2012-03-21 16:36





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By Eilene Zimmerman

苏浅 选注

When Frank Benavides and Lynn Golder had their first baby last year – a cheerful little girl with wide, dark eyes – they agreed that it would be best if one of them could take care of her full time. But they argued, good-naturedly[1], over who should get the job. Four months later, the recession solved that dispute for them.

In October, Frank, a designer, was summoned into the conference room[2] at his Manhattan architectural firm. His bosses told him that, although they hated to do it, they were eliminating[3] his position.

“Oh,” he said. “OK.”

On the commuter train back to Long Island, as the New York City skyline disappeared behind him, he tried to think through his family’s finances.[4] Although Lynn had taken four months of maternity leave, she still had her job as a lawyer at an insurance company.[5] If he stayed home, they wouldn’t have to pay for a nanny. Maybe, he thought, this was a chance to do what he had talked about – to start his own business from home and take care of their baby girl.

The next Monday, Frank said goodbye to Lynn as she left for her office; turned his attention to baby Elizabeth; and started his new, post-layoff schedule: diaper change, feeding, play, feeding, nap.[6] After that, if he had the energy, he could work on his own architectural design business. “It’s been wonderful,” Frank says. “She [Elizabeth] is so perceptive[7], so fun. I’m happy to be doing it.”

The changes taking place in the Benavides-Golder household are being echoed in different ways across the country, as millions of families restructure their lives amid the worst recession since the 1930s.[8]

Although economic shifts always affect the American family, this downturn, both because of its depth and the disproportionate number of men being laid off, is adjusting roles and relationships at home perhaps more than at anytime since the Great Depression.[9] It is recalibrating[10] who earns the income, who picks up the kids at school, and who makes the weekly trip to the supermarket.

Not all the changes are good: As family budgets have tightened and roles changed, tensions have risen, and some advocates worry domestic violence is increasing. But in other cases, families have forged new bonds and balanced duties in ways unseen even at the height of the feminist movement.[11]

This shift in earning power has made it easier for some couples to adjust to their new, recession-era roles. Chuck Northrop had been the lead graphic designer in the marketing department at a commercial real estate firm in San Diego,[12] when he was laid off at the end of August. “It was unexpected,” he says. “Even though I had a feeling things were bad because of what was happening in the real estate market, I was in shock.”

His wife, Lynn, is a clinical psychologist[13] at Grossmont Hospital. She had been working less than full time – four days a week until 3 p.m. – but still made a higher salary than Chuck. After his layoff, she was able to increase her work time to 4-1/2 days a week. Because of her hours, Lynn had been the one to pick up their two children, 12-year-old Claire and 8-year-old Aiden, from school, drive them to afternoon activities, and make dinner. Now, Chuck is the one who helps with homework, cooks, does the laundry, and straightens up the family’s sunny home in the city’s South Park neighborhood.[14]

Both say that their adjustment has been relatively smooth; Lynn remembers how Chuck supported her when she went through a job loss a few years back, and Chuck says that he has actually been “thrilled”[15] to spend more time with his kids. “I think right now we are closer than we’ve been in a long time,” Lynn says, looking at Chuck, who nods in agreement. “Sure, he’s going to need to get a job and unemployment is going to run out. But right now, this new arrangement is good for us.”

With so many fathers out of work, lingering[16] prejudices may soften. But the good news is: Men will be better able than any other previous generation of husbands and fathers to say, ‘Look, here’s the silver lining[17]: I can spend more time with my kids.’

This past year has really forced people to step back and say, ‘What’s really important to us in our lives?’ For a lot of people it’s not buying a new car, taking a new trip, or buying a flat-screen TV[18]. It’s getting time with family and friends. We’ve been on a treadmill the last 15 years, now it’s time to go cold turkey – that’s not the easiest way.[19] But some families will end up stronger.


1. good-naturedly: 好脾气地,友善地,耐心地。

2. Summon: 召唤,传唤;conference room: 会议室。

3. eliminate: 取消,消除,剔除。

4. commuter train: 市郊往返列车;Long Island: 长岛,隶属美国纽约州;skyline: 天际线。

5. maternity leave: 产假;insurance company: 保险公司。

6. post-layoff: 解雇后的,下岗后的;diaper change: 换尿布;nap: 小睡。

7. perceptive: 理解力强的,善于理解的。

8. household: 家庭,户;echo: 重复,被仿效,模仿。

9. downturn: 经济衰退;Great Depression: 指1929至约1939年发生于美国和其他国家的经济衰退。

10. recalibrate: 重新校准,重新核准。

11. forge: 使形成;feminist: 女权主义的,主张男女平等的。

12. graphic designer: 平面设计师,美术设计员;real estate: 房地产。

13. clinical psychologist: 临床心理学家。

14. laundry: (洗)衣物;straighten up: 整理,使整齐。

15. thrilled: 兴奋的,激动的。

16. lingering: 挥之不去的,依依不舍的,逗留不去的。

17. silver lining: 云朵的银色边缘,形容“(失望或不幸中的)一线希望”。

18. flat-screen TV: 平面电视。

19. treadmill: 枯燥无味的工作或生活方式;go cold turkey: 放弃很久以来的吸烟、喝酒或吸毒品等坏习惯而痛下决心过健康的生活。




















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