Thank goodness we all aren’t subjected to the same kind of publicity Brittany Spears has to face every minute of the day. Well, maybe we’re not dragging our children off to Vegas casinos and hotel parties, but you have to admit-the rest of society looks down on us any time we try to have a life outside our children. All parents are, to some degree, self-conscious about other people’s perceptions as to how they are raising their children. Single parents have the added pressure of a certain societal stigma that sometimes puts doubts in our minds as to whether we deserve to date at all.
Put those fears to rest.
Those couples who raise their children together often have date nights. They have nights where they put the kids to bed early just to spend time alone. They leave their children with trusted family members or friends to go out on the town. It’s the same thing…right?
Not exactly. There is a difference between finding time for yourself and completely shirking your parental duties. The presence of children means you are automatically entered into a secret society called The Fellowship of the Responsible Adult. This means no more house parties where the remnants of your “few friends”-empty beer bottles, cigarette burns in the carpet-don’t create a loving and moral environment for your child. It is no longer proper for you to strip down to your underclothes for a romp in the ocean in the middle of the afternoon. It’s just not appropriate for you to invite your dates back to your place for some alone time, and you can’t pawn your children off on trusted family members and friends every weekend so you can go club-hopping. It’s not good for you or the children to subject them to this kind of behavior.
Your social life can have harmful effects on your children. Dating can be a distraction-you don’t notice it when you don’t have children, but consider the fact that there are single people out there without children who are failing classes and neglecting their jobs because they are in a new relationship. When you have children, guess what is being neglected?
I’m not telling you that you shouldn’t date. I wouldn’t recommend it, simply because it is often a waste of time. Many times you will find that potential dates will reject you because you have children. In some cases, they will date you thinking they will adjust to the fact that you have children, only to find that they can’t. Rejection is hard to bear in any circumstance. It could lead to feelings of resentment towards your children; in some cases, single parents will find this cross so hard to bear that they give up full custody of their children to the other parent. It happens, and it inflicts serious emotional damage on the children involved.
Sometimes all it takes is a change in perception. You’ve heard the cliché, “Life is 90% what you make of it.” If you choose to date, you should realize that in most cases, anyone who rejects you because you have children is too selfish or immature to deal with the responsibility of you, much less your children. In a way, your children protect you from a lot of heartbreak by weeding out those who are in it “just to have a good time”. This is assuming you are not in it to have a good time as well. If you are, you still have to have standards for your childrens’ sake.
If you aren’t, the person that wants to be with you, that will accept the responsibility of you, will seek you out. This person will not ask to spend time with you alone. He or she will offer to spend time with you and the children. He or she will respect your boundaries-and there must be boundaries. No overnight visits, for one. This person is the reason you should not be out searching for someone to be with; you owe it to yourself and your children to wait for this person to come along and sweep you all off your feet.
Maybe it’s not your fault that you’re a single parent. Maybe it is. Either way, you still deserve to have time to yourself, as long as you remember that you have an obligation to your children to set a good moral example and to provide a loving and caring environment for them. You also have a right to be open to the possibility of love, romance, and the idea of a soul mate. The thing is, your soul mate has to be perfect for you and for your children. With so many parents raising children alone, there is no reason why these children can’t be raised with the same influences and values as those raised in two-parent homes. It takes more effort and dedication on your part, and at times you might feel as if you don’t have the strength to do it alone. A solid network of family and friends can be a great support system, but don’t let them become a crutch.
The responsibility is yours and yours alone–but it’s well worth it. When you tuck your little angels into bed at night, ask yourself: Is there anything in the world more important than the love I feel for my children? Of course there isnt. And there is no one in this world who will love you as unconditionally as they will.