I’m a healthy, engaged, purpose-driven woman in my 60s. I consider myself an empty nester; one daughter has moved out of state and the other is in college, so it’s me and the pets. And I’m fine with that. Really. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not antisocial, and I do want to be invited to parties and group dinners out. I do want to see where my daughter is studying abroad. I just don’t want to go.
I was widowed when my kids were 6 and 8, and I believed I needed to do the work, and put in the time, of two parents. And I did, no regrets. I allowed people to think of me as a helicopter parent and did nothing to dissuade them. Life as a single mom was intense, unrelenting and lonely. I was as active and attentive as any parent you’ve ever met. I worked a couple of part-time jobs so that I could attend school functions and sporting events. I coached, camped, cheered, baked. I did everything moms from two-adult households did and more. I went out to dinner where my daughters wanted to go, saw movies they wanted to see, took them to the farm every summer—their dream vacation. Our shared memories are priceless to me. I’m not feeling old, not feeling tired. I feel semi-retired from parenting, and I’m content.
Before my husband and I married, we traveled. A lot. I was in my late 30s, he, 20 years older; we seriously considered having stamped passports a viable alternative to having children.
Now, friends and family are scattered around the country, and still, I don’t feel compelled to pack my bags. I am happy for childhood friends who are hiking the Appalachian Trail or kayaking the Colorado River in retirement. It’s just not for me. I’m not in a financial position to retire. I enjoy my work for the most part, and serving on the board of education and my other volunteer activities are very rewarding.
I don’t feel compelled to embody someone else’s idea of what their 60s should look like. Run a 10k, run a company, run to the airport, if that’s right for you. For now, staying closer to home feels just right to me.
Pepper Evans works as an independent-living consultant, helping older adults age in place. She is the empty-nest mother of two adult daughters and has extensive personal and professional experience as a caregiver. She has worked as a researcher and editor for authors and filmmakers. She also puts her time and resources to use in the nonprofit sector and serves on the Board of Education in Lawrence Township, NJ.