Love and Relationships

[Two Pronged] I’m newly retired, but am not in the mood to spend time with my family

Margarita Holmes, Jeremy Baer

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[Two Pronged] I’m newly retired, but am not in the mood to spend time with my family

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'My wife feels she never has enough time with our apos. After five minutes of seeing them, I do not mind if they go home.'

Rappler’s Life and Style section runs an advice column by couple Jeremy Baer and clinical psychologist Dr. Margarita Holmes.

Jeremy has a master’s degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in three continents, he has been training with Dr. Holmes for the last 10 years as co-lecturer and, occasionally, as co-therapist, especially with clients whose financial concerns intrude into their daily lives.

Together, they have written two books: Love Triangles: Understanding the Macho-Mistress Mentality and Imported Love: Filipino-Foreign Liaisons.

Dear Dr. Holmes and Mr. Baer:

I am a disappointment to my wife and my daughter. I am 79 years old and finally retired. My wife and my daughters were looking forward to this day. They thought we would spend many days on vacation, even on a cruise, but I am not in the mood. I tell them to go ahead – we have enough disposable income for them to do it without worrying. But they say it’s not the same.  

The same with babysitting. My wife feels she never has enough time with our apos. After five minutes of seeing them, I do not mind if they go home. I think that hurts both my daughter and my wife.  

My wife also complained that the only time I seemed excited was when a former co-worker who took my place came over for help in his last project. She says I should embrace this stage of my life…but what to do?


Dear Ivan,

Thank you for your email.

Retirement means many different things to many different people. Some prepare meticulously for the great event and have plans and projects lined up for implementation, whether they be cruises, spending more time with the family, learning new languages, getting a degree, writing a book, taking up a long cherished hobby, etc. Others take a break, contemplate their navels for a while and then deciding how to spend their time. 

You are very forthright about how your family views retirement but not at all forthcoming about your own ideas. Clearly your view of retirement is at odds with that of your family but you tell us nothing further, perhaps because you have nothing planned and no notion about how to spend all these extra hours now that you have no job to fill your time.

You ask: “What to do?” If it really is the case that you have not spent any time considering your options or simply have no idea how to spend your days, why not consider going some way to meeting your family’s expectations? Instead of sitting at home and disappointing everybody and feeling sorry for yourself, take at least one vacation or cruise (half the joy for your wife will be in the planning, and who knows, against all the odds, you might even enjoy it!) and spend a bit of time with your wife, daughter and the grandkids. With the apos, it is more a matter of being present than 100% engagement, which it sounds as though you can leave to your wife. Read a book, surf the net on your phone, watch a movie with them – just being in the room is often enough to assuage the family 😀.

An element of compromise today will give you time to consider your options and perhaps open your eyes to more possibilities than you can imagine right now. It will also indicate to your wife and daughter that how you live out your retirement will take them into account also. 

Best of luck,
JAF Baer

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Dear Ivan:

Thank you very much for your letter. I so appreciate Mr. Baer’s answers, especially for the following points that he brought across: 

  1. You have literally not told us your views about retirement. Figuratively is another matter; and
  2. Until you find a better alternative that is amenable to all, why not try and do things their way half of the time? You are beating yourself up by telling us what a disappointment you are, at the very same time as you are beating yourself up by not doing anything to rectify the situation.

Many people disagree with the psychologist’s penchant for the argument: “You deny it, but SUBCONSCIOUSLY that’s what you said/felt/did,”

I don’t (disagree) because, admittedly, I am one such psychologist. In fairness to me, I am often proven right – which is not to say I will be right when it comes to you – but here goes: 

You probably didn’t plan for your retirement because you hated to think about it. To retire at 79 is much later than most people do and the word “finally “ at the end of the sentence implies many things. One implication could be: “(I have fought it, until) finally (I no longer could).”  

Indubitably, you loved your job, thus your wife’s observation that the only time you seem excited was discussing work issues with a former colleague.

I am so sorry you miss working, but it need not be an either-or thing, right? You could be retired and yet send out the message that being a consultant (whether paid or not) would be a welcome invitation. You could even volunteer to do this at an organization to help junior/younger people in the same field as yourself.

Bucking this same either/or mentality would be ideal when taking up one of Mr. Baer’s suggestions: enjoy the five minutes with your grandchildren, enjoy the cruise, because you have explained to your family beforehand that you will be doing many of your own things, like brainstorming with former trusted colleagues re: what you can do, or trying out activities you may be at the moment feel merely a “mild dislike” for, but keeping an open mind about its possibilities in the future. 

While bucking the either/or situations may be merely suggestions, the following is a must:

Talk to your wife (and daughter, if you want to). Your retirement may have fostered different expectations. I think your wife (and maybe even your daughter?) saw your job as “competition” for your time, attention, and yes, passion. Sharing how you truly feel might widen all your perspectives so that all will be more relaxed about your still loving what you did (and hope to continue to do in some measure) and finally spending not so much more time for, but more eagerness about, the things you do together.

And no, it need not be getting down on the floor and playing with your kids. The presumption that all grandparents want nothing more than to be with their apos could well be a myth perpetuated by their parents who hoped to be guilt-free when they strong-armed their parents to be babysitters (joke only).

Embracing your “retirement” is not a “one major step/conversation and you’re done” event. It is an adjustment not just for you, but for your entire family. Speaking from your heart might make it easier for all of you; at least you won’t be second-guessing each other, all the time feeling like you’re walking on eggshells. 

Now that you are all in a different head space, revelations about yourself, your family, your entire life can be shocking – even painful – but may mean more fulfillment in the end. 

Wishing you the best of luck,
MG Holmes


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