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Retired Time — What Others Think

When you retire, you certainly have more timee.  What other people expect of all your “extra” time, especially friends and family, can get dicey though.  And the disappointments that come from loved ones not spending time we thought they’d want to spend with us can also be pretty painful.  This is another piecer of what retirement changes:  time with others.

Finding time when you’re retired and your loved ones aren’t is just plain difficult.  The extremes of not dealing with this issue are feeling like a doormat because you’re spending all your time doing what these other people need done or feeling like an orphan because they’re all away doing something else.  They’re among the most unhappy experiences of this stage of life.  Both are avoidable.  They develop when we aren’t paying attention, either to who we really are, what we really need, or both.  So pay attention–to yourself.

We all want to help. especially when it makes difference to someone you love.  But you don’t want to be taken for granted or taken advantage of.  Yes, most of us thrive on being needed.  But that’s different than being expected to carry a load that really isn’t yours.  Taking care of grandkids full-time without pay is being taken advantage of (unless you have a place to live by doing it).  Carrying a heavy volunteer load at church because “You have more time,” is being taken for granted.

Maybe you do and maybe you don’t have “more time.”  Maybe you’re spending every waking moment learning how to build kites or Not So Big Houses or play baswe guitar.  Others don’t know what you are really doing with your time–they just assume since you aren’t working, you aren’t doing anything.  And that doing what they need is better than doing nothing.  Don’t agree with them by default.  Speak your truth.  If you want to spend your time that way, say “Yes.”  If not, there’s another word.


“No.  I don’t have time for that.”  Or maybe “No, I have other things that are higher priority for me to work on right now.”  In truth, there’s only one word you need to do this well… “No.”  A sweet smile.  A shrug.  And you’ve re-declared your freedom.

It’s harder with aging parents who need a significant amount of help.  Yep.  Those tasks have to be done.  And you might need to be the one to do them.  But don’t do it all if there are others who can share the load.  And don’t buy the guilt trip if anyone suggests that you should do it all because “you aren’t working.”

The bottom line on this challenge is WHAT ARE YOU WILLING TO DO?  Be honest.  And then be ready to stand firm while others try to convince you otherwise.  Harriet Lerner does a great job of laying out how to do this in her book The Dance of Connection if you need some pointers.

The other end of the spectrum–when loved ones don’t have time for you–involves dealing more effectively with yourself.  What you are telling yourself about what should be happening?  We retire to “spend more time with the family.”  Too often, “family” is off doing other things and doesn’t have time to spend with us.  What do you do then?

For starters, don’t take it personally.  Young lives are complex and hectic.  Important relationships that aren’t part of the everyday scene can get ignored without any intention of doing so.   When you are available anytime, “tomorrow” seems like a a better day to plan something.

Take a careful look at the possibility this is the case if you are thinking of moving to “be near the kids.”  You move…they don’t have time…you don’t have your old circle of friends.  Pretty soon, the high point of your day is Seinfeld reruns.  If you still want to do it, please start with a trial run.  Find a furnished apartment and spend three or more months where they live.  Then be honest about what you experienced.   Does how it went match what you need?  As a bonus, you can start making friends in the new locale, which will make the transition easier if you do decide to move.

What other people think of your time once you retire can be pretty wrong-headed.  They think they know and they don’t.  Tell them the truth about what you have time for and are interested in.  About what you really want to do with them.  And if they don’t have the time you want to spend with them, no moping!  There are great people who do.  Go out and find them.

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