Your relationship ended, you have healed, rebalanced your life, and settled into parenting solo. While you may be ready emotionally and psychologically to move on, the rules of the game have changed—you now have your children to consider. The dating scene is complicated, and meeting people is all the more difficult in a Covid-19 world.
Start by asking yourself the following question?
What do I want from a relationship?
Are you interested in companionship, intimacy, or a life partner? It is important to determine this before you move forward. If you are seeking companionship with no strings attached, then choose someone with whom you feel safe, who treats you with respect and who understands your current boundaries. If you decide to have an intimate/sexual relationship, protect yourself from both the risk of any number of sexually transmitted diseases as well as the possibility of an unwanted pregnancy. Getting pregnant and having a child provides no guarantee that a man will stand by you or take on any of the responsibility. Remember that you are already carrying an enormous amount of responsibility, and you don’t need additional complications.
A featured article in Oprah’s O Magazine, Single Moms and Dating: Exactly What to Know, provides a wonderfully balanced perspective on the subject of dating as a single mom and also addresses important issues such as guilt, shaming, and judgement that often accompany it.
“Kids need a healthy relationship role model. There’s pressure for moms to be born-again virgins, and sacrifice everything for their children. While this might sound noble, children learn a lot by observation, and it doesn’t teach kids what a good relationship—or dating life—looks like.” – Lara Lillibridge.
If you are looking for a life partner, it is critical that your potential mate be willing to invest in both you AND your children. The subject of your children should be raised relatively early in your dating life, and you should assess your prospective partner’s desire to be a part of your children’s lives. If he/she tells you they have no interest in children, spare yourself a lot of grief, hoping that he/she will change, before you develop a strong emotional connection. A long-term relationship with someone who does not care for your children will be heart-wrenching, as you will always be caught between your personal relationship and what is best for your children. When someone shows you or tells you who they are, believe them. While your needs also matter, ultimately, you have to put the children first. By choosing the right person, you may just be able to have it all. That said, while you are finding your prince, do not introduce your children to all of the frogs that you meet. A passing parade of failed relationships will not provide a positive experience or relationship model for your children.
When you believe you have found someone who is good to you and who is willing to try to embrace your children, here are four tips to navigate the way forward.
- Introduce them to your kids. Once you are reasonably sure (there are no guarantees) that the relationship is moving along positively, you should talk to your children about meeting your new companion. While you don’t need their permission, their “buy in” would make life a lot easier and help things go more smoothly. Here are some tips for introducing your children to a new partner.
- Always put the children first. Parenting is demanding, and finding time for work, other commitments, and a new relationship will be a tall order. Sometimes, something will have to give, and it can’t always be your children. Once they believe that they are not competing for your attention, they are more likely to accept and allow someone else to be on the scene.
- Agree on boundaries regarding disciplining your children. Be clear on your parenting rules and the extent to which your new partner will correct or discipline the children. What may be acceptable behaviour to you, may be challenging for him/her. Children always resent a non-parent telling them what to do, but over time, they will grow to appreciate another loving and caring adult in their lives. Click here for the do’s and don’ts of stepparent discipline.
- Listen to what your kids have to say. Children are extremely perceptive, and if they seem unduly uncomfortable around your companion, don’t dismiss it as just a case of them not wanting mummy to have a new friend. Do not assume that your child(ren) is/are safe or being treated properly just because it is what your partner tells you or wants you to believe. Many children are verbally, emotionally, sexually, and or physically abused by the people we assume can be trusted with them. Get up to speed on the warning signs in children and adults that your child may be the victim of abuse.
While life may have thrown you a curve ball, there is nothing wrong with wanting to find love and happiness again—we all deserve that. By taking your time and being selective, it is possible to meet someone new to start over. Be patient and wait for a suitable candidate to come along. The main takeaway is that you take your children’s happiness, well-being and safety into consideration and that they remain your priority.
Romantic involvements may come and go, but the bond you create with your children is forever—make it as strong, nurturing, safe, and happy as you can.
My wish is that you can successfully have it all.