Have you ever thought about needing to have a strategy for time management in retirement? Or are you looking forward to retirement as the season of finally having unlimited time to pursue your interests at a leisurely pace? Just getting up and doing what you want when you want to? You may have to think again.
In the midlife “space” where I publish this blog, there is lots of talk about women pursuing new interests after the kids leave home or they retire. That period of time can be filled with a lot of angst and confusion as women figure what they want to do in this new season of life.
But eventually, they hit their stride as they step out, try new things and discover a whole world of possibilities. They begin filling their time with things that bring them joy. Trying things they always wanted to do and never had time for. It could be a hobby. Or taking the time to exercise. Or perhaps embarking on a different career path.
Then, this happens. Grandchildren are born. Parents get old and need help. Husbands retire. Friends and family members assume you have a lot of time on your hands and are free to help them out whenever they call. Before you know it, there is no time left for you to pursue that thing you have found that gives you a reason to get up in the morning.
While family and helping others are an important part of life, if you’re not careful, everyone else and THEIR needs can take over and you have no time left for YOU. And if you don’t protect your time, there will be no time for you!
After raising my kids, leaving my job in the non-profit sector and caring for both of my parents before they died, I discovered blogging. I love it. It is so different than anything I have ever done before. What was once just a hobby has now become a part-time business. It’s work for sure, but the writing and creativity and relationships that are part of the blogging world fill my soul. I find that if I don’t get to blog, I get grumpy.
I am also blessed that both of my adult daughters and 3 grandchildren live close to me and I get to see them all the time. I love my girls and the grandkids. I would do anything for them.
But I recently discovered that if I wasn’t careful, I could be taking care of the grandkids or going to kids activities every night of the week. And that was infringing on the time that I blog and do things to take care of myself like exercise, cook healthy meals and rest.
I must offer this disclaimer. My daughters are wonderful. They always ask if I can help with the kids. They never assume that I am available. If they ask and I say no, it doesn’t make them mad.
We’ve talked a lot about the fact that I have raised my kids and am Gaga now. The fun one, not the parent. The back-up – not the one who is responsible. They totally get it.
They also know that they all get the best of me when I take care of myself and have a life of my own besides them. I have friends whose adult children are NOT as gracious as mine and feel absolutely entitled to their mother’s time! UGH!
But grandchild care issues don’t have to be the thing that eats away at your time.
- Maybe your spouse has retired and wants your attention 24/7. Or wants you to stop whatever you’re doing to do something with them. Or be home to fix them lunch every day.
- Maybe your parents or other family members call and want you to come at the drop of a hat (when there is not an emergency).
- Maybe people from your church or other organizations assume that you can fill in or take on a lot of other responsibilities because you are retired or an empty nester.
Or sometimes it’s not OTHERS who sabotage your time. It’s YOU!
- Do you drop everything to help out with your kids or grandkids even if they don’t ask? Maybe because you feel guilty and you feel like you SHOULD? After all you are just doing ________.
- Do you assume that because your husband is retired, it’s now your job to make sure you have 3 meals on the table every day, even if he can take care of himself, doesn’t ask you to and is perfectly capable of making a sandwich?
- Do you feel guilty spending the time to pursue your own interests and passions, so you volunteer all over the place because you feel like you SHOULD, always putting your need for fulfillment last?
Don’t let any of that happen! In order to thrive in retirement, you need to protect your time.
Instead, try this:
- Communicate! Talk to friends and family members about what you are doing, why it’s important to you and why you are scheduling the time to do it. Ask for their support. I did this with my daughters and received nothing but cooperation and understanding from them.
- Schedule the time that you need to do whatever YOU are doing first. For example, I work out every day at 4:30. Sunday afternoon is my time to read and rest. I go out to dinner with my girlfriends once a month. I work on my blog every day from 8-4. Whatever it is that you do for you – get it on the calendar and let everyone know.
- Decide in advance what you are willing to do for others and be pro-active in scheduling that time. If someone gets their feelings hurt because they think that you setting some boundaries means you don’t care for them, say something like, “I’m sorry I won’t always be available when you call, but because you are important to me, I’d like to schedule this time __________ to do________”.
Here’s how I worked out my schedule:
- Kept two eldest grandkids 2 nights a week while Daughter #1 had some important appointments and no other childcare options.
- Eldest Grandson had 2 baseball practices and 2 games a week. I said that I would attend one baseball event a week.
- Daughter #2 and husband attend a church group one night a week. I said I would keep their baby every other week, alternating with another family member.
Does that mean I never waiver from the schedule? No!
Or that if there is a real emergency or need that I don’t jump in to help? Absolutely not!
Or that I don’t sometimes drop everything to take my daughters to lunch or just hang out with the grandkids? No way. I love all of those things.
My point is, it’s important to find the things that fulfill you and make them a priority. If the thing that brings you joy is babysitting the grandkids every day while their parents work – do it!
If you find great fulfillment pursuing interests and activities with your retired husband – do it!
If just having the time to “be there” for friends and family when they need you, by all means – give yourself permission to do it.
None of us is the same. It’s not an all or nothing or one size fits all proposition. Just remember to protect and manage your time so that you have time for YOU!
Have you found time as an empty-nester or retiree to pursue what gives you joy? How do you manage your time so that you have plenty of it to devote to these pursuits?
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