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Retirement: An Unexpected Work/Life Challenge

Retirement: An Unexpected Work/Life Challenge

I started my career in the age of “you can have it all” in the late 1970’s. Over the next 40 years, my husband and I had four children while we both worked. I enjoyed my career and loved my family. But, like others, I struggled to find the trade-offs to create a manageable work/life blend. “You can have it all” was impossibly stressful! (Most likely jump starting the work/life balance movement.)

So, I was sure when it was my time to retire I’d enjoy life on a soft sofa, Bruce Springsteen music in the background and a pile of books at my side. What I thought would be retirement bliss! What I’ve found is turning the corner from work and active parenting to retirement and empty nesting is unexpectedly hard to do!

So, what’s holding me back?

It’s not for lack of planning. My husband and I set a financial goal. We bought land and built a retirement home in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Our children are all adults. Check, check, and check!

Yet I find it hard to go from saving money to getting comfortable spending the money saved. I enjoy solving problems and now I don’t have my work to perform that skill. Even though it’s what I hoped for my kids are now “adulting” without me! When someone asks what I do, saying retired doesn’t roll off the tongue.

What’s working?

It’s a shorter list, but growing day by day. Moving from our family home to the Black Hills made for a clean break. We are developing new friendships with people in a similar stage of life. Our relationships with our adult children are changing in satisfying ways as they begin careers, move to different cities, and even start to have children of their own! I’m finding I enjoy the problem solving challenges in managing our finances. And, like many other retirees, I’m continuing to work part time on projects that make sense with my experience.

What is my retirement work/life vision? 

I believe I alarmed my family this Thanksgiving. I sent out a ten page document and a spreadsheet entitled, “Menu and Grocery List,” to prepare for the feast. It had all the family recipes broken down to total quantities of ingredients to be purchased. Also included was a cooking time schedule with the necessary pots and pans (by size in inches) to be used. Never being known as the cook in the family, my sister asked, “Who is impersonating my sister?” One of my daughters changed the document title from “Menu and Grocery List” to the “Thanksgiving Manifesto”!

I’m going back to the tools I used to find the right work life blend with career and family. I’m thinking through what are my new roles in life? What are my long term outcomes for these roles? What can I do this week and what do I want in my bucket list to live the retirement life I envision? It seems that my retirement work/life vision will be more than sitting on a sofa, reading and listening to Bruce!

Karen Murphy pays forward what she’s learned about Work/Life blends through her book, “Create Your Work/Life Vision,” available on Amazon. She conducts customized workshops with corporate, civic, and community groups. Contact her at

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