Who moved my empty nest?!

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.


11 thoughts on “Who moved my empty nest?!

  1. Excellent post, Momma! I’d tell E to look out- in a few years you’ll be on the look out for the new batch. 😉


  2. I don’t think I’ll ever have an empty nest either. Matty will probably live here the vast majority of his life. The other kids threaten to never move away no matter how many chores we give them to do. And I’m sure as soon as the baby moves out the oldest will be poppin out the grandkids. And I’m okay with that 🙂

  3. ahhh… careful what you ask for, Grasshopper! i am not only living in a very large empty nest since both of my sprogs are off at university (not counting the dog, er, um, “canine life partner” of course), but since i was divorced a couple years ago, it’s r-e-a-l-l-y empty.

    there’s a yin and yang, of course. i can dance around the house to Interpol in my pajamas on the weekends. no one misplaces the scissors (except me, in moments of mid-life confusion). and the dishes piled in the sink are all mine…


  4. Thank goodness for people in the world like you that love and take in children from all over, like they were your own. I have an uncle like that. You change the world by being there when children need someone.

    And being an older-than-average parent, I believe those little creatures DO keep you young….. at heart. The gray is coming faster and faster!

  5. I loved the post, reminded me of me. At any given time there are about 6 – 7 late teen to young adult kids at home, out of which 2 are mine. My kids also keep threatening to never move out!!!!

  6. I got confused with all the initials; how did you keep up with all of them? 🙂

    There were five kids in my family, and my mom “adopted’ my homeless cousins. When any of our friends had problems, our home was their refuge too. So it was almost like living in a dormitory my growing-up years- we were always full! Still, love does breed more love, and it’s a lesson I learned from my mom, and again, from you. I guess when you open your heart to children, the world does open its heart for you. You are blessed, my friend!

  7. you know one of the things i love best about your wriitng ??? you can make a bowl of plain oatmeal sound so exciting …. you really reach out to people reading your writing .. its very cool … you do have a gift

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