pretty actively right now (his contract is up next summer and the chances of a permanent job he would fit opening up at the place he's at now are pretty much nil right now) and we are being very very careful not to mention it anywhere near the kids. We did this all wrong when he was finishing his PhD and job-hunting and we moved when Casper was 4 - she was very very stressed out by it all. Better to say nothing at all until we have to.

    I'd be much more comfortable with the transient job-changing future economy if I didn't have children. It is very disruptive to move kids, and above a certain level of specialization (like, oh, PhD) there just aren't going to be jobs in the same city, or even the same region. The interview mr. flea has landed so far is in Dublin, Ireland. I'm not so much worried about our being employable - we're smart and talented and young enough that the anti-over-50 bias won't get us for a bit yet - but I want my kids to have some sense of community and durability. (I moved a lot as a child and hated it.)

  3. I am so sorry to hear about your layoff, Cloud.

    When I was let go from my first postdoc, Bean-girl was only two and too young to understand anything. My husband decided to leave his job and seek out greener pastures around that time, and moving was just a big adventure to her.

    When I was let go last year, it didn't really disrupt the children's lives (my husband is the major breadwinner), and Bean-girl knew I lost a job and was applying for another, but she didn't seem concerned--it was just, oh now mom is looking for a new job, that's all. It sounds like Pumpkin is reacting much the same way.

    If you and your husband don't show much stress, Pumpkin won't worry. And you're right that the way you react now might be a model for her in the future of flexibility, dealing with trials, and bouncing back.

    Such is our economy now, c'est la vie. Take care of yourself, and enjoy the time with Pumpkin and Petunia!

  4. @flea- yes, right now, I'm only looking at local jobs. One of the nice things about biotech is that it clusters. Well, that is a nice thing if you want to live in San Diego, San Francisco, or Boston- the three big clusters. Unfortunately for me, the San Diego industry is hurting right now- in addition to the lay offs at my little company, one big company is shutting its San Diego site and another big company is laying off some people. So it is sort of a tough market right now.

    However, since half of my skills are in IT/project management, I can always go spend some time growing those skills in another industry, if I need to.

    Anyway, Hubby likes his job and we're upside down on our mortgage, so it will be awhile before it would make sense for me to start looking in other cities. I'd need to make enough money to cover the loss of Hubby's income while he job searched and the difference between the rent we could get on our house and our mortgage.

    So, we're staying put unless Hubby loses his job, too. That is very unlikely at this point, but if it happens we may take it as a sign that we are meant to look elsewhere. There are a few jobs that looked interesting to me in London.... (Hubby has a British passport as well as a NZ one, so we could go live there pretty easily.)

    OK, that was an unnecessarily long answer. I think your situation sounds a lot harder than mine, because mr. flea doesn't have much flexibility at all. I can understand your concerns about moving your kids around a lot. Will the jobs always be short term, or could he land one that might last longer? Have you been to Dublin yet? I think it is a great city, but I was there right during the "Celtic Tiger" days. I suspect the vibe is a bit different now. The music and Guinness would still be good, though! (As an aside- are you familiar with the term "third culture kids"? If not, go Google it. It might make you feel a little better about the idea of moving your kids to a foreign country!)

  5. Thanks. We are hoping to find something permanent, but the ration of post-docs and temporary grant-funded positions to permanent jobs is disheartening. Our goal is no post-docs unless they do not require moving, but if it comes down to distant post-doc or unemployment, we'll probably go with distant post-doc. We have some savings for just this enevtuality, but we couldn't live for more than a year on my salary alone.

    I have a good friend who is a successful extroverted woman working in Biotech, and would be happy to connect you. She is in SF and works for a really small firm right now, I think as a project manager, but she's been in the industry at least 10 years and probably has some connections in your area too. Please email me ( if you'd like me to hook you up! Though your newest post suggest you have irons in the fire already... good luck!

  6. What an exciting time for you. While I imagine it's also scary, it sounds like you'll look back on this and be grateful that the universe provided you with the kick in the pants, I mean opportunity, to change your life for the happier.

  7. My girl is also very verbal but doesn't always make sense. I was worried about what she would say at school after I got pulled over and got a "note" (a ticket) from a police officer for "going fast" (speeding). I'm afraid that it probably made perfect sense to her teachers!

    I think you are doing a great job trying to explain to Pumpkin what is going on. Kids sense the stress and that something is wrong, and I think it's so important not to hide it or think they don't notice.

    Good luck in all your looking. Is it wrong that I was secretly hoping you'd move to the DC area to find a job here, maybe in the government? But I see now that it doesn't make sense. Oh well. At least come visit some time.

    @TodayWendy - "then she suggests that I should try her school instead." HA! That's so cute!


Sorry for the CAPTCHA, folks. The spammers were stealing too much of my time.