My marriage to my childhood sweetheart ended and I now find myself in a position of traversing the dating scene. Just to complicate matters, my two children live with me. And I’m a bloke. I find myself in a unique position, yet common to many. Here are a few thoughts on my journey as a dating single dad.
It’s not that unusual
Unusual? Well that’s what I thought, but I was wrong. After initial shock at the situation, many people then acknowledge that they know at least one other man bringing up kids alone, due to death or divorce. By default, we’re usually seen being the kind, caring, emotionally connected and strong “new men” that women were promised so long ago, whereas women in the same situation are often seen as scroungers, lazy or just lacking morals. But I’ll leave the debate on whether that’s true for another day.
Free time and is there such a thing as the ‘perfect woman’?
The biggest practical problem facing a single parent looking for love (whether male or female) is lack of free time – your social life is likely to be the first thing curtailed. This often causes the biggest problem of all – actually getting out there into the big wide world and meeting anyone, let alone “someone”. The second biggest problem is that your criteria for “the perfect woman” is much more complicated when you come as a “buy one, get two free” package. It’s not just your happiness that’s at stake, it’s the happiness of your children too, and they are so much more important than any woman – no matter how lovely she might be.
It is possible!
Single parents obviously do meet new people, do date, do fall in love and do find happiness. My last relationship was with another lone parent, and in a curious twist, it was our children that facilitated our meeting, brought us together, and then kept us apart.
How it happened…
We actually met whilst picking up our children from the after-school club (or the “single parents’ assembly”, as I sometimes called it, as at 5:30 every evening, harassed and guilty-looking single parents wearing crumpled work clothes run into the school to collect their bored offspring. What child wouldn’t be bored after 9 hours at school?) Our sons are the same age and played together, so we had common ground. Eventually, we went out on a date, and it went well. We’d been brought together by our children.
Problems with quality time together as a couple, not as parents
We frequently went out together as a big happy family, and all was good. But when it came to spending time together as a couple, things became difficult. Our children spend time with their absent parents, but our time without our respective children only aligned on two evenings a month, and no full days. This is not conducive to a successful romance. Too few evenings snuggled together, no affectionate days out, few passionate nights in…and certainly no dirty weekends away! Thousands of text messages travelled the 300 yards between our houses – so near, yet so far, and no substitute for real contact.
There were other problems too, which were unrelated to the children, and yet the relationship lasted for over a year and a half. Oddly, I also indirectly attribute this to our children. If we had been able to spend lots of time together, I’m sure that the entire relationship would have been condensed into just a few months, fizzling out pretty quickly.
And so here I am again now. Still a lone parent, still single, and still wondering how to move forward.
But as much as I’d love to meet “Miss Right”, I also worry about bringing home another new lover. What sort of message is that to send to my children? Of course I don’t tell them when I’ve been out on a date, but when I am serious about someone again the kids are going to meet her. “Dad’s got a new girlfriend. Again.” is hardly a good example to set to my 9-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter (and let’s be honest, as hypocritical and sexist as it is, as a protective dad, I’m far more worried about what my daughter will get up to than my son).
The alternative is to wait patiently until my kids are older before I begin looking for somebody. I know several people who do this, and that’s fine for them, but not for me. In fact, I’ve never considered it as an option at all – life’s too short; I want to love and be loved. Over time, I’ve realised that the happiness of children is intrinsically linked to the happiness of their parents. Don’t believe me? Take a look for yourselves: Miserable children with miserable parents. Happy children with happy parents.
And so there it is, the one thing that we all want from life, for ourselves and our families – happiness.