Because most of the other homeschooling families we meet are married parents, one question I frequently hear is: Do you date? You may hear this question a lot, too, depending on where you live and the groups that you’re a part of.
Now, I could answer this question as it’s asked, with my specific circumstance. However, having been asked this enough, and its follow up questions, I’ve come to realize that the question is not so much about my specific situation, but a more general question. What they really mean is: You’re a single mom, working and homeschooling, so can you date?
If you’re new to homeschooling, or new to being a single parent, you may have found yourself wondering this as well. If your kids have ADHD (or any special needs) on top of that, you may be really wondering if it’s possible to have a romantic life while homeschooling as a single parent.
The short answer to that question is yes, you can. But the real, and longer, answer is that it depends on you and your needs, wants, and individual situation.
There are numerous things to consider:
- Do you even want to date? This might seem like a silly question to even have to ask, but it’s the first one you should be asking yourself. Often, we end up dating because we feel like we have to – people tell us we have to, or we think we can’t handle being a single parent, or we’re so used to being in relationships that being alone just feels weird. But you should ask yourself if you truly want to date.
- Where, and how, will you meet someone? There are plenty of ways to meet potential dates: online dating, blind dates set up by friends, random meetings in the grocery store, library or even your office. But sometimes, you’ll find that having kids hinders you in some of those areas – you might not feel comfortable flirting, much less handing over your phone number, to a complete stranger with your kids right there (particularly if your kid is one to tell you, “But, Mommy, he’s a stranger. You said we should never talk to strangers!”).
- Are your kids ready for you to date? It’s very likely you’ve already considered this, but it has to be said, because so many parents don’t think of it. You need to consider your children’s feelings about you dating. No, it is not their relationship. Yes, the fact that you aren’t bringing your new date around the kids is good and means they won’t get attached to him or her. But despite the steps you might be taking to protect them, the fact remains that kids aren’t stupid and they’re going to know something is going on. Even at the age of 7 or 8, a child can figure out (especially these days) that Mom or Dad is going on a date – particularly if you’re suddenly dressing up, putting on make up and doing your hair. It’s important to decide if you need or want to tell them you’re starting to date again, and what you’re going to say if you don’t want to tell them. You have to be careful about lying, because it will come back to bite you later – either when they find out you lied and lose trust in you, or when they lie to you and justify it by pointing out your own lie.
- When will you go out? You need to think about when and how you’ll go out. Will you go out on traditional date nights, Fridays and Saturdays? Will you go out on your lunch break from work, or after the kids are in bed or while they’re with their other parent, so they never even know you’re out? Will you need to hire a sitter or do you have a friend or relative who will watch the kids for you? Can you afford a sitter? Can you afford to pay your own way on the date or for both of you, if you need or want to? What if your date has kids? Can you work out a good time for both of you?
- Can you fit a relationship into your life as it is right now? Dating is about more than just the actual act of going on a date. Getting to know each other is a process that takes place outside of the actual “dinner and a movie.” You have to have phone conversations, emails, or texts between dates to learn about each other. You have to be able and willing to be there for each other, to talk about bad days, exciting news, and whatever else might come up. You might be thinking that you were in a relationship with your children’s parent, so of course you have time for these things. But that relationship involved your child’s other parent, which means that their commitments when it came to children were the same as yours. If your kids were going to Grandma’s for the weekend, so were theirs. If you had to stay home with a sick child, so did they. There also weren’t (unless one of you had children from a previous relationship already) ex issues. Dating with children means dating with exes, and exes can complicate new relationships in a myriad of ways, and make it far more time-consuming than it would otherwise be. If you’re already busy with raising your kids, homeschooling, and working, you might realize that you don’t really have the time for the hassle. (Of course, this is assuming that you are seeking a committed relationship. If you are looking to casually date, with no commitment beyond going out from time to time to enjoy activities together, then this may not be as much of an issue.)
Come back on Thursday for my ideas on how to meet someone, and what needs to be said from the beginning – to your date, to your kids, and to your ex.
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