By Tunde Ajaja
Looking tipsy where he sat at one end of the bar, Samuel Solomon (real names withheld) continued his drinking spree that cool evening. It didn’t matter to him whether anyone was watching or displeased with how fast he was emptying the bottles. Not even the comic banter by his friends could lure him; he was completely detached from everything around him.
Since Solomon, 45, was sacked by his employer two months ago, going on a binge and drinking to stupour had virtually become his daily activity, such that his friends would have to drive him home, so he doesn’t kill himself by way of accident.
One of his friends would later tell our correspondent that apart from drinking, Solomon had become a recluse; one who would not play with his children like before or contribute to discussions whether in public or at home. “We keep praying for him to get another job and be a happy man he used to be. His wife says it takes grace and a lot of patience to live with him now because he snarls on slight provocation,” he said.
While Solomon and his wife, who is a full housewife, are faced with the looming financial and psychological effect of his job loss, Mary and her husband do not seem to be finding it funny either. Her husband, who earns a relatively good salary, said his wife had yet to recover from the “sad” development and that her attitude since she lost her job had changed completely. “She cries constantly and even when she is not sobbing, she could be lost in thought or be shaking her head in amazement,” he added.
For obvious reasons, losing a job can be devastating, and for some, it is like the end of the road, and such can only be worse at a time of economic recession like this, whereby ‘take-home pay’ no longer takes many people home.
Thousands of jobs have been lost in recent times. Reports show that about 150,000 jobs had been lost in Nigeria’s oil industry in the last couple of months, 3,000 in the maritime sector, 80,000 in the pharmaceutical industry, over 100,000 in manufacturing companies and thousands in the banking sector, among others.
Overall, the National Bureau of Statistics says in the last one year, about 4.58 million people lost their jobs, and unfortunately, some of these sacked employees are adults who are married and have families to fend for.
Even though job loss can be distressing for anyone, experts say men tend to feel it more than women, not only because they form a larger part of the workforce, but more so that they are expected to be the breadwinner in the home, a responsibility bestowed on them by nature and culture.
But experts say job loss should not be the end of happiness. According to them, people in this category need some support system to survive the emotional strain.
A psychologist, Dr. John Eze, says when a woman loses her job, she expects the man to make up and fill the gap, but when a man loses his job, he feels incapacitated for losing his source of income because he is expected to be the breadwinner. According to him, these tips would help women to help their husbands at such times:
Be tolerant: That a man loses his job is enough torment for him, such a time would not be the best time to remind him of what he could have done differently to keep his job. Besides, it is not strange for a man that loses his job to act in strange ways or be lost in thought, so the woman should be more tolerant of his behaviour and should not scold him.
“The problem with job loss is that no matter what the woman does, a man who feels it is his responsibility to take care of the family still feels the pain. So, the woman shouldn’t expect everything to go away from his mind at once. She should empathise with him, which tells him his wife understands his worries and she is ready to go through the process with him, Eze said.”
Keep an eye on him: In many cases, when people, especially men, lose their source of income, it brings depression and it is usually a delicate time. Eze adds that if the spouse is not very watchful, the person could commit suicide because of that. It becomes a bigger problem if the man no longer talks to anybody. As a way out, the woman is advised to find a way to engage the man in a discussion, so as to lighten his mood, boost his confidence and his social interaction, which could make him think productively on the way forward.
Be humorous: Given that such men are very sensitive to their wives’ language and actions, women are advised to bring in some humour into their discussions as it could be a form of support for the men in this category. “That could reduce their worries, take their mind away from how bad things are and help them see their wives as helpers until they get another job.”
Don’t flood him with pity: Does a man need pity at that time? No. According to the psychologist, pity could make it worse as it tends to make the man realise how bad the situation is. Rather, the woman should give him emotional support and financial aid. “She could put money in his pocket without him asking, because asking all the time could make him feel less of a man,” he explained.
Be kind with your words: The expert also says to avoid incessant quarrels and make his situation worse, it is better to ask the man what could be done to boost his income than telling him ‘why don’t you go and do this or that.’ He said it should be more of ‘we’ than ‘you’, noting that the man knows he is the one who needs a job. “She should use words like ‘I know it hurts you but we can do something about it,’ and let him know he is better than some people and he is still in charge of the home. That is empathy and it should not be forceful,” he said.
Review your spending: It is equally advised that the couple should do it together rather than one person, especially if it is something that affects both of them. Thus, drawing a scale of preference together might be the way to go. However, let him not lose sight of the need to get a job.
Don’t attempt to push him to action: At such times, women should avoid pushing the man to take steps. Don’t use a language like ‘go and apply to one company or the other, why don’t you go and look for job or are people like you not carrying blocks to make money?’ as the man would feel the woman is now directing him because of his situation. Eze says if the woman had not been doing much to bring in money, she could suggest what they could do together to raise money. And that is not the best time to point out the numerous needs in the house, but if he suggests taking up a vocation by himself, support him.
On the other hand, when a woman loses her job, it is advised that the man should give her emotional and financial support, buy her things she would have loved to buy on her own and discuss with her on what she likes to do. “Any woman who does something productive, no matter how much it brings in, feels more fulfilled than someone who just sits by,” he said.
Another psychologist, Prof. Toba Elegbeleye, said the kind of treatment a man would get after losing his job would depend on the kind of relationship he had with his wife before then, saying it is the reason people are advised never to make their spouse or family members their enemy.
He said, “Such people are so troubled that they cannot be looking for a job immediately, thus, people should have an alternative, find a way to engage themselves in things that could help them to stabilise and avoid people who can threaten their survival. Coping with the development has to be substantiated by an individual who has compassion for them, hence, if there is none, such people could attempt suicide.”