I often get asked to write about dating as a single parent and, for a long time, I’ve mostly laughed off the requests for a few reasons: First of all, I prefer to focus (this column, and my life) on parenting. Second, I wouldn’t want to ruin a good thing by saying the wrong thing here!
But, of course, part of being a good parent is balance and that means having a social life myself, so yes, of course I do date, as many single parents do. Some seek partnership and to fill what might be a piece missing from their lives. Some seek companionship and support. I personally enjoy the independence of having my own home and life with my children, but also the company of another adult I can count on regularly. Whatever sort of relationship a single parent is looking for, there are some rules that differ now from our high school dating days…
It’s cliché, but it’s true, especially as a parent - you really have to be happy with yourself before you can date someone else. If the man I’m seeing has a daughter, there will always be a younger, cuter girl that he loves more than me – and I am 100 percent OK with that. That may sound obvious and silly, but there are plenty of singles who don’t understand why I won’t simply hire a babysitter every weekend to go out. It’s not that I don’t want to see you, but I want to spend some fun time with my kids too! Oh, and I also have friends with whom I’d like to spend time…
Which brings me to another topic … parents (single or not) are BUSY. So a weeknight outing? HA! There had better be something really special going on to get me out of the house on a weeknight. And by “out of the house,” I, of course, mean once I’ve finally gotten there after leaving work on time to make it to any number of music lessons, soccer practice, tae kwon do, acting classes, etc. And that’s assuming I’ve had time to look over the kids’ homework, cook dinner and make sure they’ve bathed and gotten off to bed. If I’m still awake enough to get a shower myself and the dishes and laundry are done, I might consider a night out. But I have to get up early and do it all again tomorrow, so let’s not stay out too late, OK?
There is always the question of if/when to introduce a significant other to your children, and I think that’s a very personal decision. My kids know many of my adult friends because I want them to have both men and women that they can trust in their lives, but I don’t typically introduce them to someone I’m dating until I feel that he will be a significant presence in my life for some time.
Of course, in order for me to feel that way, I have to know he will be good for them too, because when you date a single parent, you get a whole package deal.
Stacy Lamb of Apex is the divorced mom of two. She is an active member and former organizer of Single Parents of the Triangle. Find her here monthly.