My single mama friend called me last night.
“Hey lady, I really need your advice on something,” she sounded fearful and scared. I thought the worst. Maybe she and her new man were breaking up.
“Charles and I are definitely going to get engaged,” they just know – as Seth and I did- that they are meant to be. And it’s lovely.
“That’s so exciting! I’m so happy for you. So, what’s the problem?”
“He will be moving in with us in December. So, it’s a long ways away, but I’m scared about how to tell Sarah. It’s always just been the two of us. What will it be like? Will she be upset? How did you tell Benjamin?”
She sounded so worried and concerned. Just this fact alone, told me her heart and head were in the right place. If a mother cares that much about her child’s transition into a new relationship, all will definitely be fine. I have met too many mothers over the years who put their relationships over their children. Welcoming, with open arms, ex-boyfriends who abused them or men who cheated on them back into their lives and their child’s lives. It’s upsetting, to say the least.
My friend’s daughter, Sarah, is in Kindergarten. A sweet, quiet, little girl who has never seen her mother with any boyfriend, not even her father. Here was my advice to her:
1. Don’t be so scared. Love is a wonderful, happy and beautiful thing. If you are scared, your children will be scared. If you are stressed, they will be. And subsequently, if you are happy they will be happy. It’s really that simple. That, I believe, is truly how Benjamin recovered so well from John and I’s break up. He knew I was happy. He knew it was for the best. As for children feeling your pain when relationships don’t turn out, that’s another post for another day. And I’ve written a few. Here and here.
2. Be honest with your children. My friend was particularly worried about her relationship with her daughter changing. She said, “I’ve always shared everything with her, everything, and we are so close.” That will only change if you change that precedent. Obviously, we don’t want to share the nitty-gritty romantic details of our relationship with the kids, but we do want to share our daily joys and our happiness about the relationship. When Seth and I felt the time was right, we stopped hiding our affections (cuddles, hand holding, kisses). We decided we wanted our kids to experience what we had experienced as children – witnessing two adults in love. Something his children and Benjamin had never truly seen before. Read more on PDAs and creating a healthy relationship for your children to witness. With that said, we also let them see us work through disagreements. It’s important that our children learn what a healthy relationship is, so incredibly important.
3. There will be change. Change is inevitable in life. Unless, of course, you prefer a drab, boring life with zero personal growth. I, personally, enjoy the challenges change brings. At first, when I became a single mother, I feared the change set before me. But as I emerged, far stronger and happier than I had ever been before. I have since learned that all change (positive and negative) is just part of life. So, while my friend’s relationship with her daughter will change, that’s okay. The trick, as a couple and a family, is to make sure you change together and stay on the same path – never faltering in your commitment to each other and your love.
4. How to tell the kids. We slowly introduced the children to each other and when the time was right. The timing may be different for each family. When we told them we were going to get married! They were all thrilled, as you know and eventually pushed so hard for said wedding, they actually planned it for us in the back yard. I think, if you truly have found a wonderful man, your children will be happy. For those of you with older or teen-aged children, I would love your perspective in the comments, as I realize that’s a different boat entirely. If your children can’t stand your significant other, in my opinion, he’s not a match. You do have to remember, you are responsible for finding someone you all love. In some cases, your kids may love him more than you do. Also not a good match. It has to be right for everyone.
5. There will be bumps and bruises. Your family is about to change. Period. And while that is exciting, and while you should be happy, you should also be realistic and rational about what to expect. It won’t all be flowers and rainbows. There will be fights. There will be adjustments and adaptations. Especially if you are also blending a family with additional children, like we are. And while these growth spurts have been painful for all of us, once they pass, we are stronger and happier. I feel, as a whole in our society, we try so hard to avoid pain at any cost. But there’s no way to avoid the pain that comes with evolving into your future self. Embrace it, be okay with it and know that it is perfectly normal. If you and your man are on the same page, everything will be alright. If you fall off of the same page – get back on it. Stay up all night sorting it out, whatever it takes.
For those of you who are in a new relationship without the intention of marriage, or without marriage certainly as the outcome – unless you children are under the age of three – I would tread very carefully on introducing him into their lives in a big way. But you never know, and there is only so much you can do to protect your children from pain. With John – we were engaged – and then it was over, just like that. I will never forget the day I told Benjamin John would no longer be in his life. The pain I felt for bringing him such pain (and yes, I blamed myself) is seared forever on my heart, unforgettable.
As a single woman, you need to date and give yourself the right to fall in love again and again until you find your soul mate.
As a single mother, you need to have the strength not to expose your children to all of those relationships and only the ones that truly count. You’ll know which ones they are.
Cardinal rules, obviously, that I forget to mention – never, ever expose your children to an abusive man, a man addicted to drugs or alcohol, or a man who mistreats or harms them. Remember also that by forgiving a man for something like cheating on you (and them) you are teaching them that is okay.