It was the night before St. Patrick’s Day. I was standing in a crowded beer tent outside an “Irish” pub in small town Massachusetts. Everyone around me was getting drunk from cheap American beer and well drinks from plastic cups. Not an Irish pint was to be found. The guy I had been seeing for a few months came around every five minutes or so and asked me whether I was ok or needed another drink. This was his hometown and he was excited to introduce me to his college buddies and family. And he was drunk. The air smelled of sour sweat and spilled drinks. I texted a few friends to see what they were up to. I missed my daughter who was visiting family with her dad for the weekend. I was not smiling.
As I stood nursing my seltzer, I knew full well that I was not ok. This was not where I wanted to be on one of my few nights off from being a mom. Where I wanted to be was home on my couch watching a movie with my five-year old. But instead I was out reliving my boyfriend’s glory days of college drinking (along with 500 strangers). So I did what any rational person would do. I faked an allergy attack and hightailed it.
I knew then that I had to break it off with the boyfriend. Although divorced, he does not have kids. I had come to the realization after a few months of dating that he could not be what I wanted or needed in a partner. Don’t get me wrong. In a lot of ways the now ex-boyfriend was a good fit for me. He is kind, educated, funny, and handsome. He loves to hike. He is a reader. He likes Game of Thrones, Tolkien and all things geeky. These were my primary dating criteria before I was a mom. But he is also an overgrown kid. He’s emotionally immature. He makes drinking and hanging out at bars and breweries with his buddies a priority. He travels on a whim. He does not save money. He is not a good fit for the “mama” part of me.
And, in all honesty, I knew it from the start. But I tried for four months to make him fit. Because it’s hard to find someone who is interested in dating a single mom. It just is.
He is not the kind of guy I can envision wiping noses. Or helping to clean up puke-splashed sheets at 2:00 a.m. Or holding my daughter’s handle bars while she practices riding her bike. One Sunday, we were walking on a rails-to-trails path and he lamented all the families on the path who were taking up both lanes with their bikes. Here I was beaming at the little kids clearly on their first or second season without training wheels. He was, on the other hand, visibly annoyed.
On St. Patrick’s Day, I took a three-hour hike in the snow. I had a quiet night eating Jambalaya at a girlfriend’s house and sharing a few stories and some cookies with her and her husband in front of the fire. I read their five-year-old bedtime stories. This is my speed now. Because I am a mom.
Dating as a single mom is way more difficult than I anticipated it would be. First, you need to find someone who you find attractive (physically, emotionally, intellectually). If the feeling is mutual, you have the added trial of figuring out if they are a good match for your kid. This is significantly harder. And there is no easy way to do it. I am in the camp of dating moms who believes that you should not introduce boyfriends (or girlfriends) to your kids right away. I don’t have a set amount of time, but figure I will know when the time is right. My daughter doesn’t need to meet everyone I am seeing. Because I don’t want her to grieve when her new friend stops coming by. I need to feel like someone is going to be a semi-permanent fixture before they get the privilege of meeting the girl. This waiting makes figuring out if the partnership is going to work so difficult. Next time around (if there is a next time), I may introduce the prospective bonus dad a little sooner. As just a friend. So I can see a little more clearly if things just might work out as a unit of 3.
I wish I was someone who can casually date without a commitment. It’s just not my style. And, frankly, I’m too damn old. For now I am taking some time to grieve. I’m also taking a dating break. Which will help with the crazy amount of the Spring cleaning and yard clean-up I have on my plate. I also see it as a time I can reconnect with myself. Today, I am glad that my daughter didn’t meet the ex-boyfriend. Because there is only one of us grieving right now. She is happily eating M&Ms and cheese crackers out of plastic eggs. I am drinking chocolate milk in my coffee and trying not to be too philosophical.
Now about cheese crackers. I hate them. I do not mean adult cheese crackers. They are great. I mean the small, whimsically shaped varieties marketed to parents for kids. I hate them. I really despise them. They do not have enough cheese flavor or salt. The “healthy” organic ones are even worse. They taste a bit like slightly salty cardboard. But my daughter LOVES them. So I buy them. And then, inexplicably, I eat them. Every time I pack them for my daughter’s snack or fill a bowl or plastic Easter egg with them, I eat a few. Every. Single. Time. I eat this thing that I despise. For no reason. Sometimes when I am not even hungry. I am making a commitment to stop this destructive cycle. For the next month, I am not going to eat the cheese crackers. Not even in the car on my way home from work when I am desperate for sustenance. No more cheese crackers. Only mindful eating. Because life is too short to eat that which you despise. Even when it’s shaped like an adorable fish or bunny.