In search of Happily Ever After for my kids’ sake.
In the trial and error world of dating, sometimes, we get exactly what we want. “A single mother said to me, ‘We don’t need to talk. Just be at my place on Thursdays
between 9 and 10 pm. Are you down for that?’ I told her ‘Hell yeah!’, says Josh Wolf, comedian and author of It Takes Balls: Dating Single Moms and Other Confessions
from an Unprepared Single Dad. He was 27-years-old at the time and a single father of three. That kind of relationship was all he could handle.
Endless loads of laundry, sleepless nights and chauffeuring kids leads many newly single parents in search of some desperately needed adult time. With fifty percent more single
fathers on the single parenting landscape over the past two decades, the playing field now allots both sexes more time to pursue dating.
Casual dating for a majority of single parents, albeit fun as the dust settles on the divorce papers, appears to be a short-lived initial phase, lasting a few months but typically
growing old after a year. A strong desire to create a love-filled family unit is often the true end goal of dating for many single parents. Mark Santos, a 33-year-old single dad
from Oakland wants to set an example for his seven year old, “My daughter is going to use what she sees me doing as a model for herself. I now assess whom I date with that
in mind.” But entering the dating world beyond casual connections can be daunting. “The kids and I were happy. We had found our groove. Introducing someone else, while the payoff could be huge, wasn’t worth it,” explained Wolf, who is now re-married. “It takes time to find peace within your situation and yourself after a major breakup.” Taking time to just “be a single parent” can be key before opening up to love.
Dr. Ian Kerner, therapist and author of She Comes First: The Thinking Mans Guide to Pleasuring a Woman warns, “The longer you postpone getting back into the dating world the more likely you will get into a rut… It can feel like you are a teenager all over again but I’ve found it’s really like riding a bike. Put your body in motion and your mind will follow.” Single parents naturally approach dating differently than in their pre-kid days. Most insist upon “developing a friendship first.” Nikki Thomas, 42, is a San Francisco Bay Area morning DJ and mother of an 8-year old. She said, “You had better bring your ‘A’ game. My motto is ‘quality time with quality men.’ I don’t want to date for the sake of dating. The men I date have to be worth my time, if I can put it so bluntly. It’s childcare and time away from my daughter.” In general single dads have it easier, women are more likely to find “single dad status” attractive. In a survey of 100 single fathers, the vast majority preferred to date women with children, thinking she would be more “selfless and understanding”, writes Ellie Slott Fisher in her book Dating for Dads: The Single Father's Guide to Dating Well Without Parenting Poorly. Single moms, in contrast, preferred dating men without kids to reduce complications.
Unfortunately, that may also make finding a man willing to accept prior kids more difficult. Beyond these differences, preparing to date again involves boosting self-confidence for both sexes. Dr Kerner recommends a healthy diet, exercise, and socializing with single, like-minded individuals. “Over thinking dating leads to anxiety. Anxiety hijacks. Anxiety is future oriented; you really want to be present oriented,” states Dr. Kerner. Experts and single parents agree that waiting six months to a year to introduce your date to your child is best. Jane Norris, 34, from St. Paul, Minnesota and mother of three kids, said “Once seriously dating, my rule of thumb is that I want to feel the relationship is headed toward marriage before I would introduce him to my kids.”
Many single parents sited honesty as the best way to keep dating uncomplicated. On courting his wife, Wolf explained “We spent a lot of time at my house, sitting on the couch talking after my kids went to bed. That alone time accelerated getting to know one another without The Bachelor’s version with all its ‘bells and whistles”.
No helicopters, just time to find out how much I liked her.” Leah Hunter, 37-year-old mother of a two-year old, says her needs have changed. “The idea of courtship is about
small gestures of appreciation, doing the little things that make me feel like a woman—putting your arm around me, bringing me a flower or soup in bed when I’m sick. As an independent single mom, it’s these little things that I wish for most.” It is simply more complicated the second or third time around. Certified Gottman Therapist* Darren Wilk explains, “It takes heightened emotional intelligence to be the best parent and partner you can be. You must be in tune with your, your children’s and your partner’s feelings.
It’s also key to intentionally find ways to have fun.” Part of enjoying the dating journey is in knowing why you are doing it. Hunter understands, “What my daughter needs to see is a mom who has love, joy and fulfillment in her life. She needs to have a happy, whole mom. I choose to do what makes my soul happy.”
Recommended Steps for Introducing a New Love to Your Child(ren) from Certified Gottman Therapist* and Founder of BestMarriages.com, Darren Wilk:
• Make the introduction in a neutral environment,
not at either person’s home.
• Have the location be a place where the kid(s) can
participate in an activity they enjoy and feel like
they can succeed doing.
• Make the visit short enough so they
don’t feel stuck.
• Don’t make them feel pressured to like the new
person; allow them to have their own opinions
• Have the kid(s) choose what their favorite food is
and incorporate that food during the introduction.
* Studying what makes relationships’ succeed for
over 40 years, The Gottman Institute’s therapists
have many scientifically founded insights.
*For over 35 years, the Gottman Relationship Institute
has been training therapists and conducting leadingedge,
scientific study of why relationships succeed or fail.