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Dating as a Single Mama: Do you involve the kids?

Single mamahood has its unique challenges, one of which involves how much (if at all) to involve our young ones.  An urbanMama recently emailed:

I have been a single mother since before my daughter was born, so I have been raising her 24/7/365. She has always had men in her life, one especially who is a father-like figure, and has been an on-and-off partner over the years. Currently, we are just very close friends. But recently, I have met someone and I think that it could lead to some sort of ongoing relationship (I’m not counting my eggs before they hatch…) and I am wondering about how to deal with this with my almost-4 year old. She has been included in several get-togethers over the past couple of weeks, and seems to be handling it ok, but she may not be aware that we are anything more than just new friends. I have single mom friends who date, and everyone seems to handle it differently. Some keep their parenting lives and their dating lives completely separate, which I imagine would be easier for those who share custody and have some time to themselves without having to find a babysitter each time. Others include their kids in the relationship from the beginning. Some concerns I have are how this new friendship will affect my daughter’s relationship with our close male friend, and also how it will affect her if he becomes part of our lives, and then the relationship ends at some point (as many relationships do….). I am feeling all sorts of guilt related to my daughter and my relationships and I don’t want to stress her out too much. But I definitely want to see where this new friendship is going to lead, because Mama is definitely having some fun!  Can anyone give me some guidance from their personal experience with dating as a single mom?


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I became single for the first time since I was 16 (I am now 29) and I am "dating" a friend of mine. My kids don't know that me and her are dating as of yet because I don't know how they will react to the simple fact of mommy with another female if you know what I mean? Now on the other hand my kids father has had at least 7-8 girlfriends in the past 2 ½ yrs since we broke up. The kids have met every single one of those women and really liked some of them and then they were gone. I think it hurts kids to continue to keep getting to know someone and then they are gone. My kids do know my girlfriend as a friend and her family is part of our family. If i was dating people outside of this thing I would not introduce them to my kids right off. I would wait until we got more serious or something I think.

I also was a single mom from before my daughter was born. I'm now recently married and my daughter will be 12 this summer. My advice would be to keep the casual dating completely off her radar at this age, but do allow her to see you having mature dating relationships and being responsible about her and other people's feelings. I think it's important to model relationships we would like our kids to have one day, including dating if that's where we are in life. However, if you or the people you date are immature or prone to drama or otherwise NOT modeling healthy relationships, just keep it separate from her life.
And on a side note, I also had an on-and-off 'good friend' and 'father figure' in our lives from the time she was about two. After years of disappointing dating experiences, I realized that he was the keeper - and I married him!

My ex was in another state for some time, and when I started dating, I tried to keep it to mostly school-time or after bed or babysitter dates until I knew we'd be together for a long time. Flash forward 3 years we've been together but are dying off now... my child is going to miss this guy. Not to mention my own feelings! Sucks. But there is no avoiding that as we really though it might be a very long term thing. Next time I will try to be just as careful if not more so.

i just became a single mom. i have a one year- old son. i was actually just wondering how to handle dating too. my biggest concern is finding a trustworthy person to bring around my son, and knowing when and how to expose them to each other without "over doing" it and confusing him. dating is hard, in the past, i kind of serial dated because i'm so picky. i really hope i don't have to do this as a single parent, because i don't have the time or energy to cycle through men.

no first hand experience here, but my mom, who was single from the time i was 3, never introduced me to anyone unless it was serious. she never remarried, but i hear there were a couple potential suitors who felt more strongly than she, and so i think i only ever met one guy she dated, and then i was led to believe they were friends. i always wanted her to find someone, but i'm glad it wasn't a parade, and knowing myself now, i would have gotten attached and then been heartbroken when it inevitably didn't work out. i already missed my dad who wasn't around.
a close friend of mine was a single mama to a boy and she had 3? maybe 4? serious relationships that her son was a part of. from my pov, i think he got attached, or else didn't want to share his mama, and by the time he was a teenager, he was unruly and wouldn't accept another male figure. my arm chair diagnosis is that he didn't want to get hurt so he wouldn't allow himself to get close to any potential father figures. then there was one short-live bad marriage that i think really did him in.
you can't predict how someone's personality is going to react to a situation, and you certainly can't say for sure if it'll last forever, but i've thought about if i were in that situation and i think i would do as my mama did.

I don't have any personal experience in this area (although I may very well be there myself soon), but from what I have seen from a friend I would recommend not involving the child/ren unless it was very serious. My friend's son became attached to each man she dated, and then when they would split, he would act out and had a slew of behavioral problems. She is just getting remarried so I really hope it works out long term and brings the much needed stability of a father figure this boy needs.

I was a keep it completely separate mama until fairly recently. I'm not sure that was the right thing either. I wish my daugher had seen more dating and courting when she was younger.

One of my best friends didn't meet her stepdad until shortly before the marriage when they relocated with him. 30+ years later, she's still feels put out. She would've liked to have gotten to know him before it was all sealed up.

I think there's a balance between "never the twain shall meet" and "If it's Saturday morning, you must be mom's new boyfriend" but I couldn't figure it out.

My surly teenager has met two boyfriends. My current one and one from a few years ago. There have been more than two since she's been alive but those were the only two worth meeting.

I defintely have regrets about not dating more openly.

I am not in this situation but my mom became a single mom when I was 15 and my younger brother was 5. So my mom had the built in babysitter and could date. At first it was good to see her get out but it pretty much started to consume her life. She was good about not introducing my brother to the men she dated unless it was serious, which was good. The bad thing was she then would make promises to my brother about these men that never panned out and at times confided in him like you would to a friend which is way to much for a pre-teen. My two cents is time goes by quickly in life so unless you plan to marry this person or the person is willing to make some form of a commitment to you and your child consider how much time you are willing to put your child through this. My brother now almost 20 is extremely needy in relationships and controlling perhaps because how relationships were modeled while he was growing up. I don't think it's a bad thing when kid's are involved to keep it separate because let's face it your kid's get dragged into the situation too. It may not sound right but the people you date are dating your kid's too.

I think through trial and error I've realized that the kids shouldn't be involved until 6 months have passed and you're still going strong. For me, as a single mom with full custody/no visitations, that means I don't get to date right now. It sucks! I just think we all tend to get googly eyed about a new potential "love" and think that nothing could go wrong - each relationship is better than the last right? But the reality of dating a single mom is that it's intense, it's hard to see her, he's not the center of her universe, she can't be spontaneous, she's stressed out a lot and it takes superman to overcome all that. A lot of relationships don't work out and WE can deal with that, but it's harder on the kids. I have introduced mine to 3 men I've dated in the 5 years I've been single. My kids liked and got along with all 3 and when it was over, I tried to remain friends for the sake of the kids, but it never happened that way for long. In all 3 cases, I was sure they were "the one", but they weren't. Then again, if I DON'T introduce my kids, how do I ever SEE this person? I can't afford babysitters on any sort of regular basis so if a guy wanted to date me, he either has to wait to see me and basically have a phone/text/email relationship, fork over for a sitter himself (have NEVER had a guy offer that and I would never ask) or sneak over after the kids are in bed and then leave, never being seen (which is risky and gets riskier as the kids get older). It feels daunting to say the least. I've tried just introducing the guy as a friend and keeping his contact with the kids to a minimum, but again, as the kids get older, it gets hard. I've resigned myself to not dating until my kids are old enough to stay home alone. I've got about 8 more years I guess. UGH!!! I will be old.

Hello, original poster here. Well, dang, that ended quickly. About 6 weeks, things were going great, kid involved, one day later, the guy blows me off on a date and texts that he's sorry, then never contacts me again. I guess what is worse about dating with kids is dealing with break ups when you have kids. I was reading her a story the other night, when suddenly I could stand it no longer, I just stopped and burst out crying. She asked what was the matter, and I told her that "xxx hurt mommy's feelings and I am really sad right now. But I'll be ok. It's really hard when your feelings are hurt." She went downstairs saying, "I have something that will say I love you." She came back up with a stuffed dog with a heart on it that literally said, "I love you." It was touching. Then, she said, "read the book, Mommy!"

Dont keep dating a secret but dont involve the children from the begining. They need time to get used to the idea.

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