Retired or RE-tired?

I have a number of friends who’ve recently retired from careers and jobs that they’ve held for a couple of decades. Along with the luxury of suddenly living life free from the shackles of a morning alarm clock, these friends are receiving financial compensation in the form of retirement pension funds. To which I say, “awesome!”

On the flip side of that excitement for my friends, I’m experiencing a fair amount of … dare I say it? Jealousy. I recently “retired” from my decades long career of full-time stay-at-home mother. From the time my oldest child was nearly eight, some 28 years ago, I was able to become a full-time stay-at-home mother. In that 28 years, I dedicated my life to staying at home full-time raising my three children. For 13 of the last 16 years, that has included regular after-school care, as well as, full time care during holiday breaks and summer breaks for my only grandchild.

Not only was I passionate about my “career,” it was the role I was created to fulfill.

During the past 28 years, I’ve cooked, cleaned, laundered, chauffeured and counseled my three children from birth until they each left for college. These weren’t the only tasks I completed on a regular basis. My job description included, but was not limited to, changing more diapers than I can count; I wiped up buckets of snot, spit and vomit; I walked the floor with crying, feverish, cranky, teething babies and toddlers and administered love, compassion and medicine as needed. I’ve spent immeasurable hours doing homework with kids who struggled with math, science, spelling and/or sentence structure. I’ve grilled those same kids who were studying for tests and spent countless hours working on diorama’s and science projects – so much so, that at this point in my life I feel as though I should, for all intents and purposes have a Master’s Degree in childhood education by now. Sadly, I do not.

I sat sentry over these four lives as they had surgeries, broken bones and unexplained illnesses. I’ve logged thousands of miles and so much time in the car carrying these children back and forth to sports practices and games, sleepovers, birthday parties and trips to the mall for the sole purpose of “just hangin’” that my car should have its own zip code. I’ve paced grooves in the floor waiting for these same children to return home from their first dates, boy/girl parties, junior and senior proms and trips back and forth to college – simply waiting to get the okay that they arrived safely and weren’t stranded in a ditch somewhere or taken hostage by a psychotic escaped convict. I’ve spent so much time on my knees in prayer for these children I should be nominated for sainthood.

I’ve cried gallons of tears watching as they broke up with the love of their life, had a fight with their best friend, grieved over the loss of a grandparent or favorite pet, crammed all night for finals, had a meltdown over teenage acne, flunked a test or a class, lost an athletic competition, got engaged, broke an engagement, got pregnant, had a baby of their own, left for college, left for grad school in another state, went on missions trips to a third-world country, planned weddings and got married.  Tears, tears and more tears – both theirs and mine shed in equal measure as I suffered right alongside them on so many occasions too numerous to count.

And this list is but the tip of the motherhood iceberg. Full-time stay-at-home mothering is an endless cycle of growth, challenge and unwavering commitment. My children are 26, 28 and nearly 36 years old; my grandson, 16 years old. The learning curve never stops as our children become fully-functioning independent adults who eventually leave home. We must adapt our parenting style to accommodate children who now battle many of the same adult problems that we ourselves deal with.

So, while my friends may be able to retire from their careers, my chosen career continues to evolve – my career will never allow me to completely “retire” from the rigors of full-time stay-at-home mothering. I will never retire, I’m just … tired, over and over again. So technically, I’m re-tired.

Would I like a nice fat monthly pension check for all of my years of faithful service? You bet your sweet *%! I would! In a perfect world, there would be financial compensation for mothers who unselfishly sacrifice themselves for the many years of devoted service behind the apron … behind the stove … behind the washing machine … behind the wheel. But alas, to date, the only compensation we receive is the satisfaction of knowing that IF we’ve done our job well, our children will leave the nest as strong, independent, caring, compassionate hard-working individuals who are able to take what they’ve been taught and pay it forward so that they too will become responsible, loving and committed husbands and wives and mothers and fathers of their own someday.

True, it may not be money in the bank, but it’s a satisfaction that can only come from a lifelong job done well. No regrets, I say, only amazing children that I have been blessed to care for and nurture and mentor. I feel fortunate that God hand-picked each of them for me and me for them. Perhaps someday instead of financial compensation, I will hear those much sought after words from my Heavenly Father … well done my good and faithful servant, well done!

Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it. Proverbs 22:6 (NIV)

Blessings in Christ and as alwayshappy reading!
Kathy K.