The Worst Thing About Retirement


There is a lot to be said for retirement.

And by that I mean, almost everything about retirement is great.

In my retirement, I’m able to sleep until 8 pretty much every day. I get to drink my coffee slowly, in my pajamas.

I haven’t worn “dress shoes” more than three times in the past four years, and those were all weddings.

When it’s rainy, I stay warm and dry in my house. When it’s snowy, I get to go out and play, then come right back in to the fire and the hot soup. I can cook to my heart’s content. I have the time and the mental freedom to learn new things, like my creaky violin and my rudimentary Italian.

I get the grandkids every day, and nothing in the world tops that.

Best of all, I NEVER have to go to meetings. There’s no paperwork and no deadlines (other than getting to the potty in time.)

Nirvana.

Almost.

Because there are a couple of downsides, too.

There’s the fact that it took less than a year for me to be completely out of touch with the newest thoughts about education. I feel left behind and dumped at the curb.

I often feel useless.

Now, don’t start with all that “but the kids need you!” stuff. I know that. My job as chief caregiver for Ellie and Johnny is the most important one I could have. I love them so much that sometimes it actually hurts. They love me back.

I know.

But every once in a while, I hear myself utter a sentence like, “Let’s make a playdoh castle for the trolls!” That’s when I wonder where my formerly intellectual self has gone.

I miss being a deep thinker. I miss having rich conversations with my colleagues about our students. I miss doing diagnostic work, and recognizing how a child was processing the world.

Most of all, I miss the feedback that came with my professional life. I miss the hugs from the kids. Those I miss the most. I miss their smiles, and the little shared jokes that came with every class.

When I was teaching, I knew that I was going a good job. I knew because the kids told me. “You’re a funny teacher!,” they’d tell me. Or, “You’re nice.” I had kids tell me that I helped them understand themselves better, or that I helped them learn how to make mistakes without feeling bad about themselves.

I miss the feedback.

A smile from a parent, a “thank-you” from a worried Mom, hearing a grandparent say, “I’ve heard so much about you!”

I once had a child bring me a rutabaga, six months after he’d graduated to the next grade. It was hilarious, a reminder of a joke that had lasted for his entire fifth grade experience.

I miss that.

And I truly miss the feedback from colleagues; working with very smart teachers and sharing lesson plans made me feel bright by reflection. Sometimes in a TEAM meeting, I’d realize that my observations helped to clarify how a child was struggling. And I knew I was good at the job.

I love retirement. I love being a stay home Nonni and baking cookies on cold days. I am happy to play with toddlers and to read familiar books while snuggled on the couch.

But once in a while, I’d love to have some of that positive feedback that used to make me feel smart.

At least there are no meetings.

24 thoughts on “The Worst Thing About Retirement

  1. As a retired preschool teacher, director, and adult educator I have maintained my membership in NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children) and have joined an open discussion forum called Hello NAEYC and get an email every day which features information and questions from teachers and others. Reading and occasionally answering or commenting on these posts are one of the ways I manage to still feel a part of the profession. I also read and comment on new NAEYC initiatives and continue to advocate for the field.

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    • That’s great! I wish I had thought ahead. I had let my Speech/lang credentials lapse when I became a classroom teacher, other wise I could still be doing a bit of testing and treatment. And because I was pretty much given the boot instead of choosing to leave teaching, I let those credentials lapse, too. I have cut off my nose to spite my face, as they say.

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  2. Oh, my..you have left out one very important facet of your retirement that is helping to define you now and will continue to do so in the future – your writing. It is articulate, reasoned and thought-provoking. Take it from me – that is your future. Keep it up and you will go far..and as for missing the companionship and feedback from colleagues, I encourage you to find a group of writers to interact with..your library or a local college with a life-long learning senior college program are great places to start and will be your salvation as you continue to “mature” and the grands spread their wings and need you less. I’m almost 76 (but don’t feel it) and treasure my writing group pals and have no plans to stop writing- ever!

    Hugs,
    Nancye

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  3. I’m still actively immersed in the world of early childhood teaching and I love it for those reasons. I’m ready to retire in a few years, but I understand I’ll feel the loss.

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  4. I would like to meet the person who has gone happily into retirement and cut all ties to what defined their lives in so many ways for so long. I know not everyone is lucky enough to have a job that was much more than a paycheck, but everyone has pieces of their past that they don’t want to divorce themselves from. I am grateful that my work was more than a means to feed and house my family, but because it was, it is so much harder to leave it behind. There are lots of good suggestions here for filling the void. It does get easier but I’m not sure that I ever want to leave teaching and learning behind. There are lots of other adventures out there, but your years of teaching will always fill a special place in your heart.

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    • I sometimes wonder if this feeling is particularly sharp for teachers? Teaching is so closely tied to parenting; I feel like I re-experienced the empty nest when I retired. And it might be even a bit more intense right now, as my time watching my granddaughter will be ending soon (baby number three is due in early April and my daughter will be home until Sept, at which point my little Ellie will be off to kindergarten!)

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  5. When I retired from teaching special education, I did some private tutoring.

    Then, when I retired from that, I volunteered as a parent advocate, advising parents of special ed kids and attending IEP meetings as their advocates. I also went over what the schools had done for the kid, and did my own testing before the meeting.

    (I did get the impression at times that the school districts were not altogether pleased with the parents bringing in a parent advocate who was a former special ed teacher.)

    It did help me keep my hand in, but I know what you’re saying about missing the kids.

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    • I did tutoring, too. It was great! Now that I have my grandkids, though, it’s harder to get out there during the day. Plus, I have to admit, I am not happy at the thought of being “not a real teacher”…..

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  6. I’m not actually retired, but when I quit my full-time job to stay at home with our two kids, I had basically the same reaction you’re having now. It’s tough to take care of small children in our homes, because there isn’t any office friendships, adult conversations, positive feedback, etc., and we are the only ones who tell ourselves we’re doing a good job. Yes, the time with our kids, or grandkids is precious and we love what we’re doing. But there are definitely sacrifices!

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