Everyone who has ever been in a relationship has been through a break up. Often unpleasant, they give credence to the phrase “Nothing lasts forever”. We hurt, we grieve, we (hopefully) let go and then we move on. However, something happened this time around that puts a whole new spin on things – we had a child. The task of moving on just became quite challenging. Before you get any ideas, the relationship is over, and there will be no encore. The label “single mother” was not one I ever envisioned being applied to me, but here I am wearing “mother” with pride. The “single” part is one my sister and girlfriends keep reminding me I should consider changing. The painfully obvious next question never fails to bring about a terrible feeling of apprehension: “So, when are you going to start dating?”.
The concept of “dating” was never really one that I gave much thought. I was a social creature, always out and about meeting new people. Some of these new folks have become friends over time, a precious few could fall into the category of “dates” and even less could be considered to have been a “relationship”. Since being pregnant and having my son, I could be considered a recluse for as priorities changed, so did my lifestyle. Nights out are few and far between, some for lack of a babysitter but most for lack of motivation and enthusiasm. By this point, the challenge of where to actually start is obvious. All of us would be hard pressed to find suitable, much less any, candidates while sitting on the sofa at home watching cartoons with a toddler. As a result, it is safe to say that step one will involve actually getting out of the house.
As a chronic overthinker, I have of course run this scenario over and over in my head as to what would happen when I meet someone who could be a prospect. The only constant thing in all of these scenarios is something I believe strongly – the fact that I have a child will not be a secret. Now this is not to say I’m going to introduce myself with “Hi, I’m a single mom of a toddler!” or that I’m going to wear my “Greatest Mom Ever” t-shirt. In recent experience I find that most men ask whether or not you have kids fairly early in an introductory conversation, but in the event they don’t I find a way to gently work it in. I’ve witnessed friends with children attempt to avoid the topic for as long as humanly possible and then when it is finally revealed, it becomes a huge issue and often the end of that dating story. It is hard to admit that in the back of my mind I honestly believe that men view a 30-something single woman with a child as a signal to turn tail and run as fast as possible. This is undoubtedly the source of most of my apprehension.
Fast forward in my paranoid scenario and we come to the next hurdle. Once upon a time, not so long ago, the timing of a prospect with potential meeting your friends was a tricky consideration. Times have certainly changed since the issue is now how to bring up the fact that my highest priority is the toddler at home. In the event that things take a turn towards becoming serious, when is the right time to introduce this person to my child? Reflecting on a recent conversation with my best friend on this very subject, I realize that I sound like a paranoid conspiracy theorist. After all, with a child to consider in your life decisions, the whole idea of dating does make one a little paranoid about when and if your child will be exposed to this person. I accept that I am overly sensitive to this part mostly because I have a son and am wary of the male influences in his life. Character vaults to the top of the criteria to examine closely and takes far greater precedence over how great he may look in those jeans, or that he has a smile that makes your cheeks flush. I’m now less concerned with his shoes but looking closely at his attitude to the waiter in the restaurant. Is that an attitude I would want my son exposed to? Cue onset of paranoia and further lack of motivation to get off the couch.
The road ahead is daunting, but I am in no rush. There is a new man in my life, undoubtedly the love of my life with the most beautiful eyes and gorgeous smile. Someday soon, after we have read a bedtime story and he’s settled in for his adventures in Dreamland, Mommy will put on a little black dress and set out to rediscover what this “dating” thing is all about.