One of the hardest things to do is dating after divorce when you have kids. I know it’s hard and complicated because I’ve been there. You want to have a social life and date, but sometimes if you’re parenting full-time, your schedule doesn’t allow that. I get it.
My mom was a single parent. She and my dad separated when I was 9 and my siblings were 6 and 9 months respectively. It was hard. I swear, I don’t think she dated for the first 5 years. How could she?
She worked 3 jobs to support us and she didn’t have the time to focus on dating when she was busy paying bills and raising us. She went to school to complete her bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate all while raising and putting us through college. She was quite busy. Between her jobs, working on completing her education and raising us she really didn’t have time to date.
I think part of me wonders had she had the opportunity to really grow in a relationship with a man would she be a different person. I suppose she would, but I know that wasn’t in her cards. She sacrificed. She made us her priority. She never had random men around us. We only met 3 men in our entire lives. They never hung out at our house and they came and picked her up and left.
There was no string of men in and out of our lives. I’d like to believe that was absolutely beneficial for us. We never called her male friends “uncle so and so” or got attached to people who were not relationship possibilities.
Knowing how I grew up it seemed pretty standard for me in terms of dating after divorce. I wasn’t going to introduce Munch to anyone that I was dating. I didn’t want him to see a string of men who could honestly just be friends hanging out with me. If you were special, he would know it.
Munch approached me about meeting Mr. C. His response was pretty cool for an 8 year old…“Mommy, why haven’t I met him? I know all your friends.” He was right. He did know them all, but part of me wanted to keep my relationship with Mr. C and my relationship with my son separate. I wasn’t ready.
I reflected on my childhood and the relationship that I had with Munch and then made the decision that they could meet each other. It was 9 months after dating him that there was an initial introduction and a year later before he was seeing us hanging out. I am careful to craft the boundaries of the relationship with the man that will most likely be helping me raise my son.
Last October when Munch and I were travelling to a wedding in Virginia. He asked me where Mr. C was. Mr. C had come over to spend some time with us prior to us heading out of town. I told him that he was at home. Munch asked “Did you take him home this morning?” “No, he went home last night” I said. I reminded him how I tucked him into bed and then went to sleep in my room.
He said “Oh”.
I’m careful of the narrative I craft for the young man that I love and adore. I never thought I would have to answer these questions, but I understand and respect his curiosity. So I explained that I love Mr. C and he loves me too. I told him that we have agreed that our love is amazingly special and we will not disrespect our children by playing house and not being married. I told him that he will never live in a home with a man that is not my husband.
I asked him “Do you understand?” He responded “Yes”. The funny part is that I don’t know if he understands. However, I know that dating with children is hard and it is a balancing act. Although I would never judge anyone’s choices I choose to make sure that Mr. C is going to lead my son like the man I know he is.
The thing is this…I was never good with setting or keeping boundaries. I am now. I have no choice. It’s not about me anymore. It’s also about Munch. My boundaries require Mr. C and I to be married before living together. Why? Because I don’t want my son to see me playing house with a man that is not my husband. I want a man to know that if he loves me like he says then he’ll put a ring on it and a roof over our heads and we’ll be a legal family. I’m not rushing a marriage, but I’m not breaking my boundaries either.
Do you believe that you should live together prior to marriage if you have children? Have you ever lived with someone and either of you had children prior to marriage? Did you get married? How long after living together did you get married?