Singles advice guru Marnie Macauley has humorous and savvy solutions for navigating the complexities of single parents dating with children in the mix.
This week, my dear singulararians, we deal with that ever dicey problem: single, dating, kids — oh boy. Dating solo is daunting enough, but when there are children involved, the issues of how, when, and where multiples geometrically, and includes the kids, the ex’s, the new partner and the guilt. Can single parents negotiate the minefields successfully? You bet! Read on, brave warriors.
SINGLE MOM STUCK IN THE SANDBOX
Dear Marnie:I am a single mother of four (ages 6 to 14). How do I explain to them that I would like to go out sometimes with a male friend? Or if I were to have a boyfriend, how do I explain my actions? They’ve let me know they want me to wait until they’re grown up before I start dating again. What do you think? — Dying to Date
MARNIE SAYS: My frazzled mom, if you wait to date till they’re grown, you’ll find yourself babbling “I’m a Little Teapot” while cutting up meat for toothless suitors. Your concern for the kiddies is queenly. But anoint them head of your castle, and we’ll find you face down and smothered under diapers and Clearasil. You not only should play with your own friends — you must!
Getting It! Your Personal Strategy:
* Get hold of the guilts. We women are programmed to take everything upon ourselves from an absent dad to world peace. A resentful, guilty mom passes this on to her progeny. And so the guilt-resentment cycle goes on, with no winners.
* Ask yourself, how do you want your kids to treat themselves later on? Like doormats or with loving attention? They learn how from you. Making you a smart, reasonable priority is just smart, reasonable parenting.
* Tell your brood you need to go out with friends your age, just as they do. Call a family meeting, and allow them to talk out their fears. Reassure them you’re not abandoning the nest. You’re just taking some time for you, which will make you a better mom.
* Introduce a casual date briefly. “Kids, meet Mel. We’re having dinner tonight.” Period. No overnights. No “playing house.” You don’t want to offend them, confuse them or raise “step-daddy” expectations until you’re sure he is “the one.”
With rules in place, go forth, m’lady. If money for a sitter is tight, barter with a pal or send the brood to me. A few hours at “Auntie” Marnie’s and trust me, they’ll grant you anything!
TO TELL THE TRUTH
Marnie: My wife and I have been divorced for 5 months. We have two kids (six and nine). Recently, I started dating a woman who has a daughter. I told my kids all about it, and we had a question and answer day before I introduced them. When she and her daughter came over, we watched movies together. The problem is my ex believes when I have the kids they should be with me alone and she feels that telling them about my girlfriend was wrong. Marnie, I don’t want to lie to them if we’re to have an honest relationship. — BlindEnergyLA
MARNIE SAYS: You’re both wrong. Since I know you better (you wrote), we’ll start with you. Truth is good. Truth is liberating. But there’s a difference between Washington declaring, “I cannot tell a lie!” after chopping down a tree, and saying, “Hey, meet Glenda, my new squeeze, and her daughter. You’ll looove them” (for who knows how long). For you, my singular friend, the truth has many faces — and consequences. Let’s look.
Getting it! Your Personal Strategy:
* Too Much Truth: You barely know this woman. Get a calculator. Add up the casual potentials you and your ex will date. If your kids were to “take in a movie” with all of them, they’ll “blend” and “unblend” with enough surrogate families to populate a small third world nation. Doing things your way, the truth they’ll learn is: adult relationships are as reliable as a roulette wheel.
* Too Little Truth: Onto your ex. She’s unnerved by your “Brady” bit so she’s pulling the “kiddy” card. Divorced dads need not do a solid 24/7 with the kids on visiting days. Things should be as natural as possible. Eventually that may include the mention of a date, and an eventual exchange of “hi’s.”
* Just “Enough” Truth: Find the balance between simple honesty and too many “surrogates” tramping through their lives. Set ground rules with your ex. I suggest:
— Keep casual dates away from the kids. If that’s impossible, make intros and explanations brief. “Kids, this is Millie. We’re grabbing a burger.” Return alone.
— No sleep-overs with dates while kids are in the house.
— No yours-mine-ours kiddy things with casuals. Yes, it’s inconvenient. Do it anyway.
— The kids get major look-sees and family test drives only when things are getting serious. Even then, respect their sensibilities.
Finally, in my experience, the most helpful truths while dating with children require good intention and wise prevention. Truths that put kids out on limbs mean their folks aren’t seeing the forest for the trees.
A SECRET STORM
Dear Marnie: I’m involved with a younger man I met online and the rest is history. My problem is that my daughter and he are the same age, 18. I’m 41, but he and I have a lot in common. Is he too young for me? What do I do about my daughter? — Secretly Wondering
MARNIE SAYS: Holy Mother of Cougarville. Tell me, have “we” been sniffing our “Red Hot Momma” nail polish again?
Getting It! Your …. (Oh never mind)
* About your daughter: Well, you could get them matching hoodies and tell your little girl he’s her long-lost twin.
* About his age: After I down a Maalox, I’ll make it simple. Sit. Get earphones. YES, HE’S TOO YOUNG FOR YOU! If this guy were any younger he’d be able to catch his own gleam in his dad’s eye from the backseat of a ’93 Chevy.
* About your age: A mom who surfs the Net for Lou-litas and thinks the Big Dilemma is whether her daughter might have a problem sharing a Biore pad with modem-boys has a serious glitch in her hard drive, never mind her maturity. If you’re worried about your daughter, get yourself checked out by a professional counselor before this “virus” spreads!
Copyright © Marnie Macauley / 2013 Singular Communications, LLC