Dating – that awkward getting-to-know-each other phase where you suss out a potential partner to see if your values (and intentions) are in alignment. It’s scary, exciting and oftentimes can end with your palm against your forehead. Add being a single parent into the mix and things get that much more complicated…or do they?
Divorce and separation are already hard enough on a child without needing to throw dating on top of it all. As a single mom, I sat down with Josh Breyfogle from RareFlamingo Social Media Solutions, a single dad, to talk about the murky waters of dating as a single parent. Navigating difficult questions such as when the right time to start dating is, when a single parent should introduce their child to their new beau and whether or not adding a new adult into an already-set familial hierarchy is going to impact the child negatively are touchy subjects.
What’s Your Experience Joshua?
Joshua is a single father of a happy five-year-old little girl, and though he and her mom split three and a half years ago, Joshua decided a long time ago that while he didn’t need a partner in his life, he wouldn’t mind having someone to come home to, to share his life and successes with and to encourage him to be and do more. All things considered, entering into the dating scene again wasn’t exactly easy for him.
The self-proclaimed serial monogamist admits that there have been two women he has dated since “the split.” The first, he dated several months before introducing her to his lovely daughter, while the second was introed mere weeks due to the quality and depth of their connection.
“I think every case is different and you have to feel it out.” Joshua confesses he doesn’t quite know what is right or wrong. His last relationship failed due to his ex not being ready to settle down. He would rather have his partner be truthful and honest from the start so as not to waste his time and hurt his little one.
One of the most difficult things about the breakup was his daughter was very attached to his former love – in the end, he felt he did something horribly wrong because his daughter suffered the ramifications of his decision. On top of everything parents juggle, the last thing they often want is to feel like they’ve damaged their child in some way.
Dating As A Single Parent: A Battle Between Head and Heart
It wasn’t easy for me either as I feel the moral boundaries between parenting and dating are gray at best – in other words, it is a battle between head and heart. On one hand, we face wanting to do the best we can for our children and on the other, loving someone and being loved in return is something so fulfilling. In the words of Franklin P. Jones, “Love doesn’t make the world go round, love is what makes the ride worthwhile.”
Agreeing with Joshua, I feel that the hardest part of dating as a single parent is knowing if or when to introduce your child to your beau. There are no guarantees in life, and though things may go smooth for a while there is always the risk of having everything fall apart. It is that much worse when your child is involved, and often leaves parents wondering whether or not they should date at all. While we cannot save our children from every challenge and pain, as parents we certainly don’t want to add to them!
Tips to Consider When Dating A Single Parent
- “Space” is the key word.
If you are dating a single parent and are not a single parent yourself, keep in mind that you may never be first in the life of your significant other. Naturally, their children will be their primary focus. If you are looking for that whirlwind love where you are everything in the eyes of your lover and the sole focus of their life, you may want to consider dating someone else.
- Be clear with your intentions up front.
Some people are simply looking to have a good time, others may be looking for something more long-term and still others are looking to settle down and get married. Whatever your intentions are, they aren’t wrong so long as you are clear and concise up front.
Most of the time in the early stages of a relationship we may tell half-truths to our potential partners in an effort to spare their feelings or give them what they want to hear. Here, honesty is the best policy – if you are only looking to get a little frisky and keep the relationship physical, be honest. Maybe that is all the single parent wants as well! Keeping open communication is imperative to relationships in whatever form they take.
- Schedules can change at the drop of the hat.
Single parents juggle a lot: work, running a household, school, doctor’s visits, play dates, unexpected mishaps and family time are but a few of the many things that come with being a parent, not including the last-minute shuffling such as an impromptu meeting, or a visit to urgent care. You may have a romantic outing you’ve been looking forward to with your flame which can unexpectedly need to be pushed back.
- The child’s other parent will probably still be in the picture.
This is a reality that has to be faced, and it may not be easy for you, but it is necessary. Despite what has happened between the adults, the children do have a right to both parents unless abuse, mental disorder or some other form of irresponsibility renders one parent ill-fit to take care of their child. If you are the jealous type, it may be best to take a step back and consider whether or not this is something you want to get into. In most cases, single parents prefer to keep their current lover out of the picture when dealing with an ex – so that’s good news for you should you decide to stick around!
- In many cases (not all), the single parent is NOT looking for a new mother or father to fill some “void” in their child’s life.
A friend, buddy and/or authority figure is the thing many single parents are looking for their children – but only at the right time. If you aren’t ready to help babysit, or to support your significant other in changing diapers or chaperoning play dates, just say so! Don’t over-extend yourself or play the savior if, down the line when the need-to-impress your S/O wears off, you know you aren’t going to want to be so active in his/her child’s life. The only games a single parent wants to play is snakes and ladders or, in the case of Joshua, Barbie dolls and tea parties.
- A possible upside to dating a single parent is you will probably have a lot more time to yourself.
He or she adores you, but even when the kiddos aren’t around there’s a long to-do list of chores which needs to be done. Sure, you could come over and help, but there will be times when a single parent needs to destress on their own or simply hang with their friends. Additionally, sleeping in becomes a luxury, and they may grab it every chance they get!
- Another possible upside to dating a single parent is their level of responsibility when it comes to relationships.
Break-ups aren’t easy, and neither is divorce or separation. Chances are if you are dating a single parent, they have pulled apart, chewed and digested all the possible reasons why their past relationship failed including their role in it. For most single parents, they will be willing to work through issues without going into the mellow-dramatic housewives of Atlanta spiel which would leave Lindsay Lohan in shock. They are adults, they will respect you as an adult and their one wish would be to address challenges as an adult.
- They don’t have time for BS.
Single parents don’t want to play games, have to prove our love to our partners, or put up with trying to discern whether or not someone is angry with them or not. Tell us like it is – and do it maturely (by “mature” I mean without blaming or shaming).
In conclusion ladies and jelly-spoons, dating a single mom or dad can be an incredibly fulfilling experience or it could be something you are not in alignment with at all. There is no right or wrong, but understanding your wants and needs before getting into a committed relationship doesn’t just support your S/O, it supports you as well. No one likes having their time wasted, single parents’ least of all!
Wishing you all the best!