Who hit the ‘pause’ button on retirement?

Photo of  smiling little boy with his grandfather, enjoying in the amazing nature. Grandfather is carrying him on his shoulders.

During the recent school holidays I was walking past a playground on my way to a meeting.

The thing that struck me was not so much the number of children enjoying the fresh air on pleasant Queensland winters day, but the number of older people caring for those children.

Sure – there were a few younger mums and dads, but there were significantly more ‘old folk’ who I suspect were all grandparents.

It is great that grandparents are able to spend quality time with their grandchildren. After all – we often hear people saying that their reason for retiring is so they can spend more time with their families.

However; I wonder how many grandparents are spending their retirement years taking on the role of full (or part) time carer for their grandchildren.

Not too misunderstand me though – but I got to wondering – are grandparents spending more time caring for grandkids out of a sense of ‘obligation’? Or would they rather spend their time in retirement being, well, more selfish?

Retirement is a precious and finite time. We are generally living much longer than our own grandparents did; but as we age we become more limited in our ability to pursue our own adventures – like trekking through Patagonia, spending a year in Provence, or perhaps, significant time spent under the Tuscan sun.

However, what if yourplans for pursuing some of these lifetime dreams are put on hold out of a sense of obligation to your family?

There is a very fine balance between helping out your family, and ignoring your dreams altogether.

I’m not sure where the answer lies, but having an open and honest conversation with yourfamily should be at the top of the list. You need to nip any sense of obligation (or duty) in the bud – and sooner rather than later.

By all means, help your family whenever you can. Everyone will benefit from it, and your grandchildren will reap the rewards from spending time and learning from their elders.
Do it because you want to, not because you feel you have to. In addition – negotiate time for yourselves. Whether it is a week, a month – or even a year – pursue your dreams and ensure that nobody puts your retirement on hold.

However – it doesn’t stop with caring for grandchildren. Today’s retirees have become the ‘carers of both the young and the old’.

Many people entering retirement find that they not only have grandchildren to share their time with, but they also have one or more parents (or older relatives) in a frail stage of life.

Caring for older parents, and the sense of obligation that follows, can place considerable pressure on relationships at a time in life when you should be looking forward to pursuing your own dreams and passions.

Once again – the answer has to be in establishing a balance. Balancing your needs with the needs of family.

You cannot put your retirement ‘on hold’ indefinitely. I feel the answer lies in having open conversations with family members and agreeing to ‘share the load’ in a fair, and equitable, way.


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