About a year ago, I made a decision regarding my single status – sort of by default. I asked a nice, smart, handsome guy friend from work to be a last minute date to a Great Gatsby Party. We had a good night and started to spend more time together during some evenings, after my daughter was asleep for the night. One of the first things that he talked to me about was if and how we could properly evolve his relationship with my eight-year-old daughter. He was genuinely concerned about her thoughts and feelings regarding my first time formally dating someone. As a single mom, I had decided that I really didn’t have time for guys, and so she had never really been around me in a romantic relationship. I thought it was unusual and sweet for him to care.
A month later, I had a pretty gnarly disc fusion surgery on my neck. He ended up helping me out a great deal. The intensity accelerated our relationship, and we got close really fast. All of a sudden, I had a new boyfriend.
He began spending more time with the two of us, and at one point (although I am not really sure how) he became almost a permanent guest in my second bedroom, a.k.a. my bedroom. (Not that you are judging, but I would bunk in with my daughter on those nights). With his visitation came evening and morning showers in the second bathroom, a good deal of his laundry loads, and “family” evenings doing chores and eating dinner together. The after-hours portion of my previously productive and/or quiet nights were now occupied with his emotional and physical needs. I found myself in a pseudo-marriage with no security, financial advantages, or long-term plan beyond tomorrow’s menu. Ummm….
Managing motherhood and being a girlfriend (working 2 jobs) has been more of a challenge than I ever could’ve imagined. Even though he gave the impression that he wanted to be adopted into our family as a third member, there are no men out there that don’t want (lots of) attention when they are in a relationship with you. Any extra time I have no longer goes to my girl by default- instead, it must somehow be divided so no one gets the short end. Pretty tough, if not guilt-inducing, from every angle.
It is a very difficult position to navigate, at least for me. For most of my existence as a mother, I’ve been alone and doing things fairly independently of others. But then, I somehow found myself sharing almost every detail of my life with a male human who has his own set of needs and expectations. It’s overwhelming by any standard and easy to get lost in the journey if you forget to balance yourself.
For me, two plus one has become more just the three of us. I’ve gotten lost (and pudgy). Time to re-prioritize and take action.
So let me share some possibly helpful hints and thoughts, things I would do differently. And I think I would do it differently next time.
- Go slow – be courted by your potential new mate. It’s so important to really get to know them. If it’s the right guy, he can be patient.
- Stay centered in your daily priorities – don’t allow this new relationship to push aside what’s always been important to you. If you find yourself defending your usual responsibilities, don’
- State your needs calmly and without emotional attachment (just say them matter-of-fact and don’t apologize for it).
- Keep the children out of it for at least 6 months. Go on dates and stay on neutral ground.
- Exercise anyway, no matter who is making demands. Sleep anyway. You need beauty rest.
- Watch the finances and don’t over-run your budget.
- Put off the bedroom, until you’re sure you really think it’s a good idea. It changes everything.
- If he has insecurities, acts jealous, or has bad habits, say goodbye. You’re supposed to be modeling good judgment all around.
- Make sure to schedule and achieve quality, dedicated time for your children where you remain focused and not distracted. Put the phone down.
- Keep positive and don’t complain about the difficult things to your child.
If your gut is telling you it’s not right, then let it go with a clean brea