Some of us have been in marriages or long term relationships that have left us with trust issues or damaged self-esteem. Others are intentionally single parents by design and some by a twist of fate.
We're sleep deprived and focused on everyone else's needs. We're mired in kid issues and activities, often without the benefit of another adult to share the burden of the relentless demands of those beloved munchkins.
By necessity, when the dust has settled, most of us have have learned the art of flexibility, patience, and triple-tasking, and we've started the process (and it is a process) of regrouping and recreating ourselves in our new reality.
No Time Like the Present
Although only you are the true expert about when you're ready to dip your toes back into the dating pool, there really is no perfect time when children are involved. It's tempting to focus on the completion of a milestone, i.e. when the kids are all in elementary school, or are graduating middle school, or..or..or... to allow a more graceful segue to dating, but it just isn't necessarily so.
You can put your romantic life on hold indefinitely, but we'd like to encourage you to consider the benefits of feeling like a desirable man or woman once again in addition to your role of personal shopper, chauffeur, chef and entertainment provider for your kids.
Re-introducing the concept of B-A-L-A-N-C-E
No one is telling you that you need to put your children's need for solid parenting on the back burner while you leave them with countless babysitters.
What we are telling you is that if you continue to ignore your need for adult respite, you are going to burn out. It doesn't make you a bad parent to acknowledge that you have needs. In order to be fully present for your children when you ARE present, you need to find balance. Depending on your personal situation (Do you have one child? Several? Are they very young, or currently experiencing adolescent angst?) you'll have some finagling to do about making sure that you have some basics covered, but it can be done. Trust us. We've been there.
For more on this, check out our Q and A from real readers in Advice and Issues: Single Parent Dating.
Before You Start to Date
By the time you've figured out that you may be ready to shimmy back into some grown-up clothes and try out the world of dating, chances are you may feel a bit out of touch about how to get started. Besides using all your social and family connections for personal introductions (a blessing and a curse), most single parents discover that an online dating site offers you the opportunity to check out potential dates and partners at your own pace, in the privacy of your own home. But before choosing a dating website and setting up a dating profile, it's imperative that you do some thinking about what it is you are looking for.
Ask Yourself the Following Questions
Write these down. Yes you. It really helps to sort out your thoughts and priorities.
1. What have I realized about myself from my last long-term relationship, positive and negative?
2. What can I offer a future partner?
3. What do I still need to work on? (Be kind to yourself, but be honest)
4. What kind of qualities in a future partner (assuming this is what you are eventually seeking) am I hoping to find?
Examples: patient, liberal, humble, good communicator, respectful, bright, creative, neat/clean, trustworthy, energetic.
5. What kind of conditions am I hoping to find?
Examples: employed, parent, has no more than 3 kids, lives in a 15 mile radius, doesn't drink more than two drinks per night, churchgoer, has hair, is no shorter than 5'9, vegetarian.
6. Make a list of what is negotiable and what is non-negotiable. Keep this list fluid, and know that it is probably going to change.
The Importance of Remaining Flexible
As you start to date, you will constantly be challenged to fine-tune your criteria. You may find that you need to search or date in a slightly larger distance radius than you started out with, or that you can find some bald men sexy. You may find that you don't mind curvy women who have a little meat on their bones if they have a light that shines from within. Maybe that single father who doesn't know the first thing about dressing in a way you find attractive is open to female shopping assistance.
Ready for the fun part?