Dating can be challenging but if you are a single parent, it can be more complicated than most imagine. Having children changes every aspect of your life; it makes sense that your dating life would not be exempt. Dating when you have children is a whole different game; the same rules do not apply to you. It is no longer just about you, you are a package deal. If you dive head first into the dating world as a parent by following the same guidelines as your childless friends, you’re going to fumble way more than you score.
Lessons I learned from my experience as a single parent on the dating scene:
1) Online Dating can be your best friend:
As a parent, especially if you have primary physical custody, it’s hard enough to find the time to eat, let alone meet people. Online dating creates a whole new world of possibilities. The internet allows you to browse an array of eligible dates in your cozies when you have the time. I found that I settled into a pre-dating routine: come home, cook dinner, eat with munchkin, put her to bed, open a bottle of wine, and surf for prospective dates. At first I felt like a loser; the desperate cliché that had to resort to online dating because I couldn’t hook up in the real world. But eventually I shed my scarlet brand of shame and gave birth to a positive attitude. I began to look forward to my cyber rendezvous every night. While logging into the dating site, I would speculate who winked at me or sent a message. Once I got over the negative associations I had with online dating, I found it a god send! It was fun! It allowed me to meet amazing people that I would have never met otherwise. To top it off, it never interfered with my first priority; being a good parent. The flexibility of online dating allows you to control the who, where and when… which are nothing but upsides when you live your life on a strict diet of schedule and routine.
2) Father Knows Best:
Who better understands your last minute cancelations and interrupted phone conversations better than another parent? With primary physical custody of my daughter and an ex-husband who was Disneyland dad at best, there were times when I had to cancel dates at the last minute to care for a sick child (because he canceled his visitation when she was ill). In my experience, I found that only another active parent truly understood. Of the men I dated, it was the active fathers who accepted and appreciated that my daughter was my first priority. Lucky for me, these men also found my parental dedication to be a desirable asset rather than a hindrance.
3) Hokey Pokey:
Sex after children can be summed up into two words, Stolen Moments. These moments are infrequent and clumsy but also raw and intense. Dating and having sex as a single parent makes these intimate exchanges more a game of charades than the hokey pokey. Trying to keep your passion to an inaudible decibel, constant “time outs” because you think you heard something, not to mention keeping awake afterwards so you can politely shoo your date out the door before your munchkin wakes, can suck all the lusty fun out the act. Even if you didn’t have to sneak your date in your room like a horny teen because your offspring is with your ex, sexual interludes are anything but spontaneous romps; they are coordinated efforts. But this is reality, your reality as a parent. Chances are your date will see you for the fabulous person that you are and think the stolen moments are worth it. If not, he wasn’t a keeper anyways and it’s best to move along.
All of this leads me to the next lesson…
4) Where the Wild Things Are:
The when and how of introducing your children to your date is a personal decision. My choice was to keep my dating life and my parenting life completely separate. I did not allow the two to intersect. It wasn’t until I had dated for several months and my date had evolved into a relationship, did I introduce my daughter. I made this choice because I was not looking for a long term relationship and was dating different people at the same time; I was dating and meeting people. I did not want to confuse or complicate my daughter’s life. I also was afraid that introducing my daughter to my dates would complicate my relationship with the men I was seeing. I did not want the introduction to be an assumption that our relationship was going to the next level. I discovered that my decision to keep my life as a parent separate from my dating minimized complications and unnecessary misunderstandings, for both my daughter and dates.
5) Leap Frog:
Before taking it to the next level, there are some questions that you need to consider before you take the leap from casual date to seriously committed relationship. My first recommendation is to be clear to yourself and eventually him about expectations; this is not a time to be a passive wallflower. You owe it to yourself, your child, and your potential partner to ask the hard questions to discover how practicable it is to pursue a long term relationship with this person. Do you want more children? Do they? Are your parenting styles similar? If you are planning on moving in together or getting married; would current living arrangements accommodate a blended family? Do the children need to share rooms? Change schools? These are all important factors when you have children and if you feel that it is too much to consider or concerned about your potential partners reaction to these questions, then you may not be as prepared to take the next step as you thought. Let’s face it, without kids most of us are fairly simple but when there are munchkins depending on us for support and stability, we owe it to them to really evaluate the moves that we make and not leap blindly.