I have reached a point in my life when I now have a few very close single friends who have children, and most recently found out that a friend is dating a man with a child. Aside from that being a really scary reality check, I know that there are many questions out there about this topic. So I thought I would share a bit about my knowledge on this subject. Please be pre-warned that I am very passionate about a few points I will bring up and I will do my best not to point fingers in the process.
I was raised by a single mother for over half of my childhood. Although things weren’t perfect one thing looking back that she did incredibly well was to ensure that any dating she did, didn’t involve me. She is still a very attractive woman, who has told me a bit here and there about her dating life now that I am an adult. As a child though I was kept in the dark. She always put me first and foremost, very similar to the powerful women in my life who are raising children of their own. With this being said, there is one incident that I hope will raise a bit of a warning, and I write it again trying not to point fingers.
My mom and dad divorced when I was less than two years old. I lived with my mom full time and saw my dad without any real consistency. My mom explained that she couldn’t be with my dad, and in my eyes that meant that every time he came around it was for me and me alone. Being an only child this meant that my mom lived only for me, and my dad lived only for me when he was around. When I was eight (or thereabouts) that spell was broken. I walked upstairs to kiss my mom before school and found her and my dad asleep in bed together. I vividly remember the shock and wave of emotions that overtook me. I went to school and I think I even got in a bit of a fight but its a little hazy. That moment when I realized that I now had to share my parents, and that they could have a relationship that wasn’t all about me sent me into shock.
Here’s the thing though, both my parents really thought that this was a great thing for the family. My mom who had protected me all those years didn’t have a clue how much this upset the precious balance of our divorced family. And I had no idea what these feelings meant at the time, or why I had them. I do know very shortly after I received my first puppy, I wonder if this was related in any way? At any rate this traumatic event set into motion my extreme empathy for all children who have divorced parents, and really gives me a passion for the subject.
When I was recently told by a friend that her new boyfriend had a young child I very quickly gave her some words of advice. I asked her, “please don’t rush to meet the kid, as it complicates things”. In a new relationship its all about getting to know the new and potential partner. Statistically the relationship will not last more than a few days or weeks. It takes a lot of time and a bit of luck to really find someone who is a potential for a more long term commitment. But when you rush to meet the child too soon that can really skew the natural process. In most cases the kids are really cute, and amazing. The innocence is intoxicating and you see the other person in a whole new light. A person living for their child, a very tender and incredible sight.
I personally would have a hell of a time walking away from that, or not letting this invade my thought process for a long term commitment. Introduction of children into a new and budding relationship is just not fair. The feelings now go beyond anything superficial and become about family. You have been given a pass to overlook certain characteristics of this potential suitor because you now see them in this most amazing environment. Our instincts to toss out, and be a picky as we can become less than accurate. This doesn’t even take into consideration if the child is older and sees you as this new and exciting person. Adults must remain adults in this situation, as the child lives free hearted or vicariously through a new and unique situation.
As for dating when you have a child, being that I don’t have any of my own, all I can say, is that it is your responsibility to protect your children from an adult environment. Date, get laid, have fun and live your life, but keep your child first and foremost. Sheltered from the dating life that is no place for a young child. Place boundaries on adult time and the undivided attention that you give them when you are home. Try and be a real person to them, this will help so much when they are teenagers. Again, my mom did an amazing job with this and I love her so much for being a real friend and mother when I needed her. And sometimes when I didn’t think I did.
When I was a little girl I always dreamed of falling in love and getting married. I don’t think I understood what marriage really was, but I knew I wanted to wear a wedding dress and have the ring. The odd part was that all through my teens I was convinced that I did not want children, and being an only child I really put my mom through the ringer with that. Now in my mid 20’s my views have almost flipped completely. I want children, and a family but perhaps not the whole marriage part? Getting married is a confusing topic in my little coconut, especially when divorce is almost guaranteed and costs a flipping fortune.
I worked with a woman who would joke that her husband and her signed a 25 year contract when they got married. At the end of the 25 years they could renew for an additional 25 years or they could both go their separate ways. Thinking outside the box like that really makes a lot of sense in this day and age. 25 years together would ensure that their children grow up with stability and security, but that the adults could still be adults when all was said and done.
I was engaged for 4 months, and my personal experience was that the fairy tale of getting married was much more pleasant than the reality. And of course the amount of work and money involved in the whole process seemed unnecessary. The cards are stacked against marriage, a small fortune to get in, and a large fortune to get out. The moral, in plain black and white, don’t get married.
But there is that fairy tale aspect, that little girls dream to be a princess for one day, and get carried off by prince charming and live happily ever after. From an emotional standpoint I know first hand how frustrating it was living my teen years with unmarried parents. It felt like our house was less secure and stable somehow. Also I had the last name of my biological father and not that of my step dad which I think played towards the lost sense of belonging at times. That sense of what family meant for my friends versus what I had seemed different especially on paper.
The idea of marriage is one that I am very curious what I will end up deciding in a few years. I know the emotional ties to it, and I am well aware of the black and white reality for the institution. Also I vividly know that trapped feeling when I was planning my own and I am not sure I can entirely rule out that it was not for more reasons than just the wrong man. Perhaps the only answer is small little contracts of time, with agreed upon renewal dates where ever children come into play. If no children, just live and enjoy who you are with for as long as it works for both parties then end things regret free with a mind full of knowledge and memories.