Single Parents - Make Room For Romance
Sure the kids will always come first, but don't forget to make time for yourself. Learn how to balance your life and make room for romance!
ou’ve finally got the single parent routine down — get kids ready for school, rush-dress for work, take kids to school, go to work, pick up kids, supervise homework, take kids to soccer, make dinner, do laundry, read bedtime story, pay bills, crash by midnight — or something along those lines. Congratulations. You get the parent of the year award! But haven’t you forgotten something? Like yourself?
As a parent, selflessness is instinctive; the kids come first. Period. It’s probably been a blue moon since you’ve thought about or made time for
yourself, much less romance. Maybe you even like it that way. I mean love is hard work. It’s complicated. It’s scary. Plus, who’s got the time? Everybody! A hot romance — even a couple of harmless dates — is the perfect way to break up the old routine and wake up those irresistible wiles that, between PTA meetings and dirty diapers, you’d forgotten you possessed.
|As a parent, selflessness is instinctive; the kids come first.|
So stop using the kids as an excuse, ditch the T-shirt and sweats for a tank top and a pair of tight jeans, and get back out there. Here are eight things every dating single parent should consider:
The screen test
Before looking for your dream partner, you may need to spend some time outlining exactly what that dream is — for you and for your children. Since time is at a premium these days, it’s important to fine-tune the screening process, so you’re not wasting precious nights and weekends with Mr. or Mrs. “I love kids, but as soon as they’re old enough, it’s off to boarding school.” It’s wise to keep your options open, but it’s prudent to be picky.
Dating for two
Or three or more. You come as a package now. Make it clear to your date immediately. If you’re afraid that the news will scare your love away, at least you’ve addressed that potential hurdle before expletives fly and hearts get broken. It’s only fair that both parties know what they are getting into.
Proceed with caution
You don’t need to discuss every dating relationship with your children, but once things start heating up and look potentially serious, you can tell the family. You may want to arrange a group outing or activity and introduce your partner as one of your “friends” to get the ball rolling. Kids are smart, and depending on the age, will catch on quickly that your “friend” is more than just a tennis buddy. Go slowly, and give your kids time to accept the new figure in your lives.
Finding your perfect match online can be thrilling, and it may be tempting to consult your children about the person’s parent-worthiness. After all, they are a key part of your decision making process. Use your best judgement here. A teenager might be ready — and willing — to help you scope out potential dates online, but a younger child may find it confusing that Mom or Dad is on the prowl.
Save the affection
When those initial sparks start to fly, it’s often difficult (nearly impossible) to keep your hands off one another. But try to contain yourself in front of the
kids. Save it for the nights when you have a babysitter or the children are with your ex — at least at the beginning of the relationship. After time, a hug here or a kiss there won’t be such an issue, and you should be able to do a little public petting without guilt. You are, in fact, human. If your date has graduated to a bed partner, same rules apply. You don’t want Little Johnny running into naked Big Johnny in the hallway.
|It’s important to keep your children at the right emotional distance.|
A good gauge
Let’s face it, kids can be a handful — even embarrassing — when you’re trying to maintain some sense of intrigue and attraction with your date. But this is not always a bad thing. My sister once took a road trip with her new beau and her five-year-old son, who caught a bad case of diarrhea mid-trip. After five pit stops and a new set of clothes for my nephew, my sister got a good sense of how her man would hold up through the realities of parenthood.
The revolving door
Dates will come and go, so it’s important to keep your children at the right emotional distance. They’ve already lost one parent, so you want to do your best to keep them from getting hurt again. If an emotional connection between your partner and child has already been established, and the relationship ends, you may want to allow your child some phone calls or visits with the ex. But this probably won’t last long, especially when you start seeing someone new. Again, be choosy about whom you bring around and when to make that person part of the “family.”
Shed the guilt
With so much consideration for your kids needs, try not to lose sight of what you want and need from the relationship. Your kids may have to make some sacrifices and may struggle with hurt feelings, but you don’t have to feel guilty about pursuing your own pleasures. You’re a parent; you’re not a saint. Time will help, and your children will adjust.
Susan Hayden is a freelance writer who contributes to Happen magazine.