How to Manage Being a Single Parent and Dating
By Isabel Frank William
Single moms are akin to superheroes, and just like superheroes, their life can get pretty impossible to manage. If you're raising kids on your own, you are probably giving them all of the time and energy that you have available – not leaving much for yourself. And if you're at a stage where you're ready to start seeing other people again, you have a whole new lot of problems to deal with. So here are some tips on surviving the dating world as a single mom looking for new love:
Don't be afraid to mention your kids
Your kids aren't going anywhere, and you're gonna have to mention them eventually, so let's talk about the best time to do that. On the one hand, saying you have kids up front is a great vetting system. The people who aren't interested in dating someone with kids will fall off at the very start, not giving you the chance to fall for someone who won't accept your family. On the other hand, you want to be careful not to make being a mom your entire identity. You have amazing qualities, skills and a whole personality that doesn't revolve around your kids, and you should let your dates meet you as the person you are both with and without the kids in the picture. Your date might be interested, and they will want to know more about your kids, in which case – talk away. But, if they aren't focusing on them, you should be able to hold a conversation and talk about different topics without including your kid in the conversation. Talking only about your children and nothing else will really quickly give off the impression that you are looking for a father to your kids rather a partner for yourself.
Delegate your time
When you find someone you really like, you might fall into a puppy love stage where you will just want to spend all of your time with them. This can be tricky, as your children obviously need you, and striking the perfect balance always takes a few tries. Basically, you have three parties to balance out: your kids, your partner and yourself. The most important thing to remember is not to put your kids second to your partner, especially in the very beginning, because you'll not only alienate your kids, but they might start to resent your partner for "stealing you away". The first rule is to be completely honest with your kids and explain the situation to them in the best possible way that is age-appropriate. If they understand how important it is for you, then you can more easily explain a situation where you can't study with them all night long for an exam, but you can get VCE notes and go through them together and perhaps test them later. Similarly, you don't want to always postpone dates with your partner because you're spending time with the kids, because that sends a very clear message that they aren't important enough to you. Don't worry – it will all get much easier once they meet.
Meeting the family
Which brings us to the trickiest part of all: meeting the family. Firstly, don't make it a surprise. Don't bring him home one night to dinner with no announcement and no prior information that you're seeing someone. But on the other hand, don't make it too formal, or your kids might not get the right impression. The best way to do it is to do something fun together so that your first memory together is a happy one. You can go to a theme park, roller skating, see a movie and grab some milkshakes afterwards or visit a fair. But your kids aren't the only family, and you need to be prepared for different reactions from other members, especially older ones. They might have an opinion that you need to devote all of your time to the kids and that you shouldn't be seeing someone else, or they might think that he is a bad influence. It's on you to explain to them that it's your right and your wish to find love again and that you were very careful with choosing who gets to come into your children's life.
Dating as a single mom can really seem more intimidating than enjoying yourself, but if you stick with your gut and choose someone who is a good choice for you – you'll also be making a good choice for your kids. Don't be alarmed if they don't get along well from the start. People have ways of growing on each other and if you continue encouraging the best in everyone, you'll have a bigger, happier family before you know it. Just remember to be on good terms with yourself, your plans for life and your standards, and everything will work out just fine.