Whether you’re recently divorced or you’ve already endured two years’ worth of coffee dates, dating with kids can be challenging. But your children, especially if they’re older, can also be helpful in your quest for romance, especially if you recognize their wisdom and put it to use.
That being said, there are some things that every single mom should keep in mind when it comes to her social life. Here are tips for what you should, and shouldn’t, expect from your kids:
1. DO ask your teen to help with your wardrobe
First things first. After 20 years of puttering around the house in your ex-husband’s tattered Sigma Epsilon sweatshirts, size XXXL, you’ll need to spruce up your wardrobe. Here’s where your teenage daughter can be an invaluable asset. Set her loose in your closet, armed with an industrial-size trash bag. Close your eyes and trust her as she dumps your frump-wear: baggy sweats, grubby T’s, maxi skirts, clodhopper shoes. In short, anything that makes you look like Granny from “The Beverly Hillbillies.”
2. But please, skip the skimpy stuff
Just because you’re changing up your look doesn’t give you license to start dressing like Miley Cyrus and cause your children endless embarrassment. Stay out of the teen department, and avoid those eensy-weensy mini-skirts, crop tops, and low-rise jeans that display your new red thong. Let your children play the hosts on your personal version of “What Not To Wear.” You’ll know you’ve gone way too far if your daughter says you look like a “skank,” and your son asks if you’re decked out for a dance at the middle school.
3. Respect the “Friend’s Dad” code.
Now that you’ve made the leap from soccer-mom stodgy to single-mom sexy, you’re ready to meet some guys. Again, here’s an area where it can actually help to have children. Keep your eyes open for attractive single dads when you pick up your kids from track meets, driver’s ed, SAT prep, CCD class, or Bar Mitzvahs. But whatever you do, NEVER date the father of your child’s friend. Believe us: this will make the kids gag and could hurt the friendship in the long run.
4. DO trust your kids’ instincts
You spent your adult life living side by side with your ex-husband, 24/7. The upshot? You know nothing about men. At this point, your children’s creep radar for weeding out weirdos is a thousand times keener than your own. So if you show a guy’s internet dating profile to your teenage daughter for pre-approval and she points out that he’s a dead-ringer for the Unabomber, listen to her.
5. DON’T be afraid to ask for advice
When was the last time you went out on a date anyway? Last century? It’s as if you were cryogenically frozen 20 years ago and just thawed out. You’ll find yourself grilling your teenagers about when to return a guy’s call, how to open a text message, what to write on your Match.com profile. With great condescension, they’ll deliver a painfully elementary lecture on the how-to’s of handling men. Take notes.
6. DO use your kids to gauge your interest level
Eventually, you’ll catch up and hone your own instincts about whom to date. And sometimes, you can use your kids as a barometer. For instance, if a guy invites you to a pricey, five-star dinner at Auberge d’Argent, and you’d rather stay home and watch “South Park” with them, trust that impulse.
7. DON’T panic if your kids freak out
Of course, your kids will only be helpful up to a point. The same 15-year-old who proofread your Internet profile might feel possessive once you’re actually dating. She may need reassurance that she’s still the most important person in your life — especially if she starts demanding your help with algebra on Saturday nights.
8. DO be respectful and responsible
Your teenagers may also feel protective when you start dating. Just as you need to know when they’ll be home, remember to show them the same courtesy. Otherwise, don’t be surprised if they call your cell at 1:30 a.m. while you’re out on a date, and offer, “If you’ve been drinking, we’ll pick you up wherever you are – no questions asked.”
9. Always be prepared for pop-ins
Keep in mind that your children still picture you sitting home every night, just waiting for the chance to roast a chicken for them. So be prepared for your college freshman to pop home unexpectedly, laundry bags and roommates in tow. Don’t get caught making out with your new boyfriend in front of the kitchen window.
and last but not least, there is one thing that single moms should never share with their kids..
10. DON’T ever talk to your kids about your sex life
No matter how mature your daughter is, do not update her on your decision to sleep with the guy you’re seeing. Or for that matter, tell her anything about your sex life. Remember, she’s your child, not your friend. In her words: “Like, too much information. Gross.”
Even if they’re cool with the general idea of you dating, don’t expect your kids to like any guy you date seriously within the first year of your divorce, even if he offers them World Series tickets or a trip to Disney World.
But if you think he’s worth it, hang in there. Your kids will come around. Maybe.