After 30 years working full time in the home, I’m ready to call it quits
Q. I have worked full time in the home since our marriage when we were both 23, now 30 years on I am ready to call it quits. I have never earned a salary in this time and was prepared to forgo this when the children were little.
As our youngest has settled in his first job, I have started to feel now that I don’t have a life, at least not an independent one and I feel that I can’t continue like this.
I have talked to my husband. He is dismayed by it all and thinks that I have some age-related illnesses. He has always been the earner and has provided well for the family, but now I don’t want to be part of this. I am dreaming of setting up my own business or going back to college and can see myself being successful but as yet I have no clear idea of what to do.
My husband says that I should be planning for retirement but I see at least 30 years stretching ahead where I am determined that I am going to have a fulfilling life. I feel very alone in this and certainly don’t find myself surrounded by like-minded people. So, my fear now is that I may get stuck and not be able to move forward with anything, because on the outside my life looks all sorted, though I know I do not want to settle into an early retirement with grandkids filling my life.
A. You are experiencing first-hand what the feminists and many women have been tackling for decades: the right to have a meaningful life in whatever manner you choose.
You sound as though you have energy, motivation and a yearning for a fulfilling occupation. This is threatening to your husband and may indeed be challenging to those friends around you as change is often resisted as it has ripple effects.
It is good that you spoke to your husband but it sounds as though no understanding was achieved – he thinks you have an illness. This would be amusing except it is so serious for your relationship.
Your tone suggests that you are determined to move ahead with development but you must also decide if you are going to include your husband in this. The experience of many mature students who engage in courses is that their partners feel left out or left behind in the new life of the college student.
It may be possible to involve your husband in your new plans and this might involve understanding what his protests are really about and how he might support you in this endeavour.
He is coming to the end of his “provider” career and he may be feeling threatened and his identity might be suffering as a result. He may be worried that your new focus may take you away from him and he will be abandoned in his retirement years.
While none of this is your responsibility, as a couple you must both do what is needed for each partner – he may need discussion on how he can still feel needed and useful and you need support for your next adventure.
Neither of these needs are impossible to meet but it may require a different type of communication and you might be more able than him right now. If you can manage some patience, take your husband for walks or dinners and enquire about what it feels like to be him at this stage in his life.
It is likely that you are the only person he will really talk to about this and so treat this as a privileged position. In time, he will feel connected and understood by you and this will allow him to let down his defensive position. Part of his role as a husband has been to financially support the family and now perhaps you can share this burden with him.
As you look towards what you might do with the next active 30 years of your life, there has never been a better time for choice and adventure. The colleges are all embracing the older population as they see the demand for further education in this population increasing. Setting up a business requires experience and self-awareness and it seems that you have this in abundance. In order to kick start your search for what to do next, you might visit a career guidance professional who might do some psychometric tests that will indicate areas of strength for you.
Then it might be a good idea to look at colleges in your area and see what excites you or strikes a chord with you. As you embark on this new venture you will make new friends and perhaps new business alliances. This is such an exciting time, make sure you enjoy and savour it and only keep those old friends who have your back.