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