Dating a single parent is complicated. That doesn't mean a relationship with a single mom or dad can't be amazing, and that you can't enjoy it, but dating someone with kids is completely different than dating someone without kids.
People who date single parents often find these relationships frustrating and challenging when it comes to making plans. They often find themselves disappointed when the single parent has to reschedule dates because of kid emergencies, and they end up resentful towards the person they are dating.
Being in tune with what a single parent is thinking and feeling can help you understand, accept and truly enjoy the relationship more. So, that's where I come in--a single mom of two pre-teens.
Here are 8 things you need to know about dating a single parent:
1. The kids will always come first--no matter what. That means that if you have plans with the woman or man you are dating and their child decides he or she needs some mommy or daddy time and so they cancel the date with you, you have to accept it, be OK with it, not resent him or her, AND even respect the fact that he/she is there for the child.
2. The relationship might go slower than you want. Jumping into a serious relationship is a lot easier for those who have never been married and/or who don't have kids. It's not easy, but you have to be patient. Your only other option is to walk away. Or, you can just constantly be disappointed and frustrated.
3. If the divorce is recent or going on, he or she might seem distant at times. No one understands the impact of going through a divorce except for those who have gone through it. It can be draining, frustrating, upsetting, and infuriating, and cause intense anxiety, stress, depression, rage, or sadness. And if someone is going through a divorce, and they had a really bad divorce day--meaning something in their case happened that hurt them in some way, they sometimes want to be left alone. They want to just sit in a room and cry or hug their kids all night while watching TV. It is an extremely emotional time and that person needs to heal. Have respect for that and do not take it personally.
4. He or She is busy. I know, I know...everyone is busy. But he/she is really busy. When someone is juggling a job, kids, and a legal battle, they don't have the time to be on the phone with a new love for hours, and making plans is difficult. Again, don't take it personally if they seem distant.
5. His or her self-esteem isn't the greatest. Maybe her husband left her. Maybe he had to move back home with his parents. Maybe her ex-husband was abusive. There are so many factors that could cause a divorced person to have low self-esteem, and therefore be holding back a bit. If you realize that it's not YOU, it will help YOUR self-esteem, and you won't be thinking he or she isn't interested in you.
6. Be willing to play things by ear a lot. Dating someone with kids requires a person to be flexible and not have to make plans 10 days in advance. Because, any single parent can tell you that schedules and kids' activities get switched around every hour. If you're a planner, that might be a problem.
7. Getting involved in his or her divorce is a huge mistake. If he/she vents about her ex or cries or tells you what a jerk he is, don't make the mistake of hating the ex, too. In other words, this is not your divorce and the ex isn't there to defend himself/herself so you don't have the whole story. Just try to be supportive of feelings and be there for the person in any way you can. Give advice, but be careful. You don't know the whole situation.
8. If you love him or her, you have to love the children, too. It's a package deal. You really have to want to be a stepmom or dad or you shouldn't be with that person.
Some men and women can't handle these 8 things, which is understandable. Just be honest with yourself and make a decision. Sure there is room for a little compromise, but for the most part, the single parent is a parent who needs to be there for his or her children. Accept it or break up. If you can be patient, I think you will enjoy dating a single parent!
Jackie Pilossoph is the author of her blog, Divorced Girl Smiling, and the comedic divorce novels, Divorced Girl Smiling and Free Gift With Purchase. She also writes feature stories, along with the weekly dating and relationships column, Love Essentially" for Chicago Tribune Media Group local publications. Pilossoph lives in Chicago. Oh, and she's divorced.