I feel like I’m leading a double life.
Since my divorce a year and a half ago, my two children have never seen me go on a date. As far as they’re concerned, I’m just Mom, who works full-time and does her best to keep up on laundry and dishes and science projects. Although I’ve been actively dating for the past eight months (with no serious relationships yet), I’ve gone to great lengths to ensure that my kids don’t know anything about my social life other than I occasionally go out with friends.
I’m trying to protect my kids from undue anxiety, so I’ve never allowed any man I’ve dated to so much as catch a glimpse of them. In fact, I only go out on dates on nights when they are with their father. But lately I’ve begun to wonder if this is the best approach.
I know other single mothers who have no problem allowing their children to meet any of their dates. “They need to understand that I have a new life and that Mom and Dad are not getting back together,” someone recently told me.
But I worry about the emotional turmoil that could come if my kids meet someone I’m dating and then things don’t work out. Mind you, “not working out” could occur in any number of ways: What if my kids don’t like him? What he doesn’t like my kids? What if my kids adore him and then he dumps me? What they adore him and then I dump him? What if his kids and my kids hate each other?
Do you see what I mean?
I don’t feel the need to introduce my children to someone I’m dating unless it becomes a serious, committed relationship. Of course, then I run the risk of investing months and months into a relationship only to discover that my kids and my romantic interest clash and that a family scenario is not in our future.
I suspect my kids have a lingering hope that their parents will remarry someday, so the thought of a potential step-father would be traumatic. However, I am considering inviting a small group of trusted friends, both men and women, to my house to help ease my children into the idea that I do interact with men in social situations.
Maybe how you handle it depends on how long the parent has been single. Maybe it depends on how involved the ex-spouse is in the children’s lives. Certainly the emotional needs of the children are a major factor.
So, all you single parents out there, how do you handle dating with kids? Do you agree or disagree with my approach? I welcome your words of wisdom. Please comment below.
Jessica Carter is a recently divorced mother of two. In her late thirties, she is learning to navigate the mysterious world of LDS mid-singles.