New parents and new retirees have more in common than you might think. Both groups experience life changes, often greatly anticipated. Planning, parties and yes, even due dates.  Ideas abound about what it will be like and we look forward to the day our life will change.

Our lives do change, that’s for sure, but not necessarily in the ways we expect. Both groups find they are displaced from their every day lives.  Beyond the obvious of not having to go to work, there are other aspects  we aren’t prepared for. A change in identity, isolation, lack of a regular schedule to name a few.  .

Retirees and new parents both face changes in identity

A new parent must accept that they are no longer an adult only responsible to themselves. For evermore, they are parent. Retiree moves from “productive” members of society to …consumers? The shift from one state to another can be challenging.

The western cultural identity is tied into our work identity and what we produce. It gives us our place and often our social circle. We form many decisions around our career and the people we are connected to through them. While we look forward to vacations and holidays, they are time outs rather than our actual daily living. Unlike our European counter-parts, North Americans often have only a week or two in which to enjoy this non-work time. It is not good preparation for the years to come.

It’s true that new parents and retirees are at the opposite end of the age spectrum and their reasons and experiences of staying home are quite different.However, the experience of isolation is a shared one.

Neighbors at work? Welcome to Suburbia Siberia.

Instead of getting up to go to work, now the day extends into one in which you may not see or talk to another adult for hours. Even if you do know your neighbors, most are at work. Welcome to “Suburbia Siberia”!

Then there is the daily structure and what you feel you have accomplished at the end of the day. Just as no one is interested in how many dirty diapers you changed or how long the baby slept, likewise yard work, dog walking or house cleaning don’t hold much interest for those not participating. They are facts of life done in isolation and don’t hold the conversational ball for long.

In the early days and weeks, the lack of structure and isolation can create a lot of stress for all those involved.

The unspoken realities of new parenthood and retirement

Expectant mothers hear stories of the wondrous moments of this new chapter; of the joys of their new infant. Few talk about the exhaustion, the grind of work and the need for adult interactions.

Retirees, on the other hand, receive a message that finally they will be able to do all those things they have wanted to do. The promised land of non-work. For most of our working lives we are told to save, save, save so we can enjoy our post work lives. And, as we enjoy our yearly vacations, we may think of how great our retirement will be.  No alarm to get up to, no boss to answer to and perhaps even the sheer joy of not being a part of the daily commute.

Ask someone what they plan to do with their retirement and many will list favourite hobbies like golf or fishing; connecting with friends more often and travel. It sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? Until we realize that vacation and retirement are different. While it is very satisfying to get outstanding projects done and book a golf game mid-day, neither are meant to be life long activities.

Before reality comes knocking at the door, seek out resources

What’s the solution then, in either case?

If the change in circumstances has yet to occur, seek out some resources. Find others who are also entering your life change. Get to know them. Find out more about what’s happening in your own community. Become a tourist and get set to discover new people and places that might satisfy your interests and need for adult time.Consider volunteering.

If you have already waded into the ocean of change, allow yourself some time to get used to it all.

Settle in to your new routine. Create a schedule for yourself, as much as possible and focus on the best part of your day.Don’t rush back to work because you can’t figure out how to fill the holes. Or can’t stand the isolation. And, resist the urge to spend all your free time on social media.  While meant to connect you to others, it can tip you over into a depression and the fear of missing out. Social media displays the highlights, and keeps you sedentary when being active is more likely to improve your mood and feelings of connection..

Regardless of which end of the non work spectrum you may find yourself, be assured that there are many adventures awaiting you. Time, planning and the willingness to create them are the only requirements.

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