The Bittersweet Reality of “Found Time”

Yesterday, my son passed his road test and got his license to drive. He is our youngest, so the days of school drop offs, pickups, swim runs, driving him to a friend’s house…those are over.


When I said goodnight to him last night, it wasn’t, “See you at 6:45 am in the kitchen. Make sure you are wearing shoes.” Instead, I said, “See you tomorrow evening for dinner.”


We hugged and cried a little. It’s the end of an era. He is a delightful young person, and I have loved spending time with him in the car.


Drive time with him consisted of catching up on our days, talking about how much we both loved the dog (who was usually in the car with us), singing and dancing to 80s power ballads, and a good amount of comfortable silence as well.

Now, I have some serious “found time” in my life. I don’t even know what to say, much less do.


I am not one of those parents who proclaims that “It all went so fast,” and “I wish they were babies,” and so on. I have cherished (and lamented) aspects of every developmental stage.


I feel like I have been a parent for my entire life. It went beautifully, and sometimes agonizingly, slow.


Today is my 26th wedding anniversary. My beloved texted me this morning saying that he is “really excited about our next phase of life together.” I am, too. I know that there are good things in store for us.


But what do I do with all this…time?


I imagine that this bittersweet “found time” also happens after deaths, divorce, and other similar heartbreaks. Part of the grief process is deciding who you are and what you’ll do next. I am grieving right now, and that is okay.


I will eventually settle into a new normal. I will dust off old projects, perhaps dust off this middle-aged body, and do the things I said I wanted to do when “I have more time.”


Today, I am going to just breathe. Maybe, I’ll do that tomorrow as well.


I am grateful for the time I spent driving him around.


It was an amazing ride.


P.S. – Here’s what I have done with the first bit of found time. I updated my training offerings. There are 29 seminars ready to go for virtual delivery to your organization. Check out the new menu!


Dr. Melissa GratiasMelissa Gratias (pronounced “Gracious”) used to think that productivity was a result of working long hours. And, she worked a lot of hours. Then, she learned that productivity is a skill set, not a personality trait. Now, Melissa is a productivity expert who coaches and trains other businesspeople to be more focused, balanced, and effective. She is a prolific writer and speaker who travels the world helping people change how they work and improve how they live. Contact her at or 912-417-2505. Sign up to receive her productivity tips via email.


  1. Linda Samuels

    Oh, Melissa. I so relate to your words about this transition and new phase of life. I love how you have treasured your car time and moments raising your kids (the good and tough moments.) And also, how you aren’t wishing for other times, but appreciating the ones you’ve had and acknowledging that there will be a next.

    However, for now, you are honoring yourself and your needs. Some breathing and grieving time. I remember when our youngest left for college, it really hit me. I LOVED the time we had with our kids- seeing them every day, interacting, and yes…driving them before they got their licenses. When Cassie left, I was sad. And I had time. More time than I had in years. I decided not to fill it, but to allow myself to feel what I needed to feel.

    Sending you extra hugs as you feel, navigate, and appreciate. What a beautiful ride you had with more wonderful journeys to come.

    • Tammy Stokes

      Melissa, your message today is amazingly sweet and very real. After losing both my mother and father in 2020 after being the primary caregiver for them both for several years, I has “found” time. Although I was released from my very daunting caregiver role, which to many should have been a relief, I was grieving for my loss of them in my life, and strangely enough, my role as caregiver. That had become my identity, increasingly over a 10 year period. I allowed myself grace, and gave myself room to breathe as I learned to take center stage of my life. I learned to feel what I feel. And, I began to answer inner calls of action that I didn’t realize were even there. How blessed I have been with my agonizing, beautiful, empowering journey.

      Thank you for sharing your beautiful ride with us.

  2. Sabrina Quairoli

    Happy anniversary! It is so lovely that you see the change and appreciate it. It was bittersweet for me when my kids got their driver’s licenses. We are in a community where we had to drive or walk our kids to school every day since they started preschool. It was lovely to see them independent, but I missed the morning drives. Good luck on your next adventure.

  3. Seana Turner

    I completely relate to the way life changes when the children begin to drive themselves. In fact, I started my organizing business when my oldest started to drive because I suddenly realized my life was going to change.

    It was both nice not to have to do all the driving, and also a bit sad, as you say, because those car conversations are precious.

    Happy 26th anniversary, and cheers to what lies ahead!

  4. Janet Barclay

    You’ve done a good job and I hope you’ll fill that time with something you really enjoy.

  5. Julie Bestry

    Happy anniversary (belatedly) and thank you for my birthday call and our Zoom! I love the way you honor transitions in your life like this, as so many people (um, moi?) have difficulty with accepting and embracing change. (Dobby, however, looks like he’s not so sure about things changing.) I know that whatever you decide to do with your found time will be valuable, but I hope some of that time focuses on the value of just enjoying napping in the sun, reading a fun book, and delighting in travel and meals with friends. You are a blessing to so many; now you have more time to focus on blessing yourself…and not just when you sneeze!

  6. Mark L

    I enjoy all your articles; and this one is special. You’ve obviously done a good job of raising your youngest if you are approaching his driving with comfort and satisfaction. I congratulate you on your 26th wedding anniversary……we’ve got you by almost 25 years!!

  7. Diane N Quintana

    I can totally relate. I loved the time I spent with my sons driving them to wherever. I want to reassure you though. I have some of that time back. My son is now a father to 2 beautiful little ones. He lives in Seattle (I’m in Atlanta). We now treasure the time we spend in the car together when I am visiting. The children may be asleep in the back or we may have just dropped one off at school. He and I use the time to catch each other up on our lives. Thank you for sharing this moment in time with us.

  8. Jane Stahl



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