I’d like to give you a short list of shocking things I found out about myself and the whole retirement thing. I hope to save you some grief:
1. You do not necessarily get more done with all the children gone.
I know; it was a shock to me, too. I was so sure.
I had to think about it a long time before I got it.
But it’s true.
You may have thought: There will be less laundry to do and fewer mouths to feed. There will be NO mud tracked in the door. There will be no more events to chase. I’ll be FREE!!!!
You only get more things done when they are gone if you keep on doing things.
Don’t feel bad; it took me ages to get this.
I remember my thoughts that first child-free morning:
Ahh — listen to it: NOTHING! The beautiful sound of no clamor, no to-do guilt — nothing in the world stopping me from that third cup of coffee.
Hours later, I was still basking in it, although I had somehow extricated myself from the recliner. I roamed around the house thinking I’d just take inventory and spend a day marveling at how simple life would become, now. Mentally, I’d given myself a couple of months to coast and meditate on what direction my life should take. I cast longing glances at several projects I could now finish.
My stomach growled.
It was past noon. Hmm.
Ah well, only one sandwich and a cup of tea would take care of all my lunchtime duties. Cleaning only one knife, one small plate, and a cup would get me up and out of the kitchen and on with life. I could even eat in the sunroom, where the recliner beckoned.
And so it went, for days. Many days.
I thought I must have been exhausted, to sink into a cloud of unreality like this.
2. The needs, schedules, and opinions of your children are what got you through it all.
I began to see this when I had my own desires for something outside the four walls. Most of the world works on a schedule and you cannot go to the library to chat with the librarian if the building is locked and she’s gone home.
I began wondering why clean matters. I had no idea what was in the news. I became grumpy.
Why was I always late?
The answers lay in the fact that, in the past, I did my level best at every task I took on, kept up with the outside world, kept a brave and cheery face about it, and was on time, because:
- My children had long heard lectures from me about doing our best at all times.
- My children had to study current events.
- My children got into serious trouble if they griped or grumbled.
- My children needed to be places without the embarrassment of arriving late and needed to see a good example set for timeliness.
It was about the children? They were watching?
And now, no one was.
And the truest self-test of character is to see what you do when no one is watching.
3. Your children work hard.
Unless you’ve already died of overwork, you make your children do a few things around the house.
Mine folded half the laundry, loaded and unloaded the dishwasher, kept their own bedrooms clean, dusted and vacuumed the living areas whenever I asked, mowed, tended trash, fed pets — I know I’m forgetting something. Oh, I paid them to do windows.
If you’ve taught your children to help around the house, guess what: Your children will graduate and get new jobs. They will help around a different house, eventually.
Now days, I fold all the laundry and load and unload the dishwasher. Dust still falls in their bedrooms and in the whole house, grass still grows, trash still piles up, and strays still adopt us.
And I still love sparkling windows.
When we first began homeschooling, I remember the serious lecture I gave my family:
“I will be like any mom who works outside the home. I will have many hours when I cannot do housework. I will need help from the whole family, the same as if we were not able to live on only my husband’s income and I was forced to supplement it by going out of the home.”
That truth remains. Just remove the “many hours when I cannot do housework”, and insert:
How can you do better than I did?
- Spend your last year or two seeking God about what He wants you to do in your retirement.
Get ready for those tasks. Begin walking in them before the last child leaves, so it will be less of a transition and you’ll have your new schedule nearly in place.
- Keep a to-do list as you always did.
Make yourself obey it for your OWN good, to please the Lord, to do your own personal best.
- Work, work, work!
As we age, we lose muscle mass. Plan on a quick burn, maybe 30 minutes of hard work, every day — the kind that makes you perspire.
Think of mowing in summer as a lovely multi-task that keeps you out of the weight room, the tanning bed, and the sauna.
Wrap crime-zone tape around the recliner!
And as you plan for this day, remember to schedule in some fun. Fun was all for the kiddos, back then, too. But it’s a lot more fun when it’s just the two of you. So don’t forget to have some of it!