The best thing about being the token male in a weekly quilting guild of nine women, including my wife, is listening to some lively discussions about family and retirement. The discussion among some of the seniors last week was about dealing with husbands who have retired or are planning to retire.
Guys, if you've already retired, you'll find this feedback very enlightening. And if you're still working but figuring out what you'll need to survive financially, you'd better listen up, too.
Retirement for some of my female quilting colleagues hasn't been a perpetual walk in the park because their husbands had never planned what they'd do with their time.
One quilter had the floor for most of the evening, and the rest of us just commented as she told her story. Her husband had a busy work life, and when their four children were growing up, she often asked him to spend more time at home with the family. He politely reminded her that there were bills, a mortgage and other expenses, and he had to work hard.
She was frustrated, but she quietly continued raising the kids and eventually developed passions for quilting and volunteer work. While he worked, she enriched her life with friends, church work and other pursuits.
Now that he's retired, this husband wants to spend every waking minute with his busy wife. They shop together, although that's not always her choice. He's always around the house, which cramps her space, and what she thought was going to be an easy life in retirement often is a minefield.
Sadly, her husband has no male friends, no hobbies to take him out of the house and little motivation to try new things. She can't even escape to her sewing room for peace and quiet without her husband asking when she's coming out, she said. And she's often tempted to stay in there.
While she loves traveling with her husband, she is planning several getaways on her own with friends. She needs those for her mental health, she said.
Another quilter jumped in and said she's cringing about having her husband retire in 40 days. Thankfully, she pointed out, her husband loves to work on cars, so she's expecting that he'll be busy doing that. But he hardly knows his way around a kitchen, she said, and will probably expect to be served evey meal.
This woman has built a well-rounded, day-to-day routine of quilting, get togethers with friends and volunteer work. She doesn't want to waste a lot of time planning recreational activities if her husband becomes bored.
Listening to these stories, I'm happy to say that I have no intention of retiring anytime soon -- if at all. First, I can't afford to retire, but if I could, the last place I'd want to be is home and underfoot. Even now, my home office is at one end of the house. My wife is at the other end, doing some social work and sewing.
We both love quilting, but only together Monday evenings when our guild meets. The rest of the time, my wife will sew and quilt far into the night and is quite content to be alone in her private space on our lower level.
I have a lot of male friends and enjoy getting together with them for coffees, breakfasts and lunches when I have free time. I find those times together relaxing and interesting and we can talk about everything from sports to politics and relationships. And our wives like it that way, because they have their own circle of friends.
I've heard from friends, some of whom retired in their 50s, that while they dreamed of regular, extended vacations and wanted their wives to become available playmates, they quickly realized that retirement life was going to be a perpetual trip. Much as travel is exhilarating, husbands and wives needed time for a normal routine.
Listening to my fellow quilters, I've come to realize that planning for retirement goes beyond financial details. It demands that husbands and wives listen closely to each other as retirement approaches and really hear what each other's expectations are.
Part of the retirement plan must be that spouses will respect each other's personal spaces and established routines. Obviously there are so many other considerations, but maintaining each spouse's self esteem and independence should remain at the top of any couple's planning list to avoid trouble in senior paradise.