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Ian Adams lives in Indian Head, Md., with his wife, Chani, Ian, their 6 month-old baby girl, Wren, and their first-grade daughter, Alia. Ian works as an electrical engineer at the Naval Research Laboratory, a federal agency. But as of yet, his office has not been affected by the shutdown.
"It's a very academic environment," he explains. "So like researchers at a university would go out and get funding, we work in a very similar manner. And so as long as we have money to pay people, we can continue to work."
Or, to put it more officially, they're capitally funded; they don't depend on appropriations. But as a result, he says, "once that money's not there to pay people anymore, then we get furloughed, too."
Not that Ian is a stranger to getting furloughed. With the sequester, he was only working four days a week this summer. And while he pretty much knew that furlough was coming, he didn't know when.
"In the unknown, there's a lot more stress," he says.
And to add to that stress, he and Chani were expecting a baby — a baby they hadn't exactly planned for. They had hoped to have another child, but as Chani explains, "we had been told that might not happen at this point. So it's kind of that double whammy of 'We're going to have a baby! We're going to be furloughed!'"
So, with that 25 percent income slash looming large, Chani immediately amped up her work as a freelance consultant in non-profit fundraising and development.
"I said 'yes' to a number of long-term projects that I knew would carry over through the delivery of the baby and into the first couple months of having her," she says. "So I was literally sending emails from the delivery room! And we got home from the hospital and I was back at my desk."
Since then, she says, it's like she and Ian have been running a single-parent household. "We can't afford enough childcare to not be working at the same time," she explains.
"Usually he gets home from work and I say, 'I've prepped dinner! It's ready!' and I go in my office and close the door. And sometimes he goes to bed before I'm done working and we hardly see each other."
And that's totally doable, she says, "but I'd rather be doing that by choice than by necessity."
And that necessity would become even greater if Ian gets furloughed again.
"The summer furlough really ate through a lot of the savings that we had," Chani says. "We're a young family, we're in our first home, we have young children and we had them right when we got married; you know, we didn't take the time to build up a big nest egg.
"And it's not like you can call the bank and say, 'I've been furloughed. Can we defer a month of mortgage payment?' Because we tried, and they were like, 'You can default if you want!'"
But as much as she and Ian have been hurting, Chani says she knows people who are hurting much, much more.
"I wait at the bus stop every morning with a woman that works at a daycare around the corner that her sister owns," she says. "And half of their kids are not coming now, because those children's parents have been furloughed, and they can't afford to pay for the day care. And so she's saying, 'I don't know if my sister can afford to pay me! And I'm already living in public housing, and I already work two jobs.' So we're definitely in the bucket of lucky people."
And that's something both Chani and Ian try to remember. Their bank account may have seen better days, but for now they still have their house, their jobs, and, most importantly, their family.
"I do have to say that one of the nice things about the furlough in the summer is I got an extra day a week to spend with both my daughters," Ian says.
Chani agrees: "We definitely look for the silver linings in all of this."
Rebecca's story was informed by WAMU's Public Insight Network. It's a way for people to share their stories with us and for us to reach out for input on upcoming stories. For more information, click this link.
[Music: "Happy Ending" by Danny Elfman from Silver Linings Playbook Soundtrack]
Photos: Adams Family