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Do’s and Don’t’s for the Middle-Aged Retiree

Just shy of three years ago, I quit my job. I quit with a vengeance. I burned bridges. I may have stomped my feet and slammed a door (or two). Don’t judge.


I quit on a Friday afternoon without the foggiest notion of what I, a then-48-year-old woman who had worked for 23 years and whose high school-age children no longer required daily maintenance, would do when Monday rolled around.

What happened, you might ask?

Did I (a) revel in my free time, thanking my lucky stars that I’d finally thrown off the yoke of the working world and wondering why I had ever been so stupid as to have a job, (b) hang around the Scarsdale train station during morning rush hour, stalking the commuters, ruing the day when I marched into my boss’s office and read her the riot act, or (c) implode.

The answer is none of the above.

It took a good long time to figure out my new existence in a way that didn’t threaten my sanity. So I would like to give you my hard-earned guidance: the do’s and don’ts of how to handle it if you too should find yourself in this supposedly-enviable situation.

1 | Don’t drag out annoying errands just to have something to do

Remember how, when you were working, you managed to fit all the necessary tasks of daily living into the tiny pockets of time left over from your job and your commute? For example, I’d rush like a madwoman to the supermarket for the components of some semblance of dinner, dash to the pharmacy for my daughter’s very expensive fluoride toothpaste, and then come home to fix the malfunctioning dishwasher, take my son to get his busted lip stitched, and polish the silver.

Now that you’re no longer working, there will be great appeal in spreading out all your obligations over the newly available time. You’ll put off going to the dry cleaner until 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday, just because you can! 

You’ll spend the first number of weeks grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s, Mrs. Green’s, Balducci’s, and the local farmer’s market, and making gourmet dinners for your family. (This will go on until your son asks you one evening, with tears in his eyes, if you can go back to making the boxed macaroni and cheese.) 

You’ll announce to the other carpool moms that you are now “flexible,” available to fill in slots for the working moms “whenever,” and then find yourself inundated with commitments to drive six teenagers back and forth to school on a moment’s notice, five days a week.

Don’t fall into this trap. Have a little self-respect for goodness sake. You quit your job, you didn’t sign up for a 40-hour-a-week gig as a gal Friday for your family.

2 | Do write your memoir

Okay, I heard that groan from a mile away. You’re worried that you haven’t lived a memoir-worthy life. Believe me, I’m well aware of your limitations. You haven’t cured the common cold, climbed Mt. Everest blindfolded, or starred opposite Ryan Gosling in the remake of West Side Story. I wasn’t being entirely literal. When I quit my job, a friend convinced me to take a writing class. It happened to be a memoir class, and I too scoffed at the notion. In fact, like you, I don’t have a memoir to write.

But taking the class emboldened me to take other classes, to meet new people, to get out of the house, and to realize that there was a whole world of activities – pole dancing, bobsledding, competitive dog grooming – outside of the job I’d been a slave to for many years. So I don’t care what class you take, just take something. Sign up, pay your money so you won’t back out, and have an allotted time where you have to be somewhere other than sitting on your expanding butt on your couch. Which brings me to the next “Don’t.”

3 | Don’t buy a whole new wardrobe, get an expensive gym membership, and expect to lose ten pounds and fit into your old skinny jeans

Quitting your job has a lot of similarities to making New Year’s Resolutions. You’re suddenly faced with a blank slate and a feeling like you’ve been given a second chance to live a better life. The number one New Year’s Resolution? To lose weight and get in shape. I’m here to tell you, none of that will happen.

I quit my job in September of 2014. Feeling empowered but flabby, I, who had barely satisfied the 50-yard dash requirement in gym class in third grade, immediately downloaded an app to train to run a 5K. I was diligent and determined. By November, I signed up for a local 5K, wishing that it hadn’t been dubbed “the Turkey Trot,” which I secretly feared was named after me, and which made it sound comical when it was deadly serious. But I digress. I ran the 5K at a sort of respectable pace (at least I didn’t crawl for more than the last kilometer), triumphantly posting my finish-line photo on Facebook for all my friends to see and lavish praise on me.

Since that time, my only cardio workout consists of getting myself from the couch to my refrigerator. Instead of losing ten pounds, I’ve gained ten pounds.

Why do I tell you this story of epic failure? Because I don’t want you to feel badly about yourself if (when) this happens to you. Being home is hard. The temptation to sooth yourself with the truffle ricotta ravioli, the hearth-baked 27 grain bread, and the caramel mocha molten chocolate cake you now have time to stock the refrigerator with is great. So while you may get to buy some new clothes, think one size up, not one size down.

 

 

4 | Don’t take piano lessons for the first time as an adult

If you’ve never played a musical instrument or last played said instrument in the sixth grade, now is not the time to start unless your goal is to irritate your spouse, children, and the kindly piano teacher with your inability to reliably find middle C, to count anything more complicated than a whole note in 4/4 time, and your repeated declaration that you “just want to learn enough chords to play Dust in the Wind.” It will never happen.

5 | Do listen to Ebony & Ivory and other bad 1980’s songs at earsplitting decibel levels and dance around your kitchen in your underwear

The music hasn’t improved since you were in high school, but hearing it played as loud as possible and letting loose with your old disco moves in the privacy of your own home will make you feel simultaneously young and ancient, to strangely positive effect.

6.  Don’t assume that the actual stay-at-home parents will welcome you because you no longer have a job

The key here is that you are the only one new to the sandbox. These moms and dads have been slaving away at domestic life full-time for many years and have already established when they take spin class, who they eat chopped salad with, and which children fraternize with little Tyler or little Wren. They were not waiting around for you to arrive on the scene as the newly-unemployed parent. They have lives!

This is not to say that you can’t break into the social scene, but you must take it slowly. This is especially true if you are long past the phase of life of playgroups or other child-centered activities, and are forced to navigate these waters as a full-fledged adult. Don’t despair, even the most anally-organized community of stay-at-home moms will sometimes need a fourth to sub in for tennis or mahjong.

7. Do learn to play games

Even though you heretofore eschewed them as silly.

8.  Do nap

Sometimes surrendering to blissful unconsciousness for an hour is the only way to get through a long day. You can always tell people you need your beauty rest, no one will argue with you.

9.  Do put together an updated resume, just in case this doesn’t pan out

There’s no shame in realizing, either quickly or down the road, that you preferred having a job. Depending on how long it’s been, you may need a new interview suit. Styles do change, you know. Put a smile on your face and get ready to explain what you’ve been doing with your time since you have been out of the workforce. I’d start by talking about that memoir you’ve been writing.

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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Rachel McAdams didn't talk publicly about her pregnancy or her birth story. There are some things this working mama wants to keep to herself, but the fact that she needs to pump at work isn't one of them.

McAdams was recently doing a photo shoot with photographer Claire Rothstein of Girls Girls Girls magazine when she needed to take a pump break. Wearing Versace and a neck full of diamonds McAdmans did what mamas all over the world do every day, and Rothstein snapped a pic that is now going viral.

In an Instagram post, Rothstein explains that she and McAdams had a "mutual appreciation disagreement about who's idea it was to take this picture," but the photographer says she remembers it being McAdams' idea, "which makes me love her even more."

In her caption of the amazing photograph, Rothstein writes: "Breastfeeding is the most normal thing in the world and I can't for the life of me imagine why or how it is ever frowned upon or scared of."

The photographer added that she wanted to put the image out there to change perceptions about breastfeeding, pumping, and working motherhood.

McAdams decision to normalize pumping through this glamorous image is especially cool when you consider that she's not really a social media person, and spends a lot of days in much less glam attire.

She recently arrived for her first interview since welcoming her son in the spring wearing a grey shirt, baggy pants and sneakers, reportedly telling the interviewer (Helena de Bertodano for The Sunday Times U.K.), "I don't even know what I'm wearing today. The shoes are held together with glue. Isn't that sad? I need to get a life."

"I have clothes on and that's a good thing," McAdams told Bertodano during that chat. Her attire for that newspaper interview was a world away from the clothes she wore for the Girls Girls Girls shoot.

During her Sunday Times interview McAdams declined to discuss her son's name or birthdate.

"I want to keep his life private, even if mine isn't," she explained. "But I'm having more fun being a mum than I've ever had. Everything about it is interesting and exciting and inspiring to me. Even the tough days — there's something delightful about them."

Most of us will never look the way McAdams does in this photo while we're pumping, but we can totally understand that sometimes, motherhood means you're wearing sweats and sometimes it means you're pumping in your work clothes (even if for most of us, that doesn't mean Versace).

McAdams may be keeping some parts of her motherhood experience private, but by showing the world this part of her day, she's normalizing something that desperately needs normalizing.

Some mamas pump, and the world needs to know (and accommodate) that.

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To my children,

It's the New Year, and I have been doing a lot of thinking. I want to say, with all of my heart and all of my soul, that I am sorry. I want apologize for anything (and everything) I have said or done that made you feel less-than or sad or small.

I regret, so deeply, the hurt I delivered through harsh words or sideways glances, for steely eyes you didn't deserve and sarcastic replies you didn't understand. I'm sorry for being upset when I should have been more understanding, for resorting to frustration when I should have found more patience, for pulling away when I should have drawn near.

There were the times when you needed more from me, when you asked for more, and I simply couldn't provide. There were the moments when you wanted less of me, needed less from me, and I couldn't—or perhaps I just wouldn't—back away.

I start every day with a hope, a hope that I will be better than the day before.

Sometimes I succeed, but many times, I fail. Every so often, I fail in spectacular fashion. I think about all the times when I wasn't gentle enough or kind enough or attentive enough to you, about all the moments when I was too quick to anger and not quick enough to forgive.

You don't need me to tell you that I'm not perfect. Lord knows, you know far too well.

But I will say it to you, because I think it helps to hear me say it: I am not perfect. I make mistakes. I am human. I have flaws and cracks and blemishes; they are a part of me, just as they are a part of you.

Sometimes, my dear ones, my mistakes are small—like forgetting to pack your lunch or mixing up the dates for Tot Shabbat, or picking you up an hour late from a play date or accidentally switching your piano primer with your brother's, or sending a snack I know you dislike because I didn't have time to go grocery shopping and have no other food in the refrigerator. But sometimes, they aren't so minor.

Sometimes, my mistakes have to do with the way I've behaved, and the words I have said, and the way I have said them. For those times, and for all the times I failed to support you the way I should, or help you in the way you deserve, and love you in the best way I can, I am sorry.

I wish I didn't make so many mistakes. I'm a perfectionist at heart, but when it comes to parenting, there's still so much I haven't mastered. Even after almost a decade of doing this day in and day out, I still feel like a novice in so many regards and as green as I did on day one.

Precious ones, I've come to realize, no matter how hard I try, that I just can't get it right all of the time. I hope you can forgive my failings.

The older I get, the more I realize that life is a jumble of hits and misses. As many times as we try and succeed, we also try and fail. As much as we hope to do right, we often end up doing wrong. It is the story of the human condition—this mix of losses and gains, triumphs and defeats. It's all very messy (think sloppy joes and pancakes dripping with syrup kind of messy), and yet, it's all we know.

My darling ones, I want nothing more than to do right by you and be the best mother I can be for you. I want to love you unconditionally, support you unreservedly, and be present unambiguously.

In the New Year, I resolve to do better for you, to be better with you, and to act as if God is watching. You mean the world to me. You are everything to me. I love you, always and forever.

All my love,

Mommy


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People often say that having a second child doesn't much add to the workload of parenting. There's no steep learning curve: You already know how to make a bottle, install a car seat and when to call the pediatrician. And you're already doing laundry, making lunches and supervising bath time—so throwing a second kid in the tub isn't a big deal.

Except that it is. Having a second child doesn't just mean attaching a second seat to your stroller. Adding a whole new person to your family is more complicated than that, and it's okay to say that it is hard.

A new study out of Australia disputes the popular idea that after making the transition from people to parents, making the jump from one child to two is easy. The researchers found that having a second child puts a lot of pressure on parents' time and their mental health, and mothers bear the brunt of the burden.

When looking at heterosexual couples, the researchers found that before a first child is born both partners feel equal amounts of "time pressure," but once the child is born, that pressure grows, more so for mothers than fathers.

Basically, parents feel psychological stress when they feel they don't have enough time to do all they need to. One baby makes both parents feel more stress, but mom's increase is more than dad's. When a second baby comes, that time pressure doubles for both parents, and since mom already had more than dad, there's now a gulf between them.

The researchers behind this study—Leah Ruppanner, Francisco Perales and Janeen Baxter—say that after a first child is born, a mother's mental health improves, but after a second child, it declines.

Writing for The Conversation, the trio explains:

"Second children intensify mothers' feelings of time pressure. We showed that if mothers did not have such intense time pressures following second children, their mental health would actually improve with motherhood. Fathers get a mental health boost with their first child, but also see their mental health decline with the second child. But, unlike mothers, fathers' mental health plateaus over time. Clearly, fathers aren't facing the same chronic time pressure as mothers over the long-term."

The researchers say that even when mothers reduce their work time, the time pressure is still there and that "mothers cannot shoulder the time demands of children alone."

Adding a second child to the family isn't just a matter of throwing a few more socks in the laundry: It means a schedule that is already stretched is now filling up with twice as many appointments, twice as many school functions. Mothers only have 24 hours in the day, and as much as we wish we could add a couple extra hours per child, we can't.

Time simply can't change to help us, but society can. As the researchers noted, when time pressure is removed, motherhood actually improves mental health.

We love our lives, we love our kids, we love parenting, but there is only so much of our day to go around.

Ruppanner, Perales and Baxter suggest that if society were to help mothers out more, our mental health (and therefore our children's wellbeing as well) would improve even after two or three kids. "Collectivising childcare – for example, through school buses, lunch programs and flexible work policies that allow fathers' involvement – may help improve maternal mental health," the researchers explain, adding that "it is in the national interest to reduce stressors so that mothers, children and families can thrive."

Whether you're talking about Australia or America, that last bit is so true, but this research proves that the myth about second-time parenthood isn't. Even if you already have the skills and the hand-me-downs, having a second child isn't as easy as it is sometimes made out to be.

We can love our children and our lives and still admit when things aren't easy.

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We know life gets a little (okay, a lot) busy around this time of year so if you haven't crossed off everyone on your Christmas list just yet, here's your reminder that you've still got time. Fortunately, that Amazon Prime membership of yours comes in handy... especially for the holidays.

Here are some of the best last-minute gifts to get on Amazon. Also, that extra couple of dollars for gift wrapping is *so* worth it if it's available. 😉

1. Tape Activity Book

So your little can create just about anywhere—on the go, in the car or hanging out at home.

Melissa & Doug Tape Activity Book, $6.47

BUY

2. Instant Pot

Mama, meet your new best friend. 4.5 stars with nearly 30K reviews.

Instant Pot 8-qt, $89.95

BUY

3. Silicone Teething Mitt

Offer relief to your teething one with a mitt that stays in place.

Itzy Ritzy Silicone Teething Mitt, $8.99

BUY

4. Roomba

Give the gift of never having to manually vacuum again.

iRobot Roomba 690, $279.00

BUY

5. Magnetic Tiles

These are always a favorite for kids of all ages. Build endless possibilities and work on fine motor skills—win-win!

Magnetic Tiles Building Blocks Set, $31.99

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6. DryBar Triple Sec

Perfect addition to mama's stocking, or paired with a salon or blowout gift card. Adds *so* much texture and volume.

DryBar Triple Sec 3-in-1, $35.99

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7. Plush Animated Bunny

Plays peek-a-boo and sings for baby.

Animated Plush Stuffed Animal, $32.97

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8. 23andMe

Learn everything you want to know about your family history, where you came from, and even information about your genetics.

23andMe DNA Test, $67.99

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9. Boon Bath Pipes

Make bath time more fun. They suction to the wall and can be played with individually or altogether in a chain.

Boon Building Bath Pipes, $14.99

BUY

10. HP Sprocket Portable Photo Printer

For printing all of those adorable Instagram moments—and for getting *all* of the photos off your phone.

HP Sprocket Portable Photo Printer, $99.95

BUY

11. Board Blocks

Kids can sort, learn colors and shapes, and work on their hand-eye coordination.

Wooden Educational Geometric Board Block, $6.39

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12. Ring Doorbell + Echo Dot

A great bundle for the techie in your life.

Ring Doorbell 2 and Echo Dot, $169.00

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13. Pai Technology Circuit Conductor

For the little who wants to learn to code, this offers endless learning fun.

Pai Technology Circuit Conductor Learning Kit, $69.99

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14. Kindle Paperwhite, Audible + Headphones Bundle

Bookworms will love this bundle. Enjoy a new Kindle Paperwhite, wireless bluetooth stereo headphones, and 3 month free trial for Audible for new users.

Kindle Paperwhite Bundle, $139.00

BUY

15. Wooden Grocery Store

We love this imaginative play grocery store, complete with a beeping scanner and hand-cranked conveyor belt.

Melissa & Doug Freestanding Wooden Fresh Mart Grocery Store, $179.99

BUY

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work.We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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