I attended with my husband the reception for retired faculty hosted by the provost and his wife at their water-front house. It was nice to see the familiar faces. Everybody that attended the reception appeared more or less happy and well-adjusted to the retired life, doing what they wanted to do after retirement.
What was rather surprising to me was most of them attended solo although the invitation clearly indicated that our spouses/ partners were also invited. True, quite a few of them were single but the rest were supposed to be married. Where are their spouses? What happened to their marriages? I did know some of them were divorced and at least one of them was widowed fairly recently, but I did not know so many were seemingly single. I wondered why this was the case. And then I wondered if their working situations somehow contributed to creating some difficulty in their family lives like many corporate workers in Japan.
The college where I had taught before retirement encourages team-teaching; in fact, it has become mandatory to do so. Team-teaching is a process that facilitates the interdisciplinary approach to teaching and learning. And, the process itself has become very important for the college in recent years. However, this method of teaching sometimes can place great burden on the team members in terms of time and psychic commitment in order to form a sense of comraderies. For instance, I knew one faculty who told me that he literally became sick when he started teaching. In a way, the college system can work like a typical Japanese corporation where group activities become paramount, taking away the team members’ personal time and their time with their families. So this system is likely to produce a sort of corporate family related to jobs while sacrificing their actual individual family time. In Japan, this kind of work situation often resulted in alienating the corporate workers from their families so much so that they became “strangers” to their families. One consequence of such a situation was that the corporate worker who had become a “stranger” suffered a divorce after his retirement. Though such an extreme case is probably rare in individualistic America, the sight of many aging single individuals made me think about the possibility of situations analogous to that of Japanese corporate workers.