Saturday, September 20, 2014

CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL: A father gets laid off and becomes a dad

By AMY NEWMARK, Chicken Soup for the Soul | 2/28/2014

Matt Chandler started working when he was 13 and never stopped, until the day he was forced to. His boss had called to schedule a meeting first thing Monday morning, and Matt knew exactly why: He was going to be laid off. Matt wrote about the consequences in his story “Downsized Dad,” published in our book on positive thinking.

Even though the days following the Monday morning meeting were the “darkest of my life,” as Matt wrote, the life change turned into a blessing. He and his wife had just had their first child and Matt’s wife was a teacher. So as soon as she went back to work, Matt was in charge of taking care of their daughter. They no longer had the income to afford day care.

Matt Chandler started working when he was 13 and never stopped, until the day he was forced to. His boss had called to schedule a meeting first thing Monday morning, and Matt knew exactly why: He was going to be laid off. Matt wrote about the consequences in his story “Downsized Dad,” published in our book on positive thinking.

Even though the days following the Monday morning meeting were the “darkest of my life,” as Matt wrote, the life change turned into a blessing. He and his wife had just had their first child and Matt’s wife was a teacher. So as soon as she went back to work, Matt was in charge of taking care of their daughter. They no longer had the income to afford day care.

Matt wrote that, “In what seemed like the blink of an eye, I went from managing a sales territory to changing diapers, washing bottles and singing lullabies.” Soon he decided that he “had a responsibility to be the best stay-at-home dad I could be.” Along the way, he developed a relationship with his daughter that he never would have had with his old work schedule. “She became my lunch date, my confidante and my best friend. I was there for her first word and her first bite of solid food. I watched her take her first steps. I understood her various cries.”

Looking back on losing his job, Matt says he wouldn’t change a thing. During the time he spent at home with his daughter, Matt wrote, “I became a dad,” not just a “dutiful breadwinner.” The layoff even helped him improve his professional life. When he eventually went back to work, he had a new set of priorities. Less concerned about his salary, he was able to pursue a job he’d always wanted, and he’s more satisfied now.

Matt doesn’t deny how painful it was to lose his job, but he was able to get through it by trying to find the good in the bad. By doing this, eventually he was able to make the bad parts fade away.

•••

As a parent, where do you draw the line between keeping your house in order and letting your kids experiment and grow? Jody A. James was forced to confront this question when she was rudely awakened one Saturday morning, as she wrote in her story “Waffles,” published in our book on family matters.

“Mom, you are going to want to hear this,” Jody’s son Max was saying at 7 a.m. Jody, unconvinced that she wanted to hear “this,” rolled over. Then she heard Max yelling to his 5-year-old brother: “She’s not getting up, Alex! Maybe there’s more spray stuff in the basement.” That got her attention. Spray stuff? She opened her eyes and saw that Max was clutching an empty bottle of Windex.

It turned out that Max and his brother had tried to make themselves waffles that morning. The results had not been great. In the living room, Jody found two plates, an empty syrup bottle and her cat perched in the middle of a puddle of the bottle’s contents.

In the kitchen, she found another gooey puddle. But this one appeared to be moving. She wondered if it was so early that she was seeing things. But then she realized it was much worse: The puddle was teeming with ants! Jody deserves a lot of credit for not flipping her lid at that moment.

Instead, she turned to face her distraught sons, covered in syrup and holding spray bottles and paper towels. They had only woken her up after failing to clean up on their own, and Jody was able to see past the horrible mess to what had really happened that morning: “They were trying to be independent and make their own breakfast,” she wrote. “They were trying to spread their wings a bit.”

Now, of course there’s a difference between letting the kids “spread their wings” and giving them free rein to wreck the house, but I think that Jody was right to see this episode as a case of the former. Her sons’ intentions were good, even if the result was a situation that was a bit ... sticky.

Syndicated by Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, online at www.chickensoup.com

comments powered by Disqus