I used to think there was no such thing as retirement from parenthood. But there is--there is no resignation from it, though.
Seeing my children all grown up and caring for themselves--even having the time and ability to care for others once in a while--is the signal that I could take it easy and “retire".
Making tough choices
It’s like working real hard while they are young: being there for them, choosing them over many other things that seemed so pleasurable (and not regretting it later), teaching them those things they would need to do for themselves and helping them stand on their own--all these enable us to retire and enjoy them when they’re already adults.
I made tough choices when my children were young. I chose freelance work over a more stable office job so I could breastfeed them on demand for as long as they wanted me. Except for the youngest who was 3½ when weaned, the rest took 2 years each to tire of my milk. Even my husband made choices similar to mine--having been employed only in the last 12 years. Like everything else, it wasn’t always perfect--and we weren’t perfect parents either.
We made mistakes and had disagreements every now and then (we still do), but we try to remain as open to the children as possible and share with them our thoughts and feelings. We have always respected their privacy, never opened their letters and have always knocked on their doors before we entered. There may have been times when we overstepped our roles as parents and imposed on them but we do not hesitate to ask for forgiveness.
My youngest just turned 18 and though I know he still needs guidance every now and then, I know that I no longer have to look over his shoulder every minute. I have established bridges between my children--individually and collectively--such that we could ask each other favors and not feel bad when the answer is “later” or a flat “no”. I could approach them whenever I feel I need someone to listen. I could tell them anything!
Retirement from parenthood does not mean cutting relations from one’s children--it means merely relinquishing or letting go of “parental authority”--what society considers control over our children. Even the law recognizes the time and situation when children need to be set free—“emancipated” is what they call it. We say they “come of age”--whether it’s 18 or 21, “coming of age” does not happen at a specific time for everyone (for some, it doesn’t come at all!)
My youngest is already showing signs that he is almost ready. That makes me happy. And knowing that I no longer have the energy to do it all over again, I look forward to retiring.