When should single moms introduce a boyfriend to the kids?

single parent - can boyfriend stay over?

Short answer: Whenever you want.

Growing up, my mom, who was divorced, dated a lot for a few years.

I loved it.

I loved watching her get dressed up to go out to dinner or dancing. I'd sit on her bed as she'd stand at the dresser and set her blond, permmed hair on rollers, apply makeup and a spritz of Norell, her signature fragrance. She was happy, looked like she felt pretty. Then the cool teenage babysitter arrived , and my brothers and I did everything we could do to contain our rambunctiousness before my mom left.

This was back in the 1980s, and the guys she dated grew up in the 50s and 60s, and they would come to the house and pick her up. They often brought flowers — even on (especially?) first dates. My mom used these interactions as opportunities to teach her kids manners, and we learned about shaking hands, introducing one's self and looking the other person in the eye when you spoke.

A few of these guys turned into relationships that lasted a few months, and in those cases, if they had kids, we'd all have outings. I remember a few times everyone sleeping over at our house.

The guys were nice, the kids were nice, my mom was happy around these men and it was all very normal.

How long should you wait before you introduce your boyfriend to your child?

Today, when I hear single parents talk about dating, the most common scenario is waiting until the magical six-month mark to introduce an amour to the kids. Divorced couples even mutually agree that the kids will not lay eyes on a romantic partner until half a year has passed. Some even go as far as engagement.

This is nonsense. There is no reason that you can't introduce your kids to someone you are dating any time at all. People pass through your children's lives all the time:

  • Beloved teachers are left behind every year
  • Grandparents and other loved ones will die, guaranteed
  • Trusted neighbors and best friends move away
  • Etc.

Just because your kids meet someone you are dating doesn't mean they will become attached to them — especially if they are introduced as someone you are dating. NOT your new husband / their new stepdad / a huge deal.

[Why I don't live for my kids — and that is the greatest gift to them]

But first you must become comfortable with dating yourself. After all, if you are determined to find a new husband / stepdad for your children, they will assume that intensity, and will try to bond and be heartbroken if / when it ends.

Most attitudes about single moms and dating are sexist

Making a giant deal out of introducing kids to a romantic partner suggests that dating — whatever that means to you — is shameful. That the only moral way to interact with a man who is more than a friend or relative is to be in a long-term, committed monogamous relationship. Moreover, this practice is based on the notion that mothers have zero business being sexual adult women with needs that include romance, companionship and emotional connection.

By keeping dating secret from your kids tells them:

  1. Mothers dating is shameful.
  2. Dating is shameful.
  3. Any future notions they have of a romantic life is shameful.
  4. Your kid is a moron. I've heard from countless children of divorce who say, “My mom would be all dressed up and acting funny and obviously going on a date, but insist that she was just meeting her friends for drinks.” Do you want your kid to believe you're an adult woman, or a liar?

I appreciate the counter-argument. Some of you will post comments about your sister-in-law, or mother, or cousin who paraded countless men through their children's lives. That the kids got attached, and when the relationships ended, the kids were devastated. To this I say:

  • If you have a healthy dating life and don't expect every single date to lead to lifelong marriage — and don't promote each date as a future husband-slash-step-father to your kids, this isn't a risk.
  • People cycle in and out of our kids lives all the time. That is the nature of life.  Neighborhood friends move away, kids graduate from one beloved teacher's class to the next. Grandparents die and new siblings steal parents' attention. Embracing this reality is far healthier than pretending it does not exist, and seeking out guarantees of permanence.

I've been thinking a lot about how our culture so damn mothers' sexuality. Yeah, we're all cool with women having casual sex and women owning their orgasms and women being as freaky as they want to be.

But for moms? Different rules entirely.

Women with children are expected to abide by an antiquated, prudish code that renders us chaste, “good” examples for our children. Which is bullshit, of course, because moms have just as many sexual needs and desires as other women. In fact, I believe motherhood is a massive gateway to unlocking your sexuality, if your experience is like my own. That experience includes evolving from a perfectly healthy sexual woman, to a woman who is now fully living in my body for the first time and enjoying my body and other people's bodies more than ever in my life. And I am now a mom.

FYI, just yesterday I ordered from Amazon The Neutered Mother, The Sexual Family and Other Twentieth Century Tragedies. Stay tuned for a review of this 1995 academic tome!

Then today a reader posted this awesome comment that even I was not bold enough to write myself. It is in response to this popular post:

She writes:

Oh my goodness, thank you for writing this. I am overwhelmed with the amount of conservatism and self-sacrifice people expect of single moms.

I have a two and a half year old and am newly dating someone (about 3 months in). We've not had a sleepover yet, but we're serious about one another — given, we're as serious as you can get in a few months — and I don't think sleepovers are too far off for us.

Shocker — I believe in modeling healthy sexuality for my daughter. I read in some thread that if I don't want my kids having a parade of partners through their lives then don't show them how to do that. Well, I actually don't care if my daughter decides that she wants to have lots of casual sex… when she is capable of making that decision — near or at adulthood. I also don't care if she is gay, or decides polyamory is for her, or is into kinky sex. All I care about is that she feels respected and empowered and in control of her sexuality. I care that she doesn't hurt others or manipulate them, so I will make sure I don't date people who are hurtful and manipulative. I care that she can communicate her wants and needs to someone she cares about, so I will model that for her in my relationships. What I cannot protect her from is loss. We lose people we love. Sure, I don't want her to be heartbroken if I can prevent it, but I won't always be able to do that.

Sometimes we will make the wrong choice, and our kids will have to go through those consequences with us. This is true whether we are happily married forever or single parents and dating. We will cause pain to our kids. Hopefully rarely, but it is inevitable. How we help them heal is much more important than that it happens.

Anyway, thanks for bringing this refreshing perspective to the overwhelmingly conservative, prudish, and outdated conversations around this topic.

This note calls to mind meeting at a party a woman who casually recounted a conversation she had with her teenage daughter: “I told her, ‘You have so many great talents and strengths, I really want you to focus on school and activities and not date until your senior year in high school — or later.’ She burst into tears! But I think she got over it.”

Oh.

My.

God.

I’m not sure why I was so repulsed — after all, it’s nothing new that parents are strict about their daughters and dating. It’s not just indicative of ancient ideas about girls and sexuality (we must protect our precious daughters’ precious virginity!), but current trends that push young women to career and financial success to the point of forsaking their emotional and maternal needs.

Messages I will tell my children about dating

Single moms have a unique opportunity in that we can model healthy dating for our children in ways that coupled and married parents cannot.

This ups the pressure to work through our own issues and enjoy healthy dating now, to model and reinforce dating messages we share with our kids.

My policy will be to allow them to explore dating as very soon as they want (if not sooner). Here’s why:

  1. Insisting my kids to focus on school (and by proxy, career and money) before dating establishes priorities for them. My job as a mom is to help my children form their own thoughts on these giant issues — not impose my own.
  2. Of course, my own feelings will influence that of my kids (one way or the other), and I want my belief on this topic to be clear: Love, relationship and family are the most important things in life. Dictating that our children consciously delay dating en lieu of building a competitive college application signals that college, career and coin trump all. I don’t believe that.
  3. Telling young people to ignore the biological, social and emotional urges to date represses their intuition, which diminishes self confidence.
  4. Instructing young people to ignore the biological, social and emotional urges until a specific date indicates we can fit biology into our lives when it’s convenient. Which is a lie. Just read this article about infertility. 
  5. Forbidding romance deems love, sex, romance and passion shameful. It’s not shameful. It’s awesome – the best stuff of life. I want my kids to have it in spades!
  6. Denying young adults the right to date tells them, ‘It’s not OK to screw up.” It says: “You only have one chance to get accepted to a good college/get a great investment banking job/ save up for a home / start stockpiling retirement savings early. If you spend too much time fooling around behind the football field bleachers and don’t get a good SAT score, you will pay the price for the rest of eternity.” I don’t live like that, and I hope my kids never do, either.
  7. Telling them to start dating at a specific time suggests that relationships are instantly had and held. They are not. Successful relationships require tons of work, patience and practice. Early and positive learning experiences in love are at least as important as early and positive learning experiences had in school, sports and business.
  8. I can’t control them. No matter how great a relationship I hope to maintain with my children, they are their own people. As my wise friend Traci once said: Sex and teenagers are like monsoons and tornadoes: Not one thing you can do to stop ’em from happening.

It should go without saying that my kids will know alllllll about safe sex, and respecting their own and others’ bodies. It’ s my duty to help them seek balance and strive for success in every part of their lives. But starting now, at ages 3 and 5, I hope my children start to absorb the message that dating is positive. Their bodies’ signals are natural and beautiful. And that no matter what, there are few decisions that are perfect, or mistakes that are not ripe for learning.

What messages do you tell your kids about dating?

Hiding your boyfriend from your kids

I recently heard a really great story from a newly single mom that illustrates the importance of being open about your dating life with your children, and modeling healthy life-long romance, starting young.

Facing divorce, this mom of two's own childhood loomed large as her point of reference. After all, her parents split when she was in preschool, and she was raised almost exclusively by her mother, who was a great role model in that she rose from a store clerk to a corporate executive during my friend's childhood. It's no surprise my friend has also become incredibly successful herself.

But, she never saw her mom date. At all.

Facing her own single status, she was terrified — assumed, even — that she also faced perpetual loneliness. Why wouldn't she? That was her model: You divorce. You're alone forever.

However, this new phase of life has opened a new chapter in my friend's relationship with her mother, as these things tend to do. And it turns out that her understanding of her mom's personal life was inaccurate.

“Oh I always had an active sex life,” he mom confessed recently. “I just kept that separate from my relationship with you.”

9 reasons dating and sex are better as a single mom

My friend was stunned. This not only TNT'd her impression of her mom, but upturned her expectations for her own sexual and romantic life — which suddenly became so much brighter.

I love this story because it serves as such great evidence for why we should all be open about our dating lives with our children. I've said it once but it needs to be said a zillion times more:

There is nothing shameful about a mother dating. You are an adult woman who as romantic, emotional and sexual needs. Embracing this fact is great for you, and great for your kids.

Those needs do not conflict with your kids' needs of you, or your relationship with your family. In fact, happily dating is the healthiest thing you can model  for your children, both now — and in shaping their points of reference in adulthood. Being sexually fulfilled gives you the energy to parent to your greatest potential. Plus, a healthy romantic life — whatever that means for you — frees your children from their own natural sense that they must fill that void, now and in the future — which is prone to happen in single-parent families.

A sexually satisfied mom is a happier mom.

Now, you know all about age-appropriate information, so I won't even go there. Because, again, you are an adult woman and you know better.

So, tell your kids you are going on a date. Let them meet the man you are seeing — even if you are not sure where the relationship is headed. The more you embrace your sexuality, the healthier it is, and the easier it will be to share with your kids in a way that doesn't make anyone squirm.

Just ask my friend.

Which dating sites are best for single moms?

Positive reasons single moms should date:

Good times. Laughs with a fun, smart guy – why not? I mean, you spend a couple hours at a rom-com and aren’t disappointed that it fails to text the next morning.

Company. Life is lonely. Sometimes I hang out with friends who are annoying because I don’t have anything better to do. Sometimes I go out on dates with men who are annoying because I don’t have anything better to do.

Sex.

Business. Once on OKCupid I was contacted by a gorgeous British plumber who lived in New Jersey at the exact same time I was trying to find a plumber to unclog my toilet.  He thought I was joking when I shared the coincidence. The situation resolved itself before he could come to my rescue (but not without producing plenty of porn-quality fantasies between my ears), but had that worked out it would not have been the first or last professional contact I made through dating.

Friendship. You know Marc I mentioned above? We went on an OKCupid date when we decided to be friends.

In other words, I can find compatibility of all sorts with many different kinds of men. So when something really special comes along, it is easier to discern him from a guy who was valuable for a fun evening or replacing a flush valve. Which brings me to another reason I date:

5 friends that every single mom needs

Looking for love. Duh.

Looking for a husband. Absolutely.

In essence: Dating is life. Parenting is life. Stop making such a big deal out of the former, and the latter becomes far less complicated.

Does the thought of dating scare the crap out of you — yet compel you at the same time? Good! That means it will be awesome once you're ready! Don't trust your picker, or otherwise terrified of getting hurt again? Therapy can help you heal ex wounds and launch into dating with confidence. Online dating is a great option for single moms — very affordable, convenient (it's by text, phone or video) and anonymous. Check out one of our favorites, BetterHelp >>

Single moms discuss dating, sex and kids

My single mom friend Morghan and I discussed this topic in detail, inspired because we both had a bad reaction to a recent Huffington Post article discouraging single parents from rushing into introducing a potential mate to the kids. She is a fellow single mom to two preschoolers, and a divorce lawyer and mediator.

Last night we IM'd about the article and when to introduce a boyfriend to the kids:

Me: So what was the one thing about that HuffPo article that really ticked you off?

Morghan: It bothered me that somehow mom isn’t allowed to have a sexual side because that might make her teenage kid uncomfortable. Like parents should hide the fact that they are full people, and that kids should be sheltered from that part of their lives. Which renders their personal lives as unseemly.

Me: I totally agree. It shames the whole idea of a parent as a sexual, dating person. Puts a negative spin on it for all parties, including – especially — the kids.

Morghan: We aren't afraid to give our kids Xbox360 and blast-your-head-off war games, but they’re not allowed to see mom date.

Me: Ha! Excellent point.

Related: Podcast episode answers the question:

Should I tell my ex I have a boyfriend?

Since dating is a normal, healthy part of everyday life for single moms, you do not need a special rider in your divorce decree or co-parenting agreement to qualify when and how your kids can meet the kids, or whether your ex gets to meet the person before the children do.

Of course, this assumes a healthy co-parenting arrangement.

Why single moms don't have to tell their kids' dad about their new boyfriend

More in this podcast episode of Like a Mother with Emma Johnson:


Morghan: I'm not saying every Tom, Dick and Harry need to have dinner at the house, but seems like the kids may be better adjusted in the long run if they aren't kept in the dark.

Dating is a normal part of life — including for single moms

Me: Of course we are all concerned about hurting our kids. But I agree that that making dating a normal part of life — not some colossal deal just because our kids meet someone we're involved with — lessens the blow if and when those relationships should end.

Morghan: Well put.

Me: But what do we say to the status quo which says, “It’s normal for you to have several relationships after your divorce, and it hurts so much for the parent when those ends. It's not fair to subject your kids to that same pain”?

If and when the relationship ends …

Morghan: To them I’d say: Kids need to see how we recover from the blow of relationships ending. Why isn't that healthy? I tend to wonder if the people screaming the loudest about this aren’t shifting fire from their own overly bitter divorce that most like served to hurt their children more than some light dating ever could.

Me: We won't throw stones at those miserable assholes. But to your point – I think there is huge value in teaching our kids that life is about loving, then loosing, then picking ourselves up and forgiving and learning to love and trust again.

Morghan: I don't think it serves them well to shield them from that.

Me: I mean, love always ends. Always. Divorce, breakups, death, or love just dies in a regular, old unhappy marriage. Plus, by embracing dating — it embraces the fact that half of people have been divorcing for 40 YEARS! OUR CHILDREN WILL DIVORCE! They will have multiple long-term relationships! THAT IS LIFE TODAY!

Morghan: Call me a romantic but I still believe in marriage and love. Divorce is not akin to death and taxes. But I guess that is where we part ways.

Me: I’m also incredibly romantic. I totally believe in marriage and love. I also believe that we have no choice but to accept that they both end. They just do. That is why we're having this convo :)

Morghan: And honestly, I hope my children learn from my mistakes and don't have to suffer through a divorce. But they will most definitely suffer through break-ups, heart breaks and failure.

Me: There is another side of this. I’ll share a personal story. I was involved with this guy Larry for a year, and he definitely knew the kids and saw them regularly. But it was also clear that there were limits to how much he was willing to be involved. And one day the kids and I were in Brooklyn for some family event, and Helena asks where we are, and I tell her, and she says, “Larry lives in Brooklyn! Can we go to his house?!” They had never been to his house. And it was like a stab to the gut – it was clear that I was participating in a big party that they were not invited to.

Single mom with a lover on the side

Morghan: To a certain extent, isn't some of that party just for you?

Me: Well, yes. That was the extent of that particular relationship. But that is not how I want to raise my kids. Or the relationship I want with them – I don’t want that distance that having two separate lives creates.

Morghan: I think it is hard to just set a marker for everyone because every relationship is different.

Me: Of course.

Morghan: But I don't think that means we should be hiding anything. Plus, the fact that our kids are so young makes it easier. They seem so accepting of things.

Me: I totally agree (both our kids are almost 3 and 5). But what about people who say, “Determine the time to introduce depending on how your kid will react”? I say – fuck that. We are the parents and we decide. If we feel our partners should be part of the family in some way, that is what goes. We don’t cower to a kid’s tantrum!

Morghan: Yes, agreed. And as a parent you have to address however your kid reacts – because that is your job as a parent to help them work through it, not avoid it.

On one board, a mom pointed out that her ex's girlfriend broke up with him after meeting the kids (at the six month mark) and that was even harder because the kids felt guilty.

Me: That is too bad. It’s the parent's job to make sure they understand that it is NOT their fault (again, it's not all about the kids!) and here is how we face that adversity.

When is it okay to introduce my boyfriend to my kid?

Morghan: Agreed. I said this earlier: I’d rather know that I taught them to face adversity than to just be in constant search for happiness. Happiness changes. How you face the difficulties of life is a skill that is being ignored because it doesn't make kids happy.

Me: I more or less agree, but those things go hand-in-hand. You have to be strong to get through all the lousy stuff that happens in life and believe that happiness exists on the other side.

Morghan: I think happiness is within – not out there.

Me: OK, Yoda.

Morghan: I was being serious.

Me: On one board I heard a mom say something like, “If I want to actually build a relationship, I need to spend time with a man, and that means that he has to come and hang out at my house. We can't build something by seeing each other once every two weeks because we have kids.” It often comes down to schedules and practicality. Which is life.

Morghan: Exactly.

Me: This was super-stupid in the article: However, remember that you have children now so it isn't quite the same as it was before. Children often become embarrassed and confused when seeing their parents act like adolescents.

Single moms are told to be ashamed of their sexualities

Morghan: That totally pissed me off. Like we shouldn't let our kids see us experience life. Whomever wrote that needs a bitch slap.

Me: Or get laid!

Morghan: Maybe that is why this experience of dating now is so much like middle school. That is how middle schoolers react – “Oh, don't let anyone know so and so is growing arm hair!”

Me: HAHAH!

Morghan: Parents falter, and kids need to see it.

Me: So true.

Morghan: So maybe if we’re open about our relationships our kids will have an easier time in middle school. LOL

Me: LOL. Also, it's about owning this as normal adult human behavior: People need companionship, and it is hard to find good mates, and we get our hearts broken and act foolish, but also find great love that can bleed into the rest of the family.

Morghan: Yes, I definitely agree. Great love that should bleed into the family. I say, there is no limit on how many people can or should love my kids.

Me: I so agree! Another thought:

Why are we so opposed to our kids becoming attached, and that person leaving? For example, Helena's BFF at school Eleanor is moving in the summer. Hopefully we’ll stay in touch, but let's get real- that likely won't happen, even though I'm very fond of her mom who is my friend.

That doesn't mean we hang out with them any less, or discourage the girls’ closeness. Truly caring for someone is a precious thing, and should not be avoided just because it might hurt one day.

Morghan: Right, people lose people and it fucking hurts. But it happens.

Me: Shit happens, kids!

Morghan: And we have to model for our kids to learn how to cope.

Me: Yes, coping. But I also think a lot about how I want my kids to see me in loving relationships with other people – men, friends, etc.

Morghan: Right.

Me: Growing up, my mom dated a bunch at various times, and I loved that. But she never had any serious relationships, and that was way worse — I didn't have ANY model for relationships, good or bad. I saw that she never got over her divorce and saw that as a huge fail.

Morghan: Ouch.

Single moms can teach their kids healthy dating attitudes

Me: I want my kids to see resilience, and to me resilience means loving again. Not just coping with loss. Which brings us again back to the when.

Morghan: Kids do have to be in the mix to see if the relationship is going to work. In my case, I thought I didn’t want anything serious, and so I brought my kids around my new boyfriend as a deterrent – and then watched in awe as this guy threw himself into the mix with them. Then I realized that was something worth exploring.

Me: You tried to sabotage the relationship with your kids, but they just sweetened the deal.

Morghan. Exactly! But I really don’t see why bringing a potential mate around the kids is shameful.

Me: Word to your mother! Or, Word to you, mother!

Morghan: LOL

Me: LOL. One thing that I feel strongly about is people who (and this is you, sorry) say, “Oh we'll just tell the kids we're friends hanging out.” Kids know everything.

Don't lie to the kids

Me: I think the general rule should be THEY ALL UNDERSTAND EVEYTHHING . Lucas was tiny — not even 2 — and we were reading the Dinosaurs Divorce book and he pointed out that, “Mommy kisses Larry.” It wasn't like we were making out in front of the kids! Just a hello peck. And even though he was 1, Lucas understood there was something different there.

Morghan: Right – so at what point are we to give them the tools to articulate dating?

Me: It depends on the kid, of course, but the same rules apply no matter what — we do what we think is right, address their concerns, keep things real.

Morghan: So my story ends with my “friend” playing with Ozzie at the dining table, while my ex has come over and is packing lunches. I’m furiously blow-drying my hair to get ready for work.

Me: That's a good story!

Morghan: Then it hit me: I'm in the Twilight Zone. I don't think most people experience that.

Me: And you also got sex and a homemade breakfast in the Twilight Zone, correct? Not to mention unpaid childcare. I think I just had an orgasm typing that.

My new boyfriend had a sleepover with my kids home for the first time

Here is what happened when my boyfriend of three months stayed over:

My kids met him a couple times. He's sweet with them, and he tried to play it cool, though I can tell he's a little nervous about making a good impression on them (and on me, with them), which makes him all the more irresistible.

In the spirit of being normal about mixing kids with dudes, I also tried to keep it cool. We'd planned for him to have dinner at my place with the kids last Thursday. Earlier in the week I texted: “Do you want to stay over?”

Sure, he said. I didn't want to make it into a huge deal with the kids, but I also believe it is really disrespectful to sneak men into your bed, or simply wake up with a man laying next to you without any explanation. Kids aren't morons.

So, I first mentioned to Lucas, age 4: “He's going to sleep over at our house Thursday.”

When his sister, 6, came home, Luke eagerly rushed up to her: “Helena! Helena! Guess WHAT! Mommy's boyfriend is going to SLEEP at our HOUSE!”

Helena: “Where is he going to sleep?

Me: “My bed.”

Helena: “Where are you going to sleep?”

Me: “In my bed with him.”

Helena: “I think you wiggle too much at night. Maybe he should sleep on the couch.”

Lucas: “I know! I know! He can sleep in MY BED!”

Me: “Where are you going to sleep?”

Lucas: “With you.”

Me: “I'm going to sleep with him in my bed because he's my boyfriend and I want to snuggle with him.”

Lucas: “What about OUR morning snuggles?”

Me: “We will still do that — there are plenty of mommy snuggles to go around.”

Helena: “I promise not to fart on his lap like I did with your last boyfriend. I think that's why you broke up.”

Maybe that last bit about the boyfriend snuggles was TMI, but it is true and go to the heart of the kids' confusion — this visitor is different than the many houseguests who frequent our couch. And it turned out to be completely accurate (read on).

The day of The Great Sleepover, I picked Helena at the bus stop and she giddily skipped along the sidewalk holding my hand.

“My mommy's boyfriend is going to sleep at my house! My mommy's boyfriend is going to sleep at my house! I told everyone at school — even my teachers! My mommy's boyfriend is going to sleep at my house!” 

The rest of the evening was pork chops and roasted cauliflower and cupcakes my boyfriend brought for the kids. He cleaned the kitchen (even the stovetop which I religiously leave for the housecleaner) while I got the kids into the bath and jammies. I read Helena one of those Madonna English Roses books and he read Lucas a Planes book. There were kisses all around, followed by yelling to get back into bed, and it couldn't have been more normal or cozy.

And it was, at its core, a normal and cozy Thursday evening with the kids. I put on my long-sleeved pajamas, washed my face and slipped into bed next to him, my head resting in the crook of my arm and then on his chest. We turned off the light and talked about what I don't remember. I wish I had a funny story about stifled howls of passion or a knocking headboard that awoke the kids, and while there were some steamy adult snuggles under the predawn covers, we crawled out of bed to make coffee and muffins and listen to NPR as I yelled at the kids to hurry up and get dressed already. And then the day had begun.

Why you may want to wait or not introduce your boyfriend to your kids

In response to the above essay, a mom wrote me:

As a single mom, it is a social stigma for me to date. Many feel that my life as a woman should have stopped when I had children. Someone even suggested that it’s okay for men to move on but I should solely dedicate my life to my children. 

That makes me want to bust out my nunchucks and beat the crap out of society. But you are safe here, and I’m here to tell you: Date! It’s normal — healthy!  There will likely be heartbreak and missteps. You are human. But do not feel ashamed of your emotional, social or sexual needs. Embrace your womanhood in all its splendor. This is what a good mom does.

Maybe you and your boyfriend disagree on when and how to tell his kids or your kids when to introduce the other partner. Couples counseling can help—even if you're not married. When you need couples therapy.

And when you are ready, bring around your family. Yes, consider how you do this. Respect your kids’ reactions. Talk about it with them. But do not feel guilty. Let go of any shame. You are normal and this is healthy.

That said, there are plenty of good reasons to take your time introducing your kids to your new amore. Maybe you don’t ever introduce him at all.

1. You recently broke up with someone else.

Even though you may be ready to move on, you’re not sure your kids are.

2. You’re afraid your new guy will be really awesome with the kids.

Which will make you totally love him even way, way more. Maybe you’re not ready for that kind of emotional intensity. It scares you. That’s cool. Take it slow.

3. You’re afraid he might not be so great with your kids.

That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t date him — it means that he might not be part of your family life. Sometimes you just need a lover or someone to take you out to dinner now and again. Not all relationships are the giant, Brady Bunch, 24/7 kind. Maybe you’ll want that sort of partnership in another phase of your journey.

4. You want to prolong the courtship.

Face it: if he’s spending every Wednesday enjoying meatloaf and mashed potatoes with you and the kids,  he’s not taking you out of wild-boar-and-crimini-mushroom meatloaf and truffle-laced heirloom purple potato mash at that cute place downtown on Wednesdays. Family life is wonderful. But that shit’s not glamorous.

5. You’re afraid your family life will make him run.

Truth? It might. Especially if he doesn’t love you (yet). It’s  hard to imagine that a man who did not sire your kids might actually like them and also want to fuck you. But it happens all the time. Maybe you want feel more secure in the relationship before you bring him home to the circus that is your life. Take your time!

6.  You don’t want to signal to him it’s serious (yet). 

You may accept that introducing a guy to your kids does not indicate that he’s your forever boo. But he may not see it that way — which is understandable because most people in our culture wouldn’t, either. If you’re playing it cool and not ready to jump in with your heart and soul, but worry he will think you’re eager and commitment-ready if you invite him to join your clan for Disney on Ice, wait.

7. You want him all to yourself.

This is not selfish. See #3. Not every relationship is meant for marriage or family. Having a lover that is separate from your daily life can be a fabulous arrangement. If that suits you, embrace it.

Related: 8 rules for friends with benefits

About Emma Johnson

Emma Johnson is an award-winning business journalist, noted blogger, and bestselling author. 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.  Find out Emma's top Single Mom Resources here.

56 Comments

  1. […] post When should single moms introduce boyfriend to the kids? appeared first on Emma […]

  2. sex shop on May 11, 2019 at 1:43 am

    For many single parents, dating is exciting and scary at the same time. On one hand, you can hardly contain your enthusiasm for your new love interest. Yet, you may be plagued with questions about when and how to i ntroduce your kids. Before you take that all-important step, consider this advice for dating with children . A lot of single parents ask, When should I introduce my kids to the person I m dating? Peter Sheras, a clinical psychologist at the University of Virginia, and the author of

  3. Francheska on June 26, 2018 at 6:07 pm

    I am currently dating someone I really like and came across this article for advise. I am in my early 40’s, my children are now either grown or in high school. My ex and I had a horrible, horrible breakup which for a while left me emotionally detached, untrusting of men but also with the impression that all men will eventually cheat on you. Nine years later my ex has since remarried(4 years now) while I had the liberty of spending the first five years of our breakup rebuilding my faith and trust in men, helping my daughters through the struggles they faced due to the breakup, adjusting my kids to a new life, being strong for them and hiding any struggles we may have been going through financially due to the results of that disfunctional relationship. Through all this I never gave up on love and at that time dated ( 5 guys) but my girls only were introduced to those that I formed a relationship with ( 1). As I felt no need to introduce them to someone I was not sure about. Fast forward as I say nine years later the past 4 years have been hell on my dating life. My daughters are now old enough to date themselves or are asking questions. I have opted to now be more transparent about my dating life for a couple of reasons. 1. For my safety, I provide a picture, location and my dates contact information to my children before going on any date with any man. ( before this was provided to my sisters). 2. They are dating now and are looking at me and the way that I handle my relationships and dating techniques also because I could no longer hide it from them. ( kids are smarter than you think) However, I find that now that the cat is out the bag dating is much harder for me now. When I hit 40 I went through the 40 year old midlife crisis of why haven’t I found the right guy, serial dating, etc…it’s like I got worse. I don’t know if it’s because I know my kids will all soon be grown and I don’t want to be alone or WHAT!! But it has changed. However even through all that I never introduced them to anyone. Although they know of them they have never met any of them however I think I may have a winner and would love to introduce my girls to him eventually if things work out. I tell my story because I felt it was important for other single people to know that dating is hard and no matter how you present it to your kids , now or later kids will form an opinion regardless. I sometimes have my girls compare Dads relationship to me dating as if they feel sorry because I haven’t found anyone. But I had to explain to them that ” Mommy found SOMEONE quite a few time, I’m just waiting on the right one”. Dating with children doesn’t have to be complicated for our children or us if we don’t want it to be.

  4. Single_Mom on November 1, 2017 at 5:40 am

    Hi. I find your article very interesting. I disagree with a lot of the other comments. My kid’s father died when she was 3. She’s 8 now. On my 33rd birthday I saw myself getting old and dying alone so I started dating again. My instincts have never failed me. I am not a selfish parent and I know the little person I brought into this world. I think that should be every parent’s barometer–your own kid. You raised that child, you know him/her better than anyone. After reading your article and the many of the vitriolic comments, I refuse to judge. I do not know your children or their children, but I do know I have a right to be happy. I have a responsibility to this little kid I brought to the world. And that I have to be fair to the other person I am bringing into my life, and my child’s. I want to thank you because your article help put things into perspective, and that is to trust my judgement. I thank you for this.

  5. Executioner on July 10, 2017 at 3:13 pm

    You go girl!!!
    Why don’t you have sex with a new stranger every week? But don’t forget to make your kids know they can’t rely on you whenever you are “spending time with him” aka getting fucked, give them a shitty example of how healthy relationships should work and off course that they deserve to be exposed to adult themes at an early age because you obviously can’t help it.

    And if your aren’t tired of being a disastrous single mother (not that you don’t deserve to be one)
    you may as well want to take the risk of them getting mistreated or even molested by “mommy’s special friend”. your house your rules :)

    And why would children need wholesome parental figures anyways? it’s never you fault :(
    You have been negligent enough to bring them this world,even though you’re aware you can’t even take care of your own life.

    You are selfish and probably mentally ill.

  6. Luis on June 30, 2017 at 11:57 am

    No kid wants to jump in the bed with a strange man when their scared in the middle of the night. Just saying.

  7. Former single mother (the five year wait was WORTH IT) on January 30, 2017 at 8:45 am

    What a grievous shame it is that you would feel more strongly about your own selfish desire, and the need of children to feel secure at home. That actually includes the way you approach your sex life. (home, as I referred it here, is a well packed word that encompasses a LOT more than mere place… it’s everything)

    As a grown child of a single mother, sex addict, actually, with an endless supply of eager men who by my mother’s example, felt NO need to protect us from anything (because it was HER life and we were just a part of it) we learned to distrust. Everyone. Everything. My brother’s grew up wondering if the girls they liked were really just playing with their hearts, all the while well into adulthood I cringe at movies depicting the mom’s sleepover helping himself to orange juice in the morning. Orange juice provided by the single mother. Orange juice that was meant for the children. But the orange juice is just the surface, subtle but tangible standin for what those men, and the children’s mother are actually giving away- robbing from their children, from YOU!

    If you want to go out and “enjoy your sex life” reclaim YOUR sexuality, whatever, keep in mind that that’s how some of us ended up with half siblings and our mother’s increasing resentment of the little people she created holding her back from what SHE wants.

    Don’t bring your dude around until you know the man (and you’re fooling yourself if you actually think that sex helps you know a person… it does… in a very intimate soul bonding sort of way that can only authentically be expressed in marriage -otherwise, it’s a premature bonding agent that KEEPS you from seeing a person, but damages you, and your children), know his friends, know his family. He should know you have kids, and if he’s a man worth taking home to meet them, he’ll see your nonchalance about your children’s well being (and safety) as a red flag.

    Hell, if you feel that selfishly for your human sex toys, you’re frankly not ready to date. You’re probably not suitable to be trusted with the fragile vulnerabilities your children carry with them; take a deep look at what you’re teaching them about their own self worth, their own sexuality, love… life, It’s NOT about you anymore. Grow up!

    • Former single mother (the five year wait was WORTH IT) on January 30, 2017 at 9:02 am

      That “and” in the first line should have read, “than”.

  8. Carrie on August 31, 2016 at 10:01 am

    I had a horrible ordeal where I had to leave my child’s father due to drug issues, I have sole custody and am back on my feet. By some amazing turn of events I have met someone I connect on every level with. We have only been together two months, my child is under two and I would like us to spend more time together, I question sleepovers only because there are a few people in my life chastising me for even giving it a thought. I am now starting to feel selfish for wanting these things and encouraging progression to the next level of this relationship.

    • Hana Parkhill on September 22, 2019 at 12:21 pm

      Emma,

      You are awesome. The six month rule is absolutely ridiculous. Imagine all of the lies you would have to tell your kids over that time period, sneaking around like a teenager. I see people who impose the most ridiculous expectations on their dating partners. Like every moment you share is supposed to be sacred, as the partner is preparing for a life-long commitment. Gaw, too much pressure. Love you Emma!!

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