With the national economic crisis hitting the Toledo area especially hard, The Blade and WTOL-TV Channel 11 are teaming up throughout the year to tell the stories of how several families are coping with hard times.
MILLBURY - When people ask Tricia Askins if she's available for a get-together, she likes to crack a little joke.
"I've gotta check with my boss," she'll say. Or, "Let me check my work schedule."
But there's no boss now, and there's no work schedule. She was laid off March 12 from her job at the Libbey Inc. glass factory for the third time in seven months, and she expects the furlough to last at least until June 21. Rumor has it that another layoff is coming in August.
"I'm trying to use humor with it," Ms. Askins said gamely as she sat at the kitchen table this week in the Millbury home of her parents, Bob and Kathy Askins.
It's the home where she grew up - and since January, it's been her home as well.
"I never thought that at 36 years old, with a [college] degree that I'd be at home living with my mom and dad," she said.
Yes, it's saving her money - though she gives her parents $500 a month to help with expenses - and it means she can spend a little bit more on her two boys. Ms. Askins and her ex-husband share custody of Jared and Jacob Rettig, age 12 and 10 respectively. They're with her every Tuesday and Thursday and every other Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
But "it's embarrassing. It's a pride thing," said Ms. Askins, who has used her maiden name since her divorce three years ago.
"A lot of people are really struggling with having to go back home," said Donna Gregory, a counselor at Family Service of Northwest Ohio. "It's a humbling of themselves, and to a lot of people, they feel like they're failures because they have to go back."
When young children are involved, the generational mix can trigger conflicts over such issues as different house rules and parenting styles, Miss Gregory said.
But she points out that there are benefits, including the extra time that grandparents and grandchildren have together, and that "no longer will mom feel like she's in this by herself. She'll have help."
U.S. Census Bureau figures don't show a clear trend in the numbers of adult children living in a parent's home, said Rose Kreider, family demographer with the bureau. "It's a little early in this data to see the effects of the economic crisis that really took hold last fall."
Ms. Askins, who declared bankruptcy in September, has worked on the line at Libbey since May, 2007. She works swing shift, earning $12.80 an hour for first, $12.95 for second, and $13.07 for third. Ms. Askins also receives child support and, now, unemployment benefits.
She took the job at Libbey for the health insurance it offered, after coverage under her divorce agreement ran out. Before then, she had been able to let her career follow her heart.
The 1991 Lake High School graduate went to Bowling Green State University on a softball scholarship, graduating in 1995 with a degree in recreation programming.
That fall, she got married and started coaching - part-time, supplemental positions that were renewed on an annual basis. Most have been with Lake Local Schools: junior-high volleyball, ninth-grade girls basketball, varsity softball, varsity volleyball, and eventually, assistant athletic director. In 2000, she coached varsity softball at Notre Dame Academy.
She hated to leave those behind but felt that financially, she had no choice.
Her first Libbey layoff occurred in August, "and I've never been able to catch up," she said. She's been searching for a new, stable job and considering going back to school, but nothing has gelled.
It was her father who first suggested she move home.
"We bowl on a league together," Ms. Askins said, "and he'd joke around, you ought to just get rid of that apartment and move in with your mom and me, save money, get yourself back on the ground and things like that, and I'm like, nah, I don't really want to. We'd go back and forth, back and forth. Then I was laid off in December. I just knew I couldn't swing it anymore."
On Jan. 1 she moved back home.
"We're not wealthy, but we're fortunate," said Mr. Askins, 64, an Insulators Local 45 retiree. "I just thought it would be better for her to be here."
He admitted that "It's got its ups and downs," but said he's adjusting to the added noise and commotion when the boys are there.
His wife, 58, who works full time in food service at Lake schools, said, "It's not a burden. You don't even know they're here sometimes."
Ms. Askins works hard to keep it that way in order to minimize the disruption in her parents' lives.
"We try and be gone a lot so they still have their time," she said. When conflicts inevitably flare up, she steps in as a buffer - smoothing things over with her parents, explaining to her sons that life is different now that they're living in grandma and grandpa's house.
Ms. Askins worries about the effect of the living arrangement on her kids.
Without the freedom and flexibility of having her own place, she often has to say no to something fun for them, like having a friend spend the night.
Sometimes, keeping the peace means cleaning up after the boys herself instead of making them do it.
"You just go behind and pick everything up," Ms. Askins explained. "Is it teaching them anything? No, it's not teaching them anything, but at the same time I don't like harping on them all the time because of the situation we are in. I don't want this to be someplace where they come and they're dreading it. I want them to enjoy it."
For all those reasons and more, she yearns to reclaim her independence. "Right now I want to get my own place back. I miss running my household."
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