July 20, 2010

Does Family Matter ?

A post from several years ago dealt with an article in the Times of London. Its premise was that retirees are happier with good friends than good grandchildren.

I think the argument is silly. The answer is both friends and family are delightful and important. Maybe the author was trying to make a case for keeping things in balance; that is a legitimate point. Maybe the paper was just trying to sell a few extra copies. But, whatever the case, it prompts me to write the following.

Grandkids can be an absolute breath of fresh air.They can remind you what is was like to be very young. They can remind you what it was like to see each day as an exciting period of discovery. They can remind you what it is like to have total trust and love in another human being. They remind you of the amazing capacity of the human mind to grow and question.

They can also make you very glad your kids are grown and out of the house. They can make you glad that you can play and explore and accept their love.....and then go home to peace and quiet.

Family Importance

Leaving the grandchildren importance aside for now, I want to talk about family. I know I have been blessed. My family is rather small, but very close. We all live in the same area now that our children decided several years ago that being with family is more important than better weather, prettier city, even friends. So, they moved back to Phoenix from Southern California.

My Mom and Dad lived here for over 20 years until their deaths. My son-in-law's brother and some of his children are here. So are his parents. If your family interaction isn't good I have just described your nightmare. All I can do is suggest that you do all in your power to try and heal any divides.

During your working life, the nuclear family is your focus. If you are single, your co-workers, maybe a married brother or sister in another city are your family. When you retire, the people you are related to are what you have to work with. As much as you think you will maintain all the friendships from the job,  that is unusual. It is much more likely that you will move in a different direction, at a different speed, and with different motivators than your former co-workers.

American families get a bad rap from the media. TV shows with happy families are not in vogue. Movies without a seriously messed-up child or parent or next-door neighbor as the dramatic focus don't often succeed.  Novels based on families like the Waltons don't make the best seller lists.

I think that is a real shame. My experience is that the families I know are functioning well. There are bumps in the road in all families but I don't see the massive amount of dysfunctional behavior I am lead to believe exists. I am not Pollyanna. Drugs, sex among 10 year olds, bullying in schools, various addictions, texting instead of actually talking to someone....I know things are not the 1950's and Beaver Cleaver. (where many of the problems existed, we just ignored them).

"Family" comes in all different shapes and configurations

Support System

I can tell you that as you move into retirement, family becomes a critical part of your support system and your ability to be happy. You don't necessarily have to live in the same town. You don't have to see them as often as I see my family members. You may not even be related to those who are your "family."  But, in whatever arrangement you find yourself, these relationships matter. They matter a lot.

Set as one of your goals as you go on this retirement journey to nurture and protect the interactions you have with the people who love you the most.  

After 17 years of retirement, one of the parts that never gets old is family closeness. 



  1. I am lucky like you to have a fabulous family--as small as it is. I am so happy to live just 1/2 hour from my dad, who is also one of my best friends.

    I saw a similar article from a more recent study: http://www.gre.ac.uk/pr/articles/latest/a1817-friends-not-children-and-grandchildren-could-be-the-key-to-a-happy-retirement

    I didn't really take it to have any disrespect for having kids and grandkids, but rather to point out that when retirees are polled about their happiness, having a strong social network had a large influence. Whether someone had kids or grandkids just didn't impact retiree happiness (negatively or positively). Good news for those of us that never had kids but have lots of friends . . .

    P.S. So happy to have found another retirement blogger--I've added you to my blogroll.

  2. Thanks for the comment Retired Syd. A group of friends you can lean on is vital. It is too bad that most of of us have lots of acquaintances but very few really close friends. We all need A social network of real people, not just computer buddies. Since it seems as though everyone under 35 only communicates by texting, what does the future hold for interactions with actual human beings?