Dating as a single parent can be a challenge. You are required to juggle the emotions associated with dating, parent duties, and time management in ways you’ve probably never imagined. Your heart may crave the rush of a new relationship, but with the heavy responsibilities of being a single parent, it may feel overwhelming to dive into the dating world.
Here are a few things to keep in mind to help you keep your heart open and your head clear.
Truly know when you’re ready to date.
Get clear on when your heart is ready to date. There is no magic timeline to this, but a good rule of thumb is to date when you feel like you don’t need to date. If you’ve been through a breakup or divorce, it’s important to have time to heal. Ask yourself, why are you wanting to date now? Is it to find a replacement for what was lost? Is it for sex? Is it just to start exploring the possibilities? Know your “why.”
If you feel like you’ve healed from a breakup, and you’re ready for the vulnerability and growth of new relationships, it’s a good sign. If you still have lingering feelings or unresolved anger toward your ex, it is probably not a good time to date. This is when people often get into the mindset of scarcity and panic, and feel like they’re missing out on someone or something if they don’t “get back in the game” quickly and find a new relationship. It might be helpful to develop a slow and steady mindset that reminds you that an infinite supply of love is always available. That perfect person will be there when you’re ready.
Balance and prioritize your time.
Finding free time as a single parent can be a challenge. You are spread thin with your time and demands…Work. Parenting. Health. Friends. Groceries. Cleaning the bathroom. Your time is a commodity. But, the truth is, we choose our priorities. Yes, children always come first. Parents get that. However, if you don’t fill yourself up with that which fills you, you will have a difficult time being a present, loving parent.
We all need love. We all need connection. When you are constantly providing connection to your kids, you need to replenish your “tank” with your own relationships. There is nothing wrong with wanting love in your life. The key is to find balance. And finding balance can take a lot of practice, along with trial and error. After all, we are all human. It is ok to make dating a priority in your life. It’s easy to hide in the responsibilities of parenting, but it takes strength to recognize when you’re using your kids as a way to keep your heart safe. If you think you’re ready, make love a priority.
How to tell the kids.
There is no magic number that dictates when it is appropriate to introduce the kids to your new partner. The truth is we have no guarantees in life when it comes to relationships. Once promising, stable relationships reach their shelf life. You can’t always protect your children from the inevitable ups and downs of life. Waiting to introduce your kids to a new partner until you’re headed for marriage is unrealistic. You want to see how your kids and your partner do together. It’s also not healthy to introduce your kids to every date you have. The partners who are committed to you and committed to getting to know your children are the only ones worth introducing.
I’m a believer in teaching your children how to deal with what’s real and what’s human, instead of trying to shield them from the world which leaves them unprepared as adults. If you can be a steady rock of truth, support, and guidance, you teach your kids that they can deal with anything. The reality is that all is transient. Nothing remains stable all of the time. I have spent a career as a therapist healing the wounds of children, and I can tell you that the single most important tool to help build a child’s resilience to the ups and downs of life is to gently expose them with age appropriate honesty, authenticity, and support. Teach your children the truth of relationships. And make it a priority to have a healthy knowledge of your own relationship issues so you can teach your children well.
All of that being said, here is some practical advice. Don’t take your kids on dates when you are not in a committed relationship. Wait until you know you are in a relationship that is devoted to commitment and growing together (and be sure you’ve given the relationship several months to know it’s working). Take it slow. Introduce your kids slowly and give them time to get used to a new person. Know your kids. Do they seem to be sad, depressed, or grieving the end of the relationship between their parents? If so, it may not be a good time to introduce a new relationship. Keep the lines of communication open with your kids. Ask about their feelings, and respect that it may be difficult for them to love this new person that you adore.
Date other single parents.
While people who aren’t parents can be equally good choices, it can be difficult for them to understand your world as a single parent. While it has its challenges in scheduling around two sets of parenting time and the possibilities of a future together, you will find that a single parent will not think twice about you needing to cancel a date because you have a sick child, or a soccer game. If you are open to partners without children, be authentic from the beginning. Help them know your world. Talk about your kids, and your situation so they know from the beginning that it is a priority in your life.
Dating as a single parent has it’s challenges, but it shouldn’t be impossible. If you seek love in your life, make it a priority. It’s tempting to get lost in something that feels as good as a new relationship, but don’t lose your balance. Your kids need you. Your heart needs to feel love. You are human and deserve to be loved, just as much as your children deserve love. Keep balance, perspective, and priority a focus, and you will find that dating and parenting can successfully coexist in your world.
This article was originally published on MeetMindful.com by Chelli Pumphrey, MA, LPC