I’m thinking a lot about retirement lately, despite the fact that I’ve got another 13 years to go until I’m eligible. Why? My mom is retiring in 59 days and like me, her work identity is center to who she is as a person.
I’m the daughter of a working mom. This simple fact has certainly shaped my perspective on career and family. Donna’s worked for Jendoco Construction since 1965 as a secretary and for the past several years, as their office manager. For my entire life, she’s been connected to the projects, the bids, the owner and his children, the “guys” in the office, and her coworkers. I’ve been to company picnics, Christmas parties, and sadly, funerals. Her work life has largely influenced who she is as a woman. Her closest friends were made at work, and maintained after many of them moved on. These are the women I grew up studying, the women I most considered and wondered about as I became a young woman.
I’ve watched my mom worry over every detail at work, including a decision about pantyhose. Yep, the girls in the office didn’t want to wear pantyhose and my mom insisted. Each time I entered my own work place without pantyhose, I guiltily thought of my mom. After all, Pearl, Mom’s office manager of the sixties would never have allowed it! Those were the standards set for her and she believed it was her role to maintain that standard. She’s also worried over every job, every bid, every letter–always expecting the best performance of herself and of the women she managed.
She’s taught me a work ethic, a loyalty to the organization, and a dedication to the job. Donna Lee’s also taught me that giving 100% effort on every task is the only option. Now that my mom’s retiring, I wonder how she’ll let it all go. The worries about each bid and document completed–what will she fill that time with?
I hope she fills it with longer walks. And more time to read. And coffee with my dad. And many, many trips to New York to see us and to Virginia to see my brother. And shopping. I hope she takes the time to do nothing and to allow herself to feel good about doing nothing. To write in the journal I gave her for Christmas and to fill its pages with every memory that enters her head.
Most of all, I hope she finds the time to breathe deeply. And that the breathing gets much easier. I can’t imagine my life without my mom in it. She’s my dearest friend, my champion. She’s the one who always thinks the best of me, who really listens to every word. I’m looking forward to the opportunity for more time with her.
Mom, I hope you breathe deeply and easily. You definitely deserve it.