When I started thinking about dating as a single parent, I was confronted by all these questions about how I “should” be doing it. And then, like any other resourceful (and sleepless, and possibly stupid) young person these days, I went to the internet. What I found was this whole set of rules about what you should and should not do while dating as a single parent, written by therapists, child psychologists, relationship experts, and even some single parents. And then I proceeded to break all, or almost all of those rules, for better or for worse. I do not pretend to be a relationship or single mom dating expert, but I do know that these oft-repeated guidelines just did not work for me, as I am sure they don’t work for many other women out there. Here’s just a sample of some of my favorites:
- Do not introduce your partner to your child until you “know he’s the one” or are “marriage serious” (minimum 6 months). Now, while I do understand that the intention of this guideline is to protect the kids from the pain of a possible separation, I felt like a) I am really not planning on remarrying, b) I am not sure I believe in “the one”, and c) I have pretty good intuition as to when it feels right to introduce my son to my partner. In my case, it took about a month and a very casual mention that we were at the park down the road from his house for my (now serious) boyfriend to offer to swing by and hang out for the first time. While that may go against all sort of rules and guidelines that people follow for some pretty understandable reasons, it worked for us. My son and boyfriend have developed an amazing relationship and I think it was necessary for me to see that dynamic in order to fully believe this person was really in it.
- Do not talk about, even mention your ex until you are well into your relationship (again, the magical 6 months). Yup, I broke this one on date 3, probably 2 weeks in. He asked me about how long I was married, and I was like, “ok, now’s the time to either consciously lie about my past relationship by using incorrect gender pronouns (my ex is a transgender woman, see past post, “The only way out is through”) or just be straight up about it”. And that is what I did, just casually mentioning the fact that my ex had transitioned and that we are still friends and it just didn’t work out. I had not planned, at all, to talk about my past relationship on my third date, but it just came out, and in retrospect I’m glad it did. I didn’t need to unpack my baggage, I’ve got therapy for that, but I did need to say, “hey, this is some pretty serious shit that went down and this person is still a part of my life, can you hang?” Turns out, he could.
- Do not invite your date back to your house when your kids are there. Ok, so I get this one. I do. No one wants to have sex with their kids in the next room. No one wants their kid to walk in on them. Or even think about the possibility of their kids walking in on them while they’re having sex. No one wants to bring a dude to their house and be making out on the couch and all of a sudden he sits on a squeaky toy or something. Sorta kills the mood. If I had an alternative, I totally would have taken it, like only seeing my man on weekends when the kids are with their other parent. I just didn’t have that alternative, since my son’s other parent lives in Bolivia. It was either, come back to my place, or pay for a babysitter all night long, and really, who has the money for that? I was also very careful about who actually made it to my house, it’s not like there was a parade of men in there, as well as being careful in the first few months about making sure my partner was up and out before my son got up, so that our morning ritual would still just be us. I was also known for taking some pretty creative lunch breaks…
- Do not take time away from being with your kids to go on dates. Ok, so it is IMPOSSIBLE to go on dates without taking time away from being with your kids, unless you have a coparenting or shared custody arrangement which I imagine makes that easier. It’s not like single mothers have all this magical down time, where they are not working and not with the kids, where they can decide to go on dates without interfering with their time with their kids. In fact, I have NO time like that. I am either working or with my son. That’s it. I socialize with my son, work out with my son, go to meetings and protests with my son. Once in a while I will take a night off, pay a sitter or leave my son with my mom, and go out with friends or on a date. But that very clearly takes time from being with my child. Dating takes time. And single parents should not be made to feel guilty about taking time off once in a while to go on a date.
So, after much internet searching and feeling like I was screwing it up, I found that I could trust my instincts in terms of dating as a single parent much better than I could trust what all the experts had to say. I get the need for some idea of what to do and what not to do, especially when just starting out in very new territory. I had the need for it, as well, and then I proceeded to break, modify or rewrite all the guidelines to my own accord. Here’s to breaking the rules and making up our own.