This is my first winter as the wife of a bricklayer.

Since this follows the rainiest, no-workiest year of bricklaying ever the work leading up to this winter was spotty until he found His Company. (His Company is a term I’m using to mean the company he is the #1 apprentice for and will work as long as there is a job. It’s a good place for an apprentice to be, especially with a company that has regular work lined up.) Obviously circumstances could happen that could make it necessary to work for a different company, but his goal right now is to work through his apprenticeship and become a journeyman working as exclusively as possible for this company.

Since he has only been working fairly regularly since June and was in training for ten weeks before that his unemployment is crap. It won’t even pay the car payment.

I’ve been doing what I can with writing articles and doing some crowdsourced projects, but it’s created the old “when I work and you don’t we are both crabby” problem we’ve experienced a few times before.

The Problem

Even though we recognize there is a problem and we know how to fix it there is this mental block. He can’t get another job without burning the bridge when he quits. No one will hire him knowing he will be gone come Spring. He also has the pride that comes with having a job he loves and is good at. He has the pride that comes from going to the Union meeting and having people tell him they’ve heard nothing but good things. He has the pride that comes from choosing a career.

This makes him almost impossible to deal with because “all the other bricklayers” have saved up and get unemployment during the winter. There may be a little pouting but it’s that macho pout that looks more like an angry glare if you don’t know better. I may have also poked him in the belly to make him laugh to test the theory. I do not fight fair.


He wants me to not work so much. He knows I’m happier when I’m taking care of the kids and managing the household (finances, organization, parenting, etc.) and he’s happier when I’m doing all that because he feels everything is in balance. Unfortunately, I have this panic that lives in my soul. The panic of knowing unemployment isn’t enough and I don’t know if I can make enough to keep the whole house running and if I do make enough that means I’m spending no time with my kids. None. I give up all the things I love.

So my problem is trying to balance doing enough work to pay the bills while still having time left to do all the other things I need to get done.

The Solution

I don’t know. Do you have one? As far as I can tell “suffer for a couple years” is what apprenticeship is all about. I mean, if he was a young pup living with his parents being young the apprenticeship wouldn’t even be a hardship. It’s not something designed to take care of a family on, even if his lowest apprentice wage is still far and away above minimum wage.

He is doing some work. He did a lot this morning before I even woke up and he let me sleep in, so I’m certainly not in a complaining mood today. It was a nice break and I had good dreams so woke up in a great mood. I just wish I could wake up with some kind of inspiration that would give me the answer for how to get through this winter.

I know that the way to avoid this next winter is to save some out of every paycheck to add to the unemployment when it happens next year. I just don’t know if we will be able to save enough in addition to paying off the credit card debt we have now. I mean, we owe around two and a half grand in credit card debt total, it’s not a king’s ransom, but since we have to save first/last/security with the tax return, I don’t know if there will be enough left over to pay it all off.

It would be super nice if it was, though.

In the meantime I’m taking care of balances and he’s working on getting the car payment together. We have some paperwork from the mortgage company that we have to address. I’m hoping he will take care of that. I really don’t want to deal with it.

It makes me very, very sad.

Our Next Steps

The only goal we really have is to get through winter. I am reading One Thousand Gifts and it is reminding me to be thankful regardless of if the situation is easy or difficult. Yesterday I read Hunter S. Thompson’s advice for living a life you love or having a purpose or some other thing and it reminded me that I get to wake up next to my husband every morning and that’s exactly the kind of life I adore.

So I’m also happy.

Basically I wander around my house being a giant mood-swing. When I notice I’m doing this I warn my husband by saying, “All work and no play makes jack a dull boy…” Because nothing says, “I love you, honey” like quoting horror movies while your’e acting all weird and broody!

Most of my problems are the “should” variety. I should be working more, he should be working more, we should be doing better, we should be working harder.

I’m shoulding all over our lives.

He checks Craigslist and the job boards daily. He’s stopped in at local businesses asking if they need help through the winter. We aren’t sitting around doing nothing. Not by a long shot. He does not want to sacrifice his integrity by lying about why he wants a job to a Walmart or Meijer and then have to call off if there is one good weather day and he goes back to his “real” job. Because we can’t sacrifice this long-term job opportunity for a few weeks of stress relief at minimum wage. It would be a very bad idea.

Do you have any suggestions?

4 Comments on The Weather Problem (or, he has a job so can’t get another)

  1. I’m wondering if any of your local churchs might know of some short term jobs. Or maybe community centers? Did you place ads on Craigslist offering work? I’m sending you so MUCH LOVE AND HUGS.

    • Thank you for the great ideas. We don’t currently have a church. I always seem to try a new church on the day they decide to focus on something I can’t hang with.

      Yep, he’s got an ad in Craigslist but thanks to you I mentioned to him we should brainstorm what the ad should say and we are going to spruce it up and target it (hopefully) more effectively!

  2. I wish I had a better suggestion for the short term. All I can say is that my father was a construction electrician, and he had to support a wife and child during his apprenticeship so I know it is not easy. In the end though, he never regretted changing careers as it paid off in the long term.

    • Thanks 🙂 I think the main thing that’s getting us through with good humor is exactly that. It’s one of the reasons I don’t mind sharing where we are now, because there is a light at the end of the tunnel that’s not a train!

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