Hard Working: Family as Bailout | WBEZ
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Eight Forty-Eight

Hard Working: Family as Bailout

The recession is making it hard for families to get by. As more and more people lose an income the family budget depended on, families are being tested and stretched and reconfigured and in some cases strengthened. As part of our series Hard Working, WBEZ's Adriene Hill finds out how two families are trying to make their economic-change-of-circumstance work for them.

Family expert Barbara Whitehead puts it simply:

BARBARA: Families are our social safety net. They are the bailout that comes long before the financial bailout that comes from any third party.

She says in times of recession, people go to family for help first…for everything from money…to a place to live…to emotional support.

BARBARA: It's sometimes forgotten when we think about what resources are available, people really expect and turn to families and families respond in kind.

That's exactly what Jason Giarmo and his wife learned when economic hardship forced them to make tough decisions. In the boom days of housing, Jason worked as a construction project manager. They had a nice apartment on the north side of Chicago.

JASON1: When business slowed down and the money wasn't coming in like it used to, we really sat down and thought about what was important to us, where do we need to go with ourselves.

They wanted to pay off their bills…not add to their debt. His wife wanted to go back to school. And so after months of what Jason will only describe as “difficult conversations”…they decided to live in different places.  His wife and their two young children moved in with her parents in Michigan.

JASON: She would be able to go to college full time then because she would have some sort of support structure in place, to take care of the children and that would relieve us of a lot of additional costs here.
Jason recently got a job—he's still expecting the family will live apart for a couple years, at least two he says, so they can save money. He says it's not as bad as he thought; he sees his kids every other day on a webcam. And has more time to do his own thing. Recently he went to the Art Institute to take pictures. He has more time to read.

And…his wife didn't want to talk for this story…but...

JASON: When we see each other it's much better. It's more exciting. We have more fun together…it's almost like dating again in a way. When we see each other again it's like hey….

And while Jason and his wife are getting used to living apart, other families  are getting used to spending more time together.

EVA: He's a car fanatic, so I had to retrain myself to get used to all the car shows that were on on Monday evenings or Saturday afternoons…or things like that…but it's been fun.

That's Eva Young-Hayden. She lives in an apartment she rents from her brother on the south side of Chicago. He husband works as a business office manager at a hotel. She says, since she was laid off in May, she's been spending a lot of time with her husband.  For years before she says…when she had a job…their schedules rarely overlapped. She also is a now a full time mom, and hangs out with her 3 year old daughter, who plays peek-a-boo with me.

Eva says she misses work. She would love a job as an administrative support person.
EVA: I like being the person that everyone counts on.  It's rewarding that, in itself.

Her job now is to take care of her family.

EVA: I think my daily purpose is to show my children that I can be strong even going through adversity.

Part of that is talking to the kids…about why they can't go out to dinner as much as they used to…why the family had to move into a less expensive apartment.  Another part is something the experts say is critical, she's making her new situation OK for herself and doing things she likes.

 Her favorite part of the day is cooking dinner.

EVA: Usually you just come home from work and you just rushing, rushing, rushing to put dinner on the table so everyone can eat. Now I have the time to actually have the time to think about what I want to cook and actually prepare it.

Just the attempt to savor this time…helps her with something she says is really hard…staying upbeat for herself and her family.

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