I was reading this article on empty nests, and it seems experts find this less an issue these days. I suspect that has something to do with the fact that women are no longer relegated to housewife status, and many of us have outside interests to pursue full-time once the children move out.
Ah, there’s the rub. Getting that empty nest.
I had two children with my first husband; they’re both on their own. When I re-married (Paul of Mango Corral fame), I gained four stepchildren, one of whom still lives in town, very much a mother-daughter relationship. Paul and I also had a child together, K, eight years younger than her siblings. So that’s four.
We always kept multiple children through the years. Paul’s kids came and went, depending on which ex they were mad at at the moment. We had Ayako, an exchange student from Japan; Patrik, a student from Sweden, and plenty of kids who’d sleep over at any opportunity if they could get fresh waffles in the morning.
The greatest adult/child ratio we ever had was in 1997, when as a single mom again, I lived with seven teenagers and K, who was 9. At the time, I had my two children, M and B, as well as Paul’s daughter S. M and S were seniors that year (the wild graduation party is the subject of a story coming out in December in the book A Cup of Comfort for Divorced Women); S was living with us while her dad had some hard times. Paul’s daughter D (the one who still lives in town) lived with her boyfriend’s family until a house fire left them homeless. She and her boyfriend moved in with me, too, with all the belongings they could salvage.
Shortly thereafter, D’s sister in Florida got tired of living with her mother and asked D if she could come stay with her here. She was a couple years younger, but I thought we could manage, so I agreed. She came up with her stuff, too. Oy.
Just when everything seemed to be on track, the girls came to me with the sad tale of Kris, a friend of D’s boyfriend, a boy they all knew, who’d been kicked out of his house by a stepfather and had nowhere to go. He came to dinner, seemed polite, quiet. He had a nice sense of humor. We didn’t have any bedrooms left but I offered him the couch. He accepted.
That menagerie lasted a month or so, during which time everyone ate regularly, got where they needed to be, and looked out for each other. I remember in particular a water gun fight in the house, me right in the middle of it, feeling very young once again. I’d always wanted a large family, and it was fun.
The emergencies subsided as the school year moved on. Kris moved out; D and her boyfriend found their own place. Her sister went home to Florida. The seniors graduated with much pomp and circumstance. B would leave for college a year later, so there was K, who went freely between her father’s house and mine as she wished. It was a quiet few years.
K is now in culinary school, so I’d be ready to fly off except…I got married again. (I know, people just DON’T get it) I adopted my husband’s three very young ones– Little Miss was just a few months old. The oldest, Captain Oblivious, is eight years younger than K– so we added a new generation to our life and times.
I doubt I’ll ever see an empty nest, even though we hope and expect the autistic kids will be able to live on their own someday. It’s just something kid-magnetic about me. I attract them, they attract me. People say it keeps me young; I know it keeps me gray. 🙂 But that’s why there’s Preference–because I’m worth it.