Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Dating As A Single Parent

The biggest learning curve as a single parent is how to balance parenthood and dating, because both need to come with an instruction manual, yet neither do.

I'm a confident, outgoing kind of woman, and yet the prospect of dating again after being single for 18 months absolutely stumped me. I'd been in a relationship with my son's father for six years, so returning to the dating pool was terrifying. Like playing that trust game, where you have to fall backwards and wait for your friends to catch you. Except this time, the person I was hoping to meet was going to have to catch two hearts instead of easy feat.

Along my online dating journey I've learnt several, key things which are my imperatives to dating as a single parent.

1. Honesty From The Beginning
When you join a dating site, don't withhold the fact that you have a child. The sad truth is, with online dating especially, the mentality is like looking through a catalogue for a partner or date. This means that if you don't tick enough 'boxes', then you're not going to get that initial message in your inbox. In all honesty dating a woman with a child isn't for everyone, and that's okay. As much as we love and cherish our child, we can't expect every single person to do the same. It's only fair on other people to know your situation - no matter if it means ruling them out of a date. If this is the case, they aren't right for you anyway.

2. Keep Child-Chat To A Minimum
Personally I keep my son out of as much initial communication as possible. I make sure I reiterate that I have a son into initial communications once - usually when someone asks what I've been up to, I will respond and include an activity that we've done together. Just to make absolutely sure they know. After this, and during a first date, I will rarely mention him. I think it's important for a date to get to know me as me, not as a parent - to decide if there is anything worth pursuing. A new guy with little experience of children, especially if he has none of his own, isn't going to want to hear about the beautiful play-doh creation that my son made, or the amount of times he has tried to stick a raisen, lego, or bead up his nose. So for those initial messages, and the first (few) dates, keep it to a minimum. If you decide to keep seeing each other, then slowly begin to bring the child into the conversation on a more frequent basis.

3. Don't Introduce Until You're Sure
Everyone has different rules about this. My stance is that a man won't meet my son until I'm sure there is a future for us. I'm not talking white dresses and vows necessarily, but I am talking about a mutual decision to face forward together. This comes after the honeymoon period, when routine has taken hold and you know that you're compatible as two individuals. Children make bonds with those they see regularly, and nothing is worse than watching your childs heart break when the newest squeeze doesn't work out and they face missing them, and potential rejection issues. Protecting their heart is more important than the convenience of introducing your new beau to your child too early, just so you don't have to rely on babysitter time to be together.

4. Labels
When you do introduce someone to your child, think careful about what label you want to give that. Lines shouldn't ever be blurred, and labels are dependant on each individual situation. My son has a father, so I'm not looking for a replacement one. Therefore I would only introduce someone new under the guise of a 'friend' at first, and thus keeping the hand holding, kissing and hugging private. Then as things stop being 'new' the label would become that of a "boyfriend".

5. Don't Neglect Either Heart
Finally, when you're in a relationship and you have a child, there are three hearts to consider, and you are the one who has the most control over them all. As a parent, we can't expect anyone to protect our child's heart for us, that's our responsibility. If your child needs you, then that has to be the priority - no matter what the new squeeze would say. If they can't handle a last minute date cancellation because your child's been sick everywhere, then they aren't going to be the right third heart for the scene. Don't expect them to jump for joy if you have to cancel, but if they struggle to accept it, then that should be a warning sign. Likewise make sure that you make the most of your child-free time and invest into the new relationship. It means your free time is going to disappear as you split it between your little person, and your big person, but that's just seasonal as a pattern will nicely emerge with gentle persuasion.

I'm not saying these tips are foolproof, but I wanted to share what I've learnt. It may sound like a lot of rules, but in reality dating as a single parent comes with a shed load of extra considerations/worries. Don't let it stress you out, but make a mental plan and stick to it, and most importantly, go with the flow, but never be dragged along by the current.

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