Mother enjoying time with her daughter

Dating as a single parent

In the second part of this two-part series, I offer some practical advice and insight into what it’s like to date as a parent. Single parenting isn’t easy and being in a relationship isn’t always easy either, but each brings great joy and combining the two can bring the same into your children’s lives.

There are many questions that arise when embarking on a new relationship: When do you introduce the children to the person you’re seeing and any children they may have? What’s the best way to introduce them? How do you juggle the sometimes conflicting priorities of dating and parenting? Is it better to date someone who also has their own kids or someone without?

Well, the reality is that it’s unpredictable, personal and changeable. The kids might need a very gradual introduction and be reticent, or they might take a new person entirely in their stride and welcome him or her with grateful open arms and excitement. Each situation is different, as are the people involved, so it’s something that’ll have to be taken a step at a time and this is where open communication, understanding and patience is so important.

It’s wonderful to find someone with whom you can share your life and who can share the lives of your offspring, but it’s rarely a straight path and everyone involved may struggle with aspects of the new relational dynamic. Of course making sure the kids are comfortable and happy is crucial, but it’s also really helpful to empathise with a new partner who may feel overwhelmed by the very things that are perfectly normal to you.

When browsing profiles online you might be swayed one way or another when it comes to considering other parents or non-parents. Both can work equally well, but it’s worth being aware of the differences. Dating another parent has the advantage that they’re already fully aware of what’s involved, are practised in being around and caring for children, truly understand the deep love you feel for your children and have similar demands on their time and energies. However, someone without any of their own is likely to have more time and less competing demands to juggle, making practicalities simpler, plus there’s only one person to introduce to your kids.

The person you’re dating may have very different ideas about standards of behaviour, discipline and how to raise children (whether they have their own or not) and especially as you weren’t both in it from the beginning, you might find you have differences in your ideology. Try not to take offence – you’ll be sharing a home together in future if all goes well, so everyone will be affected and while you may have spent years becoming accustomed to noise, mess and tantrums, this may be new and confusing territory to someone else. Again, honest, frank conversations go a long way to working these issues through, along with some willingness on both sides to make compromises that take into account the best interests of the children.

The non-parent may need support, advice and guidance and as the parent, you’re well qualified to gently take their hand in the journey. Similarly, you may each have different ideas about having more children and as with any couple, it’s important to discuss your expectations and desires in this area and not make assumptions before walking down the aisle.

If you’re a single parent, you’re a hero/heroine and you deserve to share life with somebody lovely, who’ll support and love you and with whom you can build a new, wonderful and unconventional family. The prospect of dating might seem scary, or if you’re already in a relationship it might be tough generally, but keep going, keep believing that while life may not have turned out for you and your kids the way you had envisaged, it might just become something more unexpected and beautiful than you could have imagined.

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