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Retired with Husband
Superwoman’s New Challenge
by Mary Louise Floyd



If you thought boomers gave up cause-based protesting with Vietnam and the civil rights movement, just try telling them they’re senior citizens. Haven’t you heard of real age, man? The generation that refuses to grow old began turning sixty in 2006. But wait, that’s not old. Not anymore. It’s the start of this generation’s second adulthood.

The year 2006 marked the beginning of an unprecedented social change: 3.4 million members of America’s largest and most influential generation, the baby-boom generation, turned sixty and began the countdown to retirement. This number will accelerate until 2024, when all 77 million boomers will have followed. From the way our country is acting, you would think a great gray wave was about to engulf the American landscape and leave an outnumbered workforce struggling to support a nation of geriatric dependents.

The boom generation’s retirement is the subject of studies by Health Services Research, the Congressional Budget Office, the Economic Policy Institute, the National Institute on Aging, AARP, Stanford University, and Cornell University. In many regards, the consensus is doom and gloom: this generation’s retirement will bankrupt Social Security and Medicare, stagnate the nation’s economic growth, create a skilled-labor shortage, and make health care unaffordable. Boomers, so the predictions go, will leave all this in their wake as they sell their financial assets and take to the road in their RVs, until they dead-end in assisted-living facilities or nursing homes paid for by the next generation.

Retiring Superwoman (capitalized as a persona in this book) has a different vision. She dismisses these prophecies because she knows outmoded assumptions are being used to predict the results of a demographic shift for which there is no precedent. Boomer men generally followed the same life’s script as men a couple of generations ago. But where in these prophecies is the late-twentieth-century phenomenon, the woman who proved she could hold down many and diverse roles (wife, mother, housekeeper, gardener, cook, family social chairperson, volunteer) and be a full wage earner? Believe me, she won’t be spending her retirement playing shuffleboard. Nor will her husband.

What the prophets of doom call the “boomer retirement time bomb,” Superwoman sees as a starter’s gun and mile-markers for meeting her new challenge: setting the pace with her boomer husband to redefine retirement and the human experience. With Superwoman as team leader, motivator, change agent, and coach (never boss), this husband-wife team will use corporate reengineering strategies (right out of the workplace they just left) to change their me-generation to their re-generation. In their first adulthood they had objectives-based plans to provide direction and achieve goals, using thoughtful strategies to overcome challenges in the new global marketplace. In their second adulthood they will find direction in another objectives-based plan, proposed here in Superwoman’s get-it-done voice.

In Retired with Husband, I write as one of many retired superwomen, but I’ve done my research and mean to speak for and to the approximate 17.4 million superwomen of my generation, especially the first wave of 4 million superwomen born between 1946 and 1950, who are now poised for retirement with their boom-generation husbands. (These “partnership marriages” comprise 45 percent of my generation’s marriages.) This book is an optimistic, go-for-it rebuttal to the doom-and-gloom forecasts about boomer retirement. Indeed, Retired with Husband intends to be an entertaining and ultimately inspiring blueprint for this large segment of our nation’s largest generation. It is not about approaching the end of life; it is about approaching a new life. I see our sixtieth birthday as a defining moment for the country because boomers will begin redefining retirement and redefining the human experience.

As my Superwoman persona blazes the trail in this new frontier, she forges a lifestyle change for second adulthoods, which are blessed with unprecedented longevity and a mentality ripe and ready for new challenges. To her fellow retiring superwomen, she says, as I did, “Here’s your new challenge. Lead the way!” To her retiring husband, she says, as I did, “Wait till you read what your wife has planned for your retirement!” To her Gen-X children and succeeding generations, she says, as I did, “Follow our precedent into the exciting new era of second adulthood!”

Part One describes the evolution of the superwoman icon in its unique historical and cultural context. Because retirement removed her from just one of her workplaces, Superwoman doesn’t suffer from the same loss of identity and life’s purpose felt by her husband. She looks at her retirement as a second chance at life, like reincarnation without the death part. After analyzing her husband’s predicament, though, she realizes that her first task must be to convince him that he is not the boomer in winter, that he is going through a mere hiatus at the top of his game. Using corporate reengineering strategies, she devises a plan to help the couple achieve their second adulthood and enter an unprecedented new era of human existence. This plan begins with the couple’s retirement vision, advanced in Part One.

The structure of the rest of the book is derived from the vision. Four long-term goals support the vision and make up Parts Two through Five. The four goals are to be a transition survivor (Getting a new identity in real time); to be the luckiest person in the world (Giving and getting love); to be all that you can be—and haven’t been yet (Reengineering your lifestyle); and to be the starlight (Setting the pace for twenty-first-century second adulthoods). These four goals are reached through a total of ten objectives.

The goals and objectives are presented in chronological order as the couple restructure their lives to achieve the vision. As the goals and objectives are addressed, so are the challenges inherent in fulfilling them. These challenge sections (see list on page ix) reflect baby-boomer values that must be overcome before this generation can seize its second adulthood. As coach, Superwoman realizes that the transition may be especially difficult for her boomer husband, and therefore several challenges address issues from her husband’s first adulthood: his identification with his job and several hardwired aspects of maleness that were nurtured—if not created—during his coming-of-age. Other challenges are parodies of boomer obsessions; still others are indictments of a zeitgeist created by boomers and characteristic of their generation.

From the challenges, Superwoman develops reengineering strategies that methodically lead to the accomplishment of the objectives and goals. The strategies, listed on page x, are as varied as those used in the reengineered workplace; some are presented as scenarios, some as skills assessments, and some as role-playing.

Part Two (Goal: be a transition survivor) begins with a discussion of the challenges husbands face in transitioning to retirement. Under Superwoman’s leadership, her husband becomes a transition survivor by letting go of his job-based identity and creating a new identity in his real time of retirement. He accomplishes Objectives 1 and 2 (Take charge of time and Conquer new territory) by changing his formerly scheduled job time to self-structured retirement time, substituting home for office, and becoming half the home management team.

Part Three (Goal: be the luckiest person in the world) discusses the second goal husbands need to meet before they can move on to achieving their second adulthoods, and it involves giving and getting love. In achieving Objective 3 (Listen with heart), Superwoman’s husband masters a skill that is the basis for a loving and lasting relationship with his wife. With her as change agent, hubby practices listening empathetically and responding with one of the four A’s: acknowledgment, affirmation, appreciation, affection. As the meat in the intergenerational sandwich, Superwoman’s husband achieves Objective 4 (Put the works in that “sandwich” ) by learning to anticipate his parents’ future needs, to share in parental caregiving, to validate the lifestyle of his grown Gen-X children, and to help the two generations flanking him to connect with each other. He learns in achieving Objective 5 (Go for the gold and silver) how to enrich existing friendships and cultivate new ones. Here Superwoman calls in Aristotle as an outside consultant on the three levels of friendship. Her purpose is to motivate her husband to work toward the highest level of friendship.

In Part Four (Goal: be all that you can be—and haven’t been yet) the couple make self-empowering lifestyle changes. With Superwoman as team leader in the pursuit of Objective 6 (Learn from first adulthood), they adopt a retirement wellness program based on common sense and sound medical and nutritional advice, not on the hype du jour, and they put fun back into exercise. Just in case diet and exercise don’t reflect their inner boomer, they explore surgical and nonsurgical cosmetic procedures. Beginning with Objective 7 (Move out of your comfort zone) Superwoman addresses the retired couple’s need for further purpose beyond the jobs they held in their first adulthoods. Here is where their second adulthood will begin to live down their generation’s me-generation label. Through a role-playing strategy, Superwoman activates the retired couple’s responsibilities to eradicate prejudice, commit to lifelong learning, and practice and teach the responsibility that comes with choice and with the privileges of American citizenship. In pursuing Objective 8 (Find your giftedness) the couple pursue the latent creativity unrealized in their first adulthoods. First, though, Superwoman has to convince her husband of his giftedness, which is waiting to be tapped, and of the possibility that his previous job(s) may not have been his life’s magnum opus. She uses the multiple-intelligences paradigm, and the hypothesis that inter- and intrapersonal gifts develop with age, to motivate herself and her husband to manifest their innate gifts heretofore unrealized. She particularly urges some form of community service or volunteerism.

Finally, in Part Five (Goal: be the starlight), Superwoman brings her reengineering of boomer retirement full circle. With Objective 9 (Redefine work—and retirement) the problem to be solved is that her husband still can’t find a retirement identity as fulfilling as his job-based identity. This section explores what opportunities may be presenting themselves if a worker shortage is indeed in our future because forty-six million Gen-Xers cannot replace seventy-seven million retired boomers. The ramifications of a skilled labor shortage in the near future give boomers the options of retiring, continuing to work, or combining the two. These options open up exciting new variations on the theme of wage earning and personal fulfillment. Never one to rest on her laurels, in Objective 10 (Seize your re-generation) Superwoman cautions us about that as well—to vigilantly seek self-improvement beyond our successful transition into second adulthood. Routine, even a new one, can become boring. She reminds us that this generation has eluded trend analysis at each of life’s stages, always shaking up the status quo and leaving major change in its wake. The emergence of superwomen was one of these changes. They are the element unaccounted for in the doom-and-gloom predictions of the boom generation’s retirement.

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Under her leadership, Superwoman and her husband are charting the new frontier of second adulthood—the opportunity to live another adulthood of unprecedented possibilities. As they reengineer their second adulthood by conquering its challenges, they redefine themselves and their generation. They are guided by Superwoman’s blueprint and their core values, which embrace change as opportunity for growth, accept accountability for choices, and recognize the unique giftedness of every human being. Like the Jedi Master Yoda, members of the re-generation will be recognized for their wise and trusted counsel. They will have learned how to use their force and how to empower their successors. They will earn the reputation of humanitarian as the concerned and mentoring generation. Ultimately they will change forever what it means to live, retire, and age in modern America.

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Excerpts (above and below) are from Retired with Husband: Superwoman’s New Challenge by Mary Louise Floyd (VanderWyk & Burnham, $24.95), copyright by Mary Louise Floyd. For use in reviews and commentaries about the book, permission is given for reproduction of up to two hundred (200) words with proper citation of source.
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Vision Statement

We envision our retired lives to be an exciting second adulthood that presents unprecedented, limitless opportunities for our generation. We will positively adapt to change so that we can enjoy the challenges of the future, enrich our relationships, and appreciate our lives. We accept the obligations of discovering our unique gifts and of contributing positively to society. We will set the pace in redefining the human experience.

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Excerpts (above and below) are from Retired with Husband: Superwoman’s New Challenge by Mary Louise Floyd (VanderWyk & Burnham, $24.95), copyright by Mary Louise Floyd. For use in reviews and commentaries about the book, permission is given for reproduction of up to two hundred (200) words with proper citation of source.
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Sample Strategy:

Implement Managerial Style Change

You can’t just suddenly say one morning, “Honey, I’m going to show you how to do the laundry so that you can do it from now on. So pay attention.” No, you need to use a principle that is axiomatic to learning: a new skill is learned best when it is linked to existing skills or when the learner feels motivated to learn an entirely new skill.

Given that the average superwoman always did the grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, home organizing, laundry, and most of the yard work herself, you’ll probably have to abandon the idea of linking the acquisition of these skills to others he has learned. Instead, you’ll have to take the motivation approach. But, you ask, how do you motivate someone—especially your husband—to take on routine household tasks? Prepare an inspiring, go-for-the-gold motivational speech and use the managerial buzzwords he bought into a decade ago. Tell him to think of his home as the organization he just retired from. Then tell him the following:

• You want to transform your home’s managerial style from its hierarchal leadership (your doing everything) to situation leadership and network management (his doing half).

• You want to empower him with the management of key home functions (cooking, cleaning, etc.), which will maximize productivity under his special expertise and which the home is eager to implement.

• An assessment of his skill potentials via test trials will reveal which household responsibilities can best be addressed with his expertise. You’ll assume commensurate responsibilities, and you know that some responsibilities require teaming and some are best outsourced.

• He needn’t feel threatened (you’ll leave your mother out of this); as a crucial quality control item, no permanent changes will be made until the outcomes of the test trials are measured (against your specs, of course).

• Feedback will be timely, and processes will undergo cross-functional feedback.

• Most important, there will be a focus on process rather than product (if he wants to cook, you’ll eat it, by golly, regardless of how it tastes); on results rather than inspection (you will put up with the three-day-old uncleaned litter box if the cat will); on involvement at all levels rather than only those of his choosing (he can’t choose all outdoor activities, especially in January); and on long-term commitment to continuous improvement (it may take a while longer to teach an old dog new tricks).

• Nothing is sacred (that’s an understatement) to the household organizational structure that has been in place for thirty-some years. Indeed, it must change to ensure growth and success in the new life ahead for both of you.

• The major objective is for him to find personal fulfillment in his new workplace.

The leadership in this home management reengineering falls to you, of course, the current CEO of the household. Let’s face it. Your motives are twofold: First, you want your husband to have a new base of operations over which he feels control and from which he derives his new identity. If he can’t sink his anchor in retirement waters, he won’t feel comfortable exploring new horizons. Your second motive is selfish (yes, Superwoman may join the rest of the world’s mere mortals and be a little selfish). If he doesn’t take on some of the household responsibilities, they’ll still fall to you, and you’re ready to move on! In short, it profits both of you to reengineer home management. After he buys into this partnering, you can initiate the reengineering process. And—quick—before he gives you the new and improved weed whacker for your anniversary, you’d better get this transition process under way!

What are the specific skills needed by your husband to achieve the objective of conquering this new territory? They are the routine requirements of home management, commonly known as housework. Despite technology having simplified these tasks, the home remains the place where we address the human needs of food, clothing, and shelter. Under these categories fall the human tasks requisite to meet these needs. To wit, under food are the procurement and storage of groceries, and the meal planning and execution. Under clothing is laundry. Under shelter fall the cleaning and organization of the home and its yard. So, which of these tasks does hubby want to assume? To determine this, you can’t mandate or assign, nor can you ask. He’ll think you’re trying to establish grounds for divorce. Remember the strategy in reengineering. You and he must first assess his skills and preferences so that he feels he’s a contributing partner in the restructuring process. This will give both of you a feeling of ownership in the ultimate product, an efficiently run household you can both identify with. Give it time—at least a year. And don’t make this assessment seem like a test. Keep a sense of humor, and make it fun! Read on. . . .

Excerpt is from Retired with Husband: Superwoman’s New Challenge. Copyright 2006 by Mary Louise Floyd. All rights reserved.
Excerpts are from Retired with Husband,
Copyright by Mary Louise Floyd. All rights reserved

© VanderWyk & Burnham. All Rights Reserved.