Most single moms are so busy taking care of kids and home, that they aren’t very good at putting their needs first. For me, the idea of dating seemed like a luxury and about as realistic a venture as sprouting wings and flying to the moon.
When would I find the time? How would the kids feel? Where would I find a sitter with a car but without a life on a Saturday night?
For a long time, when the idea of getting out and meeting someone popped into my head, I’d sweep it away just as quickly. So when a colleague from work unexpectedly asked me out one day, my response went something like this:
“Uh, well, thanks. That’s really nice of you. Um…you know I have kids, right? I’m not really sure that…well, I want to but…I just don’t get many free nights. But I still want to…”
I sounded like an idiot.
But there was a good reason for my hesitation. Logistics aside, dating as a single mom can be really scary. Before I had kids, if I went out with a dud or a jerk, the only person at risk of getting hurt was me. Now, with kids in the equation, there’s a whole new level of pressure.
I was afraid to bring someone new into my life (our lives) until I knew for sure the person was:
A) not a psychopath, and
B) truly liked kids in a genuine, but not-at-all-creepy kind of way.
And, on the flip side, I was nervous about how my kids would respond to someone new. Kids are unpredictable. They say whatever’s on their minds and are prone to unsolicited tantrums and outbursts. What kind of guy would willingly get involved with a lady with three, rambunctious kids?
Frankly, I questioned his sanity for asking me out in the first place.
Despite my stunning response, he assured me he was still interested, really enjoyed kids, and was willing to wait until my calendar freed up.
Okay, I thought. This guy’s different. I’ll give him a try.
Several weeks later, we made that first date happen. And, over time, we saw each other more and more. I learned that he was down to earth, close to his family, and that we shared many interests. Sprinkle in intelligence and a sense of humor and well, what more can you ask for? We just clicked.
After a few months of covert dating – my brood didn’t know I was seeing anyone – he asked when he’d get to meet the kids. Nervously, I suggested we introduce him as “Mom’s friend” and spend the evening at a local festival.
Even though I was initially apprehensive, everyone had a blast. Somewhere between the midway games and cotton candy, I relaxed and just enjoyed the night. After we got home and put everyone to bed, he told me he was impressed by how everyone was.
Frankly, I too, was impressed by their behavior. They were respectful, sweet, and funny. There was no bickering or whining. Looking back, I think they were thrilled to have another grownup to show off for. They told jokes, did cartwheels and, aside from juggling flaming batons on unicycles, were quite entertaining.
“They’re just so…good,” he kept saying.
Every time he said it, I’d blush and thank him, though, on the inside I kept thinking, “Just wait...you haven’t seen anything yet.”
Over the next few weeks, I held my breath, waiting for the first outburst, tantrum or fight. I wondered how long it’d be before my kids showed their true colors. In my house, we do things with gusto. We laugh hard, play hard, and fight hard too. And I wondered how he’d react. Would he turn tail and run?
Sure enough, a few weeks later, the happy façade gave way. We were all in my van, heading out for dinner. My two-year old who, seconds earlier had been singing and giggling, did a prompt 180 and burst into a full-blown temper tantrum. He wailed as he kicked the back of my seat and his face turned as red as the toy fire truck he hurled at the back of my head.
I glanced over to see my new boyfriend’s look of terror.
“What happened?” he whispered. “He was fine just a minute ago.”
“Oh, he does this sometimes,” I said apologetically. “It’s best to just ignore him.”
Ignore him? Yeah, right. I was skilled at tuning out my kids’ outbursts. But asking a single guy who wasn’t used to this to just ignore him was a ridiculous request.
For an instant I figured that this new relationship was doomed. As my boy howled in the back, I could actually visualize a gigantic wedge that would be driven down between our bucket seats.
“You are so going to dump me,” I said, only half joking.
Surprisingly, the fear on his face gave way to a smile.
”I will not be bested by a two-year old,” he said with a sly grin.
Suddenly the giant imaginary wedge disappeared.
Inexplicably, in a matter of seconds, my little guy turned off the waterworks and began to sing. The tantrum was over and my new boyfriend hadn’t jumped from the moving vehicle to get away – not this time.
It is possible for single moms to date, but it comes down to finding the right guy. My advice is to take it slow and be realistic about what you can and can’t expect from everybody – kids and grownups included.
Patience is key, a sense of humor is critical and a set of earplugs in the glove box doesn’t hurt either.