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May 5, 2009

A sweet conversation with my 7 year old nephew, Parker.

“I’m in love with a beautiful girl named Lydia,” he told me.

We were driving home from school as he described yet another girl that had stolen his heart, telling me about her long dark hair, her pretty smile, and how incredibly nice she was to him.

“Honey, aren’t you a little young to be liking so many girls?” I asked him.

“GG,” he said in all seriousness. “A lot of really cute girls like me.”

There are three things that rank up high on my priorities and thought process as a single mom raising my son and my sister’s kid’s. The first one, of course, is the rugrats. That kind of goes without saying, as suddenly every single aspect of my life funnels down in a more concentrated way to how it will affect them. The second priority is my job. If I don’t have a job we won’t eat and we will lose our home. And the third thing that weighs heavy on my mind, and the mind of any single parent, is dating.

That last priority deserves a large explanation, because even the single parent who has chosen not to date while their children are small is still being largely affected by the thought of dating. A non-dating parent has chosen to actively continue their life in a single manner after their relationship fails, choosing to raise their children alone rather than introduce another individual to audition for the role of step parent. And truthfully, this is the ideal situation. There are many ways to ruin a kid. Believe me, I’ve probably been guilty of about 300 mistakes against my son. But the decision that has the biggest impact on a child involves the person their parent chooses to enter into the family. Even if the new relationship involves the perfect someone, attention is being taken away from the kids. And the kids are conflicted by this new person who, to them, is taking the place of their other parent. It is really hard to like someone who steps into this role, because by liking this new person, they are betraying their other parent. And then, of course, there is always that fear a single parent goes through, that they will choose a person that will make all their lives worse. So I can definitely appreciate how cutting out dating altogether in the formative years of child rearing is really the best scenario.

Unfortunately, I’m a glutton for screwing up my son.

About nine months ago, I wrote a blog on what goes through a single mother’s mind when meeting someone new. Privately I received an email giving me flack for “how crazy” single moms are, and how this particular person steers clear from women like me. Lucky for me, I would steer clear from his type as well. I could never be with a man who does not understand the thought process of a single mother, and the importance of being absolutely scrupulous before entering this person in her and her children’s lives. Entering into any relationship, I can no longer be concerned about only myself. There is another being that will be directly affected by everything I do and by every choice I make. Any man that enters my life enters his as well. No matter if this guy is a good guy or a bad guy, the dynamics of our household changes. And if this man says goodbye, he says goodbye to both of us, and is capable of breaking two hearts in one foul swoop. That is a lot of pressure for one man, and that is a lot to think about for me before I can even entertain the idea of introducing this man into my life.

There is so much to consider upon dating, namely the confusion about when to involve the kids. In the past I have been guilty of involving my son after the third or fourth date. This takes a lot of strategy and extreme planning. There is no such thing as a last minute date because there needs to be babysitting or plans around weekends when the kids are visiting grandparents or spending the night at a friend’s house. Basically, dating is sparse and takes a ton of patience. The problem I encountered using this agenda was that the person I was dating did not get the full picture of what my life entailed in real time. Either the relationship would fizzle out fast as they got tired of my lack of time, or they said goodbye soon after entering my crazy full life. Understandably this has caused a lot of frustration for me, and I have sworn on more than one occasion that I plan on being a crazy cat lady once the kids leave the house. Recently a friend told me about the way she handled dating as a single mom. When she first met her boyfriend, she introduced him right away to her toddler daughter, telling him that this was her life. She made it clear that any man who entered her life needed to be open to the possibility of stepping into a fatherly role should it work out. There were no games or playing coy with the reality of where she was at, and where someone would need to meet her if they wanted to be with her. This friend is now engaged to the same man who has become every bit the father to her daughter.

There really is no right answer as to how to deal with dating and kids. The only concrete rule in my book is that they come first. And any man that enters my life must understand that.

More on dating to come…..

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