Single Moms are some of the most powerful women in the world. No matter our circumstance, what is true for all of us is that our lives took a radical shift we never saw coming and most of us have moved mountains to do this job well.
Given the inner strength and beauty of our demographic, we should be the most desirable women out there! But oftentimes we are lonely and confused and have a hard time getting back into the world and trusting that we are worthy of finding and keeping true love.
It is a core human desire to express and receive love, but Single Moms have a whole host of things to consider that others don’t. We need to ascertain what makes a good partner for ourselves and our children, at what point do we introduce our new partners to our children, and especially for those full-time Single Moms, when on earth do we go on dates? Not to mention, where are we supposed to meet men? It can be enough to shut it all down before it even begins.
Let me address the last one first – where on earth do we meet these men? I hear women scream all the time, “Where are all the good men??” The answer is they are everywhere! The real question is how are you being in the world? Are you rushing through your day, frazzled and harried? Do you walk through the grocery store in a rush, just trying to get it all done? Do you zoom through the drive-through at Starbucks, instead of going inside?
I was shocked when I took inventory of own life and realized the number of places I went every day and how I was being in those places. I was one of the women who’d rush through the grocery store with earbuds in, full of my New Yorker “don’t talk to me” attitude and then would wonder why I wasn’t meeting any men. The truth was I was completely unapproachable. As soon as I started to exuded an “I’m approachable and nice” attitude, everywhere I went men started to talk to me – over the frozen food section at Trader Joe’s, staring at wines, or getting coffee. On my nights without my son, I don’t sit on my couch feeling lonely and sorry for myself anymore; I meet my girlfriends at a local bar. They’re married and talk to everyone. We all need good wing-women!
The single most important thing you can do to make a man talk to you is to smile. Men are as insecure and scared as we are, except all the pressure is on them to approach, and they don’t want to look like a creep when they do. So let them know it’s safe by giving them a warm smile. You’ll be surprised. Now that you know how to meet them, the next question is, how on earth are you going to go on a date with them?
This is where the Village comes in. You have got to have a community of friends you rely on to help you. We all have friends who will pick our kids up from school if we’re in a bind, or the ones who will take our kid to the playground when we have the flu (and if you don’t, get some, STAT). But why is it that dating seems and feels so much less important to us? This is one of those oxygen mask moments, and a good friend will get it and support you in that. And if they don’t, explain it to them.
This points to our need to feel like superheroes, like we have to be able to do it all. We simply cannot, and we need to be able to ask for help. We also need to be able and willing to reciprocate. I have a team of friends whose children I will take at any given time, and those parents will in turn take my son any day of the week so I can go on a date and not have to pay a fortune for a babysitter. (See how this works?)
OK, so now you’ve met him, and you’ve gone on a few dates with him, and it seems like it might go well. How do you know when to introduce him to your kids? How do you start to ease into a more relaxed kind of dating where you have dinner at home and watch a movie?
There is a delicate and fine balance to this, but it’s not as delicate and fine as some would have you think.
Here’s what doesn’t work:
● Bringing a new man home each week, or even every other month and introducing him to your child as a boyfriend.
● Showing physical affection in front of your child with multiple men over the course of time.
● Having multiple men sleep over
Here’s what does work:
● After a period of time (maybe 2-3 months), if the relationship seems solid, having them meet you at the playground or come over for dinner,
introduced as a friend.
● Slowly introducing someone special over the course of time into your lives, through dinners, movie nights, etc.
● Eventually talking to your child about what it means to date and what the difference between dating and a boyfriend is (age appropriately).
● Eventually introducing and talking to your child about having your boyfriend sleep over. Often we can get caught up in the flurry of a new
relationship and want to introduce our new boyfriend to our children right away and begin to play house quickly. But if that initial spark dies and the relationship fizzles out, the loss can be as devastating to our children as it is to us. In that case we risk creating the illusion that people can disappear, or that they are dispensable. We can harm our children’s sense of security, which is vital to their development and their ability to have healthy relationships of their own down the line.
● On the flip side, a new long-term partner has to choose both our child, and us, and we need to choose them based not only on how they are with us, but also how they are with our children. If we wait too long to introduce them we are actually living a false life in the context of the relationship.
The truth is that you are a mother. If you spend six months seeing a man only when your children are with their father, your partner doesn’t get the sense of what it is to be in a long-term relationship with the real you. Moreover, your boyfriend and your children don’t get to develop their relationship over time before you decide to commit to a life together. For some men, motherhood is beautiful and sexy; for others it’s intimidating. I’ve dated more than one man who ended up competing with my son for my affections. It was a good lesson to learn before it got too serious.
When the relationship becomes serious, it’s actually important for your child and for your relationship that your boyfriend begins sleeping over. It is the natural next step in building your relationship and shows your child what a loving and intimate relationship really looks like. However, as Single Moms, often our kids sleep with us. It’s easy, it’s cute, and we like the security of it. Unfortunately, this is not healthy for your child in the long run. When your new boyfriend starts to sleep over, you will literally have to move your child out of your bed in order to put your boyfriend there. Your child will already be watching with a careful eye as to how this new man/intruder might be taking his mommy’s affections from him (no matter how careful you are, this will be perceived, and if you have a boy it will be even more pronounced). When you move your child out of your bed, he will experience “replacement” in a tangible way that will be psychologically damaging to him. He will likely act out against your new man and even you. Once weekly slumber parties are fun for everyone as a special treat, but break the habit now so you don’t cause more damage later.
Single Motherhood is the hardest job out there. Finding love while doing it can be daunting, but it is also highly possible and a magical gift for you and your children when you’ve done it right. Don’t let time and circumstances rob you of what’s possible for the next phase of your life.