By Seema Punwani
Parenting and dating in the modern world are perhaps two of the most daunting tasks. All the rules have changed. Kids spend more time in enrichment classes than in school. And singles prefer the online chatting vs meeting in the real world. Life can be tough for a single parent looking to mingle.
Should I reveal my parent status on the dating profile?
If you are on a matrimonial site, then you should state clearly that you have kids. However, if it’s a causal dating site, you need to play with numbers. And chances of a left swipe are much higher if your profile picture is you and your cherubic toddler. But if specifically asked on chat or (if you get to it) a real date, then don’t stay mum. Find a way to casually bring it up in the conversation, but don’t go into specifics about your son’s report card and recent taekwondo medal.
Should I tell my children I am dating?
This depends on the age and gender of the child. Teen boys for example (and I have one so I know), would be extremely uncomfortable discussing their mother’s dating debacles, no matter how hilarious. If the children have witnessed a messy divorce, then give them at least a few years to settle in before you introduce them to their next mommy/daddy. This doesn’t mean you can’t start dating, but you can do so discreetly.
When is the right time to meet the children?
This is not an exact formula, but my advice would be after you have been exclusively dating for eight to 12 months at least. By this time the ‘honeymoon’ period is over and you are familiar with most of the annoying traits of your partner and still wish to be together. Take your time in getting to know each other, before adding the complexity of getting to know the children. As far as possible, children should be shielded from the revolving door of dating partners, if there is one.
How do I alleviate the guilt?
Working parents, especially mothers, have more guilt than most inmates in Tihar Jail! When at work, we think about how our child’s soccer match is going. And when at school PTA meetings, we look at our phones every two minutes and even sneak in a few emails. Top this with spending some evenings in the arms of our lover. Have you died of shame by now? The only solution is to live in the present moment. Get better at prioritisation and time management. Focus on the task at hand. So, when at your daughter’s school play, even if she has a two-bit role, resist the urge to Tinder swipe. The same goes for boring office presentations. And when on a date, make sure you have a reliable person looking after the child and put the phone away as you engage in sexy banter over glass of Chardonnay.
Yours + Mines = Ours?
Life is not ‘One Fine Day’ and we are no Michelle Pfeiffer and George Clooney who make chance encounters between two successful people with adorable children look so easy. Kids find it hard to see their parent’s attention on other children. They tend to get territorial. Also be prepared for some ‘parent trapping’. If children are not comfortable with the situation, there is a chance they can turn manipulative. You must have an open conversation with them and get them to talk, even if it’s things you may not want to hear. Put them at ease. Post death or divorce, children are left with only one full-time parent. Remember you are their whole world. Your first job to make sure your children know that you will always be there for them.
All these warnings may make you wonder whether dating as a parent is even worth it. Absolutely! Even if getting there is not as easy. Think of it this way. You already have the love of your life cuddled up with you. Take your time to find one who is willing to hold your hand and walk with you.
(The writer is author of Cross Connection, a novel that deals with finding second chances at love and in life.)