My Husband is a Federal Employee: How the Government Shutdown Affects Our Family

3 years ago

It's been a bit hazy these past few days. A lot of it due to the lack of sleep. A teething baby will do that. Combined with the Breaking Bad finale, and the pursuant discussion with friends that somehow wound into the wee hours of the night.

And part of it has been this government shutdown. Refreshing the browser. Dusting off the old twitter. Watching. Wondering. Waiting.

I remember the last time the government shutdown. I was in high school. I saw it on the news. And, I didn't care. It seemed silly that Congress would shut itself down and not get paid. But, considering it was in their own best interest to in fact get paid, they would figure it out soon enough.


Sept. 25, 2013 - Washington, DC, USA - The statue called ''Grief'' weeps onto the shoulder of the statue ''History'' on the Peace Monument as the US Capitol looms in the distance, September 25, 2013 in Washington, D.C. (Credit Image: © Mary F. Calvert/


Except now I know better. And now I know that Congress despite depriving hundreds of thousands of its citizens, will in fact, get direct deposited regardless of how long they bicker and grandstand.

And now, because it affects me personally, because my husband is a federal employee, and this government shutdown might affect how we pay bills, feed our children, and put gas in the car, the absurdity of it all resounds stronger as it tends to do when the news hits not close to home, but actually hits your home.

We're one of the lucky ones. By whatever algorithm they have set forth, he is deemed essential. Not essential enough to likely get paid during the shutdown mind you, but essential enough to be required to report to work, and to expect pay at some point in the future. This makes us among the lucky. Many of his co-workers, non-essential employees [I will not even begin to go into how that term makes me cringe] also have to go without pay, but without any guarantee they will get any paycheck retroactively. They might. They might not. And that uncertain space for those who need to know how they will pay their water bills or fill their gas tanks one month from now, it's maddening. 

It's maddening to talk to government employees. Who are my friends. Who are afraid. And to watch conferences paid for go unattended. Events paid for and prepared for, now just empty decorated halls. Plane tickets purchased, left unused. Speakers scheduled, who will not speak. Just one person, and thousands of government dollars lost because a government shutdown involves technicalities. And if I know one, or two, or five. How many others? How many millions of dollars are effectively getting trashed while two sides bicker? Over how to spend money?

We all grow up thinking our parents are perfect. When we grow up we start to see their flaws. It throws us for a loop, but we love them just the same, after all, no one is perfect, how can we expect them to be? We still believe them when they say they care. And that everything they do is for us. Until the moment you look behind the words, and see: They care more about hurting each other, destroying each other, seeing who looks worse, than they do about actually protecting us.

And while this is not a personal analogy, that's how this battle between both parties feels to me.

And like any dysfunctional couple, as they get drunk (yes literally) and take swings at each other, we know who they hurt the most. In this case, its the American people. In this case, it's me. And while it angers me. And when I think about the looming unknown of our next paycheck, it frightens me. More than all of that, when I turned on my laptop this morning and saw the news, it leaves me so incredibly and deeply disappointed. Because I expected more. I expected better.

But in the meantime, I wait.

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