Road trips and me time

For 13 years I was the only driver of our family of five. At one point, my children attended three different schools and my husband and I worked at two different schools. Five people, five schools — along with all the activities and meetings to go with them – and one driver. I often drove 5-6 hours a day, 500 miles in 3-4 days, within about a 10-mile radius of home.

When our son went to the east coast for school, I thought nothing of driving 13 hours to drop him off or pick him up. I appreciated getting out of the city and having time alone to think and listen to ‘my’ music. I cherished the alone time and the sense of temporary independence.

This past Thursday, after a few years’ break, I packed up lemonade, grabbed my iPod with the same 600+ songs, and drove alone from Chicago to New York to pick up our son. Funny thing is – I had no desire to pack up junk food and, as I drove, I realized I didn’t feel the need for ‘alone time’ or ‘independence’.

As a semi-empty nester, I have plenty of both time and independence. Maybe even too much.


With our son planning to live with us for the year, our daughter home for summer break, and our other son visiting next week from college – I’m excited to have a full house with their chuckles and always interesting conversation.

But at the same time, a little voice in the back of my mind is saying, “Be sure to find time for yourself.”

I wonder if setting my own schedule, having free time, and doing what I want pretty much whenever I want – is so new and fragile that I might get sucked into old habits of putting everyone else’s needs and desires before my own.

Of course, I love spending time with my children more than anything, and I will always meet their needs, even at my own expense – but while they are doing well and not in desperate need of my attention, I am hoping to maintain a sense of balance even as they surround me.

As you create your new midlife lifestyle, do you ever wonder if certain events or situations will throw you off balance? 




  1. In answer to your question – ALL. THE. TIME. And for me it doesn’t need to be family members. I come up with a routine that feels wonderful and then, because so much of the routine is new or because it focuses on me, I forget all about my plans the very next day. But this summer, this summer is going to be different. I’m crafting a plan today for the next six weeks and I am going to honour it! Because I know that, for me at least, sometimes being thrown off balance is just another form of procrastination, another way the fear of the new keeps me from living life exactly the way I choose.
    Enjoy the time with your family… and the time for you.


    • Karen – I hope you can stick to your six week plan. I know what you mean by procrastination and I am certainly guilty of that — but I also know that I do not do personal plans well, despite the fact that I lead strategic planning sessions for nonprofits all the time. Keep my posted on how your plan goes.


  2. those were my words exactly thrown off all the time- having had family move back in with their children a few times and I am used to empty then full then empty nest and I used to struggle with it . living alone at the moment and across the road from the family means I am often putting aside me to be with the beautiful precious grandchildren, but it is not just family – days have their own agenda – what it it about plans and mice and men- I may have an idea about what I am doing and along comes another possibility – quite frankly I love this – I have learned to love the distractions because they are fleeting and I am also much better at saying I am going to have a nap a write a read now – the mantra is dont get in the way of grandma and a cup of tea. so yes thrown off balance but more then capable of flowing with it now and making it work, good luck janet and enjoy their company – how beautiful it is that they still choose to hang out with us.


    • I totally agree that it is beautiful they still choose to hang out with us! And while I’m not one to stick rigidly to schedules and I enjoy spontaneity – despite my best intentions – I sometimes get out of whack, not so much from family and friends but when I feel someone disrespects my time and space. I will visualize going with the flow…


  3. It is lovely to have your son back with you Janet but as you say, it might be easy to fall back into habits of ‘looking after everyone else’s needs’ before your own. I’m a firm believer in having personal time to enjoy doing what you love without having to worry about others. I think you will find the balance and keep your ‘freedom’ whilst enjoying your family time.
    Sue from Sizzling Towards 60 & Beyond


  4. Sue – thanks so much for the encouragement! I think so often we have an ‘me’ vs. ‘them’ mentality when really it can be a ‘me’ and ‘them’ = ‘us’. I cognitively get the importance of ‘me’ time but often, like so many other things – the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.


  5. Hi Janet,

    I love road trips and I love me time. Have not had a lot of it until I became a widow and I still feel guilty putting my needs first, although I am definitely doing it these days (thanks in no small part of having fewer responsibilities). When I think back on the crazy schedule and life I used to keep, I don’t know how I did it all.
    Like you, I also worry about losing my new found freedom by slipping back into old ways and taking on other people’s problems as my own again. I feel like I have to maintain constant vigilance. My new mantra is “not my circus; not my monkeys”. 🙂


    Liked by 1 person

  6. You are evolving and change always seems to make us wonder about then and now… I just wrote about my daughter officially starting her professional career and how that makes me alter my view of my life. It is different for me as I have my daughter age 28, and a much older step-daughter, 42, and both seem to have established themselves firmly and well in careers and stable family situations, each on a different coast. I just turned 61, wowza – cannot believe I am that old – so I am definitely not midlife unless I live to be 122, which I do not plan on doing! I once cherished the cross-country driving I did when I was involved in Peace Work and checking in on my mother and brothers in the Mid-West, but they are all gone now, and the last 2000 mile road trip I did just did not feed my creativity so, I think I have enough independence now to want or need to cultivate it through solo travel as much as I once did. But if I get off track, the tactic is still available!


    • Nancy, I enjoyed the post about your daughter’s new job! And totally get that the road trip didn’t feed your creativity. I have taken a few cross-country flights this past year (a new piece of my client load) — and have already lost enthusiasm to take on too many of these projects. I’m not much of a ‘tourist’ — enjoy connecting with people more than places! But yes, with fewer responsibilities we still have tactics available as needed/desired. Thanks for stopping by my post.


  7. I don’t have children so maybe I shouldn’t chime in but I was a kid once so… there’s that. I think it’s not only good for you to maintain a part of your new-found freedom, but it’s also important to model that behavior to your kids. After all, they are entering adulthood and need to spread their wings too. The more they see you as a person outside of their orbit , the more they will appreciate you as an individual, not just Mom Who Does So Much for Us All the Time. Although my mother is gone now, I really cherished my adult relationship with her.


    • Thanks so much for your insights. I totally agree that my kids need to see me as person outside their orbit — they are great about that! I think part of my ‘fear’ has been that they are fiercely independent and I want to make sure they see me as at least a fraction of their orbit — and so I go overboard in giving up ‘me’ time to spend with them. So far this week is working out as a nice balance….Thank you for sharing!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Yes I do! I have twin sons aged 25 that still live at home and a daughter aged 23 who moved out of home just after her 21st birthday. Both my boys work so I at least have my days to myself and find I need that time alone these days. One of my sons left his job a while back and was home for over 6 months before he found another job. Having him home here every day, along with the worry about him getting another job, through my balance right out. He has another job now and my sense of balance has been restored. I love my kids, but I also recognise that as I’ve gotten older, the need for time alone and time to do things for me has become a lot more necessary for my own sense of wellbeing!


    • So good to know that your son found another job — our worry for our children sometimes consumes as much time and energy as the actual physical time we spend with them….and I think there is a reason we have children when we are younger and grandchildren when we are older….


  9. It’s not just you falling back into the habit of being the caretaker, but it’s your kids falling back into the habit of wanting to be taken care of by their mom. I saw that happen with my son when he moved back home. And forget alone time, that happened while he was at work because we lived in a small 4 room condo at the time. Now he’s got his own place and we moved in to take care of my mom. Guess we’re living it in reverse now!


  10. Three years ago all three of my adult children lived about nine hours away. Two years ago, one moved back and it was fun having my granddaughter so close. Last year my son moved back and watching his baby boy grow up is a delight. However… it is more difficult to maintain personal boundaries when children (and grandchildren) are only a half hour away. I’m learning to maintain that healthy balance, but it is not always easy.


  11. Hi Janet! I’m like Janis and have no children or grandchildren. But life in this day and age for all of us can easily distract us and lead us “astray” if we aren’t careful. Did you ever read or take the test by Gretchen Rubin about the “Four Tendencies?” That was very helpful to me because it explained some of my personal motivations and expectations in a very simple way. (and yeah, I wrote a blog post about it!) What it did was explain how I meet (or don’t meet) my own goals and intentions, and why other people do it differently. Anyway, it was very helpful to me and you might find it helpful as well. Either way, I’ll be you have an awesome summer with your family so close. ~Kathy


  12. When I retired, we moved from the province where we were living to be closer to our kids and grandkids. I am now within 25 minutes of one daughter and two of our grandkids, and my other two kids are only the distance of a day trip away. I love being closer to my kids and grandkids!



    • So wonderful that you can be near your children Jude! I was able to have breakfast with my son in San Francisco on Sunday — just an hour, but so wonderful. Thanks for joining the conversation…


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