No Fooling Around

Dating after divorce isn’t exactly child’s play.

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Divorce attorney. Check. Custody Agreement. Check. Property Settlement. Check. Dating as a single parent. Checkmate.

Forget what you recall about dating as a younger, carefree adult whose concept of a playdate meant drinking shots, partying till dawn, and maybe waking up in someone else’s bed. Today you’re drinking juice boxes, throwing Disney-themed extravaganzas, and hosting seven 12-year-olds with sleeping bags.

Dating as a parent is a whole new experience. For one thing, your dad won’t be wondering where you are—your son will. The influence your parents had over your choice of a mate will seem tepid compared to the role your kids can play.

When you date now, your darling children may turn unrecognizable; they may kick your date under the table, call your cell phone at the most inopportune moments, or complain of a headache, chills, even malaria, as you get ready to go out. The entire dating process can become so stressful and labor intensive—what with arranging babysitting, planning clandestine meetings and finding private time for phone calls. It gives new meaning to the phrase “labor of love.”

A times, you may consider giving up your social rebirth—but don’t. As a single adult and a role model for your children, you should have an active social life. The trick is to know how and when to involve your kids—who, while you’ve been fantasizing about falling in love again, are still hoping Mom and Dad will reconcile. From the outset, be honest with them; tell them you’re planning to date and then reassure them that no woman or man will ever replace them in your heart.

Like many newly divorced parents, the prospect of having this conversation probably fills you with such dread that you’d rather sneak around than confess the fact that you’re dating. But that only delays the inevitable. No child wants Dad’s date to be introduced to them as “your future step-mom.”

The sooner you tell them, the sooner they’ll adjust. Eventually, they’ll understand that as much as you love being with your family and your friends, sometimes you wish to spend time with an adult of the opposite sex. So broach this subject before you find yourself in a serious relationship —because, mark my words, you won’t see one coming.

Once your kids are willing to accept your new social life, they may still be reluctant to meet your dates. They need time to process the dissolution of their parents’ marriage and the consequential revamping of their family. So rather than force them, ask only that they meet someone whom you decide to date exclusively.

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