There is nothing more sacred to single parents than the safety and well-being of their children.
And if you’re a single parent, perhaps this example of an all-too-common internal dialogue sounds eerily familiar:
"Bad enough my marriage failed and they have to deal with that! I sure don't want them to have to go through the heartache of seeing me dating person after person — they deserve more than that. And I don't want them to get the wrong ideas about dating and sex while I'm dashing their hopes that mommy and daddy will get back together. Oh, just forget it, I'll wait till they're grown up."
But if you really care about your children's well-being, maybe a rethink is in order. Making sacrifices for one's children is healthy and normal; making yourself into a living sacrifice of sexless loneliness is neither.
Children are just that, children. As such, they can never meet adult needs for adult companionship. A far healthier approach for you and your children is to accept responsibility for living your life as a role model of what you hope they do in the years to come. So what's it going to be: joyless celibacy and flying solo sexually, or a normal adult life that hopefully includes love, romance and, inevitably, lessons on how to handle the occasional broken heart?
If you made the choice to live a normal life, congratulations! Now, to get started:
- Act as if dating is normal — because it is! If your kids are old enough to know about the divorce and you being single, then they're old enough to hear you say that you get lonely sometimes and that you know you're eventually going to have to start dating. Let them know that you have mixed feelings about this without implying that you're looking for their permission — remember, they're your kids, not your parents. Have faith in the resilience of our species — your kids will adjust and will eventually enjoy watching the process and learning from it.
- Give yourself permission to flirt, to think about potential mates and to go on dates...responsibly. No babysitter? Then wait till you have someone to watch the kids, or otherwise don't date until you do. BTW, dating is dating; dating is not sex. Your kids don't need or want to be privy to your sexual activities or the lack thereof. Ewww, gross! The need for privacy goes both ways. So no sleepovers — for now, get a room! (We’ll talk in a future post about the whens, wheres and hows of sleepovers. Because with any luck, they’ll happen — in due time.) Later, there’ll be time to introduce your children to the significant other in your life (when the significant other indeed becomes “significant”).
- Remember to balance your responsibility to your children with your responsibility to manage your sexuality intelligently. Kids don't need to be kept in the dark about the fact that you're dating or that a particular date was wonderful or horrible and what you liked or hated about the experience. These conversations represent vital life lessons, and your children can learn from a parent who loves them. Or they can learn the hard way, believing that these matters are so private we cannot ever discuss them with anyone.
Your kids finding out that you're normal and that the desire for a mate is normal...what's the downside? None.
Final word: please introduce them to your dates when possible so they'll learn that although many may be called, few are chosen. Now let's get to it.