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A former stay-at-home dad says he’s struggling to find a job after his nearly 20-year break from the workforce: ‘I’m underqualified for jobs that I used to do’

In Business
June 04, 2024
stay at home dad working

A former stay-at-home dad who was pushed back into the job market after a divorce says he’s struggling to find roles he’s qualified for. The man in the story is not pictured.VioletaStoimenova/Getty Images

  • A Gen Xer became a stay-at-home dad in the mid-2000s after being laid off from his job.

  • After getting divorced a few years ago, he realized he’d eventually need to return to the workforce.

  • But he’s struggled to find jobs he’s qualified for and may have to delay his return to work.

In the mid-2000s, Dan was let go from his job at a financial firm. He’s been out of the workforce ever since.

At first, he was OK with the change, the New Yorker who’s in his 40s told Business Insider via email. He and his wife decided that he would care for their children full-time while she pursued her career.

But after being a stay-at-home dad for over a decade, Dan and his wife got divorced a few years ago. While he received an “enviable” settlement that’s helped him pay the bills, he said this money will eventually begin to run dry.

“I’m hoping my cash lasts three more years at least,” said Dan, whose identity is known to BI, but he asked to use a pseudonym to maintain privacy for his family. He said he could try to stretch the money out as long as possible, but that this would require a steady reduction in his “quality of life.”

So after nearly 20 years out of the workforce, Dan has started to dip his toe into the job market. But it’s been quite discouraging so far.

“When I review job sites, I’m underqualified for jobs that I used to do, and I most likely present as too old for entry-level positions,” he said. “I’m embarrassed to even attempt to update my résumé or even bother applying to a job with my gap in work history and skills.”

While the male unemployment rate is low compared to past decades, Dan is among the American men who are struggling to find a job — or have stopped looking entirely. In 1950, roughly 97% of American men ages 25 to 54 had a job or were actively looking for work, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. As of April, this figure had fallen to about 89%.

There are several potential explanations for this decline, including the rising number of men with disabilities, higher incarceration rates, and worsening employment and earnings prospects for people without a college degree. The rising number of stay-at-home dads is arguably a more positive explanation, but in Dan’s case, this created an employment gap that could make his return to the workforce more challenging. The career consequences of childcare-related résumé gaps are something women have dealt with for decades.

Dan shared how he’s going about his job search, what opportunities he’s considering, and why it might be a while before he’s able to return to work.

Taking an entry-level job and moving to a less expensive area might be his best option

While he’s not actively applying for jobs, Dan said he’s been consistently reviewing job listings to figure out whether he’s a good fit anywhere.

“I will absolutely reenter the workforce — it’s just a question of whether it’s something close to what I aspired to post-graduation in my early 20s or like a Walmart greeter or janitor or something in between,” he said.

He’s not sure how helpful his college degree from over 20 years ago — which was “in the arts” — will be in his search, and he has little desire to pursue graduate school. He said he’d be open to teaching and hospitality jobs, working at a national park, or any type of office role.

“I’m not committed to any direction yet, but I’m not getting any younger,” he said. “I’m resigned to ultimately taking an entry-level job if they’ll have me.”

Dan said he’d been advised to pursue an entry-level job at Home Depot or Costco, in part so he could receive health benefits. He also thinks it would be wise for him to move to a more affordable region of the country to reduce his living expenses.

A path that checks both these boxes might end up being the most practical, he said. But there’s another obstacle in his job search, one that might make it difficult for him to move or commit to a significant work schedule for at least a few years.

Even though his ex-wife has custody of the children, Dan said he’s the “full-time dad” when she has work commitments like a business trip. He also helps with day-to-day responsibilities like school drop-off and pickup.

“I will probably wait until my kids graduate from high school and then I will move to somewhere cheaper to live and take the best job available to me,” he said, adding that this is expected to happen over the next few years.

In the meantime, Dan’s trying not to get too pessimistic about his future career outlook.

“Most people identify you by your job,” he said. “I don’t want to be identified as someone who hasn’t had a career during his adult life.”

Are you a man who’s not looking for work or has struggled to find a job? Are you willing to share your story? If so, reach out to this reporter at jzinkula@businessinsider.com.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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