Dating as a single parent is never anyone’s plan A. My teenage daydreams about my wildly romantic adult dating life did not include diapers in my evening bag or rushing home to a babysitter. Nor did they involve stopping a suitor at the front door because my nosy little girl was probably already spying out her window. Dating is inherently messy. Momming is inherently messy. Trying to do both at once is basically like running a never-ending emotional gauntlet… American Ninja style.
10 years ago, I found myself single with a toddler. I had married young, barely 21, and was now facing the dating world for the first time as an adult. With no single parent friends and no social media community yet available, I had never felt more alone. Not to mention, my marriage had just ended.
Needless to say, that first summer was rough. And by rough, I mean a trainwreck. 2008 Kim was too raw to make good dating decisions. 2008 Kim should have probably stayed home and focused on healing, but she was too lonely and too sad and was never one to wallow. Let’s all learn from 2008 Kim’s mistakes, shall we?
Set reasonable boundaries for yourself. Dating takes an emotional toll, it’s time-consuming, and it can be a financial drain, as well. In the fragile time at the beginning of singleness, it’s easy to get swept away in the excitement of meeting someone new. So lay down some rules and stick to them. These can be time restrictions, day restrictions, physical boundaries, or even something as simple as, “I won’t say yes to anyone that is unemployed.” Having these rules ahead of time will ultimately give you more confidence and clarity in moments of uncertainty.
Take Time to Heal
Which brings me to my second point, take time to heal before you throw your heart in the ring again. Your kids need a parent who knows her (or his) own worth, who isn’t so desperate to fill a void that she makes rash decisions. And YOU need time to get there. Time heals. And when you have more happy days than sad, you’ll be ready to share that happiness with someone else. But don’t rush it. Take the restorative time and focus on your relationship with yourself and your relationship with your kids.
Prioritize Your Children
Prioritize your kids and make sure everyone knows they take precedence. Prioritize their safety, health and emotional well-being. I’d be lying if I told you I was perfect at this. There were times I told myself my daughter wouldn’t notice if I was gone another night or if I didn’t make it home in time to tuck her in like I promised. That’s why it’s so important to not only make sure your kids know they are #1 but also to communicate this to your friends and family and the people you date. When everyone knows where your heart is, they can help keep you accountable.
I could go on and on listing the lessons I learned; don’t settle, don’t drag your kids into your dating drama, avoid drama in the first place! I honestly made every mistake in the book. A decade later, I can look back at that time in my life and pinpoint the wrong turns I made. I let myself and my daughter down a lot in those early years. Hurting, lonely people can be particularly selfish, and I was no exception. Thankfully, we made it through without any life-altering trauma that couldn’t be fixed with love and stability.
One of my best friends is currently going through a divorce, and this blog post is dedicated to her. My friend, I want you to know that you are worth loving. You deserve romance and happiness, butterflies and true comfort. You have so much to offer someone. But I hope that you will take these lessons to heart, and spare yourself the additional heartaches that I experienced. If you do mess up and find yourself crawling back from a road you never meant to go down, I hope you give yourself grace. Lord knows we all need it. I love you and I’m here… only a call or a text or a car ride away. You’re not alone and never will be.