”Okay,” you may be thinking, “I’m in my 30’s with kids and baggage, this doesn’t look good.”
Well guess what, most of us are in the same boat! We’re all hard on ourselves, focusing on our weaknesses, and lowering our expectations. Think of it this way, won’t many of your potential mates be in a similar state? I was sure she’d have nothing to do with me, boy was I wrong!
Yes, dating another single parent can be complicated & messy, we each have our own unique set of hurdles. Here’s how Birdy and I tackled them.
1.) No Kid Exposure (at first)
I discovered that dating in my 30’s was a little more business like. Before I got to know the person, I had to see if we lined up on the ‘big things’ in life. Religion, politics, finance, smoking, parenting, drugs, etc. We didn’t have to agree on everything, but need to know and respect the other person’s view. Emails were great for being brutally honest when discussing delicate subjects. Phone calls (after bed-time) helped us feel each other out on more emotional topics, and the rare in-person date was a special treat to be with them.
2.) Be Creative, Be Patient
Easier said than done, right? Your life can be crazy, so is theirs. Finding time to spend together will be difficult. If you have to go weeks (or a month) without a date, how will you continue to connect? Beyond emails & phone calls, you may want to try:
- Morning coffee (can’t workout the timing? have one deliver)
- Lunch break
- Hug break: This worked for us, when she had an errand to run, she’d check to see if I was available. I’d take my 10 min. break (if I could) and meet her nearby for a quick hug.
Resist the urge to have spiraling negative thoughts every time you can’t connect for a few days. It seemed like every weekend I had my kids, by the end I was starting to doubt if she was really “in to me.” She’s busy too, has plenty on her plate, and was just giving me the space I needed to be a good parent.
3.) Meet the kids informally
My kids had no idea I was dating. One night TBear expressed his concern about me being alone or finding someone. “Don’t you worry,” I said, “I’ve dated some nice ladies, and when I find a good one, and it’s serious, you’ll get to meet them.” (I went through 3 girlfriends over a period of 6 years for someone to earn that opportunity.) It took several months before we were at this stage.
Non-Contact Opportunities are times when kids can be around the other adult informally. Maybe it’s a class you both go to, school events, etc. The point here, is that the kids aren’t “meeting the boy/girlfriend” they’re just tagging along to something. While my kids are a bit older, and were ready for that, Birdy’s kids had “seen me around” several times. We went to a parenting class together, which gave me a little exposure to the kids, while also having a healthy discussion on parenting styles & techniques.
Parenting Plans & schedules can be a real pain. In my case, I only had 1 weekend a month without kids, so that’s when I would start doing things with Birdy & her kids. I would research things that are going on in the community that weekend, and we’d make a day of it. She would take times when her kids were visiting to meet with my kids too. (We had to use a babysitter from time-to-time.)
This allowed our kids to get to know & bond with the new person without interference from other kids’ personalities. This also prevents (initially) hard feelings from kids feeling left out or competing for attention.
Now that each set of kids are (more or less) comfortable with the other adult, it’s time to meet each other. This could be a trip to the zoo, fishing, hiking, museum, whatever! We started small, with a mushrooming day.
About 6 months into the relationship, we went camping. Each family brought their gear and slept in separate tents, but we got to share time and meals over a weekend, observing how the kids got along, and bonding over some mutual activities. This was NOT popular with all the kids, but it wasn’t optional. They survived, found they could have some fun, and were more comfortable doing frequent, small activities together.
We’ve been dating for over a year now, and our kids are practically pushing us to get married and live “Happily Ever After.” As I’m sure you can relate, life isn’t always that simple. Still, our future looks bright. Is it the ‘right’ way to do thing? I don’t know, but I hope these tips work well for others too!