Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Who will I be when I'm not who I was?

Retiring from a lifetime of paid work was not difficult for me. For one thing, I eased into it over a couple of years, gradually decreasing my hours and doing more work from home.

With Augie 2007: New proud grandma
More important, while I was tapering off at work, Peter had begun caring for our grandson Augie at our home while Augie's parents worked as teachers. I spent as much time as possible with Augie, and before long with little sister ViolaMae. Being a grandma and a caregiver was a big part of my identity, and I couldn't wait to be home all the time. So when I finally retired in December 2010, I jumped right into our full-time ongoing adventure. I knew it was the most rewarding work I'd ever do; BLissed-Out Grandma was more than just a blog name.

In a sense I'm retiring again. As always, the kids are at home with their parents for the summer. This fall when we start up again, we'll only be part-timers. For the first time, both kids will be in school all day. Abby will drop them off here at 6:45 for breakfast and play, and at about 8:10 we'll drive them to school. By 9 a.m. our day-care day will be over. And that takes a little adjustment.

It's delightful that we'll still see the children every weekday. And of course we'll have play dates, Facetime phone conversations, family events, and occasional full days when their parents have school and they don't.

But the truth is, Peter and I have completed our full-time commitment to care for our grandkids until they begin school. We've had a month to absorb the fact that we'll miss our full days with them, and that as of now we have more time for other things. We've consciously spent more time together, started planning some special projects, talked more seriously about all those tasks we kept putting off "until we're done with daycare."

We'll de-clutter the house (and I don't mean the kids' toys we've amassed, I mean the lifetimes of paper and clothes and would-be valuables that inhabit every room and closet). We'll plan a 100th birthday celebration for the carousel and write the carousel history we've been promising, which will occupy us well into 2014. We might travel, just a little. Peter will continue to work full-time at home, and maybe now he'll sleep more regularly. I will dance, blog, garden, take photos. We'll take care of one another and hope our health continues so we can watch the children grow for a long while yet.

With ViMae 2011: Retired and happy
What we won't be able to do is to say, perhaps a little too proudly, "We provide full-time daycare for our grandchildren." This single statement has been central to my identity and sense of purpose since before I retired.

Sometimes I think a major reason people have trouble with retirement, or other kinds of change, is this: "How will I introduce myself to someone new?" How will I answer, "Who are you and what do you do?"

I was one of those who always led with my job. It only described part of me, but it was a handy label. When that no longer fit, I was more than happy to lead with my full-time grandma-daycare role. Will I now be satisfied just to say, "I'm retired"?

I've spent a little time experiencing this feeling, and thinking about what I might say. I don't have an answer, but I have this question: Why does it matter? I don't need a label or an instant claim to fame. I'm older now, more mature. I have time to carry on a whole conversation and mutually explore what it is about me that might interest another person, and vice versa. 

So I'm not really worried, but I'm curious. As I meet new people and make conversation, I'll be defining myself to them in new ways. I wonder what that will sound like.  

"Who are you and what do you do?" How do you answer?


Indigo Roth said...

Hi Nancy! Yes, retiring "properly" will take adjustment, but you've completed a massive, wonderful and rewarding task. Augie and ViMae will carry that with them forever. As for introductions, "Just starting the adventure of retirement" [retty much covers it. I go with "I'm an author, working on my first book." and let them fill in the gaps with questions if they so please. Indigo x

Barbara said...

I once read that you should answer the question "what do you do?" as though you had been asked "what do you do for fun?"

And further, that you should always ask the second question when meeting new people. It has the added benefit of working with people of all ages, so you don't need to ask children what grade they are in or something equally annoying.

And by the way: Augie and ViMae may be the luckiest two kids on earth, and you and Peter may be the luckiest grandparents.

Terra said...

I usually say "I'm retired and loving it" and also "I am a writer", both true. You will have lots of time now to develop new interests and expand older ones.

stephen Hayes said...

I tell people I'm an artist/storyteller who likes making people laugh.

Jeanie said...

Yes, it will be an adjustment, Nancy. But in all honestly you can say you are a writer and a blogger. What do you write about? Everyday life -- and planning a piece on the carousel. All true. Of course, I'm just dying to say "I'm retired, thank you!" And soon!

Far Side of Fifty said...

You did good! You have given your Grands the best years of their lives. You will be a Grandma forever. When someones asks me who I am I most always say a cranky old woman:)

California Girl said...

I'm re-evaluating!

DJan said...

I had a job for decades that was defined by what someone else wanted, and I helped to make that happen. Now that I'm retired, instead of work, I work out: exercise my body, mind, and spirit. I was not blessed with grandchildren, but if I had been, I would have considered a strong relationship with them, as you have, to be more precious than gold. :-)

Linda Myers said...

I say "I'm a writer and a mediator and I have several grandchildren."

Unknown said...

You have given them such a wonderful start -- may I HIGHLY recommend you volunteer at their school? Our grand starts 4th grade this year and I have been lucky to get to spend lots of time on campus! The teachers/PTA would love your help. Your Grands will scream with glee to all their friends -- "this is my Grandma" and your heart will swell! It won't be the same as full time but you and the students -- all of them -- will benefit from it! It is part of my new description -- "I'm retired but I help out at my Granddaughter's school a lot."

Ms Sparrow said...

It sounds like you've prepared well for the transition.

Chartreuse said...

I so envy your good luck in being able to care for your grandchildren as you've done. My only grand-daughter has just turned 2 and how I wish I could be closer to do the same for her. Unfortunately, my husband requires my full-time care now and I haven't been able to uproot him so as to move closer to the kids and take up that role. I do get weekend visits once a month or so, but it's not enough. Still, I hope I will be free to get more involved as an after-school carer one day. The years go so quickly and every day missed is an opportunity that will never come again. You've been truly blessed - as have the children. said...

I ponder this regularly, Nancy. I've long-since felt the need to impress anyone with my occupation, although I get a lot of mileage out of stories arising from my work with little kids. Enjoy this next phase of your life career!


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