It’s been a long time since I have visited my blog. Many ideas have come to me and vanished before I have had time to put them to paper. Perhaps I should start recording my ideas when I have them and hope I can decipher them out of the background noise of barking dogs and yelling teenagers. Wouldn’t that be a trick?
One idea keeps coming back to me, mostly because I have been seeing a lot of articles written on dating single mothers. I have my own ideas about this and would like to share them.
1. Court her (AND HER CHILDREN, once she lets you meet them).
Give her time. Make a date, take her out, bring her flowers. Remind her that not all men are going to build her up and then rip her and her children to shreds. A single mother has been there, done that. A lot of women have. However, most single moms will be very protective of their children and might not let you meet them right away, no matter how much you claim to want to be a part of their lives. Single moms come as a package and the warning label will tell you that she will want to move slow so that she can protect those children. Yes, she may want to be in a relationship, but she won’t sacrifice her children for her own wants or needs. Show her that you are in it for the long haul. Take the time to make her feel like she matters.
2. Don’t push her.
Again, give her time. If you are really interested in this woman then you will respect her boundaries. Today’s dating world has turned from a slow and safe build that consists of courting and getting to know each other to a relationship that starts with meeting and jumps right to moving in. Single moms have a lot going on. They don’t have a lot of time to spare. If they are sharing some of their downtime with you then it is a privilege and you should treat it as such. Don’t push her. Don’t nag her, chances are she gets a lot of that from her children. Don’t rush right into the next step of the relationship. Savor the moment and really get to know her.
3. Understand her need for independence.
Okay, so she isn’t exactly a handyman but she most likely has learned to fend for herself. If something is broken she has probably taken it apart and tried to fix it herself. She probably can’t afford a repairman and will get by with whatever solution she has come up with. Don’t step into her life and tell her how to do things. ASK her if she wants help. If she says no then respect that or ask her if she would like you to show her how to fix it and then give her the instruction, letting HER do the hands on work and respect that she might not have been raised by someone that taught her how to do things. Be patient and calm about the whole process. She will want to learn because she might have to do it again. Understand her desire to keep finances separate. She works hard to maintain home and family. She won’t want to take handouts and it isn’t her job to support you. Asking her to quit her job so you can take care of her and her children is like asking her to give up everything she has worked for and trust that you will take care of them forever. It sounds like a dream come true, but the bottom has fallen out for these women, probably more than once, and they are going to be reluctant to trust that it won’t fall out from under you. Not everyone wants to be taken care of. Yes, that day may come eventually, but let it happen. Don’t take away all that she has struggled for. Don’t be a leech. She has enough on her plate. Handle your own finances and don’t look to her to support you.
4. She doesn’t need you to take care of her or her children.
Most single mothers have been around the block. They have learned to successfully juggle work, practice, doctor’s appointments, dentists, school, after-school events and so much more without missing a beat. She knows where her kids are, what they need, when they will be back, who is going to pick them up and usually how she is going to be in three places at once. She doesn’t need you to step in and be the hero. She will have a hard time relinquishing control over these things because if she lets go of one aspect of her schedule she is afraid that the rest will come crashing down. She is used to the constant running. She is used to staying up all night with a sick child, or worrying when her teenager will arrive home safely and then getting up early, running on empty so that she can do it all again. Some single moms are back in school and working. Respect that. She will have very little time and sometimes it’s okay to tell her that it’s okay to do what she needs to do while you hang out and not to worry about entertaining you. She is looking for is someone that will be there for her when the day is over, someone that she can count on to be there to hold her close, someone to remind her that she is a beautiful woman even when she has a glue stick stuck to her face and her hair looks like something off of Wild Kingdom. That is what she NEEDS. She doesn’t need you to take care of them, she needs you on an emotional and physical level that means so much more than needing someone to pick up the kids from school. Understand that those things are the things that she will love you for.
5. She isn’t looking for a “daddy” for her children. Be their friend.
Her kids have a dad. Sometimes they are in the picture, sometimes they are not. Respect those boundaries. Be careful of saying anything negative about him in front of the children. Remember that this is their father and hopefully they have not been exposed to too much negativity about their dad or about the prior relationship their mother had with their father. There will be visitation schedules. There will be split holidays and shared parenting times for important events. There will be frustration and stress. She deals with this all of the time. Be there for her, be there for the children. Don’t fight it. This doesn’t mean there isn’t room for you in their lives. You are an adult that they will learn to love if you treat their mother and them well. They may even look up to you as a father figure one day but even if they don’t mutual respect is still a must. If you disrespect her children she will never forgive you.
6. Don’t expect instant acceptance from her children.
Some kids are very accepting of new partners coming into their mother’s life. Some are not. Some have been hurt.. Some of them have been abused. Some of them are angry. Some will lash out. Remember to respect that they have a reason for acting the way that they do. Kids are kids, they need parents because they are not good at making decisions and have a lot of growing up to do. Don’t revert back to a child yourself. Be kind to her children. Don’t EVER yell at them or lay a hand on them. Respect that she will discipline them if they are out of line. If she doesn’t then you need to talk to her. Remember to choose your words carefully. Use “I” statements instead of “they” or “she/he.” Don’t accuse her children or she will get defensive and might clam up. Say things like, “I am not sure what to do, or how to handle this, I adore your children. Can you help me make the right choices regarding them?” Yes, it sounds like surrender but what she will hear and feel is that you DO care and that you are going to be patient. She will be able to assess the situation without getting defensive and will be able to deal with her children by seeing how they are really acting, not how someone told her they were acting. I am not saying you need to stand idly by while they scream, shout and throw rocks at you. I am just telling you to walk away from the moment so that it doesn’t escalate. Don’t storm out and leave her hurt. Reassure her that you care about her and her children, and let her handle it. This will be far more effective than yelling at her kids or telling her how awful they are. She loves them, even if they are awful. Don’t badmouth her children when you are not together. Words travel. Don’t let it get back to her, even if it is really how you feel. Once the relationship becomes more permanent then you need to talk about what is going on and how discipline will be handled.
7. Don’t jump right to sex.
Moms are tired. They are busy. They are also women and have the same needs and wants as any other women when it comes to the bedroom. They are often just as passionate, if not more, than a woman without children – mostly because they crave and appreciate the tenderness and closeness that comes with sex as well as being able to let go completely with someone. They love feeling beautiful and special just as much as the next person. Remember that once you DO get to that point she will want to be very careful about privacy as far as her children are concerned. They will interrupt special moments, they will make it hard to find the time sometimes, but believe me, if you love her right it will be more than worth the wait. When you talk to her, actually have a conversation. She will most likely crave an adult conversation. Let her know that you want her but not just in bed. Foreplay, with any woman, should last all day – a touch in the hallway, a kiss on the back of her neck, a smile that says “you are beautiful,” a text that says “I miss you” or “I love you”…. those things will pave the way to a happy life in the bedroom. They should also go both ways.
8. Be sure of yourself.
Nobody knows exactly what will happen in a relationship. It is impossible to predict whether or not you will live happily ever after together or if you will go down in flames. Just make sure that YOU are in the right place to pursue and maintain a relationship before you pursue. Don’t get a little ways in and then decide YOU are not ready. She has been rejected enough, don’t add to the pile. Don’t play games because she won’t tolerate it. If she is playing games with you or using her children as pawns to control others in her life then you might want to think twice about stepping into that relationship.
9. If you want out, be honest.
Sometimes you want out. It isn’t working. It isn’t going to work, ever. Be honest with her. Tell her how you feel. Don’t disappear. Don’t stand her up or abandon her. Chances are that this has already happened to her and has left a huge scar across her heart. Remember that you have cared for this woman and you should want her happiness, even if it isn’t with you. Don’t give her the, “It’s not you, it’s me” line. Nobody believes that one anymore. Don’t tell her how awful her children are. Make sure she knows that you care about her and her children but that you just don’t see a future. Don’t leave her feeling like she is worthless, that her children are horrible, and that nobody will ever want them. It is already a fear that she holds in her heart – that nobody will ever want her, and building on that will not do anyone any good. You will both walk away feeling a lot better about the end of the relationship if you are honest but choose your words carefully. Don’t just abandon her. It will make her feel like she is nothing but trash that is used and thrown away, unwanted, unneeded and not worth an explanation. More importantly, make sure you leave her children with the knowledge that it isn’t their fault. My six year old recently asked me if my last boyfriend left because he had to take care of him sometimes. That was two years ago. Believe me, kids remember.
10. Online Dating
You hear a lot about online dating and the increasing success rates. She is most likely on there because she has no place to go to meet eligible men, she doesn’t have time (or really want) to hang out at the bars, and she is tired of getting hit on by insensitive jerks. There are a lot of nice men out there and she is looking for one. Don’t ask her for a one night stand, don’t jump right to the topic of sex, and don’t demand an instant meeting. So often the pressure of meeting someone instantly, before fully exploring who they are can push people away. Give her time to open up. Sure, suggest meeting but don’t abandon her if you don’t instantly get your way. She deals with children every day. Don’t be one.
11. She doesn’t mind being single.
The statement “nobody wants to be alone” rings true for some and not for others. Don’t assume that she wants to be in a relationship just to be in one. If she is looking, she is serious. However, if you make it too much work for her she will walk away – remember that she is already playing the role of mom, dad, nurse, coach, handyman, employee, teacher, and the list goes on and on. A lot of single moms are comfortable being alone. They don’t have anyone that they can count on besides themselves and have reached a place in their life where it is easier to know that they have to deal with whatever comes their way on their own rather than being let down by someone else. They might not be as lonely as everyone assumes. Yes, there may be times when they are alone and long for the noise of their children playing, or even fighting. Yes, there will be nights when they are laying in bed alone wishing they had someone to cuddle up to that makes them feel safe and secure. Yes, there are events where it is embarrassing to not have that +1 at your side, especially when snide remarks and pitying looks make them feel like they are a freak of nature for not being in a relationship. Sometimes it is just easier to be single. They will value their children’s needs over their own and will make their choices accordingly. Those feelings of loneliness come to any single person but the chances are that if she is pursuing a relationship with you it isn’t because she doesn’t like being single. She’s interested.
12. She will love you completely.
If you end up in a long term relationship she will most likely appreciate you beyond your expectations. She will love you completely, accept you for who you are and most likely try to take care of you as well. She is used to being the caretaker, the nurturer. She will fully bring you into her life and family. It takes a long time to get there, but she is worth the wait.
These are just a few of my opinions and thoughts on the matter. For someone that has been married, divorced, in a relationship or two, cheated on, dumped without a word and whatever else you want to toss in there — I feel that I have a valid say on the subject through experience. Of course, not every single mom has the same feelings or ideas as I do. Not all of them have the same wants or needs. I am not saying every single mom is honest, or that she wants a relationship, or isn’t looking for a “daddy” for her children. What I DO know is that a lot of them feel exactly the way I do. If she is a truly a good mother, she will put her children’s needs first and getting fully inside that family unit takes patience and understanding. I have yet to find someone that is patient enough to bother. Someday it will happen, but I am okay being single for now. My focus is on raising children that are kind, compassionate and productive members of society. Some days I do better than others. Some nights I AM lonely. Most of the time I am too tired to remember to be lonely.