Winning the bread in a new economy

With no jobs in his field, his family, including two daughters at Darton College, urged Michael to go back to school. / Ashley Knight

More women are finding themselves in a different role these days. It's becoming more common for the man to find himself out of work with the downturn in the economy. So how are families coping with the role reversal?

When the Moultrie Orkin Pest Control branch was sold to a franchise, they let go of a few of their managers, including Michael Crout. "I was out of a job, they gave me severance, but that quickly ran out," says Crout.

With no jobs in his field, his family, including two daughters at Darton College, urged him to go back to school. He chose nursing, more specifically, surgery. "Going from pest control to surgical nurse was a big shock to me! But whatever he wants to do and he's happy in it, because I know what it's like to have a job and be miserable," says Crout's wife, Michelle.

Michelle is a property manager and does bookkeeping on the side. When Michael was laid off, she worried about his ego, adjusting to a new role in the family. However, licensed Psychologist Cheryl Kaiser says men are adjusting pretty well. "I don't think that men's psyche's are quite as damaged by the fact that they're not able to be the primary breadwinner as much as their psyche's would be significantly damaged if nobody was earning any kind of money in the household," says Kaiser.

Aside from studying, now Michael's duties include cleaning the pool, laundry, and lunch. "Just have to step up more because I'm not contributing financially to the house anymore and when that happens, I just feel obligated to do more," adds Michael. "I'm glad he's doing something initiative-wise to take care of us and just because he's lost something doesn't mean he can't gain something else," says Michelle.

In 2008, employed wives contributed 45% to the total family earnings. In 2009, when experts declared the end of the recession, it jumped to 47%--the largest single year increase in the last 15 years. Economic Professor Aaron Johnson agrees that this type of situation is becoming more common, but it may not be as temporary as some believe. He's seen the gap between men and women in the workplace quickly closing in. "In the last 10 years, we start to see a shift away from manufacturing, construction, you know, those used to be good paying jobs. Now it's more geared to the services--nursing, teaching and law, specifically in law, women are becoming more prevalent in it," says Johnson.

No matter what the future holds, the Crouts agree it's all about family support. "This ain't about who's making the money, it's about the family that comes, we have to come together," says Michael.
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