I thought I would write more during my first year of retirement. Or should I say, I thought I would publish. I did write everything I was thinking and feeling, and the plans I was making and breaking. The first year of retirement evolved exactly the way I expected. It was a mental challenge and that’s partly because I’m wired to be very serious. While I was happy every day that I didn’t have to get up and go to work, I still felt worried about what was next for me. I’m a strategist by nature and I feel like plenty of working Mom’s live this way. This year felt like I had to either make a plan or learn to live without one. Also living a year without income is the scary downside of taking a break. I expected to struggle with this and I absolutely did.
I wrote through it but decided not to publish since there was so much up in the air about what my next move would be. I’m wrapped extremely tight and revealing plans before they’re set in stone is not a good idea in my book. Girlfriend doesn’t live like she’s dyin, she lives like she’s gonna pay for that mistake. Step into my head, it’s so much fun.
The number one question I get from friends and strangers who find out that I’m retired at age 50 is “What do you do all day?” Here’s the long version of part of the answer to that: I spent a lot of time this year hangin out with my kids. They’re young adults and for both of them this year seemed to be one with a lot of important challenges. Part of me thinks it’s perfect timing that I was available to regularly witness it. The other part of me thinks that this is what life looks like when you have time to truly be present.
Since I’ve been NOT working, in November 2018, I was able to attend Emily’s White Coat ceremony in Tampa. For Spring Break in March 2019 my daughters’ and I took a trip to (where do you think?) Walt Disney World. We also had countless trips together to Starbucks or our local coffee shop. Sometimes I treated them, and sometimes they treated me. When I was working and had plenty of money, I felt like buying coffee out was wasteful. I couldn’t justify spending countless hours at work to give away that hard earned money for an over priced cup of coffee I could better reproduce at home. This year I learned it’s worth EVERY SINGLE DIME I’M NO LONGER MAKING. They pushed me to try the lemon cake pop and it was out of this world. I had green tea lattes, iced coffees and hot chocolates. Some of my beverages I ordered with whip. I got to hear the inner circle chatter of their work and college life. We talked about politics, which I feel is necessary in such a polarizing cycle. We talked about race, clothing, dating, anxiety, Philly sports, and sometimes each other.
This is the three of us in Disney Springs. I have mediocre selfie skills and selfie image issues so I’m cropped, but smiling.
Summer was a little more stressful for the girls. Emily was preparing for her first fieldwork. However her site was overloaded with students and she had a very late scramble to find another location. I was able to fly down to Florida to be with her as she went through it. It didn’t require my presence but I could, so I did. We made tacos in our hotel room, had hotel breakfast and hit a local restaurant to enjoy a good meal and drink.
Once I was home in late July Lauren landed an interview at Jefferson University for their Diagnostic Medical Sonography program. Let me invite you to parent Lauren with me. This kid is a trip and most of the time I swear I’m the only one who gets her. I need to backtrack just a little. Lauren spent most of her freshman year of college working three jobs. I felt that she was too busy and stressed out– I was seeing too much of myself in her. For her sophomore year which coincided with my first year of retirement I strongly suggested she drop down to two jobs and she did. Watching her deal with classes and these two schedules was admirable but still a mess.
She was late to the game of undergraduate transfer school applications but squeaked out a last minute interview, which she nailed and got accepted into her program. This brings us back to the end of July when I was able to be in Philadelphia on the day she interviewed. I was not allowed to publish her (very cute and business like) interview outfit but here she is today:
We were so proud. But it’s July and the program starts in September. She needs financial aide, a physical, uniforms and has a ton of other bureaucratic shit to be done on multiple deadlines. Oh…and also a place to live. No big deal.
I was there the day Lauren found her apartment and I was there the day she moved in. Contrary to the day that Emily moved into Stockton University where I convinced myself she was completely fine to do it with just her Dad and grandparents. And she was fine, but I wasn’t. It was three weeks later when I had the chance to drive down to see Emily’s dorm. I’ve had more than a few parenting fails. Missing Emily’s one and only college move in day, despite the fact that she was a junior transfer student, was one of them.
I worked. Working mothers make tough choices.
So what do I do all day? I’m gonna get to that, I promise you I’m almost there.
In 1994 I delivered healthy but tiny little Emily. Five pounds and fifteen ounces of precious. She was a little pickle to feed. She was a sleepy nurser and it was struggle for her to gain weight. Otherwise this was an easy baby and I was adjusting to being a family of three.
In New Jersey the maternity disability leave at the time was 4 weeks before your baby and 6 weeks after. I felt that six week countdown clock the second they put her into my arms. It’s part of how I’m built. I scan for the future, for potential issues, for fires to put out and problems that may arise. This one took about 25 years to fix. These days Mom’s have a little more protection and Dad’s can take some time off too. That would have been amazing to have Dennis home with me for more than 5 business days after I delivered our baby. He would have loved that so much.
I did head back to work right around the 7 week mark with Emily and I think around 9 weeks with Lauren. I believe I was able to work a few weeks at 3-4 days before I had to go back to full time but it wasn’t much. Instead of being able to enjoy time with my newborn I was doing cost analysis of daycare expense versus working income. Along with that I’m considering how I’ll be viewed in my position if I don’t get my ass back to work. People are climbing that ladder, work bonds are forming without me, new people and policies are entering into the workplace. I could be losing my positioning each day I’m home trying to get this baby to latch on.
I found the right day care for both of my girls when it was time for me to clock back in. But the day I handed Emily to the loveliest lady who was a perfect stranger was the day that cracked the foundation of my soul. I knew it was wrong. My body knew. My hormones knew. The state of NJ knew. Most of the other countries already knew. This is bad for mothers, babies, families–and then I drove to work.
I learned to parent through notes, report cards and updates from Dennis. Soon there were cell phones so I could text and eventually get a picture here and there. I saw the end of some soccer games, just made it for parent-teacher conferences. Sometimes I had to send my Mom in my place. It turns out that my choices of women who held my daughter’s in their early weeks, the ones that documented the first time they held their heads up, rolled, sat, tasted and colored were all amazing women. Thank you to those two people who cradled them for me.
I’ve got it from here.
So what do I do all day now?
I lived my first year with them. Everything that the three of us were okay or not okay with me missing, I didn’t miss this year. And if you ask them, they might say I was too present. Or maybe they liked having me, who knows. But it was a year that I healed some of that working mom guilt.