Recently my in-laws moved into a retirement home that will eventually become an assisted living situation for them. It was a difficult decision for them to leave the home that they had lived in for over 30 years, but caring for an aging home became more challenging than they liked.
In their new apartment in the retirement home, they have very few problems that they have to handle. One day, when we visited them, commenting on the graciousness of their surroundings, my mother-in-law turned to us and said, “Well, kids, save your money and you can do this too.”
I’m not sure that would be my choice, but for them it is a good fit. During our visit we met a number of people who had managed to have a certain amount of success in their lives. One man invented a component for the space shuttles. A woman had been a Rockette in her youth, and shared with everyone she met that she had been chosen to be the girl a milk company used to advertise their products.
As we heard about the accomplishments of the various other residents of the retirement home, I noticed that my mother-in-law had become very quiet. When I asked her about it she said, “Everyone here has done something so amazing. I just don’t feel equal to them. I haven’t done anything but raise a family.”
That hit me hard because I, too, am raising a family and while I love my family and am very proud of them as they make their way in the world, I too, tend to focus on the things that define me in the business world. And yet, my relationship with my family and friends is far more important than any amount of money I make.
For my mother-in-law’s 80th birthday, we gave her a birthday party where all her children and their families attended. She also invited ten friends and their spouses from the retirement home to attend. All throughout the birthday party, we heard about the many accomplishments of her guests.
But, I listened carefully, and what I heard more was how very fortunate my mother-in-law was to have children who loved and cared enough for her to give her a party. She became the envy of the retirement home because her children are there for her, visit her, take her shopping, tend her when she is ill. Living a successful life means more than simply making money.