YOU’RE NOT THE BOSS OF ME!

I’m betting that nearly everyone has heard a young child speak the words “you’re not the boss of me” at one time or another.  Every primary grade teacher has heard those words.  Every big sister taking care of a younger sibling has heard those words.  Every second wife who has married someone with young children has probably heard those words.  They don’t come in a neutral voice either; they come from a mouth puckered up in a moving pout, with eyes flashing and glaring.  They come in defiance.  You can’t tell me what to do!  You’re not the boss of me!  I’m pretty sure I can even remember saying those words one or twice in my own childhood.  They’re common enough that there’s even a book called You’re Not The Boss of Me: Adventures of a Modern Mom

Well, as it turns out, for much of my life I have felt that there was, indeed, a boss of me; an external boss who controlled what I did, when I did it, often how I did it, and then passed judgement on it.  Teachers throughout school were, to some extent, my bosses; they had an enormous control over how about 1/3 of my time was spent.  And then after school, it was my actual “boss”; the person who paid my salary and could have enormous impact on my life with a teeny phrase like “you’re fired”.  I’ve had bosses – real bosses – for the last 30 years.  In the best scenarios, the boss and I shared similar goals.  For example, my Principal and I might both have shared the goal of providing students with a rich learning experience.  My principal might, however, have defined that richness as leading to high test scores whereas I defined it as excitement about learning itself.  Our priorities might be different, and if they are, it’s her or his priorities that rule the day.  I’ve had my share of struggles with bosses; my own tormented times when I felt that I couldn’t do what was being asked of me.  Unlike Bev, who said that knowing that her passions and hopes were not shared it was “time to leave and reinvent myself” I didn’t always have the courage or the capacity to move on to something more aligned with my beliefs when faced with mismatched priorities.  And so I’ve sometimes found myself, on days that seem particularly out of sync, dreaming about retirement.

As Hovanec and Shilton say in Redefining Retirement:  New Realities for Boomer Women:  “when you visualize yourself in retirement, you may imagine that you are as free as a bird, able to fly on your own at last, wherever your spirit takes you.”  [Hovanec, M. and Shilton, E (2007) . Redefining Retirement:  New Realities for Boomer Women  Toronto, Second Story Press).  They certainly got that right for me; I see retirement as the time when I will actually be able to say: “You’re not the boss of me” and not only mean it but actually be telling some truth.  I am grateful to those who have already written about this, and to those of you who are reading this blog and keeping me writing and thinking, for bringing me to this recognition.  This is a piece of my identity that I want to cherish and own, and at the same time it’s a piece of my identity that might be ready and able – when I am my own boss – to relax and enjoy this amazing opportunity to direct my own daily activities.

Seeing the connection – for me – between retirement and freedom to choose to do what I want to do … for the first time ever to be free to do what I want to do – is truly awesome.  As I wander through my thoughts about retirement I am learning things about what’s most important to me and sometimes I find myself a little bit surprised.  As I review everything that’s currently in my “things I need to do each day” column, and contemplate whether they’ll be moved to the “things I choose to do each day” column or simply left behind, I am sometimes surprised by my own inclination.

I wonder if this is an experience other women have had as they entered retirement

  • What moved from your “must do” to “want to do” columns (metaphorically speaking of course)?

  • How much did you plan? What just evolved?

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3 responses to “YOU’RE NOT THE BOSS OF ME!

  1. You just reminded me another thing I love about retirement. I suffer from that age-old ailment, wanting approval. Wanting people to like me.

    In the work world, what my bosses thought of me had such an impact on how I felt about myself. I love that now I am in charge of my own self-esteem. It only matter what I think about what I’m doing–not whether someone else thinks I’m doing it right.

    That’s ultimate freedom for me!

  2. Sylvia Bereskin

    Wow! I hadn’t even thought of that. I remember (so many years ago, in college) learning about “locus of control” and clearly there’s more opportunity for that to move inward as we move into the freedom of retirement. What about struggling with self-doubt though? Positive feedback from colleagues and work in general can carry us a long way on a difficult day don’t you think?

  3. That’s an interesting question. I worked in an environment that didn’t have a whole lot of feed back, good or bad, except once a year at review time. I often interpreted that lack of feedback to mean something negative, which really caused a lot of my self-doubt. In retrospect though, I think it wasn’t really intended that way, which really says more about me than my bosses.

    Being retired, I don’t make those assumptions as much, which is a good thing.

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