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Help for displaced homemakers

April 11, 2012

Michal Ann McArthur
Bend, OR

If you’re a full time mother and homemaker, have you ever asked yourself what you’d do if you suddenly had to support your family financially? I have. The question can be scary and intimidating. It confronts us with the niggling worry that an unexpected event—divorce, death, disability—might suddenly change everything and leave us with the need to earn a paycheck. If you find yourself in this position, you’re what the government calls a “displaced homemaker.”  It’s good to know what help is available if you should ever become displaced.

When my good friend, I’ll call her Nicole, first realized that she’d need to return to the workplace, she signed up for courses at our community college to upgrade her skills, concentrating on basic computer skills and learning Microsoft Office. She also found free classes at the public library and online, even on YouTube. She worked to get current in her field and participated in networking events. She met people in her profession for coffee and took every opportunity to do piecework.

Eventually, Nicole realized that the market for her profession was flat or disappearing altogether and the likelihood that she’d find work in her field was remote. This led her to ask the question, what else can I do with my skill set?

To help her find the answer, Nicole turned to WorkSource here in Bend. I didn’t realize it, but the federal government’s Workforce Investment Act (WIA) provides funding for free counseling for displaced homemakers, for assisting them in obtaining training and education, and for helping to place them in suitable employment. In Oregon, WIA services are available at a statewide network of WorkSource centers.  There’s probably one not too far from where you live. Having just filed my taxes, I have to say, Hooray for tax dollars at work doing something so useful.

At WorkSource, Nicole met a supportive and knowledgeable employment counselor, Bobbie Faust. She helped Nicole identify her skills and four main areas where she might find employment. As Nicole began to apply for jobs, she quickly learned that applications are handled online these days, not person-to-person. If she didn’t have exactly what the computer was programmed to think she should have, her application was rejected. Nicole realized that she was facing a long process. She took free brush-up classes at WorkSource and elsewhere. She discovered that the community college has counselors willing to assist people in finding classes and identifying possible careers. The public library even offers a librarian’s help for an hour to do a job search.

I asked Nicole if she had any words of wisdom she could share with us, and she said: Stay connected to people. So much of life is out of your control, it’s important to have a support system in place to keep you grounded. Be flexible. Talk to everybody. Get ideas and referrals. Follow your leads. Realize the search will take time.

Bobbie also offered a bit of advice: While you’re at home, think about being prepared to reenter the workplace should the need arise. One thing you can do now is to spend just a few hours a week volunteering. Look for a position that gives you a title and specific duties, a structure that you can point to later that will give you something to stand on. Remember, people do get jobs.

At present, Nicole is still searching, but she’s getting better and better qualified, more informed, and more confident. One day, I hope to write a follow-up story telling you that Nicole has landed her dream job and detailing how she did it. But for now, I hope this article has helped you become more prepared for whatever your future might hold. The good news is that there’s a wide variety of help out there for displaced homemakers.

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Discuss this article

Andrea April 11, 2012

Thanks for the great information. I never knew all this help was available!

Gene April 11, 2012

Great article. There are some truly helpful programs out there that can get people in touch with each other, and being in contact with other people is the first step toward working with them.

Alpine Dan April 11, 2012

We read news stories every day about our tax dollars being utterly wasted. The WorkSource service does not sound like one of those stories. It’s a breath of fresh air. Thanks for highlighting it.

Norma Ross April 11, 2012

Wishing Nicole the best and I hope she finds exactly what she is looking for. I have been in her shoes more than once.

Kirsten April 11, 2012

It is easy for discouragement to set in. Be hopeful.

Kay April 11, 2012

Great article, good information for women to have.

Jennifer April 11, 2012

Michal Ann, my girlfriend and I were discussing this topic just the other day. Thanks for the relevant information! I’ll pass it along.

Carlie April 11, 2012

As usual, community is the answer! I love it when the solution is friendship, knowing people, making time for relationships. I am also a very firm believer in cultivating my own personal interests and skills during this homemaking phase of my life. Good stuff! More young women need to hear this before they reach the cusp years.

Jonathan April 11, 2012

Great reminder about the importance of keeping your skill set up to date and being persisent about networking.

Nancy April 11, 2012

Good stuff, Michael Ann. And not only helpful for young mothers, but, for older Moms who need to go back to work, outside the home, to help college age children and the family’s retirement fund.

Christina Jackson April 11, 2012

They say we are out of the recession,
but it does not feel like it.

GG April 11, 2012

I tell my students that nobody hires you to ‘give’ you a job, they hire you because you have a skill set that they NEED to do their job! well written! along with developing a skill set, networking and volunteering are critical elements… that and relentless, dogged effort!

Lynn April 11, 2012

This is great information. The job market remains tough. Thank you.

Kathi April 11, 2012

Thanks for the informative article. I had no clue there might be help out there for “displaced homemakers,” but I know plenty of women who’ve needed to reenter the work force and felt very much at a loss for how to go about preparing for, and finding, jobs that would meet their families’ needs.

Jan April 11, 2012

This is such a helpful article! I had no idea all this help was available to “displaced homemakers.” I’ve often wondered what I would do should I find myself in the position of needing to reenter the work force. Thank you, Michael Ann, for giving us a starting point and please keep us updated should new information come to your attention.

Sue April 12, 2012

Great article! There are so many “displaced homemakers” out there these days, and this information is so valuable!

T. Taylor April 12, 2012

Lots of good information. Re-entering the work force is never easy but knowing there are so many great resources available makes it less frightening. And I was unaware of just how many resources there are. Almost makes me want to find a new career. Almost.

Bob April 13, 2012

Good advice and good information.

Judy April 13, 2012

Michal Ann, very informative article. It is good to know in this state there are such good resources available. Thank you.

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