“When you are a mother, you are never really alone in your thoughts. A mother always has to think twice, once for herself and once for her child.” ~Sophia Loren
Talking to some single moms we got onto the subject of dating and how different it is— and should be— when a woman has children. Our priorities and focus are different from women with no children. Post kids, no longer do we put our individual desires front and center in our lives. We see the world through how our actions affect our children, and consequently, how the actions of those we let in, affect them as well.
I have often found that guys who are not, nor have ever been a parent/guardian could use some tips prior to pursuing a single mom:
- Don’t waste a single mom's time. If all you want is a good time with no intent of accountability, responsibility, nor commitment, look to date your own (single with no kids) kind. Wasting a single mom's time takes advantage of her and destroys little lives in the process. Children have already endured enough upheaval and change in their lives, without a choice in the matter. Don’t add to their suffering by using their mom. Even if she’s a willing participant, you be the voice of reason and conscience, and don’t drag the innocent kids through another relationship destined for failure which they have no power over. A good mom will want to create a safe home life for her kids that has a committed relationship so there’s a sense of normalcy and healthiness for her children’s emotional well-being. Don’t string her along. Don’t begin a relationship if you are not ready to have a serious relationship. If unsure, don’t take years to figure it out. That’s cowardly and selfish. That’s destructive to children (no matter their age).
- Don’t be a child, be a man. She’s already raising kids. She needs an adult at her equal level of maturity. Don’t be an older baby who wants to do what he wants, when he wants, with no consideration for her and her kids. That may have been what your parents put up with, but now as an adult, it’s just pathetic. It’s time to be a man and grow up.
- Don’t be a mama’s boy. She needs you to show up in her life in a big way. Not in a partial way because you still have an unhealthy need to either live with your mom, or drop in routinely for her home-cooking and laundry services. Loving your mom is healthy. It's unhealthy when you can't bond emotionally to another woman because you are still attached to your mom's apron strings. This unnatural attachment sabotages a healthy relationship with a woman. If you're this way, the single mom will spot this very clearly, while you will be either blind or complacent to being a mama’s boy. If you don't like being called on it, changing girlfriends won’t “fix” the problem when the problem is “you” being the mama’s boy. Anything short of opening your mind to the truth, and taking steps to grow up, are just excuses and will only highlight just how saddled you are with your affliction.
- Don’t put the onus on her to “always tell” you when she needs your help. Open your eyes and ears. Look around you and see what she could use help with. Don’t wait on her to have to ask. Most single moms are uncomfortable asking for help especially if they are just starting to get to know you. They don’t want to appear like they are using you. Perhaps her toilet is leaking, her closet door doesn’t shut, her house needs the gutter’s nailed more securely. Whatever it is you identify, show up next time with the tools to fix it. Don’t ask her if she needs it. It’s obvious she needs it. Just do it!
- Be compassionate. If her kid is ill, chances are she may need someone to run to the drugstore for her while she stays home taking care of her sick child. Offer to pick up what she needs. Or maybe she’s the ill one. Single mom’s don’t have anyone taking care of them. Offer to get meals, or whatever she needs to get her or her child through the illness.
- Be patient. She may have to cancel on you at the last minute, not just once but several times. This is life when you have kids. Kids are unpredictable. Illness is unpredictable. They could be fine and active one minute, and the next have a fever and feel terrible. Like an on-off switch, their bodies don’t always give warning signs 24hrs or more prior to your date. If it’s not illness, it could be a myriad of other kid-related reasons that she’ll have to cancel on you. Maybe the child is not comfortable with mom leaving him/her with a baby sitter. Maybe the child is experiencing separation anxiety. Maybe a lot of different reasons why a child may be apprehensive. A good mom will be attentive to that and have her children’s well-being as her priority over her own good time. See this as a character quality that will benefit you and your relationship.
- Be a man of integrity. If you say you’ll do something, follow through with it. Don’t say you’ll do something and not come through. Your words will be meaningless and she won’t trust you. She may already be dealing with that with her ex or kid’s dad. She doesn’t want to put herself through more of that in her selective dating, and certainly doesn’t want her kids to have to experience that double-fold. She wants a man in her and her kid’s life who will offer the counterbalance and demonstrate what a reliable man looks like.
- In front of the kids, don’t show physical affection toward the mom until well after the kids know you are both dating. Wait until they are comfortable with you in their mom’s life, and in their life. Get your cues from observing and listening to them, then talk about it with the mom. But, leave it to the mom to determine when the time is right. She knows her kids best. Hopefully the mom began dating you first without introducing you immediately to the kids, so that she could determine your integrity and likelihood of relationship success, before introducing you. The kids will need time to get used to the idea of you in their lives. That takes time. Keep in mind that you are new to them, even if you are not to the mom. The kids may be unaware of your existence, prior to the moment you are introduced to them. So they didn't see the relationship begin and develop over time, which led to the physical closeness. Witnessing a stranger show affection toward their mom, is confusing for kids. They are learning relationship boundaries via observing their mom, and should witness the “process” of how a relationship develops. You don’t want the mom to look like a floozy in the eyes of her children. Remember to keep it G-rated. The kids don’t need to see anything more than that from a parent who by definition models how she (and they) deserve to be treated respectfully in a relationship.
- Be supportive. Single parenting is difficult. There are parenting challenges that the single mom finds herself needing encouragement and support with. There are many moments when she may need to discuss something in order to get an idea how to best approach a situation. Often, she cannot discuss her concerns with the child’s father. She will need you to listen and support her through the difficulty, in essence to be her friend. When kids are in their combative and angry stages, they will say and do things that often may make her wonder what she is doing wrong as a parent. She will need you to be the voice of peace and the one who reminds her what a good mother she is. Pay attention. You’ll find many things to admire about her that can provide her with the validation many single parents routinely go without.
- Don’t add more work to her already burdensome load. Carry your weight in the relationship and see your role as a very significant one that you can bless her with. For date planning, don’t ask or expect her to make the plans for your time together. Don’t leave it up to her to arrange or decide the details, unless she specifically requests the role. Single moms make multiple decisions every day regarding their kids, their job, and their own personal life. They are stretched, exhausted, and need someone who will champion on their behalf; someone who will take care of the details of the date. However, this in no way means you don’t take into account her desires and interests. And this under no circumstances is an invitation for you to become controlling and manipulative.
I read this list to my teen daughter, and she accused me of sounding like a "grandma." She also said, "That may be your list, but some other people could care less about some of those things!" I don't know how her tone would read if she was a single mom herself (which I would never wish upon her). Also, I know that I am heavily influenced by the fact that I've met alot of men who don't "get it," and of course those that do. However, I find that predominantly the ones without kids (or dads who do not participate as dads) are the ones who least understand the demands on a single parent.
This list also serves as a reminder to us single moms, of things to observe in the character of a man who wishes to date us. I know that for me and many single moms I've talked to, we don't want a man to show up who is going to add more work (due to to issues he hasn't dealt with), rather, we welcome an emotionally healthy man who approaches with the intent to bless rather than take.
What other items would you add to this list? I invite you to comment and share your thoughts. I’m sure I’ve left out some key things. Also, maybe some of these items wouldn't make your list, do share and tell why.
Any single dads reading this? Do any of these items resonate with you? What would your list look like?
Copyright © 2011 Ella Venezia. All Rights Reserved.