Friday, March 8, 2013
Single Parents & Dating
It's Friday night, you just got off of work and you're ready to spend some nice quality time with you new boyfriend/girlfriend. So you call him/her and they tell you that plans fell through and they have their child but that you're more than welcomed to still come over. Not exactly what you had in mind for a nice chill friday where you'd rather just relax minus the child..
Dating a single parent can be a very delicate situation. Children always come first mainly because they aren't able yet to take care of themselves and require a lot of attention especially at a young age. However, this does not mean that a single parent cannot balance being in a relationship all while being the parent their child needs them to be. I always recommend that single parents should try dating other single parents because they understand the struggle when it comes to dating. I've been in 3 relationships in my entire life. One where I was the guy dating a single parent, another where I was the single parent dating someone without kids (which was hell I might add), and then as a single parent dating another single parent. The easiest one of the 3 choices was being a single parent dating another single parent. The connection was stronger because we had something that was such a huge part of our lives bring us together and instead of children being a burden, it became a plus when both children were around.
Now, If you don't have children, and are interesting in someone that does, or do have children and interested in someone who does not, there are some things you need to consider when dating a single parent.
The Package Deal
First and foremost, when dating single parent, you must realize that you aren't only taking on a new girlfriend or boyfriend, but eventually you will be taking on their child as well. If you do have serious intentions with this person it is imperative that you consider if you are ready for such a huge responsibility. Depending on the situation, there might not be a lot of free time for each of you to spend alone and that can bring a lot of stress onto a new relationship if there isn't any balance. Do you like kids? Does your ideal woman have any kids or would you prefer to start a family from the ground up as opposed to being an addition to someone else's? These are some of the things you must ask yourself when considering dating a single parent. Weigh your options before things get serious mainly because kids can get attached to you as well and might not understand why you aren't coming around anymore when things don't work out with their mother or father.
When is it a good time to bring your children around someone you're considering dating? I wouldn't recommend bringing them around too soon but I wouldn't wait too long either. Sometimes we as parents are so overprotective of our children that we wait months to bring them around someone who we are involved with and that can be very dangerous. Why? Well, you have to take into account that your child is a huge part of your life and now you are considering bringing someone new into that picture. Shouldn't you be concerned if they will get along? What if your child hates them? What if they don't like your child? Finding out that this person that seemed so perfect for you has no chemistry with your child can be really stressful. Needless to say, your relationship will probably never grow. That doesn't mean you should introduce them to everybody you're dating, especially if you are a "serial dater". Give yourself time to get to know the person you're dating before you allow your child to get to know them. When the time is right and you have a full grasp on who the person you are dating is and consider them a serious candidate, pull the trigger. It doesn't have to be an all day thing, it can be brief but when you do allow them to meet, pay attention to them as they interact. Is your new love interest showing any sort of interest in the child or do they appear uninterested? Keep in mind that not everybody is great with kids, especially if they've never had any of their own. So be careful not to read too much into these signs because it very well could be a learning experience for them.
Children can run a good man or woman out of your life very quickly if you allow them so when it comes to your child meeting someone new, have a talk with them before hand, remember when it comes to your child and understanding, communication is key. Let them know that it's important to you that they be respectful at all times. Rudeness is not "cute" and shouldn't be tolerated. It can be an awkward situation for your significant other if your child is being rude to them in front of you. That's you're job to handle that, not theirs.
If you are dating someone with children and the time comes where you are to meet the child, be enthusiastic, keep the communication going, keep the questions coming, show the child's parent that you have interest in not only her or him but the child as well.
Quality time vs Family time
When you are a single parent and are involved with someone, it is important that you balance the time you share with your child and the time you spend with your significant other. Kids always come first however, you don't want your significant other to feel alienated when they are around or feel that they can't come around because you never seem to have enough time for them. There should be a good amount of time spent between you, the child and your significant other, you and the child, and you and your significant other. If your significant other is making strides to spend time with you and your child, make time for them. Set a bed time for your children so that your partner can know that at a certain time, they are sure to get some time with you, alone. Go out and do things. Remember, your relationship with one another must still be able to grow even when children are in the picture. Never get comfortable in thinking that once your partner has been introduced to your child that they won't expect a little quality alone time here and there.
If you are dating someone with a child, understand that they might not always have time for you separate from the child. Be understanding and don't alienate yourself when you can't get time alone with your partner. Make sure that you suggest things that include not only your partner, but the child as well from time to time. Look for children's events that are coming to town, try some amusement parks, suggest going to the play park or movies.
One instance where it can be very difficult to bond with a child is when the child is of the opposite sex. Not only is their a huge gap between your age and theirs, but the activities depending on the sex of the child can very. Little girls might not be as rough as boys, they might like playing in makeup and watching child shows that cater to them more. Boys might be rough, into physical interaction and like watching and playing sports more. Compromise must be made on both ends.
If you are the person dating a single parent, partake in those activities with the child. Do the things that they like to do from time to time even if the activities aren't necessarily things you're into, compromise.
If you are the single parent, compromise on your end as well. Make sure that sometimes you and the child do things that your partner likes to do, watch things that they have interest in if they are child friendly.
Who's the boss?
I remember one instance where I was at a friends house with my daughter who's 5. My friend, in a playing manner threw something at me, and my daughter who didn't really understand why the object was thrown went ballistic to say the least.
As overprotective as we can be with our children you'd be surprised how protective they are over us. Not only are children overprotective but they are very territorial, especially in single parent homes. Your child might not be used to seeing you so close to someone else and might find ways to lash out if they either feel you are in harms way or if they aren't getting enough attention. In many cases, a child can very well dictate what you can and cannot do when they are in you and your significant other's presence, but only if you let them. Remember, you're the parent, they are the child. Now, it's a child so of course there are limitations on what you should allow your child to see. I don't think you and your partner should be "lip locking" with your child as a spectator but I don't think you should have to sit on opposite ends of the room either. Find a respectful balance to where your child and significant other are not left out or feeling like there is such a drastic change whenever you're all together.
If you are the one dating a single parent, you should understand that you can't do certain things or act a certain way with your partner in front of children. If the child's bedtime is set at a decent hour, you should have plenty of time to share more intimate moments with your significant other. Make sure that you don't just come around when it's bedtime, make it a point to be there before. Dedicate a little time to the child and you will get yours.
Drama Drama Drama
In some cases, "baby momma/daddy" drama can be so intense that it's best to cut your losses and move on, however, if the situation is manageable and there isn't any drama or very little drama, make sure to stay out of it if you're the one dating someone with children. Leave those issues to your significant other and the person they share the child with because that is someone that is going to be around for a very long time depending on how old the child is and definitely isn't someone you want to be at odds with if you have serious intentions in the relationship.
It's a very delicate situation when you're dating someone who has a child and both parents are still in the picture. Even though it's a huge part of being a single parent, no one wants to find out that someone else is doing their part when it comes to raising their child so be mindful of that, don't get in the way, if anything, just assist them both in parenting. Be there for the child but also know when to back off. Be respectful and let the other party know you are there to assist them with raising their child and not that you have your own agenda in doing so because that's where the drama begins. If you and your significant other are living together, there are certain things you will have to be in charge of in terms of household rules and things that need immediate decisions, but major decisions should be left up to the child's parents.
If you are a single parent and dating, and the child's mother or father is in the child's life, at some point it might be best to introduce them to your significant other. It can ease a parents mind to know who the person is that is around their child and assisting you both with raising them and just like you communicated with the child about how important it is that they be respectful to your significant other, the same must be done to your child's mother or father.
An instance that can cause problems in a relationship with a single parent where both parents are heavily involved is when both parents think it's important that they spend time together with the child. I grew up in a single parent home and I can't really remember seeing my mother or father in the same room together but I do wish I did. Some parents feel that that is important and if you are dating a single parent be respectful of that. There will be times where your significant other and their child's father or mother will be around each other for an extended amount of time and you shouldn't get in the way of that as long as they include you. If you decline, that's your call but it's not right for you to stop these gatherings from happening just because you don't want to be there. It's about the child in this case and not you. If you do decide to go, be there but try not to go overboard when it comes to being involved with their interaction. Your significant other invited you and that should be enough to let you know that nothing out of the ordinary is going on.
If you are a single parent and do feel that it's important that you and the person you share a child with spend time together with the child every now and then, do so but include your significant other in these outings. This shouldn't be a problem for either parent if these gatherings are about the child. Also, understand that everything should have a limit. If you feel that it is necessary that you and your child's father/mother spend time every weekend for family nights then perhaps you both should consider being an actual family. These occasions shouldn't be that often to where there is a strict routine you follow. That's okay for individuals who are single but not the best idea if you have serious intentions with someone new.
Many times in a single parent home especially if the other parent isn't in the picture or is barely in the picture, the single parent is reluctant to give up control when it comes to how their child should be raised. A child being raised by 1 parent could very well upset the balance that that child needs to have. Although you might be a strong women or man and think you can do it all, there is nothing wrong with getting help or a different opinion from your significant other on important issues and by letting go of your control and allowing your significant other to know that his or her opinion is important. Doing so will only strengthen your relationship and the relationship they have with the child. Remember, you chose to be with this person and believe that they are a good enough man or woman for not only you but to bring around your child so you should trust them enough to make sound decisions when it comes to them.
Dating a single parent or being a single parent can be a very tough situation but making it work is not impossible. We want to live for our children but not at the expense of our lives. You definitely don't want to end up old and alone because you dedicated your life to your child. If you're someone who doesn't have children, you definitely don't want the fact that someone does stop you from being in a relationship when they could be great for you.
I'm not a doctor, relationship or children's counselor, I'm just a normal everyday guy who has my own opinion based on trial and error in my personal life. The talking points and solutions that I've written about have worked for me and I thought it would be a great topic to speak on. Read at your discretion.