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Balancing Parenthood with a Single Social Life

copyright 1997 by Janet Jacobsen

Many newly divorced have a quandary about dating and the children. It seems that some become super mamma and "the children" become "everything" in their lives. They will tell you the reason they haven’t been getting out is on account of "the children." This "sacrifice" is no benefit to the parent or the children’s welfare, either one.

Others have such a dire need to be with other adults that their children become low on the priority totem pole. Particularly when they are in what’s known as the "running" stage. Fortunately this stage only lasts a short time.

What we need is sort of a middle ground. Mother or Dad should have time to take care of their needs and the children should be given extra time and attention to their needs at other times.

You have to understand that children feel they are going through a divorce, too, and you do need to give them more attention and reassurance than usual. However, that does not mean length of time; it means taking a few minutes each day and really giving them 100% attention - quality of time and attention, not length of time.

HOW WILL THE KIDS REACT? Some children initially may be threatened by mother starting to go out or dating. Some may even act up and really cause a scene or develop problems when you want to go out. You need to explain that if they had to only be with adults all the time, then they would get crabby and so on, because they never got to play with other kids their age.

Tell them that when parents have to just be with kids all the time and never get to play with other adults their age, well, then mothers get crabby, too. (They know this already only too well.) Now you get to play with the other kids all this other time, so tonight is my night to get out and play with other adults.

Small children particularly may feel that if one parent left (deserted them, they feel) probably the other one will, too. Reassure them that no matter what, you will never leave them. Tell them that if you ever love another adult, that doesn’t mean that you will love them any less. The love relationship between a man and a woman is different than love for your children.

You may say initially you may need to spend more time getting established and comfortable as a single but that will settle down soon, that you may spend a little less time with them right now than you like, but since you do not have an opposite sex adult living with you like you used to, you need to go out where other adults are.

SHOULD YOUR DATES MEET THE KIDS? Some people say - well, should I bring these people I am dating in to meet the children? Experience seems to indicate that the best bet is not to get your children involved with your dates when you are dating a lot of different people. They tend to get easily attached to certain ones.

Introduce your dates to your children when the occasion arises. When you date some certain one on a more regular basis, then you may want to do some joint activities that include both your date and the children.

What if you have teenagers, for example, and you stay over night at your date’s house, or they stay over night at your house, isn’t that going to set a bad example for your kids?

You need to have a talk with your teenagers. Tell them you have been married for ‘x’ years and that you are over 21, that you may be having one of your single friends staying over but that doesn’t mean that sort of thing is ok for them. When they are more mature, have been married for ‘x’ years, or are over 21, then they can decide that sort of thing for themselves, but until that time, no.

Tell them you are used to having an adult around, having been married, and since you are not going to be getting married again right away, you still want to have someone special in your life.

NO POINT PRETENDING. If you pretend that "Charlie" slept on the couch all night, you are not fooling anyone. If you are uptight or try to pretend something that isn’t, then it becomes an emotional issue. If you treat it all as just something natural, then it is no big deal. Have a lock on your bedroom door and remember there is no reason to be any more uptight about it than when you were married.

Avoid a series of a lot of different people, in this regard. You may be single for a long time or even the rest of your life. Remember, if the parent’s life is purring along happily, then that’s the best thing you can do for your children. Your children are usually thriving almost in direct proportion to how you are doing. Get your life working well and theirs will likely be, too.

WHAT WILL YOUR EX SAY? What will your ex do if the children report your new friend is staying over? Sure, they think they should be out having a good time and you should be staying home 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, breathing down the children’s necks. Sure, they have a mixed bag of feelings about someone else having some part in their children’s lives, but they grow up and eventually realize it’s a good thing for all that their ex is happy, and the resulting benefits for their children.

What you do about dating and fulfilling your sexual needs will depend on your moral attitudes and whether you can change your programming to where you are not uptight about it. When it just sort of flows and seems like a natural thing because of how you view it, and no one is uptight about it, then it can have a beneficial effect on your overall happiness and as a result, your children’s. They are a mirror of how your life is working. Do whatever works and change your programming to allow yourself to be comfortable with what works.