Dating as a single parent is a funny thing. We come into every situation already as a fully developed package. It’s like ordering a pizza, but they tell you have to get wings, chips, and a soda NO EXCEPTIONS. On top of all that, we have enough on our plates on a daily basis, so the concept of adding another person and their baggage to the mix, sounds like an unwanted task.
Just think about, when we’re obligated to be the “everything” for our children all day everyday, we don’t get a chance to just be a regular adult. So when it’s time for us, solo mommy or daddy, to wind down, and possibly get some love and attention for ourselves, no one is there. On the other side of all of that, you have very few people who want to come into someone else’s life, and be second to their other responsibilities. Finally there are those people who subscribe to the notion that, once you’re a single mom or dad, the focus should completely shift from your own wants and needs, to the needs of taking care of your kids 24/7, 365, thus putting off love for you until the kids are out of the house. Wait, what the what? I’ll be 73, carry the 1, plus saggy breast, and grey hair = Who the H3LL is gonna want me at 452 years old? Never mind, point is, as a single parent you shouldn’t have to wait until you’re old and grey to fall in love again; nor should dating be out of the question while your kids are young. We have lives too, and as long as you are balanced, and diligent in your dating selection, finding love shouldn’t be an impossible task, it should be more of an attainable goal.
So where do we start? When is a good time to introduce someone to my child? Should they meet my family first? How long is long enough before I consider this person really a person of “interest”? These are some of the questions that I was first plagued with when I decided to begin dating again. You see, this single parent life for me was #1 Not something I signed up for intentionally, and #2 Definitely scary and confusing enough when I’m traveling this road alone. So while I want to have someone navigate this journey with me, the question always remains: Who(are they), When(are they coming), Why(do I need them), and How(do I get started)? If you are like me, you may not have a strong support system behind you. Not that I don’t have a supportive family, just that they aren’t actively assisting me in the day to day functionality of raising my son. So I have to find sitters, and be very strategic when trying to date and meet people, so that I can avoid bringing my son around early on in the relationship, especially with someone who won’t be around in 6 months.
So here are my tips on dating with a young child…
First. Consider if the person you are dating is someone you can see as a long term addition to your life and your child’s. Do they check your basic partner checked boxes? Think about like this; does this person love you, but just tolerate your kid/s? If so, dump them like molded bread. Is this person willing or able to financially contribute to the success of your already established family? EXPLAINED: ( Ladies that does not mean he’s paying for childcare and buying shoes every three weeks, and men it doesn’t mean that she needs to make as much or more money than you. It simply means that the person you are seeing, is financially an asset to your family, and NOT a burden. The partner you choose should be able to sustain their life with or without you being around.) Moving on… Is this person already a parent? If they don’t have kids, do they want children? Finally if they have children, do they want more children? If you are in a place where you have a child/ren, but want more, however your new partner is done with kids, you’re already starting off on the wrong foot. Or vice versa, have you met someone who’s ready for kids, and you are done, done, done, DONE! Would you reconsider having more children just to be with this person? Don’t let the physical, or emotional attraction distract you from your goals, morals, or values. At the end of the day, you are choosing a partner for multiple people, and if you two aren’t on the same page on most things, you are going to have a long bumpy road ahead of you.
Second. Who are they as a role model? As a mother of a son, the priority for me is having a man in my life, and my son’s life that will be not only a GREAT role model and representation of what a real man is, but someone that will love my son unconditionally as much as they love me. When you date a single parent, you’re not just dating that person, you’re also dating their children, the other parent, and finally the family who wants the best for them and the children involved. Let’s dissect the concept of dating the other parent. I’ve experienced this unfortunate tragedy of overstepping my bounds. I dated a man with two children, who acted like a full time single dad since he had his children at least 5 days a week at least two weeks a month. However the mother was still actively in the picture, and the children would spend a substantial amount of time with her too. As we dated, I began to develop a close relationship to the children, and at times would fill in gaps if their mother fell short. There were times when I would “act” like a surrogate mother to his young children, but he did not appreciate, or allow me to discipline his children when they were out of line.
Feeling like I was out of place, I had to have a conversation with him, and asked if it would be okay to sit down with his ex to discuss what is appropriate for me to say and do with the children; especially if we really wanted to take our relationship serious. Needless to say, that meeting never happened. He was not willing to allow anyone else to come in and parent his children, no matter how unruly or undisciplined they were. As for me, that is not an option. I believe in blended families, where reasonable discipline is provided by the parents involved, be they biological or not. Nonetheless, you want to make sure that you don’t cross any inappropriate boundaries, making the biological parent/s feel as though you are trying to come in and replace them, or make them feel as though you will potentially harm their children.
Side bar: If they (the other parent) is mentally and emotionally healthy, competent, and involved daily, attempt to have an adult conversation to make sure they are okay with your intentions for their children, and that the needs of the children are met when they are in your presence.
Third. Remember that whomever you date, they are also dating your children. They have to develop a bond with your child, your child needs to trust them, and know that they aren’t here to hurt them. Plus as a new addition to their family, your child should feel like they are getting DOUBLE birthday and holiday gifts, WHAT WHAT! But seriously, kids are very intuitive, and can feel if someone isn’t around for the right reasons. My son for instance, did NOT want anything to do with the first guy I dated. At the time this person claimed that it had a lot to do with my constant babying my son, even though my son was literally a baby at the time (about 9-10 months old). I however believe it had more to do with the fact that this guy was only trying to get alone time and attention from me, and frequently tried to find ways to get me to leave my son alone. So be mindful of the people you bring around your children, watch what they do, and listen to what they say.
Now let’s get into the real ish. Sometimes, the other parent is not in the picture, therefore picking a partner is like buying a move in ready house. You want to pick a lifetime, ready to go investment, not a fixer upper. Take my situation for example; my son has never met his biological father. So every man in my family, or close inner circle, he (my son), and I, value them immensely. Therefore, when it comes to meeting a guy, I first have to sift out how they feel about children, and most importantly LISTEN to what they have to say. The same guy who constantly tried to get me alone when my son was just a baby, used to tell me how he couldn’t wait for us to develop our relationship, get married, and eventually have children of our own. Sounds good right? WRONG… Any time I heard him playing with my son alone, he would say “When I have a child I’m gonna do this, or that with my kid.” Setting the tone that somehow my son was not his son, which ultimately was true, but also acknowledged openly to my son, that he didn’t see my son as ever truly being his kid. Being the protective momma bear I am, I confronted him and asked, “well if we are still together, wouldn’t you already have a child that you could do all that stuff with? ANNND, if we had ANOTHER child, that baby would be an addition to our family, not being your child and my son right?” He immediately tried to dismiss the idea I had that we would have a divided household, that he would just have a deeper connection to his child versus that of my son. Funny… in the short period of time that we dated, he showed me WAY better than he could tell me, that he was in the relationship for my companionship, and that my son was just a ride along.
Choose your partners wisely.
People will tell you who they are and what they want. Take your kids for example, they do it best. You hear them asking for the same things over and over again within a 10 minute timeframe, or they will just keep bringing you the same package until you finally open it up. Men tell you who they are through their words and actions repeatedly. Women show you who they are specifically in their actions, and sometimes we do it in our words; but we like to assume our partners are mind-readers, so we don’t always tell you what we want. But the fact of the matter is, listen with your eyes open. That means listen up, and watch out. Don’t let the idea of being with someone blind you so much so that you’ve brushed over the fact that this person doesn’t care about your kids. Love someone who loves your children as if they were their own. Fall in love with a person who believes like you believe, someone who would be a help mate, not a live-in mate. It’s easy to have someone around physically, but does this person pour into your family? Pour in finances, pour in love, pour in protection, pour in guidance, pour in stability? We need to focus on the things that make us whole first, without someone there, so that when someone comes along, we aren’t looking for anything other than just enjoying having that person around, and watching the relationship with them and our children unfold.
Final thoughts: Dating for single parents shouldn’t be a daunting task. It should be fairly simple. The complex part for us as single moms and dads, is worrying about how this new person is going to react, or act in general around our children. Therefore I say, take your time. Feel out the situations, feel out the vibe of the other person, and decide if this is someone you would feel proud to have your child call mom or dad. If love is what you seek, then know that it is also seeking you; but you first have to change your thoughts about love and life, and you become the partner that you seek for your family.
-Be the best version of YOU!-