What a drag it is gettin’ old

by Mémé

There was a recent post on so-called superagers. I pooh-poohed all that in the comments, but I would like to advance another point of view with some seriousness.

After a certain age one needs time, and we who are privileged have the opportunity to take it without having to work for pay well before death is imminent. Time to recover from physical activity. More time to perform tasks, both mental and physical, that formerly you could do quickly or from “muscle” memory without conscious thought or planning. Time for double takes or less than instantaneous recall so that you can be sure you are proceeding or speaking with accuracy.

As an older person, those quick meals on the fly or bits of reading/podcast when I can fit them in lose appeal. I would just as soon skip a meal as scarf something down. And read books in an easy chair, stopping when I reach an actual stopping point and not just the end of the commute. I am also not under the tyranny of the clock for most household tasks. There is almost always tomorrow if I don’t get to something. Or if I really need to spend time on preparing a meal or on the garden or the grandchildren, I don’t have to do with one eye on the start time for my next task. (Although I do need electronic reminders because I have lost the ability to keep all that in my head when there is an actual appointment.)

I know that when I get overscheduled, my body simply tells me to stop. Despite a clean bill of health from my physician this week, and terrific “numbers”, I am currently dealing with a pinched nerve “headache” (still abating), my thumb joints ache all the time, and if I don’t eat on the right schedule and in the right quantity my digestion lets me know its displeasure.

Totebaggers, where do you fall on the continuum between near constant activity/ stimulation, much of it enjoyable, and stillness/recuperation, some of which may seem like unnecessary indolence?

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142 thoughts on “What a drag it is gettin’ old

  1. What a great post. I worked about 5 hours on both Saturday and Sunday, and found myself so mentally exhausted on Monday, that I took a one hour nap before a business dinner–something I’ve never done in the past.

  2. Interesting topic.

    We are in a stage where somewhat suddenly (it feels) we have more free time. I still have to drive our kids places, but I don’t have to supervise them in any meaningful way. All of a sudden our evenings and weekends are uncommitted in a way they haven’t been since we had kids. (And before kids we were working/in grad school so it never felt like our time was our own.) We are still adjusting, but for the first time in forever time does not feel like such a scarce resource.

  3. I’ll relate my “softer” reading habits back to the superager topic, which theorized that toughening up with hard or uncomfortable activities was a way to remain youthful. I used to be able to read easily even among lots of noise and chaos, such as on the subway during my commuting days. These days I “need” a comfy chair and absolute quiet to read comfortably. The thing is I don’t know if I really need the quiet, or if I have just let myself get softer and less focused because I can.

  4. The only difference I’ve noted thus far is if I strain something it takes longer to heal. And now that I think about it I’m probably straining things that didn’t used to strain.

  5. “The only difference I’ve noted thus far is if I strain something it takes longer to heal.”

    Which in turn tends to make a person more cautious in their activity. Bounding up and down the stairs may still be doable, but why risk it if the healing process from any injury is longer and more problematic.

    My H and I were discussing the “on the tip of your tongue but can’t remember it” issue when playing Jeopardy. We may know the answers but we just can’t respond quickly. He says he’s always been that way (true to an extent) and I say it’s getting worse.

  6. My H and I were discussing the “on the tip of your tongue but can’t remember it” issue when playing Jeopardy.

    Now that you mention it the “seek time” is a little longer than it used to be. I’ll chalk it up to being due to the my brain having to search a larger amount of data due to all my accumulated wisdom.

  7. In the spring and fall, I really feel a time crunch. It seems every thing has to fall into a time slot. I anticipate this getting worse till my older kid starts to drive. I do say no to varied requests by family members to prevent being overwhelmed. A weekend nap is a great refresher.
    My parents do what Meme describes. After hectic work and social lives, they now Thaler their time leisurely cooking, eating, shopping, catching up with friends, reading.

  8. I am in the middle of the spectrum. Working part-time, having two high school aged (sophomore/senior) girls, a retired partner, and no longer having elderly parents to care for, I do find myself putting things off thinking I have plenty of time to do that only to realize I procrastinated too much and now I need to rush.

    New carpet is my current example. When I found out in June our go-to flooring and minor remodel contractor couldn’t get to us until December, I thought I had a ton of time to get the upstairs carpet done, as he doesn’t do carpet. I even went and looked at carpet. Last week I brought home samples. This week Lowes is having a free installation for carpet orders placed this week. Can’t seem to get myself and DP over the decision making hump. OK, so its great there is a sale, but heck, we could have had carpet back in August.

  9. I like (mostly) a mix of down time and tasks in my days. I have to get the kids at certain times but I have a lovely three hours to myself four mornings per week. I rarely read during this time though unless I’m really into a book – I generally try to spend an hour doing household tasks, maybe do some baking a few times per week, exercise and then spend the rest of the time dealing with the dog and wasting time on the computer. I’ve been pretty good lately with getting in bed at 9:00 and reading for an hour before going to sleep at 10. I had planned on decluttering everyone’s bedrooms and closets this week and I got as far as DS/youngest DDs room and the playroom, and then my oldest got lice and my DS got sick and has been home for the past two days. But as Meme said, if I don’t get to it all this week there’s always next week.

  10. DH and I both work full time and have a 5 year old and a 2 year old… I can only hope it gets easier from here.

  11. We are in a stage where somewhat suddenly (it feels) we have more free time. I still have to drive our kids places, but I don’t have to supervise them in any meaningful way. All of a sudden our evenings and weekends are uncommitted in a way they haven’t been since we had kids. (And before kids we were working/in grad school so it never felt like our time was our own.) We are still adjusting, but for the first time in forever time does not feel like such a scarce resource.

    This is the same for us. With both kids in HS, most activities are now at school so they just stay after, there’s no rushing around to get them places. And I’m no longer coaching, so I have a chunk of time freed up (although I may start up again in the spring). I’ve actually had a lot of time to be bored the last couple of months and I’m working on finding a hobby or a project to do.

    My H and I were discussing the “on the tip of your tongue but can’t remember it” issue when playing Jeopardy. We may know the answers but we just can’t respond quickly. He says he’s always been that way (true to an extent) and I say it’s getting worse.

    Sometimes I think I’m completely losing my mind. Around 7 or 8 months ago, I bought tickets for an Imagine Dragons concert that was this past weekend and completely forgot about it. My recollection was that both kids said they didn’t want to go so I didn’t get tickets. DW heard them talking about it on the radio last week and mentioned it at dinner. DS and DW both said that we got tickets because DS wanted to go. I checked the Flash Seats account and sure enough, there were two tickets for the concert. But I’d have sworn on my life that I didn’t get tickets.

  12. DH and I both work full time and have a 5 year old and a 2 year old… I can only hope it gets easier from here.

    I assure you it does.

  13. Right now, I am still in the stage where I feel like my workdays are scheduled to the hilt, with very little leeway. This leads me to crave weekends that are less scheduled to have time to relax and recover. We limit commitments on the weekend for that reason because all three of us like having downtime that way.

    Physically, I can definitely see a big difference between my early 40’s and early 30’s. The recovery time for anything is longer – whether it is exercise, injury or illness, and losing an hour of sleep is significantly more of a physical drag than it was 10 years ago. I don’t really feel slower yet though. Reading doesn’t yet require special glasses (although DH is starting to see signs of this).

  14. That said – life is already much less crazy than the baby-toddler stage. I am equal parts wistful about DS getting older & even more independent and looking forward to having even more “free” time. Just not having to get a babysitter to go out to dinner on a Saturday night sounds like a luxury, but I will miss this stage where he enjoys hanging out with us as much as his friends very much. Having a grade schooler has been so much fun as he becomes a little person that I very much enjoy spending time with as opposed to someone that I am actively taking care of 24/7, if that makes sense.

  15. Mental acuity is as good as it ever was, I think.
    Hearing is actually fine despite what the rest of the family says; if I’m not “hearing” something that reaches me at a normal volume, then, honestly, I’m not paying attention.
    Physically…
    – lower back (sporadic) pain. Diminishes if I make sure to get up and walk around the office floor more often than I have to go to the bathroom.
    – right ankle (tendons). I’ve had this looked at…essentially I am slightly misaligned on that side so a day with lots of walking will result in pain well into the next day. Pain usually addressed by one of generic Tylenol, Advil, Aleve.
    – left hip (arthritis). Ortho told me I “have ridden that one to the end” so I’m getting a new one shortly after Thanksgiving. The paid has gotten worse over the past month, so I really can’t wait. I have some trepidation about the general anesthesia thing, but otherwise I’m ready. The pain is not 100% constant, e.g. now sitting at my desk, but walking, especially when I first stand up is often an adventure in pain.

    There are things that I probably can do just fine but if one of my guys is home I will gladly outsource to them pretty much anything involving a real ladder (vs a stepladder), carrying certain things even though because of consistent weight training over the past 3-4 years I am much stronger than I used to be, multiple consecutive trips up/down stairs to put stuff away.

  16. Sleep.
    I finally figured out sometime last year that staying up to see the monologue of Fallon or Kimmel or Colbert may have been entertaining but a complete waste of 45 min and bad for me at this age. If I hadn’t been waiting to see them, I’d go to bed by 11. So much better all around getting that extra 45 min every night.

    (younger, never a problem to watch the first half of Carson/Leno then turn the light out at midnight and be fine/ready for work the next morning)

  17. I will miss this stage where he enjoys hanging out with us as much as his friends very much.

    My kids are still in that stage. They hardly ever get together with their friends outside of school or sports.

  18. We are still at the stage of not enough time. Often look at each other to say “time is always against us” (please tell me someone else recognizes the quote!). :) Now the kids have activities late 2 days a week, I have one another 1 or 2 (not the same days!) and so Fridays/weekends are the only time we can feel lazy at all. The downside of this is if I find myself with a spare moment it is hard for me to stop and relax.

  19. Providence – it does get better and when both get to the elementary school years, you will definitely feel the change.

  20. The downside of this is if I find myself with a spare moment it is hard for me to stop and relax.

    Yes, when free time is unexpected or sporadic, I also have a hard time relaxing into it. I didn’t notice our large chunks of free time in September, thanks to an evacuation, hurricane clean up, and a long Do It Now list. This month it’s really become apparent we are entering a different stage.

    I’ve actually had a lot of time to be bored the last couple of months and I’m working on finding a hobby or a project to do.

    I’m slowly taking back some things I enjoy but in a time crunch would have outsourced. For example, oldest DH’s room needs to be repainted, and I’m going to do it myself. There are so many steps involved – pick the paint, get the supplies, move the furniture, tape off the room, do the painting – but without feeling like I’m trying to squeeze it in between a million other obligations, it’s all enjoyable and unhurried.

  21. I continue to fantasize about being a participant in one of those sleep studies where they put people in a closed off environment with no natural cues of time of day, stuff to read and so on but nothing to stay up for or get up early for, and watch to see what their natural clock is. The ones they actually did decades ago to figure out what the natural human day was and probably don’t do anymore. Supposedly the first few days everyone was just sleeping most of the time catching up, and then eventually they fell into the 25 hour clock (yes 25 hours, we actually don’t quite match up with our planetary clock for some reason).

    Anyway, I figure I’ll know I’m no longer overscheduled when participating in that stops being such a compelling fantasy.

  22. Like others, I love this post.

    My Dad worked a physical job until 65. He had hip replacements at 69, would have been earlier except for my Mom’s illness. He has reduced vision/hearing and arthritis but is otherwise in good condition. By not having to be employed, he is able to lead a healthy-but-happily-slower life. He is my anecdata that very few people can continue working a physical job until full social security age- most of his friends retired younger.

    I need more light to see/read and notice I can’t see the arrows on the sippy cups for Baby WCE the way I could for the boys. I have one nearsighted eye (which my brain ignores) and one farsighted eye, which takes a while to focus in the morning. I haven’t been pushing my body so don’t know it’s recovery time but I can still haul a toddler, purse and books to/from a soccer field while dribbling a ball, so I can’t be too far gone. It’s nice to have only one toddler and be able to alternate sides. With the twins, I struggled with forearm overuse.

    I keep waiting for the light at the end of the tunnel. One year was pregnancy with Baby WCE, next was infant Baby WCE, next was lots of international travel for Mr WCE and too much solo parenting and this year is remodel, which requires time for decision making, moving stuff in/out of the various rooms and reorganizing and scrubbing/painting. It would be nice to sleep more and have time (prioritized time? dedicated time?) for other things. Perhaps the tunnel will end soon.

  23. I feel it in how tired I get after a long day of being busy. If we are traveling or out doing something where I’m on my feet all day, maybe walking in excess of 13,000 steps or so, I’m kind of done. I was sightseeing all day Friday, then had a rehearsal dinner to attend, then drinks at the hotel bar until midnight. We had planned to be up early and out to see more Saturday morning, but thank heavens it was storming because I had no desire to do anything but sleep in. There was a time when I could go full speed for days, with much more drinking at night. Also, with all of the climbing up and down stairs, both my husband and I were going down the stairs much more gingerly later in the day then our younger companions. My knee was bothering me enough that at our last stop I requested that we take the elevator (but said it was out of consideration for my husband).

    At the wedding reception, I had to go hang out in the lobby area several times because the music was so stinking loud and the room was too warm. Again, there was a time when I would’ve thought the music was awesome and none of that would have slowed me down. I find that I am much more affected by sensory overload then I was at an earlier time. Whether that is that I am physically bothered by it more, or just choose not to endure it, I do not know.

  24. “DH and I both work full time and have a 5 year old and a 2 year old… I can only hope it gets easier from here.”

    IME, from about 3 yo to about 12 or 13 yo is when kids are really cute and fun, then they become teenagers. Enjoy those years while you can.

  25. I notice a few small things – I don’t heal as quick, my eyesight is starting to get worse (I plateaued for nearly 20 years), little things. Nothing that makes me lament that I’m old. I do feel like I’m going a million miles an hour. I hope 2018 is a bit slower – no massive work projects, no babies, just need to live life with a 1 and 3 year old.

    “I checked the Flash Seats account and sure enough, there were two tickets for the concert. But I’d have sworn on my life that I didn’t get tickets.”

    I do this now! We have to write everything down immediately and print tickets and put them on the calendar. It’s ridiculous. I attribute it to over-worked parents.

    “it does get better and when both get to the elementary school years, you will definitely feel the change.”

    My friends with older children tell me this. I don’t believe them. Not at all. It’s like a unicorn – it would be nice if it were real, but I doubt it.

    L – yes! I do recognize that quote!
    HM – the 25 hour cycle sounds familiar to me (did I read the study or experiment with my own body…). And I wonder if this is something to do with planetary motion vs. evolution. Earth’s rotation on its axis is not quite 24 hours (every few years we need to add/subtract seconds from the clock). I wonder if rotation has slowed ever so slightly over the millions of years of complex development, but we retained the ~25 hour cycle.

  26. Two things I would like to do would be to get on a later sleep/wake cycle and stop being restricted by the school calendar.

  27. Rhode – well, it is not easier YET. The younger 2 are now always.fighting (used to be the older 2) and they are so darn LOUD!

    Becky, I could never handle music at weddings, but it seems to have gotten worse lately. I always bring earplugs and then I can enjoy myself and not worry about hearing loss. Our friends who went to lots of concerts earlier in life have noticeable hearing loss at <50.

  28. ” I have one nearsighted eye (which my brain ignores) and one farsighted eye, which takes a while to focus in the morning. ”

    I have that as well. Are you able to drive without glasses? I don’t drive but I’ve noticed I’m needing glasses more and more for movies and TV. Reading is better without.

  29. Yeah, I appear to be in the middle of this transition point. I now need reading glasses, and even with that my eyes will get tired if I try to read all day and just refuse to focus up close any more. Every injury takes longer, and there are more little niggling ones; I can’t just ignore it and push through any more, or they get worse. I have had to learn to rein myself in and stop at the first sign of pain or weakness, and to then go much more slowly than I’d like coming back. I also have to be very serious about stretching and have even started getting up 15 minutes earlier to get to Crossfit early to get extra stretching in; on the plus side, I have noticed a distinct improvement in mobility and injuries (knock on wood) from doing so. Oh, and acupuncture — freaking awesome.

    The “more time” thing is what’s really troubling me. I have always been the person who thought there was always time for one more thing before X; I have usually been wrong, but now I’m WAY wrong (this AM I left myself 10 mins to get showered and dressed before a conference call). I am also having more and more trouble remembering all of the logistical details; again, always something that I’ve struggled with, but much worse recently. This AM I discovered I showed up at the doc’s a day early, which screws up the conference I need to be at tomorrow; then I got into work and remembered that the client I am meeting with in a few minutes asked me to look at a second project, so I had to scurry around to figure that out (which, luckily, was easy). I need to get a better system for this stuff — I always put appointments on my calendar (don’t ask me how I got the doc’s on the wrong day, as I typed it in as I was on the phone with her), but if I don’t have someone’s email address to add them to the invitation, or if I don’t have my phone, or whatever, it just doesn’t happen.

    And, yeah, I forget words all. the. freaking. time. Grrrrr.

    On the plus side, I am still physically capable of many things, as long as I treat myself well; I’m pretty sure my cardiovascular fitness was better when I was running, but I am honestly stronger now than I’ve ever been. And I really feel like the grey-haired guru at work. The way my brain works is taking situations and figuring out where they fit into my superstructure (Laura’s View of the Universe). So after doing what I’ve been doing for over 25 years now, all of those individual issues and data points have really fleshed out that superstructure, which means I know what the answer should be (and how to explain it to someone) almost all the time now. It’s sort of fun. And I care a lot less about many things that really got me worked up when I was younger, which makes it a lot easier to take time off to hit the gym or whatever (seriously thinking about going back to part-time next year).

  30. One great thing about getting older is that I worry less about money. Having built a nest egg, we can better weather what life throws at us.

  31. Kerri, my vision used to be better than 20/20 so I am particularly grumpy about its decline. I can easily drive without glasses. I am planning to try glasses in a couple weeks. I tried a contact in my “bad” (nearsighted) eye almost 2 years ago but it irritated me without helping my vision so I decided to wait until my toddler could leave glasses alone.

  32. @Fred – I was going to say that I can’t stay up to watch Colbert etc either very often. And then I realized that you are in Eastern time. I really like my sleep!

    @DD – Yeah, he’s just started wanting to play video games with his friends (online), so we will see how that all develops. Some of the other parents are leery& the kids all have different screen time rules/schedule, so it really hasn’t worked out much yet.

  33. I am quite nearsighted, so does that mean when my eyes start to go I won’t need glasses any more? :)

  34. Don’t get me wrong, my boys are so much fun. But there’s zero downtime. By the time I finally sit down at the end of the day, I’m wiped.

  35. “I am quite nearsighted, so does that mean when my eyes start to go I won’t need glasses any more? :)”

    No. It just means you may take longer to need reading glasses, but ultimately you’ll need trifocals. :-(

    I had Lasik and had one eye regress significantly (e.g., 20:200-ish), while the other stayed at around 20:15. If I don’t have my contact lens in the one eye, I can read without my reading glasses with the left eye, and drive without my contact lens using the right eye. Not surprisingly, that usually results in a headache by the end of the day. :-) And I can feel the reading tiring out my eyes as well.

  36. My eyes were getting really tired, which in turn was making me really tired. Now I have to wear glasses all the time. : (

  37. I’ll throw out a late in the day hijack. If you could go back in time to when you were buying your first home, what would you prioritize? Size, location, budget?

    We’ve been house hunting for over a year with no luck. I’m thinking I either need to adjust my expectations or budget.

  38. Fred – I hope your hip surgery goes well. I truly thought it was like magic: once you’re past the recovery stage, you suddenly have zero joint pain. If you have a substantial amount of pain/discomfort now, you will be completely shocked at the difference. For many years after I had mine done, I was still surprised. I still am, really.

    As I type this, I don’t *feel* either hip at all. I used to feel them both 24/7. Never mind the big activities — to merely go from being constantly aware of it to never feeling it is mind blowing. I hope this happens for you and that it happens very soon after the surgery.

  39. “If you could go back in time to when you were buying your first home, what would you prioritize? Size, location, budget?”

    I am glad we prioritized location, maintenance needs (bought a newer condo vs. an older house), and a bought at the lower end of our range. But I do wish we would have thought more about schools. Not in a Totebag “best” school way. But our zoned elementary school is not an option at all, and I didn’t think much about that when we bought because we didn’t have kids yet and kindergarten for future kids seemed like forever in the future. Had I been on a different block, this would be much different.

  40. “Don’t get me wrong, my boys are so much fun. But there’s zero downtime. By the time I finally sit down at the end of the day, I’m wiped.”

    I know exactly what you mean. That part does get better when you are doing less hands-on care. That’s what I was trying to get at about how great the elementary school stage is. There is so much less hands-on care that it frees you up to have more fun and more downtime. Of course the problems are bigger related to behavior, school, chores, etc. But they are also much easier to reason with which makes a huge difference in confronting those things too.

  41. I prioritized size over location in my first home purchase, and I regret it. I prioritized size because I thought I would be there for at least 5-7 years and wanted the extra space. In the end, I regretted it, because I moved to a different city for a job and then had trouble selling. The neighborhoods where I could have afforded a smaller place didn’t suffer from slow sales or as slow of appreciation as my neighborhood did.

    While I lived in the condo, I did enjoy having the extra bedroom. But it would have been nice to walk out my door into a bustling neighborhood with restaurants, instead of the farther-away, more sleepy residential area.

  42. Providence – location. Walking distance to the ES, MS, and HS your kids will attend. This makes a huge difference in kids’ lives and parents’ lives and daily stress levels — once kids can walk/bike home from school, you’re no longer racing home from work to get them. I’m also in favor of the old part of town vs far flung exurbs, but YMMV depending on the town.

    As for budget/size, it really depends. I’d spend more so kids had their own rooms, for instance, and/or so there was a dedicated guest room, but I wouldn’t spend more in order to get more square footage per room necessarily. Want to hit us up with some House A vs House B features and we can weigh in on pros/cons given our experiences?

  43. For those of you whose eyes get tired from reading a lot, or are needing reading glasses, I suggest taking advantage of technology.

    I used to have issues with eyestrain from sitting at a computer for long stretches, but found that using larger fonts addressed that.

    When I started needing reading glasses to read the newspaper, I got a Kindle and started downloading the paper, so I could adjust the font and brightness so i could read it without needing glasses.

  44. “He is my anecdata that very few people can continue working a physical job until full social security age- most of his friends retired younger.”

    Actually, your dad is the anecdata proving the point that it is possible to can continue working a physical job until full social security age. His friends who retired younger are the anecdata in support of the premise that very few people can do it.

  45. Providence –
    our first home purchase was a 2br/2ba condo for just the two of us. We emphasized quality of the building/complex, location, budget. We were lucky in that when we sold 2 years later we made 30% on our purchase price. Size (sq ft) per se was not that important to us as long as there were 2br/2ba so visitors would be accommodated.

    In your case, if I may suggest, you need to decide if this will be a first house which could be smaller given a young family or a forever house, which is what our current place turned out to be. It’s way bigger than we needed when we first moved here (4br, 2.5ba, 2800sf + basement), was essentially perfect to raise 3 boys from 0-18, now it’s probably too big again but no plans to move until retirement. We bought a big house because we could, given housing price differences LA vs here.

  46. Providence, a couple milestones that should come soon that will make life noticeably easier will be when your younger one is potty trained and when he no longer needs naps, giving you a lot more flexibility in planning things.

    As they get older they’ll also get more stamina and thus become less prone to meltdowns.

    And if they go to the same school, when your younger one starts school that’s another milestone that will make your life easier.

  47. Sometimes I feel like a Type-B person stuck in a Type-A world. I think the thing I am most looking forward to about retirement is the opportunity to have totally unstructured time to just sort of hang out and do what I feel like doing at that particular moment. I’m pretty sure I’m not someone who is going to try to find a bunch of new hobbies, volunteer commitments, etc. to fill the time when I’m retired.

    Physically, I feel really good right now (knock on wood). For me, a lot of this has to do with changing my exercise routine. I gave up heavy cardio years ago, because it didn’t agree with me. After that, I started doing weight training because everyone was saying that women need to do weight training as they get older. But the intense workouts always made me feel like crap. Last year, I ditched the weight training, and now I only do no-impact exercise that uses only body weight (or super-light weights) for resistance: Barre, pilates, yoga, and walking. I feel so much better than I did with the more intense activities.

    My husband still pushes himself physically the way he did when he was younger, and doing so is taking a real toll on his body. I try to tell him to pull back a bit, but he doesn’t want to hear that. He hates the idea of aging much more than I do.

  48. “The downside of this is if I find myself with a spare moment it is hard for me to stop and relax.”
    “I’ve actually had a lot of time to be bored the last couple of months and I’m working on finding a hobby or a project to do.”

    Since DS left, I’ve found myself with more time. It doesn’t take as long to clean up the kitchen or do laundry, and there are fewer events to attend or provide transportation.

    One upside is that I’ve been able to finally finish remodeling our bathrooms, a project that was dragging on because DS’ senior year was especially hectic, between all his activities, college selection, and our wanting to be there for as many of his events as possible while we still could.

    Since finishing the bathrooms, I’ve also been able to knock out a couple small projects that had been sitting on my to-do list for a while, and I’ve started on another project that’s more than just a weekend or two sort of project that’s been on the list for a while.

  49. I hate needing to use reading glasses. I get tired faster when I am trying to read with them, and I hate that I can see every speck and smudge on them. I am endlessly wiping them. So I use my Kindle e-reader a lot more so I can avoid wearing glasses. I have also moved all my magazine subscriptions to Google Play so I can read on my tablet.

  50. A couple of my friends have now retired and say it is lonely and they struggle to “fill time”. If I am ever in the situation where I have to “fill time”, I think I would just shoot myself. I plan to keep working until they cart me out. I am not unusual in that – it seems that a lot of our faculty stick around until they croak.

  51. Re. housing, ITA with Risely on proximity to schools, if possible. My kids bike to school (or walk when the weather doesn’t allow biking), and that independence has been so great both for them and for me. Also, as someone who both works and is the primary M-F parent, easy proximity to other necessities of day-to-day life has also been huge. It makes my life so much easier to have easy, quick access to grocery stores, kids’ activities, doctors, dentists, orthodontists, etc. etc. etc. Personally I would trade a lot of space for the convenience of an in-town location, but of course YMMV.

  52. What I find sad is that during our good years, we are rushing around so much that we can’t appreciate how nice it is. Then, we get old, the kids go away, and we have nothing much to do. It seems like there is no nice middle ground.

    I joined that Grown and Flown facebook group on the advice of friends because there is a lot of college planning discussion on it. But I think I have to get off because it is making me feel suicidal. Lots of the posts are people missing their kids, being lonely with no one in the house, etc, etc. Nobody seems to be happy when their kids leave. I don’t think it is a healthy list to read.

  53. Our location is really convenient. Kids walk to middle and high school, and can get to most activities on their own – either walking or biking. I do have to schlep my daughter to fencing but I can leave her there and my husband picks her up. My oldest even used to walk himself to his orthodontist appointments.

  54. haha Mooshi — I’m also a member of Grown and Flown, and their “woe is me I miss my kid” posts are a bit much. I can’t relate tbh and I just want to tell these sad sacks to get over it.

    Fred — good luck on your upcoming surgery and Risley, I’m so happy to hear it’s going well with you.

    Ivy — I’m curious why this is the case. “But our zoned elementary school is not an option at all”

  55. Size, location, budget?

    Location, which is what we did prioritize. It makes life so much easier being in a convenient location. We stretched put budget a little but we’re really glad we did.

  56. Walking distance to the ES, MS, and HS your kids will attend.

    That’s not always possible. Our zoned middle and high schools are too far apart that there isn’t any place you could live that is walking distance to both. I don’t think any of the middle schools are close enough to the high school.

  57. Providence I would always choose location. You can always renovate.

    My dad is still working a blue collar job at 69 (almost 70). He climbs ladders all day long. He’s planning on retiring at the end of the year but thinks he’ll still do jobs here and there to supplement his income. He’s always been really active though. He played basketball until his late 50s in a league and now he golfs two or three times per week and walks the course.

  58. Providence – I think that my housing priorities were very different from most commenters on here. One difference is that walkability was never in the cards.

    I’ll turn the scenario around a little bit, though. I observed to DW a little while ago that, when we were buying our house, if we’d known that she would remain gainfully employed this whole time, we would have bought bigger, fancier, and more expensive. But that would have been a mistake.

    In other words, I value budget now more than I did, and I only stumbled into what I now feel is the better choice because I had imperfect information at the time.

    So, although I know nothing of your situation or the tradeoffs in your area, I can only advise you to be very careful before you increase your budget.

  59. @July – Great Schools score of 1. 10% of 4th graders meeting state standards. I doubt anyone on this blog would consider sending their kids there. The kids on my block either go to magnet/selective enrollment public schools or private schools. Had we bought a few blocks away in a couple directions, we’d be zoned to a different ES that are better.

    If you mean why is this particular school not great – that’s probably for the political thread. ;)

  60. Thanks for the kind words, all.

    Mooshi – those retirees you cite are a particular variant on older people. I am not sure why there are so many who don’t feel fully alive without a workplace or structured volunteer life or most of life externally focussed. There are quite a few posters on this site who have those characteristics. This topic was intended to highlight the fact that having more time can be a good thing, and is in many ways age appropriate.

    Also, my kids are 35 to 43. I am 66. When my nest emptied I was 48 – prime working years – and now when I have time on my hands my kids are interested in the contact and closeness again – the adolescent and post adolescent separation on the way to adulthood is past. A consequence of late family formation is often retirement from formal work at the same time as the kids go away and the body starts to get refractory. Those tight ethnic or rural families that you cite so fondly all live cheek by jowl are rarely on that sort of drawn out schedule.

  61. Providence, we are sort of in the market but not. But, what I have learned so far is that nothing beats location. We are looking for reasonable commute, good schools, good neighborhood and a small backyard- in that order. My friends with short commute have a much easier life..

  62. To answer a few questions:
    DS1 is in kindergarten at a charter, that so far, we love. To stay at the charter, we’re limited to four towns.

    In terms of location, I really want to be in a true neighborhood. I want to know my neighbors and be part of a community.

    I’d love a bigger (~2000 sq ft) older house with lots of charm, but I’m finding what fits our desired price range is more like a 1300 sq ft ranch.

    I’m trying to figure out, do we buy a less expensive house and enjoy the financial freedom, or stretch a bit more and buy a house we’ll love. Or do nothing and wait till we have more money.

  63. I can’t get done each month all of the things I would really like to do. There are piles of physical and Kindle books to read. DVR’d stuff and movies. i don’t even bother to tape the mindless stuff any more. Mornings that I want to reserve for local scramble hikes (and kayaking in the summer). Some volunteer commitments, and I need to re-evaluate the choice of those. Home decorating, decluttering and archiving projects (I learned from DD that changing artwork, knick-knacks and even furniture placement seasonally keeps the environment fresh.) I want to spend more time just hangin’ with DH. I am on call and babysit on average once a week (sometimes just a short shift). I love cooking as opposed to just providing food.

  64. Finn – re: it getting easier… I agree. I’m looking forward to all that stuff you listed. Particularly the one drop off / pick up.

  65. Pvd – what are the four towns? I’ve perused RI real estate before because DH is from there and he was talking to someone about a job last year that was potentially going to be in Providence.

  66. Providence, I concur with others that knowing your priorities, school expectations and time frame are important.

    Like Milo, walkability was not in the cards for us- grocery stores, Home Depot, etc. are in a busy central area that we would not want to live in and that has few residences. Commute to work and local elementary school quality were important, along with budget. We prioritized lot/location over home quality details. (The cabinets were cheap and are falling apart; no closet door upstairs.)

    I would have waited longer and saved so we could have spent more on a slightly more central location but Mr WCE refused and at that stage of our relationship, just getting to agreement was tough. We are currently (17 years after purchase) remodeling and I understand more about myself. It’s a house. We live in it and have fun as a family. I do not care about interior decor and if Mr WCE makes decisions about exact paint shade and tile in the shower, they’ll look fine. At the end of the day, if the shower gets us clean, it’s a good shower.

  67. Meme said “I am not sure why there are so many who don’t feel fully alive without a workplace or structured volunteer life or most of life externally focussed. ”

    Honestly, I think that is more normal. I can’t think of anyone who retired and was happy unless they were working parttime, volunteering, or very involved with kids and grandkids. My father after retirement got very involved with photography, in a very serious, fulltimey kind of way, and so had a pretty good retirement. My husband’s father, though, went stircrazy and finally went back to work on reduced hours (he was a machinist). When he finally had to retire for real, he got very depressed and sank into watching TV all the time. My husband’s mother was intensely involved with kids and grandkids. My own grandparents had a tough time with retirement, especially my grandmother. They were far from family and didn’t know what to do with themselves. Most people, after a few months of having all the time in the world to sit and read a good book, get very antsy.

    I have the two friends who have retired now. One is heavily involved in travel and political organizing. The other is struggling, wants to get into political organizing but has trouble making herself do it. Both talk about working to fill their time.

  68. or stretch a bit more and buy a house we’ll love.

    If the difference between like and love is PITI being 16% rather than 13% then I’d say go for it. If it means taking it from 28% to 35% then I’d say no way.

  69. Providence – If you are reasonably certain that you plan to stop at 2 kids, the 1300 sq ft ranch is probably the way to go. A starter home in an actual neighborhood will do for now, may support an addition or three season porch or garage conversion later (check the zoning). A fenced backyard so the boys can run and play is probably more valuable than a bonus room inside. A ranch, while usually less charming, has the advantage of a simpler structure (fewer Love it or list it type unforseen problems) than an aged colonial or cape, and lends itself to open floor plan if that is what you want. I think it is also easier to sell if you decide to trade up. There are always new families and also downsizers. Our townhome complex is half young couples/families and half older and/or single folks. The price keeps climbing because there is no stock. If you are planning on a larger family, or having parents move in, or need a guest room regularly, then more rooms/sq footage (and in expensive areas that means more than one story) are likely necessary.

  70. PVD – How much space do you have now? Do the 1300 sf ranches also have basements that could be finished for rec room/play room?

  71. @Providence: Location. I am spoiled by a short commute, and I am *really* spoiled by being in a town where my kids can walk places on their own now that they’re older and I don’t have to spend XXX years as chauffeur. It is hard to describe how wonderful that feels.

    Then budget. Both DH’s and my jobs are much more tolerable knowing that either one of us can quit or go part-time whenever we want without blowing up everything else.

    Those two are the deal-killers. After that comes “feel”/flow/livability, however you define that. E.g., I can’t tolerate boxy little square rooms and teensy bathrooms and the like. Cosmetic stuff I can change, but when you’d have to change the fundamental nature of the house, eh, not worth it, I’d rather rent.

    The thing that I wish I had done when I bought my first place was to have kept renting instead. I was SO anxious to get settled and plant roots, it never occurred to me that my life might change and my condo might not fit anymore. I adored my condo — downtown, huge windows, open and bright. But right after I moved in, they sued the developer and added big special assessments for construction defects, and then when I met DH and had to move @4 1/2 years later, we couldn’t sell it, so we rented at a loss for several years until we finally got rid of it for @$20K less than we paid. I should have valued flexibility more at that point in my life.

  72. I have found that I am not as productive as I was even in my fifties. I was always an early bird – up at five and raring to go. I used to hit the market at 7:00 when they opened, brought the groceries home and put away and still in work by 8:30. I am slower in the morning and don’t get up until 6:00 – 6:30. Takes a while to get going and my stamina sucks.

    What bothers me even more is watching my once physically powerful husband take days to do a job that he would accomplish in an afternoon.

    All phases of life call for different accommodations and adjustments to our preferred flow of living. Have to adjust to the new reality.

    I didn’t have a problem letting my children leave the nest. I think it;s great to see them become adults and interact with them on a different level.

  73. But Mooshi – you are talking in circles. Anyone who sits at home depressed and can’t figure out what to do with themselves is by definition unhappy. People who get out, even if all they do is walk around the mall with the girls or play cards with the guys, or even have a vigorous online life, are not unhappy. It isn’t retirement that is the issue. It is a combination of personality and isolation. What is it about your father that made him get involved with photography and what about your father in law that he sat around the house? Or your two friends with similar desires, one succeeding and one not?

  74. Honestly, I think that is more normal.

    On the other hand, Meme has business class to Africa for a safari money. I assume most of the people you’re thinking of are of more modest means. If I was late 60s and going on an exciting trip once a quarter that would keep me pretty fulfilled I bet.

  75. I was responding to your comment that you don’t understand why there are so many people who don’t feel fully alive unless they are working or volunteering or spending “most of life externally focussed. ” All of my examples of people who have happy retirements are people who are either working, volunteering, or spending most of their time on externally focused activities. My father was very externally focussed. He was not producing photographs for his own consumption. He was showing in galleries, producing books, teaching, attending seminars, etc. It was like a whole second career. My MIL has spent most of her retirement bustling about, externally focused on her kids and grandkids ( and rest of the clan). I think most people need the structure and the external focus, or else they sink into being unhappy. My FIL was not an unhappy man until he could no longer be busy all the time.

  76. Oh, and one other thing – my father was generally a far unhappier person throughout his life than my FIL. I don’t think being unhappy in retirement is simply because one is an unhappy person. There is something about unstructured retirement that makes many people, who were once happy, into unhappy people.

  77. “I’m trying to figure out, do we buy a less expensive house and enjoy the financial freedom, or stretch a bit more and buy a house we’ll love. Or do nothing and wait till we have more money.”

    Those are not the only options. Another option is to buy a smaller house in a good location; ideally, it’s big enough for you now, and as your kids get older and you need more space (or add more kids?), spend some of the money you saved by buying a smaller house and build an addition.

    I suggest as you househunt, you consider how amenable the smaller houses are to additions, e.g., lot size, placement of the house, whether floor plan lends itself.

    But more generally, I suggest you prioritize location and all that entails (commute, school district, other job opportunities, etc).

  78. “We prioritized lot/location over home quality details. (The cabinets were cheap and are falling apart; no closet door upstairs.)”

    Those are good examples of issues that can easily be addressed fairly inexpensively.

  79. My/Mr WCE’s aunts/uncles are in their 60’s/70’s, they are all comfortably retired by rural standards and the earliest to retire have spent 20-25 years in that state, thanks to eligibility at age 55. They like having the level of structure in their lives that they prefer rather than structure imposed by their employer. My central Iowa aunt/uncle camp, have volunteered with Habitat for Humanity, are active in their church, including running the refreshment stand at the fair for one crazy week each year, and are active with their grandchildren and now great-grandchildren. (I hope I am up for toddler care at 78 like my aunt is.) Another uncle, the retired manager, volunteers with the condo board and advising prospective small business owners.

    My aunts were minimally employed, so retirement wasn’t a great change for them (they still do housework and manage the family calendar) but my uncles mostly like the freedom to do what they choose. Maybe people who are unhappy in retirement have trouble finding things they like to do, or are so financially constrained that they don’t have money for even local travel/camping.

  80. “I suggest as you househunt, you consider how amenable the smaller houses are to additions, e.g., lot size, placement of the house, whether floor plan lends itself.”

    I agree. We bought a smaller house but it was on an over-sized lot and a good/great location. We later added on and remodeled when we could more easily afford it. But I have to say that there is an intangible quality about a house that must make me feel right before I would consider purchasing it.

    Old Mom — I can relate to almost everything you wrote.

  81. Size, location, budget?

    Location, budget, size. Not having the size you want is tough, but location is so much more important, IMHO.

  82. “A consequence of late family formation is often retirement from formal work at the same time as the kids go away “

    The exact timing of my retirement is likely going to depend, to a large extent, on where DD goes to college.

  83. “Not having the size you want is tough, but location is so much more important, IMHO.”

    You can change size.

  84. “Location, budget, size.”

    I agree. Size is the easiest to change, location the most difficult.

  85. WSJ had a nice article a few years back that said you can get used to anything in a living situation except a bad commute. The crappy kitchen or shared bedrooms may chafe for awhile, but they stop being a daily drain after awhile. A bad commute just keeps on making you sad. Also, there is often no way to fix a bad commute.

  86. I actually feel better and I look better (I think) vs. 5+ years ago because I have more time to focus on what I eat, working out, and personal grooming. I barely had any free time for exercise, or shopping when I was working full time, traveling and I had a young child. My health was not good even though I was younger because I was not getting enough sleep and I was so stressed all of the time. I had an eye twitch that just wouldn’t quit and I had a lot of diet soda and other garbage to get through each day. I definitely look older, but I know how to hide it better with makeup and I recently started to dye my hair since I started to get a few grays. I am now able to run on a regular basis and I added Pilates this summer so my body is in the best shape since before I was pregnant. I still have some joint pains in the morning, but Pilates has made a HUGE difference in how I look and feel.

    The other thing that keeps me feeling a little younger than I actually am is having a child when I was over 35. There are a few reasons for this including my involvement in my community. I spent a lot of time this week in our elementary school because of a fundraiser. I spend a lot of my time during the week with adults that are younger than me. I don’t have the same types of discussions with my own college friends When I have discussions because most of their kids are in college or already working. They’re not spending most of their time thinking about how to raise more money to buy more legos for K classrooms.

    Also, I am aware of current music, pop stars and shows, social media, etc, etc – all because I have to keep up with a young teen. I would never know about half of the stuff I know if I didn’t drive around teens all of the time.

    I can still get away without reading glasses, but I know the time is coming soon because I can’t always read the phone number on the back of my insurance cards etc.

  87. Mooshi – I know that some people don’t adjust to retirement. However, I spend my days almost entirely with retired people and other 55 pluses who are not retired, by reason of my age and the condo population and my activities, and these are people of all walks of life and income levels. Remember, I came to prosperity pretty late on the journey. The entire point of my post was to challenge the assumption that so many people make that the a successful retirement involves something close to a working person’s level of daily structured or semi structured activity and external focus, and that leaving the workforce is going to be some sort of grim life transition that should be delayed as long as possible, and that a “second act” is not just an option, but a prescription. There are plenty of people who don’t do anything “worthwhile”, who have no grandkids to care for, and are happy to be relieved of a busy life in retirement. Everyday stuff expands to fill their days. And they don’t have to push themselves.

  88. Providence, regarding location, what level of commute do you consider reasonable? I have a 16 minute commute without childcare dropoff/pickup (figure 20 minute with walking in from the parking lot) and a 10 minute commute (with same parking lot) wouldn’t affect me much. Commuting by bike is the main option I lost with where we live, but I rarely commuted by bike when I could.

    My kids school is 6 minutes away by car and they ride a school bus. In middle school, they could probably ride bikes but they don’t seem ready for that in elementary school. Commute to high school will be a drag due to long bus ride but Mr WCE or I will likely drive them at least some of the time and then let them drive when they are licensed.

    Regarding stretching the budget, you have an impending drop in childcare expenses if your system works like mine. (Preschool is cheaper than infant/toddler care.) It seems reasonable to account for that in your financial planning.

  89. “There are plenty of people who don’t do anything “worthwhile”, who have no grandkids to care for, and are happy to be relieved of a busy life in retirement. Everyday stuff expands to fill their days. And they don’t have to push themselves.”

    This describes my MIL perfectly. She is killing her Goodreads reading goal, but she’s not doing any meaningful amount of volunteer work or second career type hobbies. She watches her grandkids occasionally, has a couple of weekly standing lunch/dinner dates with friends, spends time with adult kids who live nearby. She tells me non-stop how nice it is to have time to just slow down and relax after so many decades of running ragged after a brood of kids and working as a HS teacher. This are types of comments that I get from all my retired relatives, including the early retirees.

  90. Providence: I echo everyone else on the location. I’d try and find something a little bigger so you don’t feel like you have to move in a few years. Maybe 1,800 sq ft ranch? We bought a fixer-upper, but we’ve stayed in this one house our entire married life. It got cramped a bit when the kids were growing up, but now it’s perfect. Best of luck!

  91. I don’t know how you other parents with college aged kids do it. I am not an emotional person, but I feel melancholy that DS1 is gone. I have less laundry and cooking to do, and I miss taking care of him. I miss our activities. DH and I are happiest with our full family. It’s a big adjustment. I’m not mopey all the time, and I am happy he is having such a great time, but it’s like there’s this limb missing.

  92. Location isn’t just about the commute, it’s also about every other place you go and everything else you do. I love having the supermarket, Target, etc. within 5 minutes. We’re reasonably close to the downtown amenities – for example, if we go to a Rockies game, it takes about a half hour from the time we stand up to leave until we pull into the garage. The kids’ activities were usually fairly close. There’s so much more to location than how close you are to work.

  93. I think a lot of the desired activity level during retirement depends on introvert/extrovert tendencies. Introverts are more likely to be happy puttering around the house and extroverts are more likely to be happy volunteering, working a part-time job or such.

  94. Denver Dad makes a good point about location. We know people who moved (within town) to be closer to their kids private school or to the pool, because of daily swim team practice. Regarding grocery stores, knowing if it’s important to you to be able to “stop by” is important.

    I occasionally make pizza dough, go without ingredients and seek recipes that use canned/frozen ingredients because going to the store is a hassle from where I live. But I do that even though I work practically next door to the grocery store. With childcare/bus schedule, i don’t have time for even an extra 15 min for a grocery store stop in my day.

  95. “I plan to keep working until they cart me out. I am not unusual in that – it seems that a lot of our faculty stick around until they croak.”

    I’m curious– do those faculty continue with full teaching/research loads all the way until, as you say, they croak? Would you, at some point, cut back on your workload, or perhaps take a sabbatical?

    At my alma mater, several profs I knew retired, but kept offices in the CoE, and often taught one class per semester to help out the department as well as to keep active, albeit at a lower level.

    My plan is to retire as soon as:

    -I’m eligible, due to accompanying eligibility for health insurance and retirement plan payouts.

    -I know kids’ college educations, at least through bachelor’s degrees, are addressed financially (i.e., earlier if DD gets generous merit aid).

    I may adjust that a bit if there’s a benefit, e.g., wait until the beginning of a calendar year so I can contribute to a Roth IRA for that year.

  96. I think we will retire sooner rather than later. It will depend on our work situation, and of course health insurance.

  97. “I actually feel better and I look better (I think) vs. 5+ years ago because I have more time to focus on what I eat, working out, and personal grooming. I barely had any free time for exercise, or shopping when I was working full time, traveling and I had a young child. My health was not good even though I was younger because I was not getting enough sleep and I was so stressed all of the time.”

    This gives me hope.

  98. Ditto Kerri re: giving me hope.

    A few more pieces of info on my house woes: We’re not having any more kids and we’re only considering locations within ~25 min of both of our jobs. I’ve done an hour long commute before and won’t go back. So really, it comes down to budget/size/niceness of house and timing. Although, even though we’d have more downpayment if we waited a few more years, I’m not sure it would really make me want to spend all that much more on a house.

    Rhett – is your PITI % question based on before taxes or after?
    Meme – I think I’m leaning toward what you describe. As much as I love the idea of buying a “forever house” now, there’s no reason we couldn’t start small and decide later if we wanted to go bigger or stay put.

  99. @ Houston – I wonder if some of that is because the family feels incomplete with it being 3/4 of you home? Maybe it’s when the youngest one launches that you feel you’ve moved into the next stage. Now you feel like you have one foot in and one foot out of parenting and it’s unsettling?

  100. “As much as I love the idea of buying a “forever house” now, there’s no reason we couldn’t start small and decide later if we wanted to go bigger or stay put.”

    I suggest you stay open to either possibility as you househunt.

  101. We prioritized location and neighborhood. Kids can walk to elementary school and for middle and high schools the bus drops them off at their elementary school so they can continue to walk home. The stores that we frequent daily are a 5 minute drive and our offices are a 15-20 minute drive. Even with my office moving it will be at most a 30 minute drive through the suburbs. Location had such a big impact on quality of life for us.

  102. Lark: Maybe. I hadn’t thought about that. I think my foster dogs will replace my kids. : ) I already warned DH

  103. Providence, we’ve moved a lot so my experience isn’t typical, but I’ve found that “ideal” can change over time and my advice is to do the best you can and don’t sweat it too much trying to find a “forever” home. School principals change, and the entire character of the perfect elementary school can be shot to pieces. Cities widen roads, and suddenly your perfect neighborhood opens onto a busy 4 lane highway but they didn’t put in a traffic light that allows you to turn left, and everything is to the left. Your kids can walk to middle school, and then the district adds the perfect magnet school for your youngest, and it is 30 minutes away by car. You are young. No decision you make now is irredeemable. Do the best you can, don’t overextend, and see what you want to do in a few years. Moving kids is not a disaster. In fact, it can be great for kids.

    Houston, I empathize. I don’t mope, but I’m happy when I have all my chicks in the nest.

  104. Providence – we lucked into a great neighborhood. There are a mix of homeowners of different ages but most importantly there are a bunch of same age kids as my own. Most days there is someone to play outside. My neighbors have remodeled their ranch homes or when their kids are older have moved for a bit and completely gutted the inside of their homes. No one has left mainly because they can continue to live through different life stages in their ranches.

  105. Providence, I would prioritize location first. I would include in that (1) how busy the street is and (2) how much of a yard you would have. That was my #1 complaint about our last house – the street was too busy for the kids to go in the front yard. Also we had to watch them like hawks when we were getting into the car to make sure they didn’t run into the street.

    HOWEVER, I would also offer a countervailing argument: stay put until you find what you want at a price you can afford. IME moving with kids is *miserable*, I wouldn’t have wanted to do it when the kids were any younger, and I am glad we only had to do it once!

  106. Houston, I empathize. There is a hole in the house when the college kid is gone, and when she is home it feels like all the pieces of the puzzle fit together.

    The other kids are at an age where much of the hard caretaking is done. Last night we had dinner and there was conversation and warmth and companionship. I am really having a hard time visualizing life being better when they are grown and gone.

  107. Thinking of what Houston said, I will have a few years between each of my kids leaving, enough time to adjust. I did have quite a few years pre kids with just DH and myself. We had busy and happy lives, I think after years of being parent in charge, I could go back to that.

  108. We had a very active life pre-kids. Part of the decision to have kids was a sense that we had kind of done all the stuff we wanted as no-kids adults. I don’t see that as being any different post-kids.

  109. Houston and others who miss their kids off at college, I think the advice from above that “it gets easier” applies in most cases. Moving from one stage to another is always a bit tough for me. And coincidentally, the Grown and Flown post today was about filling an empty nest with a pet.

    “we had kind of done all the stuff we wanted as no-kids adults”

    Okay, this helps me understand your view on retirement. Most retirees I know seem happy. They come in different varieties, some with PT jobs but most without. But in any case they’re not vegging out in front of the TV.

  110. One of my favorite retirees I know drives a school bus. In her 70s! That schedule would seem horrible to me, but she loves it. She does both morning and afternoon runs. Don’t worry, she gets tested every year on her driving skills. She lives in an adult community apartment complex, and she’s out a few times a week dancing — square and country/contra. She’s been widowed for at least ten years and thankfully enjoys good health.

  111. Completely off-topic random vent: I am so sick of hearing people say “see what I did there?” after making a witty remark, or someone responding “I see what you did there.”

  112. @Houston – I imagine it is also a big adjustment. My aunt struggled last year when my cousin first went off to college, but last weekend I was talking to her & she said now in the 2nd year, she is really content with this new stage. Your DS has only been at college for a couple months, right? I’m sure I will be sad when DS goes off to school as well.

  113. Houston –
    I sympathize. Different situation for us since we have 3 kids so when the oldest left there wasn’t quite as much of a difference. Actually, we probably had to do more once he left since he had been the one driving all 3 of them to school. Middle did not yet have his license when school started in the fall, so I drove the 2 of them to school for most of that year and DW was on pickup after practice. There was other driving/involvement, too as the DS3 was only in 8th grade.

    We really noticed the change when DS2 went to college leaving us with just 1 in the house.
    But it was really a step-down for us:
    – DS2 left (quieter); DS3 in 10th grade
    – DS3 got his license about 1.5 yrs later (on time), another step down as he started to more, not all, of his driving to school/work/events
    – DS3 went to college (2 months ago) but had been doing so much for himself the preceding ~ year that the house had gotten gradually more quiet over that time.

    We’ve honestly been so busy with other travel, some visitors, getting together with friends that the last couple of months have flown by, and given what’s on the calendar I expect things to be busy thru at least mid-January. Then maybe we’ll feel like the house is empty.

  114. “Providence, we’ve moved a lot so my experience isn’t typical, but I’ve found that “ideal” can change over time and my advice is to do the best you can and don’t sweat it too much trying to find a “forever” home. School principals change, and the entire character of the perfect elementary school can be shot to pieces. Cities widen roads, and suddenly your perfect neighborhood opens onto a busy 4 lane highway but they didn’t put in a traffic light that allows you to turn left, and everything is to the left. Your kids can walk to middle school, and then the district adds the perfect magnet school for your youngest, and it is 30 minutes away by car. You are young. No decision you make now is irredeemable. Do the best you can, don’t overextend, and see what you want to do in a few years. Moving kids is not a disaster. In fact, it can be great for kids.”

    +1. Our location wasn’t awesome when we decided to put the kids in daycare the next county over. But as soon as they got old enough to walk places themselves (6 to grandma’s, 8-9 other places), it became ideal. When the kids leave, it’ll be too big and likely too far from downtown and have too many stairs. Etc.

    One of my pet peeves with shows like House Hunters is when the young couple with a toddler says “no stairs!” or “I must have carpet so snookums doesn’t bonk his head!” I mean, if you’re worrying about aging in place or disability, it makes perfect sense. But toddlers toddle for basically a year, and they are largely made of rubber. I recall how overwhelming that period was (DD started walking at 11 mos., and by 1 year she had graduated to running — and never stopped), but it is still short-sighted to make a long-term decision based on a temporary situation.

  115. @MM: I think you have a particular situation that is very likely to be appealing to long-term work and the folks who prefer that.

    First, I think your general area is going to attract the more driven types, who are more likely to want to work and achieve and are also more likely to define themselves based on their work and achievements. Compare to, say, WCE’s upbringing — folks who wanted to do something different left and moved to places like NYC for the opportunities.

    Second, I think your work environment can be particularly appealing to many to keep doing for years.

    — Sure, you have to teach annoying classes, but once you are a tenured professor, you get to research stuff you’re really interested in.
    — You don’t have to teach in the summer and have significant holiday breaks. Note that I am not saying you “don’t work” during those periods — my mom’s a prof, I know the life — but those breaks are for the stuff that interests you, which can be reinvigorating instead of exhausting.
    — You get paid sabbaticals every XX years (my mom’s was 7 yrs). What I wouldn’t give to have that kind of break right now to refresh my energy. . . .
    — You don’t have to be in an office from 9-5, or 8-6, or whatever every day. My mom worked her ass off, but she did a lot of it from the comfort of her home.

    I really think that folks who have that kind of job don’t necessarily get the grind that comes from being in an office or job site and doing the same thing (that someone else chose for you to do) day-in, day-out, 8-10 hrs/day, for 40 years or so, with only a couple of weeks vacation. I know you have some sense of that from your work in industry, but it’s hard to judge how that piles up when you do it for decades. Honestly, I thought I’d work at least part-time forever until a few years ago. But after 25 years of doing this, I am tired in a way that I never anticipated being. I don’t intend to sit on my butt for the rest of my life. But I absolutely plan to take at least a year after I retire to decompress and to figure out what I really want to do next — and whatever that “next” is, it is going to have a lot less schedule and structure than my current life does, as I need to release my inner “P” (in Myers-Briggs terms).

  116. When early retirement is discussed, by LfB and others, I don’t assume that early retirement can be in the cards for me, due to Mr WCE’s heart health and the late birth of Baby WCE. But the idea of a job on campus, working standard hours 9 months of the year as an academic adviser or instructor for senior engineering design, appeals to me. Not sure what else I would do in the rain and by that stage, I expect either the 401(k) will be adequate or it won’t be- contributions won’t be a big deal.

  117. We get a letter from a local realtor at least once per year asking if we’re willing to sell our house because it’s a popular neighborhood for young families. The last one said must have a walk out back yard because the family has young children. We have about six steps down from our deck so we were out (and not looking to sell anyway) but DH and I were laughing about this. Not only is that not something in a million years I would think about because it is such a short stage but also our neighborhood is super hilly so almost no one has a walk out backyard.

  118. LfB, you make a lot of good points, but you should realize that the whole sabbatical system is disappearing. Even in the good old days, one’s ability to take a sabbatical depended on outside funding in most cases – I can remember when I was a kid, my father’s sabbatical funding fell through at the last minute, so he lost that semester. We have sabbaticals in our union contract, but they are dependent on Dean approval, and I have never seen anyone in my division ever take one.

  119. Houston, I really feel for you! I hope to change my own life when DS is in college, largely to avoid what you describe. Even now, I’m happy that he’s getting along well at school, and not the outsider texting his mom from school anymore, but I can even miss that sometimes.

    Providence, I don’t think your kids will ever take up/need more room than they do now when a lot of their play involves large motor skills and supervision. In a few years, they’ll head out on their bikes or play in the yard without you, and much of their at-home play will be much more easily contained, as they move from easel/trains table/playhouse/tent to coloring books/lego/dollhouse to drawing or paint set /programing/cozy chair.

    Atlanta, walk-out basements?

  120. WCE said “But the idea of a job on campus, working standard hours 9 months of the year as an academic adviser or instructor for senior engineering design, ”

    Academic advisors are usually considered administration and work 12 month contracts. I am seeing more and more of those instructor positions, but be aware that they are off the tenure track, and usually don’t pay well. They exist someplace between adjunct and professor and are usually year to year contracts.

  121. MM, you’re at a teaching college, right? I certainly have friends in academia who get research grants for semester or year-long projects, and don’t teach during that time. I also know some who prefer to add in extra teaching, perhaps at overseas locations during school breaks. I can see how either, or the choice between them, could be less stultifying than following bosses orders for decades.
    Laura, I’m a little mystified at how the legal profession works. I thought you were partner. Doesn’t that give you more latitude in deciding how your time will be spent?

  122. Mooshi, that sounds like the positions at the local land grant university. It’s possible to negotiate for 9 month academic advisor roles for reduced pay- by that point, I won’t be supporting kids anymore, just wanting something to have health insurance and keep the bills paid.

  123. “I certainly have friends in academia who get research grants for semester or year-long projects, and don’t teach during that time.”

    Yeah, that is a standard sabbatical. I don’t know anyone, even at R1’s, who can do those outside of a sabbatical year, though. My friends at R1’s, when they get a research grant, can usually buy out one course. And in CS, that is getting harder to do everywhere, because all the departments are stretched so thin.

    Over in bio, the setup is really weird – there are a lot of people on contracts where they get half pay and have to make up the rest on outside grants. I am glad CS doesn’t work like that!!

  124. Right, that’s a sabbatical. I have friends at teaching colleges who were surprised when their dean (who did *not* come from academia–combo Golden Parachute from BoA and good ole boys landed him the spot) refused to let them buy out their teaching, even with fairly prestigious research grants. But otherwise, it seems to me that the main limitation on people being able to take sabbaticals is funding. I know a number of people who routinely buy out a course or two, and do lots of research. There doesn’t seem to be even the idea of “once every 7 (or any other number) years”.

  125. WCE – I know people from business who liked/were good at Math. After 20+ years in business when their kids were grown they went on to become high school Math teachers. That gave them the summers off, they were in demand as teachers of Math and it gave them income with health benefits. They had their pick of schools so enjoyed teaching.

  126. “Laura, I’m a little mystified at how the legal profession works. I thought you were partner. Doesn’t that give you more latitude in deciding how your time will be spent?”

    Hahahahaha. No, it just changes the boss from “that evil partner who calls at 5PM on Friday needing an answer by Monday morning” to “that damn client who calls at 4:30 PM on Friday needing an answer by Monday morning.” :-) Plus the added obligation to keep those client calls coming in to keep everyone busy.

    I like it much better than being an associate (I like being involved in the strategy), but my practice is still fundamentally being at someone else’s beck and call.

  127. ” thought you were partner. Doesn’t that give you more latitude in deciding how your time will be spent?”

    ha ha ha ha ha

    Back in the old days – 80s and earlier? – that is how it was – and in some countries – Latam – maybe still is. Not any more.

  128. Over the long weekend, we had dinner with a bunch of parents of DS’ HS friends. Other than DW and me, only one other parent there wasn’t an empty nester.

    One mom, a college prof, told us that now that her kids are gone, she’s going to take up an opportunity to teach in Paris for a year. She said she’d had similar opportunities over the last 20 or so years but always turned them down because of the kids.

    Mooshi, would something like that be a possibility for you?

    BTW, her husband was musing on what he’d do with her gone. Learning to surf was one thing he was considering.

  129. “BTW, her husband was musing on what he’d do with her gone.”

    Uhhhhh, take leave and go live in Paris for a year??? Seems like a no-brainer to me.

  130. “Mooshi, would something like that be a possibility for you?”

    We have a campus in Rome and someplace else in Europe. But I couldn’t do it for two reasons: I have an employed husband whom I would not care to leave for so long, and my department could never spare me (or anyone else) – same reason they would never approve a sabbatical. I am not that into party abroad programs anyway.

  131. Finn – my department does not offer courses at our overseas campuses. What student would want to suffer through a CS course while on party abroad?

  132. MM, a friend of mine just did 2 weeks with Fulbright in Russia. She’s an English prof (and has published some in German studies). I have no idea who covered her classes at home, but she did some lecturing in English lit classes there and her kids could stay with her husband and go to school as usual. Something like that could perk things up for you without overturning the whole apple cart/taking sabbatical/leave. The friend I mentioned before who is at an R-1 who teaches quick courses during breaks does not go to party courses; they’re through the Dept of Defense, and he teaches his real deal usual courses. That option doesn’t seem to allow for the cultural exchange that Fulbright does–he does just like the military and stays on base, doesn’t get out to see the locals much. But it’s apparently a rush, and the money’s good for a geog prof.

  133. Not take leave; she’ll still be teaching a full load. But she will be living in Paris.

    Finn, LfB meant the husband would take leave and go with her. But I can see where that would not be financially possible for a lot of people.

  134. Mooshi, the mom I know is at local flagship, which does not have a campus in Paris. So my guess is that she’s on some sort of visiting professor deal, which I believe flagship U participates in regularly. I remember taking a class there from a prof visiting from RPI, and another from a prof visiting from UICU.

    Perhaps your college has a similar relationship with other colleges?

    Another thought is that once the nest is empty, if you’re in good shape financially, you could consider teaching or doing research at a different institution, perhaps one that would facilitate teaching at other locales.

    “But I couldn’t do it for two reasons: I have an employed husband whom I would not care to leave for so long”

    Does your DH also plan to work until he croaks?

    I plan to retire before DW (I’m older). Once I retire, if she has a chance to work for at an attractive location (with her current job, most likely west coast, or perhaps Asia), I’d go there with her.

  135. “the husband would take leave and go with her.”

    The husband is staying here. As mentioned, he is considering learning to surf. He also mused about the possibility of taking boarders while he’s the only one left at home.

  136. “Does your DH also plan to work until he croaks?”

    We have 3 kids to put through college, and he likes his job and line of work. I can’t imagine him wanting to retire unless there were health issues.
    And as I said before, my department cannot spare anyone. We are swamped.

  137. Sorry to miss this interesting and timely topic; we were enjoying a short family holiday in Dublin. When we took the whole family to Australia just after DS1 finished college, we thought that would be our last family vacation, as the kids began their own working and family lives. But the babies had their own holiday with the other grandparents so everyone was able to travel together once again. (We went to Ireland around 2005 on a forced march with DH’s extended family on a mini-bus, but this was SO much easier with ages 20-27 than ages 8-15.) I hope that we continue to have the resources to take such trips again before we get too old and creaky.

    Houston, it does get better, although there is no question that the adjustment takes time, especially with the first departure. I never heard of the FB group Grown and Flown, but keep in mind that these folks are not randomly selected and their experiences aren’t necessarily representative.

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