Transition. It’s a word not many of us would readily admit liking. Change of any kind can definitely be an exciting time in your life, but at the same time, it can be a slightly terrifying thing. Parenting is full of transitions and it’s up to us as parents to navigate those life stages with the grace and wisdom our children need. Mary Goodrich talks with us today about the different transitions she’s dealt with in life and how she’s navigated herself and her family through these changes.
4word: You and your husband decided to relocate following a career change on your part. What spurred your decision to transition your career?
Mary: Nearly six years ago, my husband, Greg, and I spent two weeks in Hawaii. We were visiting our son and daughter-in-law, so when we arrived it felt like we had come home. Greg was ready to move to Hawaii the day we arrived. He was overwhelmed with the contrast between the beauty of Hawaii and where we lived. The effect was powerful and loosened his life-long ties to Chicago.
Shortly after our return, Greg and I scheduled dinner to assess what we desired for the second half of our lives. We discussed our walk with Christ, our desire for purpose-driven work, and the types of environments that nurtured our active lifestyles. We playfully wrote down what we most wanted, scribbling notes with crayons on the restaurant’s paper table cover.
This top-four list, which hangs on our refrigerator door, has been a guiding force ever since. While the list has been refined over the years, our desire to serve God and experience the beauty of His world has not changed. Our relocation is deeply rooted in our pursuit of His calling. Right now, we’re headed for the Blue Ridge Mountains, but I fully expect God is not yet finished with our commitment to follow wherever He leads.
4word: As a mother of adult children, share with us how your parent-child relationship has transitioned throughout the years.
Mary: Divorce and remarriage was the fire through which many of our family relationships were forged. While there were periods of stability during my years as a single parent, there were long periods of instability and change when my husband and I divorced and later when I remarried.
All change has the opportunity to unite or blow apart a family, and in many ways, my remarriage was more challenging for my children than my divorce. I say this not to downplay the seriousness of deconstructing a family through divorce but to emphasize that the trust that bonds families cannot be transplanted without Christ. At the time, we were living without Him.
My four children, now between the ages of 25 and 30, are more endeared to each other and to us than ever before. With Christ at the center of our lives, God has built indestructible bonds. No matter where we call home—Afghanistan, Iraq, Hawaii, East Coast, West Coast, or Midwest—we are always “at home” with each other.
4word: You’ve mentioned that you raised your children to believe the world was open to them and not to think of any one place as home. Can you explain your thoughts behind this idea?
Mary: When I was young, I had a deep desire to escape my middle-class, suburban upbringing. Much like George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life, I fantasized about far-away places and dreamed about seeing the world. I married and divorced early and the instability that followed led to frequent changes to the places my children and I called home. But my desire for adventure never diminished.
When my kids were still in diapers, I took them camping, fishing, and hiking. When they were old enough to shoulder a backpack, we hiked the Canadian Rockies, bathed in glacier water, and hung food in bear bags.
While these shared experiences stripped away many conventional ideas about house and home, they also established unbreakable family ties. Today, our expectations about a sense of home are never dictated by a physical location or holiday calendar. We make home wherever we are and pitch our tents “in the land of hope,” Acts 2:26 (The Message).
4word: Do you hope to provide a “home base” of sorts for your children with your new home?
Mary: Teaching my children to explore and to follow their passion requires that I practice what I preach. My husband and I have been blessed with an opportunity to follow God’s lead to a new place. This satisfies our desire for adventure as well as our need for purposeful work.
As we settle into another new home, we do desire to be intimately involved with our children’s families, participating in the challenges and successes of raising our grandchildren. To long for a single place in which we are all physically present as a close, messy family is probably counterintuitive to their upbringing. I trust God will continue to bring us together in the right place at exactly the right time.
4word: What advice do you have for parents of adult children? Any tips or tricks you’ve learned along the way?
Mary: I tried to teach my kids to accept and learn from the consequences of their behavior. Some lessons were easily learned, like failed classes lead to summer school. Other lessons were painful with large costs attached, like hanging out with the wrong crowd leads to arrest and court supervision. In each case, my desire to nurture and protect was pitted against my boundaries as a parent.
Some of my kids were fiercely independent and charged into responsibility. But some of my young adults had difficulty accepting self-responsibility and continually pushed the limits of healthy exploration. One of the best tools for navigating the transition from teenager to responsible adulthood was Allison Bottke’s book Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children: Six Steps to Hope and Healing for Struggling Parents (2008, Harvest House Publishers).
During difficult times, my husband and I read aloud from Allison’s book, using it as a daily devotion. We prayed continually. I cried often. And God loved and protected our children beyond our hopeful imaginations.
4word: What advice do you have for someone looking to transition their career “later in the game?”
Mary: Ten years ago, my husband lost his job in advertising sales. He thought this was a career crisis, but in reality his career crisis had happened a year earlier when he admitted, after years as a salesperson, he disliked sales. As an extrovert, he loved people, so he realigned how he worked with people and discovered the perfect combination of his abilities and purpose.
Career paths are rarely straight (see Career, Calling, and ‘Pootling’ Sidways at Today’s Christian Woman). Each of us must try on a few different hats before we find one that fits our life-stage. During each stage, our skills, circumstances, needs, and desires are different. Continually assessing the fit or our careers within these changing dynamics is important and helps us recognize when a transition may be needed.
Conducting life assessments every couple years is beneficial when starting a career or considering big changes, like returning to school. Unlike a performance review, a life assessment examines your strengths and weaknesses as a Christ follower, volunteer, mother, wife, and daughter. It should assess your health and include a thorough examination of your finances. Using a quick assessment tool, such as a Wheel of Life, allows you to determine what is important to you and quickly identify where successes and challenges lie.
After completing my master’s degree (see Is It Worth Going Back to School at Today’s Christian Woman), I believed a step up the career ladder was the obvious move for me. It didn’t take long for me to discover my wheel was lopsided, and I was working outside my strengths. It was a great lesson, during which I learned many beneficial skills, but a realignment of my career path was the only way to create lasting success.
Career transitions, no matter when they occur, are simply course corrections. The target is the center of God’s will for your life. The changes you make in your vocation are the process of aligning your steps with His purpose. It’s the humility of trial, error, and a willingness to learn from the adjustments.
If you’re in a time of transition, heed Mary’s advice and experiences and figure out a plan for your life. Change isn’t always pleasant, but it is always part of God’s plan for you. Keep that in mind and you will find yourself getting through whatever bump, curve, or detour on your life’s roadmap.
How did life with your children transition over the years? What got everyone through those times of change in one piece?
A marketing professional, wife, and mother of four adult children, Mary’s path is marked with the twists and turns of someone continually seeking (but not always finding) a purposeful calling. With a deep family history of alcoholism (three generations), she surrendered her life to Christ and vowed to change her family forever. Her winding journey is filled with the fun, discovery, mishaps, and challenges of a family that replaces its legacy with a God-given inheritance. Follow her at MaryEGoodrich.com