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Dating as a single mom: Do's and don'ts

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I don't think many of us ever anticipated the complications of becoming a single mom. I walked down the aisle thinking this would be a lifelong thing. Sure, I had doubts, but I thought once the kids were born, things would just naturally morph into the happy family I'd always dreamed of.

Single mom on a date

By the time I realized the marriage was not going to work, I had three daughters and a good dose of reality. When the divorce process started, I thought that the hardest decisions I would make in my life would be during that time. But now that dating has become something I am interested in, I can see that I was wrong. Dating as a single mom has presented me with even more difficult decisions.

When do I introduce a man to my kids? Do I let them see me go on a "date"? How will it affect them if mommy does date?

How do I do this?

I am hypersensitive to my kids' reactions to things. Like a lot of divorced parents I know, their dad moved on very quickly to a new girlfriend, and my kids still have questions and are confused about it. I certainly do not want to add to that confusion.

Peter Sheras, a clinical psychologist at the University of Virginia, explains, "Kids' fears are more fears of abandonment than anything else. They're afraid that when push comes to shove, you'll abandon them for this new adult dating relationship. Therefore, it's useful to make your commitment to them explicit before you even introduce the person."

But I also want my kids to see that life goes on and that Mom needs a friend, too. So I have guidelines, and I stick to them — not only for my own privacy, but also for my kids' peace of mind. I have outlined some of them below.

Don't introduce your kids to every date

I have been on a few dates since my divorce, but I have only done so on weekends when the kids were with their dad. I see the divorce as a loss in the kids' lives, and I certainly do not want to keep introducing them to people who will not be permanent fixtures in their lives.

Don't introduce a "serious" date for 6 months — or until you are ready

I don't know why six months seems like a good time for me. If I were to meet someone "special" and it progressed to where I thought he might be a source of stability in my life — and thus my kids' lives — then after six months, I think I would know pretty well whether it was going to work out. However, if there were any red flags — or yellow flags for that matter — I would just continue to date privately unless I knew he would be around for a while.

Talk to your kid

If I ever do meet anyone whom I feel will be in my life for a while, I want to make sure that I don't just walk in one day and expect my kids to understand — no matter how old they are. So I plan to sit the kids down, just with me, and have a heart-to-heart with them about how this will affect their lives and their relationship with me. Because they are my everything, I want them to understand that this man will not be coming in and changing things or taking me from them.

Sure, every situation is different. I know women who have met men very soon after their divorce and have let the kids know all about it. What works for one mom may not work for another. But I am of the mind-set that the people who are in kids' lives should not be walking through revolving doors.

What do you think? Should single moms put their kids' feelings first when they decide to date? What "guidelines" did you follow when you started dating?

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