I have been thinking lately about next life stages. The fact is that women reinvent themselves many times in their lives and often in the same day.
Any working woman who has hit her first week alone at home with a newborn knows what I mean. Any working woman who has become instantly transformed into Mrs. somebody at parent teacher after day spent in meetings where no one knows you have a family at all knows what I mean. Any woman who has gone to a husband's Christmas party, any grandmother who sits at a birthday party being served the cake, not serving it, knows what I mean. Any divorced woman who goes to that first Christmas party alone knows what I mean.
And as I decided when I found myself home alone the first time with that first baby, you can only be happy if you do reinvent yourself.
And women do it. That's probably why we aren't the ones who have heart attacks the first day of retirement lifting the golf clubs into the car, the first day of an undirected life.
Which is exactly what happened to one of my neighbours.
Twenty years later his widow is still driving around the neighbourhood, earrings matching necklace, car window rolled down so she can stop and talk to everyone she sees.
I am entering a new decade next month and will be retiring in stages sometimes over the next five years. I love my job but increasingly only take on what I really do love, that means more time with the kids, less time with the adults.
Observing what my next transformation looks like, this is what I am picking up:
Learning to be older is partially a process of learning to be alone more. With the kids gone you can go out when you want and there is no time you have to be home. In my case, with work continuing to call my husband away on projects further and further away, it also means more cooking for one.
Looking around I can see that the cheerful older women are those who don't rail against being alone, but who get good at it. Many of those are sewers, many of them are those who appreciate and develop their female friends. If those women sew, so much the better.
I am also noting, and this is a surprise, that as you move into this next stage it is your domestic skills that are most appreciated.
After years of having those activities only on the edges of my career I wasn't expecting this, but a summer of a lot of caregiving has reinforced it.
Despite all the other things I still do, it has been the meals I have made, the children I have babysat, the mending I have done, the dogs I have walked, my canning, my sock knitting, my "how do I get that stain out" advice that has been most appreciated. Who's going to feed the cat when you are away?
Mom can do it.
Men who leave the boardroom and become dad in the baggy pants down the basement seeing what is wrong with the dryer probably feel this too.
Sure I can still discuss Syria and I still have too much work to do but I am beginning to hear the call home, at least some of the time.
I have a big work project to figure out, and I have to think it through. Today I don't have classes so I am staying at home, away from the interesting corridor chat, and setting my laptop up on the island in the kitchen. My plan is to wash the kitchen floor and make some crabapple jelly from the bathtub full of crabapples we got down from the tree over the weekend and write down my plan as my thoughts on this one come together.
I am not quite ready to take some of that jelly and leave it on desks at work, but maybe one day I will do that.