You love your kids and you love being a parent, but as someone dating with kids, you may hate your dating life. Whether it’s guilt you feel for leaving your kids to go out with someone new, or the fear of not finding anyone who will accept your single-parent status, it’s common for single parents re-entering the dating world to feel guilty. But should you?
Believing that you have to be everything for your children, that you owe them more of yourself after all they’ve been through, and that going out and having a good time takes time and money away from your kids are erroneous beliefs, says licensed marriage and family therapist and author of “Chatting or Cheating”, Dr. Sheri Meyers.
“The truth is the more your own cup is filled, the better you’ll be as a parent. Dating helps you not become too dependent on your children for your happiness. Plus, you take the weight off your kids’ need to please you and feel responsible for making you happy,” she adds.
Remember that spending time with a new date doesn’t make you a bad parent. You’re not neglecting your child. It’s just all about balance.
“Dating shouldn’t take away from the quality time you spend with your children, however, dating (especially on your days off!) will help you individuate and define who you are as a single person with children out in the world. First you were identified as a WE with your partner and as a parent. Now you are redefining yourself as an I (with children),” says Meyers.
Dating coach and founder of Dating with Dignity, Marni Battista, believes that sometimes, at a deeper level, these are just excuses people dating with kids make because they’re afraid to date. After coming out of a long-term relationship, a single parent may feel like they don’t even know how to date anymore. That’s why Battista suggests starting out slow.
“Parenting activities are a great place to meet someone. Getting involved in activities where there are other parents, like kid/parent classes or groups,” she says.
And of course, online dating is a great way to ease your way back into the dating scene. One common fear among single parents is ofbeing perceived as having baggage or that there’s a lack of potential suiters who are willing to date someone with a child. Instead of thinking of yourself as having baggage, think of yourself as a package deal instead.
“You come to the relationship/dating table with kids. Who you choose will also affect your kids. Choose people who are open to the idea that you are apparent and who like children or better yet, also who have children,” says Meyers.
In other words, don’t hide the fact that you’re a single parent since you’ll risk falling for someone who might not be open to the idea of dating someone with children. Not to mention, you’re not being honest. A big part of dating with kids is setting an example for your children.
“It’s important to model to them what it looks like to have a healthy relationship: self-worth, good communication, setting boundaries, etc. It is also important to let them know, if there is already another parent in the picture, that mom/dad dating isn’t for the purpose of replacing the parent they already have,” says Battista.
When it comes time to introduce your children to your new partner, the experts agree to wait until you know the relationship is serious.
“Be selective about who you allow your kids meet and attach to. Because if it doesn’t work out, they go through a break up, too,” says Meyers.
In the end, remember that both you and your children benefit from your dating because a happy parent leads to happier children.