Take charge of your health. Sign up for HealthyWomen newsletters:
Healthy Aging

Nothing Routine About Transitions

Share on:

By Marcia Mangum Cronin

Just when I thought my life had settled into a nice routine, things changed. Now the challenge is not to let these transitions derail my health routines.

First, let me say that life for me has rarely been "routine," but things had stabilized a bit in the midlife years. For the first 30 years or so of my career, I worked for newspapers, usually working nights, weekends, holidays and any other time normal people didn't want to work. I struggled to fit in a social life, fitness workouts, eating and sleeping on anything resembling a normal schedule.

About 10 years ago, I left newspapers and began freelance editing. One of the big advantages was the flexibility to support my two daughters and their numerous activities.

Gradually, a routine evolved. Most mornings I dropped my kids off at school and went to a women's gym for a 30-minute workout. It wasn't the most vigorous workout, but it was one I could fit into my schedule without fail. It maintained my baseline fitness.

After my workout, I would work until the kids came home from school, touch base with them and then work some more until time for their afternoon or evening activities. The beauty of freelancing was that I could take work with me. At soccer training (which, in my family, occurred almost daily, sometimes twice a day), the other parents joked that they could always spot my car because it glowed from the light of my laptop.

But I didn't always work through training. If the weather was tolerable and I wasn't swamped, I would walk while my daughters trained. On good days, I'd add some running, stretching and maybe even pushups or lunges. It helped keep my weight steady, and I felt like it set a good example for my daughters.

But one day I blinked, and my older daughter went away to college. The next day (or so it seemed) my younger daughter started driving herself to soccer training. Now I was left at home with nothing to do but sit at my computer or, worse, on my couch. And eat. And drink. And stare at TV.

My husband and I are trying to weather the transition by walking the dog together, but it's not the same. Gone is the "car time" with my daughters and gone are the two hours a day that I had to myself to walk, read, work, shop, nap … all the "me" things I did while my daughters trained.

And, here's the kicker: My friends who've been through this transition assure me it will only get worse. When the younger one goes to college in another year and half, I will have more time on my hands than I know what to do with, but I'll be lucky to have the emotional energy to do anything.

At a recent book club meeting, four of my friends who've successfully weathered this transition said that the year their youngest went to college was the hardest year of their lives. They told tales of dragging each other out of bed to go to yoga. The key was to get out of the house.  

Already I find I'm not getting as much exercise and I'm not sleeping as well as I did just a few months ago. I'm feeling a little blue. I'm bored with my life and not sure what the next stage holds. My friends assure me this is part of the transition. With the support of friends, I trust I'll get through it.

The first step for me is to keep a close watch on my physical and mental health. Keep walking. Keep working out with my gym buddies. Practice more deep breathing. Maybe take up Pilates or yoga.

Most important, keep telling myself that it is a transition and things do get easier on the other side. That's what my friends tell me. And what are friends for if not reassurance?

Subscribe to Midlife Matters by Email


Don't panic. It gets easier, I promise. The transition turns into day-to-day living, and you find other things to take the place of life as you once knew it. And here's the thing: don't think they'll never come back. Both my sons made a return once they graduated (and then, I yearned for the quiet house I had gotten used to!)They're gone again (in graduate schools, this time) - and I am still convinced they'll resurface once again...

Hi Marcia, your article hit home! Although my kids are still in high school and one in elementary school, I find I am in a transition period. My youngest switched schools and I've immediately lost my impromptu contact with many old friends. Also, it seems that since the other two have been in high school (a different one from their grade school friends), I've also lost touch with those friends. I've never been one to plan things and always enjoyed spur of the moment events. When kids are younger, parents are brought together because of their events, etc. As they get older, they start doing more on their own. I, at least, had my dog of almost 8 years at home, but then she died suddenly, so WOW, I found myself feeling really depressed and wondering where I am going with my life. The last five years have also evolved around dealing with and recovering with cancer. That was my life. Thank goodness, it's over, but that was my focus. So now I'm confused about what my focus should be.

I am a freelance writer, but not as ambitious as yourself and now that the kids are older, cancer is behind me and I'm feeling better, I'm ready to get out there and do more. It's a little scary though to figure out what I want to do with myself. I'm not ready for full time, but would love to do more freelance or part time work.

Anyway, I'm rambling, but just wanted to say thanks for sharing your story. It helps to know that others going through a transition are slowy, but surely, getting through it.

Thanks, Sheryl. Not panicking yet--just blogging! Some of my book club friends said the same thing about kids returning. But they emphasized that it's not the same if they come back. Then you're all adults sharing a house, and you're definitely ready for them to be out on their own -- and they're even more ready. I know it will get easier once I establish new routines, but I still have 1 1/2 years before my younger daughter goes to college, so that transition period looms for about another 2 years. I think many of us feel a little lost until those new routines can be established (which can't always happen while you're in transition). BTW, I love reading your posts!

Add new comment