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I’ve gotten on my soapbox in several posts about the fact I disagree with the status quo rule that single parents must be exceedingly careful about introducing their children to love interests, and the dawn of the recent school year and all the inherent losses and changes that come with only fortify my position.
This advice that you should only introduce your kids to someone you are very, very seriously involved in is wrong. It is rooted in these negative emotions:
a) Guilt — guilt that you already caused so much pain for your kids by choosing the wrong father for them and then divorcing. As has been said by many people much wiser than me: Guilt is a worthless emotion. You’re single. Not much you can do about it now, except find ways to become un-single. Which means dating. Which will likely mean going through a breakup or 100.
b) Shame – shame for being an adult woman with needs for romance, sex and love at the same time you also happen to be a mom. Sometimes I try to convince myself that I can lead a totally full life without a romantic partner. That marriage and love are overrated. But I don’t really believe that. Neither do you. You want a man. That is 100% normal and healthy — and central to being a happy, full person. It is not selfish to date. You are not a lesser mom for making sex or love a priority. You are not just a mom, you are also a woman. Go for it.
c) Fear — fear of hurting your child. Of course no one wants to hurt their kids, but hurt is part of life. It is our duty as parents not to shield kids from hurt, but rather help them face inevitable pain and contend with it in a productive way.
And yes, when you break up with a man who your kids came to know and love, that will hurt them — just as it hurts you. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. Life is full of pain and hurt, and the best way to deal with that is to accept it, face it head-on and make the best of it. Our kids’ lives are already set up with built-in loss and pain. One glaring example: School!
At the start of this new school year, my 3-year-old son has been sad to have left his old class at the daycare, and often asks about why he isn’t in Miss Rose’s class. It is sad. He bonded with that lovely teacher, and now only sometimes sees her during his day. But that is life. He had to say goodbye, and now is thriving in Ms. Raffi’s class. I could not protect him from the pain of that loss, and nor should I have. To do so would have been a disservice. My job as a mom was to help him understand, contend with his feelings, and move on.
Meanwhile, Helena just started Kindergarten at an entirely new school, where she is loving life of all new friends and routines. She has fond memories of her old daycare, and recently wrote the administrators a letter. “This is Helena,” she wrote in her 5-year-old hand. “I miss you. I am at my new school and I am good!”
Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour, Oprah.com, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post’s ‘Must Read” list.
Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.
A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.