Try looking at your romantic prospects like you were going to have to one day introduce him or her to your child. My single mom friends won’t even give a guy the time of day who they wouldn’t consider one day being a stepfather to their kids. My single dad friends say the exact same thing. If you’re childless but desire to have a family someday then it wouldn’t hurt to look at your prospects as your future co-parent. That kind of thinking raises the bar, doesn’t it? Would this person be a good role model for your child? Ask yourself that question as you peruse your prospects and then notice how the quality of your dates increases.
A friend of mine got divorced about two years ago and he has a 4 year old son. He wasn’t ready to really date until recently — he didn’t want to date someone awesome while he was on the rebound and not trusting enough to get serious and he also had a little fun on the nights he didn’t have his son. He said he’s grieved his failed marriage and is ready to meet someone new after having learned many life lessons about himself and who/what he wants in a marriage. I was very impressed with what he had to say and felt he truly was ready — mentally and emotionally — to move on.
His question for me was this: what is the appropriate time and way to introduce his son? There are a couple scenarios here: 1) if she also has a child, they can do platonic playdates after dating at least a month and mutually deciding it is a serious relationship; 2) whether or not she has a child, they can arrange group Shabbat dinners or outings with other families; and 3) if she doesn’t have a child, he can tell his son that he wants to introduce him to a special friend after seriously dating at least a few months and then have a casual greeting at a park or other activity. I cautioned him that he should not be affectionate with a woman in front of his son until his son has met her a number of times and is comfortable with her and trusts her. The last thing he wants to do is introduce his son to a woman just to have her disappear from his life. At 4 years old, his son won’t totally get what’s going on but these kids are smarter than we give them credit for. It’s not worth confusing the child, especially when he has already gone through the emotional journey of divorce. Obviously it will be “easier” if the woman has a child because then she is just “so-and-so’s Mommy” (or even having her bring a niece or nephew would be great!) but even if there’s no playmate to ease the introduction the goal is to have his son be as secure as possible knowing that Daddy’s attention isn’t being diverted from him.
Finally, I advised my friend that he should have as many dates as possible on his child-less days and to try and wait as long as possible to make any introduction. If the woman doesn’t understand and is pressuring you to introduce her to your son sooner, then there are probably other underlying issues here and it should be a red flag warning to you.
It can be such a tricky situation: dating and children. There are so many single parents out there who want to get back into the dating arena. What happens when your child does not approve of your dating life? I have worked with many families who have faced this very dilemma. Children’s feelings are incredibly important, but the best example parents can set for their children is to live happy and fulfilled lives. If every parent who wanted to date, didn’t because of their children and fear of disapproval, they would be in actuality living lives of martyrdom. Children who grow up with parents whose needs are met, are taught to tend to their own needs. If you are one of those parents who generally puts your own needs on the back burner, keep in mind you are potentially setting your children up for a lifetime of guilt for depriving you. If you’re taking care of you, you will teach your children to take care of themselves when they become adults.