Unemployed Expectant Parents

Dear Mr. Dad: I’m almost eight months pregnant but my boyfriend and I are having relationship troubles. We’re both jobless right now, which is a strain. Plus, I get the feeling that he doesn’t want the responsibility of being a dad and wishes he was still single. He denies it and insists he loves me and the baby, and I know he is actively looking for a job. But I’m afraid. How can I be sure he’ll stay with me and be a good and responsible father and partner?

A: I wish there was a simple answer to your question. Unfortunately, though, relationships don’t come with a warranty, and the truth is that there’s no guaranteed way to make sure your boyfriend will stay or, if he does, that he’ll be the “good and responsible father and partner” you’re looking for.

That said, all of your concerns are perfectly reasonable. Pregnancy is often an emotionally stressful time. And even under the best of circumstances, expectant parents worry about whether they’ll be bringing their new baby into a stable, loving home, and hope they’ll be able to afford all the basic necessities. With both of you unemployed, I can see how normal worries about finances, relationships, and the future could turn into panic.

The good news is that, as you say, your boyfriend has expressed his commitment to you and your future baby, and he’s doing all he can to find a job. That’s about as good as it gets. Try to look at his commitment as a positive thing, even though times are tough for both of you right now.

If you haven’t already had a heart-to-heart talk with your boyfriend about your future as a family, now is the time. Tell him what you’re afraid of and ask him to reassure you that he’s in the relationship for a long haul. Knowing that you’ll be facing the challenges together will bring you some relief.

At the same time, it’s important that you let him know that you understand his situation too. In our society a lot of men’s identity is tied up in our jobs. No job often leads to lower self-esteem. And with a baby on the way, the pressure your boyfriend feels to be the provider/protector is magnified. It’s important that you support him any way you can.

In an ideal world, Paul would be able to snap up a great job in no time. But with the economy a mess right now, that may not be very realistic. Plus, this is hardly the time for you to be out looking for work. Given all that, the two of you must come up with a backup plan. Now.

Start by checking with your state’s or county’s department of social services to find out what sorts of financial and other assistance is available for you and the baby. This might include food stamps, TANF (temporary assistance for needy families—what used to be called welfare), income tax credits, and even low-cost or free health insurance. You may also be able to get some help from your church or synagogue.

In the meantime, your boyfriend will keep looking for a job and as soon as you’re able, you’ll be pounding the pavement too. Things may seem hopeless right now, but there are options out there. Be patient with each other and be sure to spend some time nurturing your relationship with your boyfriend. With a little work and a lot of compassion you’ll find some peace and serenity amid the turmoil of doubts and fear.