Published in The Guardian, Saturday 24 October 2009.
When Ria Wilkes’s husband lost his job as a pipefitter earlier this year, she never imagined she would become the family’s breadwinner several months down the line.
A mum of two little boys, the eldest aged two and the youngest nine months, Wilkes understandably didn’t expect (or, indeed, want) to return to full-time employment so soon. She left her job as a secretary just before she had her first child; and although she had a job on the side as an Avon representative, she didn’t really mean it to be a career.
“To start with, the Avon work was just to get me out of the house – I didn’t want to be stuck at home. And it got me earning some money. But when my husband was made redundant, that was it. We both knew my Avon job would have to become full-time to make ends meet,” she says.
“I have never had so much responsibility on my shoulders in my life. Initially, I could not even process it – I just sat there and cried. When I realised it was all down to me, I felt scared.”
Wilkes is not alone in making the transition from stay-at-home mum to full-time breadwinner – it’s happening to more families and couples as the recessionary spate of job cuts continues to take its toll across the country.
The latest unemployment figures released this month by the Office for National Statistics revealed that the number of men losing their jobs has increased by almost 50% during the recession, with one in 10 men expected to be unemployed by the start of next year – putting the onus on their other halves to keep money ticking in. Meanwhile, a survey by community jobs site Workingmums.co.uk found that 79% of women were considering either extending their existing working hours or re-entering the workplace because they were worried about the possibility of their partners losing their jobs in the recession.
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