Welcome to part one of a series on dating as a solo parent! It’s easy to look outside of ourselves to find someone to love. Swiping right or updating our profile with good-looking selfies is an exercise in creating the future we think will make us happy. But what happens when we take a look in the mirror and see what IS? Who are we? What do we want? What is best for our kids? Tune in for some tips on phase one of getting back into the dating pool as solo-by-choice, divorced, or widowed parents.
In this episode, I talk about…
[2:17] Identity as a solo parent
I know that when I became a solo parent because of a relationship split, I was pretty spun out. My role was very defined one day and completely shattered the next. I was a wife who worked, raised a kid, and had a husband who locked the door at night. We shared finances, we had meals together, and we parented.
One day that was all over, and I had a kid and two suitcases. I didn’t even know what my favorite color was, what I liked to eat, what I liked to read, or what I liked to watch on TV. I knew a lot about what we liked, but much less about what I liked. There was a lot of enmeshment in my relationship, and I had been in it for 13 years, but I definitely felt like I was half a person who had been ripped from the other half.
My daughter was looking to me for answers, and I began to identify myself around her needs instead. I made choices that would benefit her first and foremost, like finding a place with good access to schools and to other kids. I chose a place that was safe for a single mom and a little kid. I got a dog, as you may recall from episode 16. I was fortunate to find some good caregivers who could occasionally help me when I needed some time to cook or run errands, or if I was sick with the flu or just needed to be alone.
[4:22] Getting to know yourself before dating
After some not great dates and attempts to get involved with people who were utterly unsuitable for me, I realized I needed to do some work on me. I had to get to know myself and be at peace with the person I was in the present moment – not the past me or the unknown future me, but the present me.
First, I started treating myself like a valued friend. I asked myself each day what I wanted to do outside of work, or even in my work life. I considered what choices made me feel strong, empowered, and alive versus those that made me feel like hiding or made me feel nervous. I started to write these things down, so I had a sense of what made me feel great.
[5:11] Taking yourself on dates
Then, I began taking myself on dates. I wrapped myself in cozy clothes on a cold night and went to a movie. It was weird at first, but then I stopped caring what other people thought. Sometimes I would stop in a restaurant I admired and sit at the bar with a bite to eat and something bubbly to sip. I took my dog on walks while listening to my favorite music, and I would notice the sky, the houses, the apartments, the trees and the plants. I treated myself to these moments, and I tried to trust that I was beginning to notice who I was a little more each time.
[5:52] Falling in love with your life
I stopped complaining as much. That was tough for me, but it really did help. I began to replace an eye roll or a sigh with a smile or a shrug. I began to let the little things roll off my back. I became aware of when I was doing things to impress others or to gain attention or affection. I started wearing clothes that I liked, not clothes that I thought someone else would like.
I also started treating my body better. I took the time to think about my food and sleeping habits. I tend to exercise pretty hard when I’m stressed, but I learned that taking it easy was good too.
The feeling of freedom began to seep in. This was my life. I could shape it in the way that was right for me. I could draw a picture of my cat, and do it badly, and no one cared. I could read trashy books, or be a dork in an exercise class. I could watch the same movie over and over, or wear the same sweater all weekend long. I could try new foods, or I could eat the same stuff for a week. I could learn new hobbies. The world began to unfold. And even though I continued to go through a certain kind of hell because of some outside circumstances, I started to like who I was coming home to.
What are you doing that you like? What parts of you feel expansive? Which ones are tired and crusty? Can you start to release the old stuff as you begin to come out of your cocoon? I wish that for you. Take yourself on a date – even if it’s a moonlit walk or getting a bunch of flowers to put by your bedside – and know that this is your life. You get to fall in love with your life, and I can’t wait for it to unfold in all of its crazy beauty for you.
Getting to know who you are as an individual is one of the best parts of being a solo, divorced, or widowed person. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it’s worth it.