If you're new here, let me catch you up on my stance on single moms and dating: You are an adult, sexual woman and should proudly date. Do not hide your dating from your kids. Even though there is little societal support for the sexuality of mothers -- unmarried ones in particular -- do not let that hold you back from enjoying the many amazing men in your midst.
And once you do, it's not a big deal if your kids meet the men you date -- even casually. It is not emotionally scaring to get to know a person you will never see again if you don't expect every single person you encounter to be in your life forever and ever. Your kids have friends and neighbors who they love, but move away. Adored teachers who they leave behind at the end of the year, and relatives who die. Meeting a guy their mom is seeing, but may not stay with for the longterm, is not a ticket to a life on the couch, talking about how their mom effed them up with her sexual exploits.
I will go as far as to say you should date, and let your kids know about it. Denying your sexuality and need for romantic connection sets a bad example for your children and thrusts too much responsibility on them to care for your emotional needs now, and physical and financial needs in the future.
That said, I've been a bit ginger about integrating my new boyfriend into my family circus, for reasons I will elaborate on later this week. I've been seeing him for more than three months, and my kids have met him a couple times. He's sweet with them, and he tries to play it cool, though I can tell he's a little nervous about making a good impression on them (and on me, with them), which makes him all the more irresistible.
In the spirit of being normal about mixing kids with dudes, I also tried to keep it cool. We'd planned for him to have dinner at my place with the kids last Thursday. Earlier in the week I texted: "Do you want to stay over?"
Sure, he said. I didn't want to make it into a huge deal with the kids, but I also believe it is really disrespectful to sneak men into your bed, or simply wake up with a man laying next to you without any explanation. Kids aren't morons.
So, I first mentioned to Lucas, age 4: "He's going to sleep over at our house Thursday."
When his sister, 6, came home, Luke eagerly rushed up to her: "Helena! Helena! Guess WHAT! Mommy's boyfriend is going to SLEEP at our HOUSE!"
Helena: "Where is he going to sleep?
Me: "My bed."
Helena: "Where are you going to sleep?"
Me: "In my bed with him."
Helena: "I think you wiggle too much at night. Maybe he should sleep on the couch."
Lucas: "I know! I know! He can sleep in MY BED!"
Me: "Where are you going to sleep?"
Lucas: "With you."
Me: "I'm going to sleep with him in my bed because he's my boyfriend and I want to snuggle with him."
Lucas: "What about OUR morning snuggles?"
Me: "We will still do that -- there are plenty of mommy snuggles to go around."
Helena: "I promise not to fart on his lap like I did with your last boyfriend. I think that's why you broke up."
Maybe that last bit about the boyfriend snuggles was TMI, but it is true and go to the heart of the kids' confusion -- this visitor is different than the many houseguests who frequent our couch. And it turned out to be completely accurate (read on).
The day of The Great Sleepover, I picked Helena at the bus stop and she giddily skipped along the sidewalk holding my hand.
"My mommy's boyfriend is going to sleep at my house! My mommy's boyfriend is going to sleep at my house! I told everyone at school -- even my teachers! My mommy's boyfriend is going to sleep at my house!"
The rest of the evening was pork chops and roasted cauliflower and cupcakes my boyfriend brought for the kids. He cleaned the kitchen (even the stovetop which I religiously leave for the housecleaner) while I got the kids into the bath and jammies. I read Helena one of those Madonna English Roses books and he read Lucas a Planes book. There were kisses all around, followed by yelling to get back into bed, and it couldn't have been more normal or cozy.
And it was, at its core, a normal and cozy Thursday evening with the kids. I put on my long-sleeved pajamas, washed my face and slipped into bed next to him, my head resting in the crook of my arm and then on his chest. We turned off the light and talked about what I don't remember. I wish I had a funny story about stifled howls of passion or a knocking headboard that awoke the kids, and while there were some steamy adult snuggles under the predawn covers, we crawled out of bed to make coffee and muffins and listen to NPR as I yelled at the kids to hurry up and get dressed already. And then the day had begun.