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Jewish World Review
Oct. 20, 2006
/28 Tishrei, 5767
Kids benefit when single moms date within limits
I think our culture is demonstrably screwed up in how it looks at almost every aspect of divorce.
But here I'll skip over the lead-up, and go straight to taking on the universal belief about dating after divorce: a new relationship shouldn't be introduced to kids until it's really "serious." Check out all the divorce books, magazines and online advice this one is written in stone.
A divorced mom myself, I'm raising my four young kids on my own. But fortunately I have very wise friends who have helped me to see that once again the "experts" here just don't make sense.
Most of the advice is directed at women, because we typically have the children living with us. The universal fear is that children will get attached to a new friend in Mom's life, and then that new friend will be gone.
Can't have that, the thinking goes.
Why not? As long as Mom is dating good and worthy men and is not being sexually intimate with them major conditions here, for sure what's the problem? Kids have great adults going in and out of their lives all the time. Teachers for a year, a pastor who takes a call to another church, the Boy Scout leader who retires, friends of their parents who move away. These can all be great people with whom our children have positive experiences, even though it's for a short time.
That is, well, life. It's the very nature of friendship. It brings joys and sometimes sorrows, but if the relationships are good ones they can enrich us.
Instead, the experts would seemingly have Mom lying to her children and sneaking off to meet some fellow (not exactly great patterning for when our own kids are teens), only to have the fellow suddenly presented when it's serious. Oh, so Mom, you haven't been out with your gal friends all this time? Great.
Mystery is a scary hardship for our kids, and children of divorce go through too much hardship as it is.
And there's little chance a relationship could become legitimately serious anyway without the fellow having a darn good idea of what his life would be like with a woman's children. Sheesh.
How much better if we single parents set the stage for a healthy dating life for our own children down the road. With a little experience in the matter now, and the wisdom of good friends, here's what makes sense to me and, well, how I've handled it:
Once the divorce was final, I gathered my children and said, "I loved being married, I loved your dad and I'd like to get married again. To that end, I plan to start dating good men. You'll get to meet and enjoy them think of them as friends, unless and until I let you know a special one will become a husband to me."
I think it's great for my kids to see me being so positive about marriage.
And I know they so appreciate the transparency. Sure, they have different views of me marrying again. While one would prefer to keep me all to herself forever, another actively recruits prospects.
But in any case, my openness helps to minimize their fears.
I've had a few relationships now, and while my kids and I have naturally experienced some real adjustments to our new life, they've enjoyed meeting really nice guys who have enjoyed them in turn, and with whom I am still friendly in each case. It's great for my kids to see that I think very positively of men, and it's lovely for them to see me enjoying being treated well by good men. (Knowing that sexual intimacy is reserved for marriage helps them here, too.)
Plus, the guys have been able to get a real picture of my real life!
Nor do I draw things out. And when I have, so far, had to end the relationships, I've given my kids some appropriate insight as to why, which I hope will help them to think about how to choose a life partner themselves some day. Even better, if I am eventually blessed with a life partner myself, they will have seen a good process at work.
Look, I'm not saying my kids have to know everything about my life. I'm just saying that contrary to what the experts seem to advise, I'm not going to deny them these good things by sneaking around behind their backs, either.
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