The Pandemic Chronicles:: One Year After My Husband’s Retirement

The word retirement conjures up all kinds of imagery, from the well heeled older couple traveling the world, to stunning sunrises and perfect sunsets enjoyed from the balcony of your posh, yet downsized, retirement village condo. There may be a lot of hand holding – an act of intimacy or just trying to maintain one’s balance – who knows? I do know that I had never even considered what my family life will be like in retirement, that is until one year ago, when my husband abruptly decided to do just that – retire.

The Pandemic Chronicles:: One Year After My Husband's RetirementThe first time he mentioned the possibility of retiring I was barely listening to him, just nodding along politely.  I mean, like the rest of the world, we were in the middle of a pandemic and still have school aged children. Who retires with all of that going on? No one. Not one person. He was showing signs of stress, or at least that was what I told myself. Surely, it will pass. It did not. He ran the numbers, discussed his options, gave me regular updates and then, after thirty-nine years in the oil industry, he was finished. 

Under the circumstances, this should not have been an astronomical adjustment because practically everyone – including him – had been working from home for several months prior to his decision; and the notion of personal space is but a fond memory. I am a stay-at-home mom {or, as I like to refer to myself, a Domestic Engineer} and have been for the past sixteen years. Our youngest two children are thirteen and fifteen years old and, as you know, a mother’s work is never done. Therefore, I am not retired. Just woefully underpaid. Practically speaking, life isn’t that much different, at least for me.  However, my husband is definitely feeling something different. 

In Sickness and In Health and In Retirement

Tell the truth – when you and your then future husband were planning your life together, did you discuss life after retirement? We didn’t. Not once.  It seemed like such a long way off at the time, even though I was in my mid thirties and he was in his early forties when we got married.  Then we added two more kids to our blended brood and we just knew that at least one of us would have to work until, well, forever. 

Retirement should be a conversation to have early on when contemplating marriage. Maybe not in specifics, but at least to get an idea of what the other sees when they look into the future. Is retirement filled with grandparenting duties or are you foot loose and fancy free while building your bingo skills? Listen to me – this is a conversation that needs to be had, for both of your sakes. 

Typically, a lot of time and effort it put into the finances of retirement but, what about the non-financial aspects, such as:

Keeping in touch with friends and co-workers you have collected over the years?

Creating avenues to build new friendships and social circles?

What does our new daily schedule look like?

How do we begin the next chapter of life and what do we want it to be?

How will this affect the existing pulse of my family? 

Seemingly easy questions, but the answers aren’t always so obvious. 

The New Frontier

As you can imagine, after spending so many years working for a company, your social life can be entangled with your professional life. Co-workers have become friends and some are as close as family. When you’re going to the office regularly, it takes a lot less effort to retain those relationships. Now, we have to be intentional about keeping our existing friendships and creating new ones. 

In fact, being intentional has become our new mantra. We have discovered a lot of our interactions prior to my husband’s retirement were purely out of happenstance.  Like many couples, our lives centered around our kid’s crazy schedules. Combine that with his busy days and my heavy volunteering and, well, we barely found time to have real conversations.  We mostly talked in sound bytes and text. I know, not very effective. Now, while time and availability is more abundant, it often feels like we are rediscovering each other, which can be both fun and a bit scary.  How much do you not know about the person you married? How much has changed, both for the good and the bad? 

Retirement also gives you the opportunity to think about what you really want to do, and not what you must do.  Not only do we get to continue with our individual endeavors, but we also get to explore new interests as a couple; or combine our shared passions into a project that was once merely a dream. I do not recall a time in our marriage that we have been more thoughtful about how we spend our time together. I think that has been one of the more pleasant outcomes of my husband’s sudden decision to leave his job.   

Pandemic Pandemonium

Now, we must talk about the elephant in the room – the pandemic. You know, another thing that I never thought to talk about before we got married was, how do you think we would handle going through a pandemic together? Yet, here we are. This past year was pretty freaking nuts! Full of uncertainty and strangely uncomfortable – almost surreal. To me, a pandemic does not seem like a good time to make major life decisions. I know a lot of people had pandemic babies and adopted puppies, but {optional} pandemic retirement sounded like one of the worst ideas ever.  The economy was in the toilet, there were questions about a safe reopening and what would life look like when {and if} all of this is over? Giving up a secure, stable job did not sound like a bright idea. 

It all felt very out of control. I felt out of control. 

On the other hand, maybe the pandemic was the perfect time to make a major life decision. After all, the world was at a standstill and what better time to do some reflecting on what really matters. What are the things that make you the happiest? Are you really satisfied with where you are in your career? Is this even the career you want?

My husband spent a lot of years traveling and, admittedly, he missed a lot of our kids day to day lives. The pandemic gave him a lot of time to reflect on all of this and he decided he had done enough, and home is where he wants to be. 

Finding our Groove

Let me be clear, my dear hubby may be officially retired, but he has moved on to other things. He is busy, but not quite as busy as he was. I am getting used to him being around the house a lot more, although, for the true introvert that I am, it’s a struggle. I still am not used to him being home when I wake up in the morning – ever. The lack of business trips and the way he just pops out of his home office multiple times in a day, just to tell me what he’s been working on…it’s an adjustment. 

On the other hand, I am appreciative and grateful for the opportunity for us to reconnect.  I love that he can be here to help me get our girls around when I need him {they are active teenagers so there is a lot of coming and going}. I know that he loves finally being an insider after missing so much of the family routine. Surprisingly, I’d say that this past year has worked out well. We didn’t just survive our first year of retirement, but we have actually thrived. 


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