Working Across Time and Across Generations

My husband and I recently were fortunate to have visits from our two adult children. Our son came for a few days at the end of April, and our daughter was here over Mother’s Day.

My parents and me on one of my solo visits

I remember my mother telling me one time how nice it was to have her children visit by themselves, without their siblings and without their spouses and children. She said she enjoyed being able to talk with each child by himself or herself. And now that my children are grown, I have the same feeling. It is nice to have a crowd around sometimes—over the holidays, in particular—but the one-on-one time is also special.

On these recent visits, it occurred to me how different my life is now than my children’s. And how different their lives are than my life was when I was their age (in my thirties). Each of them spent most of the weekdays they were here on their laptops working. My daughter has billable hour requirements she has to meet, and my son wanted to minimize the vacation days he had to take. Even when they are in their home cities, my children spend some days working from their homes (my son regularly, and my daughter occasionally), so their time in my house probably didn’t seem unusual to them.

In my thirties, I, too, was focused on my career, even though I had kids at that age and they do not. But it was easier in the 1980s and ’90s to separate work and family time. When I was at work, I worked. I didn’t have social media accounts to check, and I had almost no personal email in those days. When I was at home, I dealt with family and household issues. My thoughts might have sometimes been on what I needed to do at the office, but I didn’t have Internet connections and 24/7 smartphone access tethering me to the job. On vacations, I only checked voice mail occasionally.

I could get away from work, at least for a few days. My children do not have that luxury. They have separate work and home laptops, but they have access to everything everywhere.

And my time now? I no longer work solidly from 8:00am to 6:00pm on weekdays, plus several hours on the weekends. My time is flexible, and that flexibility is the primary reason I retired. But I still consider myself to be working. I work as a writer and blogger. I serve on committees for charitable organizations. I take on occasional paid mediation cases. But for the most part, my time is my own to schedule. When I am too busy, I have only myself to blame.

Moreover, I set annual objectives for myself—how much I will write, what marketing I will do, and what volunteer commitments I will make. I also set objectives for family activities. I mark my progress toward all my objectives twice a month, with a formal review about quarterly.

For example, I try to work on writing about 30 hours a week. But that time seems to dissipate in meetings and webinars and blog posts, instead of getting applied toward my novel. In the past two months, I added about 35,000 words to the novel. Not bad, but I wanted to be finished with this first draft by now, and I still have about 10,000 words to go. I will not meet my objective on my novel this quarter.

The result of all this monitoring is that I’m getting far more performance management than I ever got while employed. Even if now I’m managing myself.

I wrote in a recent journal entry, “Retirement life is harder than I thought.” I have to work to retain the flexibility I want while still feeling that I am productive and growing. “How do I find a sense of balance?” I wrote to myself. “Is it elusive in every life and at every stage of life?”

I suppose the answer to each part of this question is yes.

Still, I am glad I do not have a full-time job anymore. Flexibility in work—as in all things—is a benefit. Whether balance comes with it or not.

How has your life changed over the years?


Posted in Family, Philosophy, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , .


  1. Ah, flexibility was the most important thing for me! I worked part-time in my child-rearing days, and while it didn’t do my career any favors (not serious about it, you know), it gave me the chance to work in a creative environment, put my skills to use, make a little money, and still be involved in school activities and have more time with my kids. I’m so glad I had the internet and email and cell phones so that I could be in touch as needed and keep my part-time status. And hey, if it all makes it easier for your kids to come visit, even better! 🙂

    • Darlene,
      One of the things I’ve learned over time is that there is no ideal job. And no ideal balance, it seems. But flexibility is generally a good thing (so long as it doesn’t interfere with my planning gene).
      Thanks for the comment,

  2. “Tuesdays with Morrie” by Mitch Albom just celebrated its twentieth anniversary since publication. All caught up in long hours of work to the exclusion of family [as I once was] might benefit from reading it.

  3. My life has changed less than I wanted it to. I hoped to have a lot of time to write by now, and i have less than ever. Business stuff keeps intruding, as well as family matters.

    • Luanne,
      I understand. In the first couple of years after I retired, I wrote more than I have been recently. I’ve become more involved in some volunteer activities, and family stuff has intruded also. But the flexibility to deal with those things is important.
      I hope you find the time to write that you want.

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