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September 25, 2000 e-mail e-mail to a friend in need

Single Parents:
Dating ... with Children

While the jury's still out on the effects of divorce on children, many single parents are still out...with their new dates.* (Some with their kids in tow; some with their kids...attached.) How do you balance your kids' needs with your grownup needs? I asked, and you Do Told. Briefly, some highlights, representing both consensus and diversity of opinion and experience:

Susan: "Being a single mom offers an instant weed-out mechanism. If -- and only if -- a guy can deal with my hectic schedule, my erratic unavailability, and that my kids are a priority, then he may be a keeper."

Zola: "I limit my choices to men who have at least one of the following attributes: (1) child/ren of an age similar to mine, who seem to be compatible with mine, and/or (2) he has a friend(s) with children, with whom he has bonded, and appears to like kids, and/or (3) he likes me very much, accepts me for what I am, has only constructive comments, and is open-minded about all people. Also, he has siblings who celebrate family events or, if he is an only child, he's outgoing and has a circle of 'adopted' family friends."

Sara: "I'm a full-time college student and a single mom to a sweet preschooler. My approach to dating: I don't. It's so hard to balance everything as it is. Until I finish my law degree it's no dating for me. I have seen many mommies sacrifice their lives for a guy. I want to enjoy this time with my son while he's little. Men come and go, but my boy's only going to be this young once."

Ellen: "Online dating was perfect -- I could do it at night when my daughter was asleep. I screened heavily, and met a fantastic guy."

Erica: "The best dating advice I could give to a single parent is: don't sell yourself short, and don't settle for someone who is less than you deserve because you think no one worth dating will want to date you. Yes, dating someone with a child can be difficult and comes with its own set of hurdles, but I'm living proof that you can find someone who understands those problems and will want to work with you to make the relationship a good one."

Jennifer: "Build the relationship to a solid one first -- so much the better to handle the difficulties that come with including the children."

Terri: "I think the person you're interested in should know up front. Some people can accept, some can't, and it's better to find out as soon as possible."

Tom: "Pick a day of the week that will be a regular date day. Do not involve the kids at first -- maybe don't have the person pick you up at the door. Better yet, date on days that the kids are visiting the other parent, if possible. Don't have sex in the house with the kids at home. Don't have the other person have breakfast with the kids. Imagine a kid going through the separation process with eight different 'significant others,' one for each year of grammar school, including losing or being separated from the other parent. It may sound harsh, but remember that your first responsibility is to raise the kids."

Virginia: "I never have a sleepover when my girls (5 and 8) are home, and I don't introduce them too early. I am also very honest with them about what went wrong if it ends. I think I have a unique opportunity to show them 'how to date' and set a good example."

Emphasis added. You can -- and, it seems, should -- keep things as separate as you like, but remember: they're watching. Pay attention to how you look, and how you look.

Still, I know there are so many remaining questions: how do you explain a breakup -- never mind the beginnings of dating -- to your kid? What if your kid hates your new love? What's the 411 on PDA? Wanna know? Wanna talk? Soon you'll be able to have your very own discussion on BG's brand new message boards! Stay tuned...

• Meanwhile, some single-parent goodies from BG's archive:

"What is the consensus about men dating single moms?"

"I was very wary about dating a single mom...too late, I realized that I was prepared to work towards becoming a stepfather."

SHOUTOUT: "The heart has its reasons, but as a single mom, your priority has to be your child above all else, even if that means a string of lonely nights."

"Do I tell him right from the first conversation that I have children?"

SHOUTOUT in response: "You think it's hard for just one person to be the dumper/dumpee -- try having your whole FAMILY included in a mess like that."

SHOUTOUT in response, 2: "Being pitchforked into weekend psuedoparenthood is very, very frightening, especially since the kid isn't usually happy about "Daddy's/Mommy's new friend," and often takes the first available opportunity to whack you with some Lego."

"He spent Christmas Eve and all day with their son and her family!"

"I'm a single mother...what are the signs of a good man to marry?"

Single Mom, Silver Screen:
Angela Shelton of Tumbleweeds visits breakupgirl.net

• And other web resources:

M.O.M.S. Single Mothers On a Mission:
The International Non-Profit Single Moms and Dads Organization

Single Parents Association

Single Parent Resource Center

Predicament of the week: "He said, 'I love you,'...I think!"


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