Love And The Single Parent

A dating coach and best-selling author addresses the most common challenges facing single parents looking for romance.

by Rachel Greenwald

As a single parent, how do I find the time and energy to date?

Of course you are exhausted after a long work day, not to mention helping kids with homework, driving them to activities,
Force yourself to get out regularly so that you can find the partner you are seeking.
etc. The last thing you feel like doing is going out at night. But if you don’t want to stay single forever, you’ll need to make an extra effort.

Efficiency is the name of the game here. Start by saying “no” more often—it’ll buy you more time and energy. Don’t bake cookies from scratch for little Suzy’s bake sale (buy them at the store). Cut down your child’s activities from three to two. Don’t accept every play date request. Leave the office early sometimes even if a task is unfinished (it’ll still be there tomorrow). Delegate more. There’s always some “fat” to trim in your schedule.

Then create a consistent routine to socialize, and stick to it. Don’t leave it to the last minute, or it’ll never happen. For example, plan to have a babysitter every Wednesday and Saturday night. When you have a date with someone new or a singles event to attend, mark these dates in ink on your calendar.

It won’t always be easy, but nothing worth having is. You must force yourself to get out regularly so that you can find the partner you are seeking. And while it might make you feel guilty to focus on yourself, especially if you are trying to go above and beyond to be a great parent, it’s not being selfish to want a personal life as well as a family life. Know that your kids will benefit from you being happier and more balanced.

If I meet another single parent who has child custody on opposite nights from my custody nights, can a relationship ever work?

Now that joint custody arrangements like the “5-2-2-5” schedule have become more common, coordinating nights off among single parents has become a major dating issue. But there are many ways to make it work. Take it one step at a time. In the beginning, you can always squeeze in coffee or lunch during the day even if your evenings are reserved for the kids. Slipping out from work early or organizing a play date for your child at a friend’s house will buy you an hour or two. And not
You can always squeeze in coffee or lunch during the day even if your evenings are reserved for
the kids.
being able to see each other often can be good: You’ll spend more time on the phone and e-mail, getting to know each other better and deeper. If things progress? Hire a babysitter, have a friend or relative watch your children, go out after they’re asleep while a babysitter stays home, or consider asking your ex to switch nights once in a while (you can return the favor another time). Be sure to ask your date to make similar concessions so the re-arranging isn’t all one-sided.

It’s rare to find someone with whom you have a connection. When it happens, don’t dismiss it because of scheduling conflicts. Take the stolen moments you can find, which are hopefully better than not having him/her in your life at all. In the long run, if your relationship becomes permanent, you’ll find solutions. Custody times can be legally changed, you’ll join your kids together and spend time as one big family, and in the end, kids grow up and don’t want to be with you much anyway (sorry, but it’s true!).

Is it really O.K. to leave my kids home with a babysitter while I go on a date? I feel so guilty.

Of course it’s ideal to fit your dating schedule around the time you have with your kids. But realistically, if you’re trying to find a partner, there will be times when a date conflicts with your family time, especially if you’re dating another single parent. So yes, it’s O.K. to get a babysitter. Know that you are prioritizing your children’s long-term needs (having a happy parent and day-to-day loving step-parent) over their short-term needs (having you tuck them into bed every single night).

You also have to accept that it’s not only okay, but in fact absolutely necessary, to do something just for yourself. Think of hiring a babysitter as making a withdrawal from a bank account into which you have deposited so much time, patience, and sacrifice in the past. You’ve put in a lot to raise your kids thus far, and it’s good to take a little out now for yourself.

Rachel Greenwald is the author of the New York Times best-selling book Find a Husband After 35 Using What I Learned at Harvard Business School. She is also a dating coach and matchmaker. She is a frequent guest on The Today Show and has been featured in dozens of magazines from Oprah to People.
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