When I began dating again, after my divorce, I had certain desired requirements for any women I might date. They were simple – she had to be breathing. No, they weren’t that simple because my life at the time was far from simple. Raising two traumatized young boys alone meant, or so I thought, that I should only date women who also were single parents. I had my boys almost 24/7 in the beginning and later 24/7 period, now for over a decade.
In my mind, what woman without kids and age appropriate would want to put up with my need to be there for my boys throughout these turbulent years? I still think that general thinking was accurate but, as we know, we make plans and God laughs. My future wife did not have kids and it couldn’t have worked out better insofar as the boys are concerned.
Navigating the world of dating, after being out of it for so long, was interesting to say the least. I eventually wrote a guide to Internet Dating, since I did figure out some things that made “the process” a lot easier and smarter. But, the biggest surprise I found was when I did meet that woman with kids, how she often chose to be the martyr where her life and kids were concerned.
Even though this is not one of my Men vs. Women columns, I will assert that this trait is more common among single moms than single dads. How did and does this trait manifest itself? For those women that did allow themselves to date – and I’ve found that word to be very antiquated – they ONLY would do so under strict conditions.
Some of the conditions included:
~~ Only when their kids were with their father.
~~ Never on a school night.
~~ No man meets her kids for at least six months.
~~ Never two days/nights in a row.
Sometimes, I’d be dating a woman and we’d have the beginning of a nice relationship and she would simply be unavailable for something special because of a perceived need of her kids. Sometimes, that would mean missing a concert, event, or otherwise cool experience. And, when I’d question them, I always got a sort of snarky response as if I just didn’t understand the demands of being a mom.
Hmmm, I had two boys 24/7 and, in those days, was taking care of my ill parents (I’m an only child), yet I didn’t understand the demands? Oh, did I mention that my divorce was a typical ugly California drawn-out gunfight? Yet, I was able to make the time to date. Was I being selfish?
Now, sometimes, their reason was quite legitimate such as if they did not have child-care. Of course, that is very real and unquestionable. But, often I felt these women were letting themselves not have fun as if that was the price they had to pay during this time in their and their children’s lives. Some might argue that this is a noble way of thinking. I will argue otherwise with reasons a single parent’s personal life matters, even during the demanding time of raising kids with an ex or alone:
~~ What are you modeling to your kids if you’re not going out or you don’t have a boyfriend or girlfriend? You are modeling that it’s not important to you OR you are indirectly projecting how all consuming important the kids are. Both are not good for your kids. Of course the kids and their well-being is important, but if they feel they dominate your life, they will become more dependent and entitled. This is a lose-lose!
~~ No, you shouldn’t parade numerous dates in front of your kids, but at some point in a new relationship, wouldn’t you want to see and know how this person behaves and acts around the most important people in your life?
~~ Many kids from divorced homes have illusions of mom and dad getting back together. If this is a definite NO-WAY, then the sooner they face this truth, the better.
~~ Why not involve your kids in your new social life? If they’re older and mature enough, even show them your online profile and potential candidates. Then they are invested in your happiness.
~~ When you hide a new partner from your kids, you are essentially keeping a secret from them. While the timing of when this partner should meet your kids is never fixed, their knowledge that mom or dad is dating is good for them. This teaches them that your life matters to you and they are NOT the center of your universe.
I suspect this column will raise the ire of some single moms who have enjoyed their martyr status. I found that many of these moms reveled in it and part of their raison d’être was being the better parent and having their ex to revile. Again, not good for the kids. This is not a simple yes or no question. Your particular situation and kids obviously determine the right choices, but I’d love to get your thoughts on this tender topic.
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