Red flags to look out for when dating as a single mother
*Please note that the characters in this article are fictional, and are used solely to illustrate the points discussed.
Diane drums her fingers on the back of her phone lying screen down on the couch. Her co-worker, Shan, had just messaged Diane about introducing her to a man who she thinks would be a “rel’ good match” for Diane, breaking her out of her single streak. Since her common-law husband had left four years ago to chase his dreams (and women) in the U.S, Diane had at first tried seeking a replacement for him to provide her children with a father figure, but with little luck. She had turned her energy instead to making her little family unit good and strong.
Diane closes her eyes and recalls each of those past relationships, and how each man’s behaviour had made it clear to her that “He doesn’t love my kids!”
First, there was Yohan. He waltzed into her life at a work function. He was well spoken and intelligent, a PR consultant at an oil company. His position and string of qualifications were not the only things that caught Diane’s interest; he drew her in with his flowery language, and he always seemed to know the best thing to say. It was truly ironic then, that the primary reason that their relationship lasted only a couple of months was that he was truly horrendous at communicating with her children. Anytime he was over at her house, he would refuse to talk to her children directly, instead telling Diane to “talk to your son” or “tell your daughter that she needs to turn off the television”. It was like Diane was a mediator between Yohan and her children. Diane felt that a grown man should attempt to express himself clearly and respectfully to the children of the woman he is interested in, and Yohan made no effort to do that. He did not love her kids.
She had a fleeting interest in Timothy, a friendly and open guy. But he had one glaring flaw for Diane—he would often ignore her children and expect her to ignore them too. Even though Diane told him very early on that she was a mother, he never asked about her kids, and he would roll his eyes and change the subject whenever she mentioned them. He would also suddenly invite her out to parties and would laughingly call her children her “shackles” when she would have to decline. Honestly! An 11 pm club crawl on a Thursday night?! He knew she would not get anyone to watch her kids that late! After repeated rejections, his comments would become more and more hostile. The final straw was when he had the audacity to try to force her to make a choice between him and her children. Diane did not even entertain him with a reply; she turned and left him where he stood. He definitely did not love her kids.
Of all the memories of past relationships, none gave Diane chills more than the one with Justin. He seemed to be immediately supportive of her single motherhood and asked to meet her kids right away. Diane was delighted but cautious of introducing another man to her children after her past experiences, so she delayed their meeting. But Justin constantly pushed to meet her children. That gave rise to an uncomfortable feeling deep within Diane, but she tried to ignore it. She should be glad that this guy actually wanted to be in her kids’ lives, right? After a few weeks, she finally caved and let her little ones meet her newest partner. Things seemed to be going smoothly; then, she noticed her children would try to avoid Justin every time he came over. One late work night, he volunteered to watch the kids until she came home. After she waved a grateful goodbye to Justin, her daughter, the older of the two, had boldly proclaimed, “Mummy, I don’t want him here anymore.” She told Diane that Justin made them feel very uncomfortable. He would ignore them when they said they did not want hugs, made them sit in his lap, and overall ignored their boundaries with their spaces and their bodies. Diane had been shocked and apologized to her kids for not noticing sooner. Whether he was a potential abuser or not, Diane knew that someone who pushed and ignored her kids’ boundaries did not love them in the healthy way they needed.
Ronaldo was Diane’s last venture into the dating world. He had no problem with the fact that she was a single mother; in fact, he himself was a father, though divorced. Diane had taken that as a good sign. Surely, he would understand the ways that having children shapes your life. Over time, however, she noticed that he never seemed to spend time with or care for his own children. He would not talk about them unless Diane directly asked about them, and his free time seemed to be always spent in recreation with his friends, with Diane, or alone. Diane thought that if she were in his position, she would at least dedicate a weekend or two per month to the children. Also, he would always complain and try to get out of whatever task his ex-wife would ask him to do for their children, simple things like picking them up from school or buying a few grocery items to deliver to their house. Ronaldo clearly did not care about being a father, so there was no way Diane was bringing him into her own family unit. If he did not love his own kids, how could she trust him to love and support hers?
Diane frowns at the recollection of these men. She knew decent fathers and husbands, so she was certain that there were decent, caring men in the world. It was largely her desperation for companionship and a father figure at the time that had led her to be hurried and undiscerning about who she dated. Now, if she decided to take up Shan’s offer, she would be coming from a place of strength and control. She had learned some solid lessons. She would not entertain any partner who would:
– not communicate with or respect her children
– ignore and expect her to ignore her children
– try to force her to choose between her children and the relationship
– make her children feel uncomfortable
– show no interest in being a parent to their own children
Taking a deep breath, Diane picked up her phone.