A reader writes:
While things could be a good deal worse, the recession has been hitting my household quite a bit already. Last year my wife and I had our first child, a pure joy and blessing. My wife had arranged with her employer to take six months of maternity leave. Unfortunately, business dropped off so much that after five months the owner called her to say that they couldn't afford to take her back, at least in the foreseeable future.
This might have been illegal (not sure), but we don't hold any grievance -- its a small business that has always operated on a slim profit margin. Her boss even gave her a nice severance payment (more than he could afford I'm sure). My wife is very qualified in her field, but has been unable to find work elsewhere.
We've also been helping out my wife's parents quite a bit. Her father's contracting work completely dried up a year ago and they are facing destitution having used up most of their saving. She has three siblings that also want to help out, but one is out of work, and another is in financial shambles due to a disastrously bad home purchase a couple of years back. Between the other sibling and us we pay their rent so they can live on their social security money.
My father-in-law is desperately looking for a job -- any job -- to bring in something so they don't have to take our money. They are proud folks and it really hurts them to be dependent on their children in this way. My own father had planned to retire but his retirement accounts have been decimated and now he will have to keep working for at least a few more years.
My salary is enough for us to get by on but we can't really get ahead either. I take a bus to work and leave her to get around in our 8 year old car. We had planned to buy a house this year but there's no way we can take that plunge now. With only one income and so many responsibilities we need to keep our savings in reserve and our extra obligations to a minimum.
I had hoped to provide more for my daughter -- she should have a nursery, a yard to play in, a better neighborhood. Instead I come home to our little apartment and whisper my apology to her on the changing table we've crammed into our laundry room. She smiles back at me, all jolly, innocent, and happy just to be alive and well, oblivious to our stresses and insecurities.