Does empty nest syndrome even exist for stepmoms? I never thought I’d miss my stepkids if they no longer lived with us half the time. Truth be told, there were many times in the early years when I wished they’d stay at their mom’s just a little more often. Sometimes, having them around was overwhelming. I never had kids of my own. When I moved in with my husband, I went from just me and my cats and dog to instant family. And his kids were only six and ten when I moved in. Even though I work with kids, living with kids was a whole new ball game. That was a big adjustment for this single forty-two-year-old woman who was (is) a neat freak. Having their toys around, their dirty dishes, their wet pool towels, drove me up a wall. I used to joke, saying if it wasn’t for our separate toy room, this marriage may not have lasted. It was only partially a joke.
Flash forward ten years, and the kids are hardly ever around. What happened? All through their teen years, these kids did not have much of a social life. All they had was us and school. They were always home on our days and weekends. So what changed, you ask? Well, they got cars and jobs. And from those jobs, they got friends. Now, they are doing what I always wished for them, and I miss them. A lot. When we get to have a family meal, with all of us together under the same roof at the dinner table, I look around and realize just how much I’ve missed these family dinners.
At one point, Brian and I missed them so much, we Face-timed with them just to see their faces and to catch up on their lives. Jessie has a crush on a boy she works with. Aiden has a friend at work who has a crush on him, but he’s not attracted to her. The girl he really likes has a boyfriend. They are always group texting with their “crew”, as they’re called. They plan Magic Mountain days, beach days, parties for birthdays of their friends. They go to movies, to the Santa Monica Pier. As I said, they are doing exactly what I have always wanted to them to do.
When I was their age, I was rarely home, always with friends hanging out and doing something. Or nothing. But I was with friends. This is how we figure out and learn who we are. It’s not from the shelter of our parents and home. It’s from our relationships with peers. I knew they don’t need to be like me. It’s not necessary to be that social. I just wanted them to have some friends. Something to do outside of the home. But, once my wish came true, I thought, Why did I wish for this? I do know its what’s best for them and their well-being. It’s best for their maturity and their futures. I just miss them. That’s all. Apparently, empty nest syndrome happens to stepmoms, too.