I've told you before that Mike and I are 6 months apart in age. I was 53 in October and he'll be 53 next week. (Yes, it kills me that I'm the older one, and he's so kind to remind me of that fact all the time.) I've also told you that I had kids early, not Appalachian early, but I was 20 when Christopher was born and Courtney came along less than 13 months later. Do the math; they're now 33 and 32. (BTW, I was 23 when I finished my bachelor's degree--I was pretty driven even back then.)
So whereas my motto was always "Free at 40," most people my age are emptying the nest right about now; the majority of my friends' kids are in college or a few years out of school. But Mike had his kids later in life; they're 15, 10 and 6. We're talking kindergarten.
When I tell people I'm living with a man with young kids they think I'm crazy. Their knee-jerk reaction invariably is, "Oh, my God! Run!" and not one person has reconsidered their initial response. I can still see the look on one friend's face when I told her I'm in the step-mom role to these little ones. She'd just driven her youngest to his college dorm 150 miles away and I swear, her reaction was the classic "recoil in horror" combined with a look I can describe only as a throw-up burp.
I understand. I admit that with every passing stage of my own kids' development, I was just as happy that they were one step closer to independence. And I'll also admit that I'm not a "kid person." I love my own and I adore my grandchildren, but I don't naturally gravitate toward kids. Mike and I are very different in that way. Everything a child does is nothing short of magical. If we see a kid acting up in public he'll say, "Oh, the poor thing, I wonder what's making him so unhappy" and I'll be like, "Shut that f*cking brat up or I'll have it beheaded." Niiiice.
Fortunately, Mike's kids are adorable. They're cute and well-behaved and I love them. But kids are kids no matter how good they are. As I mentioned in a previous post, the house we're in is not laid out well and there's no place to escape the non-stop video games, which drive me insane (short trip, I know). My Linda Land sanctuary a few blocks away has been a godsend; that was definitely a smart move and worth every penny. I spend a few hours a day there in peace and quiet, with no TV and everything in place just the way I like it because I'm such a friggin' fuss-budget, and then come home refreshed and renewed.
I'm doing what I can to find balance, but the reality is we'll be 65 years old when the youngest graduates from high school and nearly 70 when she gets out of college. I won't lie to you; there are times when I do that math and just want to burst into tears.
I'm curious to hear your thoughts. After emptying your nest once, could you ever live in someone else's crowded nest? If you've done it already, any advice?