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.

Related: 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?

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


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.

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 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.

55 Comments

  1. king on June 6, 2016 at 6:50 pm

    Garbage

  2. Betsy on February 23, 2016 at 11:38 am

    I like your article, because parents, particularly women are constantly fed a lot of sanctimonious claptrap about what they should shouldn’t be doing to achieve perfection in parenting and most of is conflicting nonsense. However I also feel that it’s very important to offer children and ex-partners our respect and empathy in considering how they might be feeling before introducing a new significant person and to move forward at a pace that is sensitive and appropriate to the specific circumstances. Emotions run high when parents separate and to discount the feelings of the child is irresponsible. All circumstances are different but let your own instincts in relation to your children be your guide. I dislike the term single parent and see my ex as a co-parent (I realise not everyone has ex partners that are wanting to be as involved but this is my perspective). I think our ability to communicate amicably has been one of the best things to come out of our separation, if we had both introduced our daughter to new people from the get-go and focused on our own needs above hers this would have seriously impacted our ability to focus on her as we would most likely be both feeling threatened and defensive. The fact that we have put her first and established our co-parenting relationship on mutual respect, communication and trust means that now we can work together in the best interests of our daughter and developments in our personal lives will be met with the same approach. My daughter’s needs come first full stop and I am responsible for supporting her to become a confident, secure and emotionally resilient young woman. At 3 years old she does not have the mental capacity for empathy (to see mummy as a person with needs), that will come in time but for now she just needs to feel safe and loved and meeting lots of strangers isn’t conducive to promoting those feelings.

    • Emma on February 24, 2016 at 6:10 am

      But children meet lots of strangers all the time — new teachers, neighbors, visiting friends and relatives they may never see again or irregularly. Why should dates or romantic intersts be any different if they are not introduced as a permanent part of your life (which of course they shouldn’t be).

      • Luis on June 30, 2017 at 11:51 am

        She’s uncomfortable. Maybe just don’t do it. Or you stay at his house.

  3. Heather on February 14, 2016 at 8:45 pm

    Thank you so much for your response to that HuffPo article!!! I despised that article!! I am a single mom of two girls and I 100% agree with your opinions regarding dating. Yes, we shouldn’t bring home every single guy we date. I have been actively dating for about 2 years now and my children have only met one of the guys I’ve dated so far. However, we also can’t keep our kids in the dark. I want my girls to see that dating and getting to know different men until I find the one that is right for me AND them is normal, natural and healthy. I do not like the idea of waiting 6 months for my kids to meet a man that I feel I could go long-term with, because I may fall for the guy then find out he is not compatible with my children, then of course I’d drop him, but I’ve wasted 6 months of my time and his! Not to mention that was even more time I could have been spending with my children instead of with a guy that is not right for us. That would bother me the most. Why put everyone through that? My children are a huge part of me and my life and they are not going anywhere, so 6 months is too long to wait IMO. I think waiting at least 1-3 months but keeping it as casual as possible in the beginning is the right way to go.

    • Emma on February 15, 2016 at 9:27 am

      THANK YOU! Ugh – let’s bring single-parent dating into the 21st century already!

    • Jack on January 13, 2017 at 9:17 pm

      Actually, what is normal natural and healthy, is for you to do the dating/finding the right person BEFORE you have children.

  4. Ashli on October 14, 2015 at 12:29 pm

    When would after introducing my boyfriend to my kids and things continue to go good how long should I wait before he moves in?

    • Shane on January 13, 2017 at 9:14 pm

      About two years…

  5. J L on July 1, 2015 at 5:51 am

    With all due respect, it’s opinions like these that make our generation as horrible as it is. Life today with so much divorce, floating, instability and just plain YOLO mentalities create these problems. Fact of the matter is; these are children we’re talking about. They aren’t adults, they aren’t your peers, they’re not your friends. They are your children and as such you are supposed to be a parent. A respected, highly viewed role model to guide them. This doesn’t mean openly being a whore. By all means, you want to be one, have fun, leave your kids out of it. Being this way is what will perpetuate the mentality for the next generation and marriage and genuine love in another person will disappear. That’s how you suggest raising them. Their minds will be imprinted with life that way. Floating, flakey, non committal. It will extend to all areas of their life. My ex was raised as you suggest. Her life is going nowhere and she’s dragged my son around 18 different guys in the last 2 years. Needless to say, he’s become considerably more confused, unfocused, and angry. Great role model for life. But I digress. Fact remains that you are to be a parent. Being selfish doesn’t work. If you are, don’t have kids. Anyone is more than capable of separating lives with their kids and personal until an appropriate time. If you are a romantic, then stop teaching your kids that romance doesn’t exist. They meet the long haul. When you know it’s a long haul. You can’t until at least 6 months. Your life is short. However, the only thing that gives your life meaning in the end, is your kids. So don’t screw up theirs so you can do whatever you want. That’s selfish. That’s not the role of a parent. That’s the role of a high schooler. Grow up.

    • Emma on July 3, 2015 at 8:58 pm

      Do I understand that you believe that dating = being a whore? Yes?

    • Juju on September 13, 2016 at 8:06 am

      I agree. I, too, am divorced and dating but I see NO reason to include my children in on my love adventures. Their idea of love and family has been shattered by the divorce. Why should I introduce someone who I haven’t been dating for a significant amount of time to them? I really don’t understand this mentality. Yes mommy has a life – and that life actually is centered around the children. That’s what we sign up for as parents. Reading the comments here….its mortifying. Telling a 14 year old – whose sexuality is just budding – that mommy is bringing her 3 month new relationship over for a night…. no, not cool. Would you want her to bring her newfound love over for a night? We are modeling behavior for them, folks.

  6. Amber on June 27, 2015 at 10:04 pm

    I agree with some of what’s being said in your article, but it’s wrong to not listen to your children as well about the relationship. When I was a kid my mother dated, which I didn’t mind so much, but she ended up dating some lying jerk at one point that she married that I had problems with. I should have told her what I felt about him, but I didn’t. Years later she finally divorced him in debt and with a broken heart.
    Sometimes kids are actually telling the truth and have feelings about the relationship too, so it’s poor advice to tell other people not to listen their kids about their date when their dating.
    Why the hell have kids if you’re not willing to listen to them??

  7. Eve on April 6, 2015 at 8:53 pm

    Can someone please help?
    I’ve been going out with B for 3 months…this could be the one!
    I told my 14 year old daughter on Saturday night that B would be staying over (not the first time…just the first time she was in the house…she spends one week on, one week off with me and her dad. It was her first night back with me. And she’s met him many times when he has come to pick me up).
    She totally freaked out and told me she was staying at her dad’s house that night. And even though it’s my week, and I’ve reached out to her 3 times, she refuses to come back.
    What happened? I am CRUSHED.

    • Emma on April 9, 2015 at 7:15 am

      Hi Eve – that sounds really stressful. I’m sorry. Did your daughter tell you why she is upset? How well does she know your boyfriend? Could you get her dad involved in sorting this out? For example, the three of you — you, your daughter and her dad — sit down and the parents explain why this is a normal and healthy part of life. That way she can’t run away from her discomfort to her dad’s house.

      Or is there a good reason why she doesn’t like this man?

  8. Jamie on February 23, 2015 at 7:22 pm

    Thanks so much for this article!! The one point that I think needs to be driven home – especially to the men who have expressed their (mostly understandable) concerns on this page – is that there shouldn’t be any set-in-stone “time frame” for when to introduce your kids to your significant other. It should simply be a question of whether or not the relationship is a quality one. Is there a common sense of commitment? Is the relationship clearly a cut above the normal casual dating relationship? Does it seem like the person is going to be in the picture for a long time, if not maybe forever? Some people can determine this early on, when the stars align and the right person just happens to come along. The Internet has actually made this easier than ever, for the selective, picky person. As a single mother of a 5-year old boy, I ventured online to find the man of my dreams, and I weeded through HUNDREDS of frogs until I found the one that I truly now believe to be The One! There were soooo many questions to answer on the site we used (highly recommend OKCupid!) and our percentage of compatibility was rated 97%. This was evident not only during our first phone conversation, but our first in-person meeting, and we have been going strong ever since. Once we had advanced from online chat to email and text, to live conversations and then finally in-person meetings, it didn’t take more than a couple of dates for both of us to know we were on to something great! So I met his kids within a few weeks of us meeting in person, and then he met my son, and my ex absolutely FLIPPED OUT on me due to the tight time frame. My ex not only looked online for what the Internet would recommend as the “appropriate” time frame for making this introduction, but he took it further by blasting his concerns to his whole Facebook feed AND sending private emails to my immediate and extended family, begging them to “intervene” and talk to me so that they could all protect my son from harm! It was an absolutely overblown reaction that I am still working to resolve. I am so lucky that the wonderful man I am seeing was so understanding about the situation. He agreed to submit to the criminal background check my ex required (which came back clean, of course), and can laugh about the stress the reaction has caused in me and my family, because he has already been through the same with his ex. People really go nuts over this topic! Whatever happened to our ability to think for ourselves, to make our own decisions? and YES, we absolutely should encourage this in our own children, along with the reality about love and relationships and how challenging they can be!

    Most mature, grown adults are fully capable of leading their personal lives with discretion and wisdom while at the same time keeping their children a priority. There seems to be a cultural shaming of women who want to pursue romance and introduce their children to their partners during the courtship period. I agree with the women who wrote this article, as well as the bulk of the respondents here, who have explained that involving a man in the child’s life and wanting to pursue a relationship are not and even SHOULD NOT be mutually exclusive. A single mother comes with kids, and a man who wants to date a single mother without meeting her children is simply not facing the reality of that woman’s life. Likewise, a single mother who cannot introduce her child to her love interest is challenged managing her time, and is shamed into believing the child isn’t a relevant piece of the big picture. It simply doesn’t reflect reality.

    Of COURSE be selective about which ones get to meet the kids. The hookup from last weekend, the friend with benefits, the one who drinks too much or never calls isn’t the one who should get to meet the kids, whether she’s been seeing him for three weeks or three months. And if I could redo my recent experience, I absolutely would have informed my ex of my new boyfriend’s presence in my home before he learned about him from my son (DUH!). We all make mistakes, in both parenting as well as dating. We need to learn from them, and let people go on with their lives.

    We aren’t talking about the deadbeat moms or the ones who have little to no regard for their children’s well-being. But the mom who generally has ALWAYS demonstrated discretion with regard to her children, who has a good head on her shoulders, a good family support system, who knows what she is looking for and is committed to finding true love should absolutely be trusted and NOT shamed when she wants to introduce her partner to her child. It is hard enough making the difficult decision to split from that kids’ parent and moving on with your life from there. Once a new partner is in the picture, let’s have a little faith in love again, and faith in that person who is trying to make things right not just for herself, but her household. I can tell you from experience that a few words of support for the single parent who is in this position and trying to follow her heart can really score a lot of friendship points. I am so very happy to be in a wonderfully fulfilling, promising relationship, and yet my ex has poisoned the well among my family and friends – most of whom have not even met this amazing man yet. All in time, they will see why I have made the decisions I have made, and I am so excited for the future.

    Thank you again, the end!

  9. Rhys on January 27, 2015 at 5:02 pm

    Help a guy in the UK. Not particularly proud of the circumstances but my paramour and I have been having an affair for a few years. This year we decided to both divorce so we can be together. It is really serious and we are both fully committed to making it work. She has two teenage children I don’t have any.

    Do you have any advice on when I should meet the children? They both sound like great kids and I am keen but don’t want to rush them. Do we tell them the full story or be economical with the truth?
    All advice gratefully received……..

    Thanks

    • Emma on January 29, 2015 at 2:49 pm

      I think you both need to tell your respective spouses first. You need to move forward to disolve those relationships before starting to blend your families. The kids should be told by both their biological parents (if at all possible) that their families will change before they meet their parent’s new partner. And they will need time before that happens – several months at least.

      Best wishes.

  10. Gabby on December 11, 2014 at 7:01 am

    I technically don’t agree with this my parents seperated when I was 13 and got a divorce when I was 15 it wasn’t finalized to a year later in my opinion it shouldn’t matter how long the parents been divorce to me it’s whether if the children are prepared my mom has just met this dude last week and he already made her tell us about him first off we don’t know anything about him we don’t know his name is age if he has children or not we don’t know anything yet she expects us to be okay with this first off I’m 18 years old and attend community college so I am still living at home, in understand parents deserve to be happy to but my mother doesn’t know how to be one I and my brother who is 15 take care of our 7 year old sister, since she catches and gets off the bus at my father’s house she mainly does her homework over there my point is if you can’t even raise your family first how can you expect someone else to swoop in and try to make the situation worse. She feels we NEED to accept him when I honestly have gut feelings that I’m not gonna end well and usuall my gut feelings are right, I am looking out for my siblings first I am putting them first my mom she’s too busy ready to get married again that she doesn’t put priority over want she does not need to get married she wasn’t a good wife anyway. I’m not saying she doesn’t deserve to have a life im not im just saying understand how your kids are feeling about it before you rush to tell them honestly I’m not keen on meeting him im not my mom in her mind feels that telling me I can leave and go somewhere else if I don’t want to meet him is suppose to make me anymore excited about the idea when it’s me trying to understand why so early they have only known each other a week they dated once and from my understanding they work together so they would have lunch together which she hardly considered a date so that to me is rushing into it and it’s not really her calling the shots it’s him he wants to be okay with us so he can get to her cause her idea is if the kids don’t like you then your out of the picture literally a past guy has done this after 7 days and no dates he proposed to her. It’s not that I’m overprotective I’m just not comfortable because my parents are total opposites my father who I know is talking to other women has stated that he doesn’t plan on bringing anyone around soon because we are top priority while my mother is more into the idea of getting married again right away cause she think that will solve all her problems

  11. Matthew on November 27, 2014 at 12:44 am

    I liked the article and I agree that women shouldn’t be forced to live like nuns because they have children. But, I question whether children are “smart and savvy”, as one person put it, enough to understand what is happening with mom (or Dad for that matter…it can be fathers who deal with this dilemma as well). When my parents divorced I was 21 and it took me a decade to accept my now stepmother. And I knew all too well what was going on when it happened.
    The reason I even replied to this was that I have a friend I am concerned about. She is a 34 year old mother of two young children (4 and 8) who, within the last month, has met a guy, which subsequently drove her ex-husband nuts. He harassed her and the guy she started dating to the point that she ended up getting him thrown in jail for “aggravated stalking”, which is a felony in the state where we live. While she is explaining (lying) to her kids about why Daddy isn’t around, she has become very serious with the new guy to the point that she has him over to her house to play with the kids and such. I personally think this is extremely dangerous behavior and although I question her motives for rushing into a relationship with her new friend (financial issues, etc) I don’t reject her desire to be happy with someone.
    I know this is but one example, but how does one express concern to a person who seemingly is putting her own happiness first without considering how it may affect her children. My instincts are telling me to stay far away from the issue. But, the friend in me is concerned.

    • Emma on November 30, 2014 at 5:04 pm

      One question — how long was she divorced before she started seeing the new guy?

      • Matthew on November 30, 2014 at 10:27 pm

        They were officially divorced a year ago and were apart for a few months. They then got back together for a couple of months, then separated again. They’ve been apart for 4 or 5 months maybe? They have, well..had, a strange relationship after their divorce. I think she was still sleeping with him randomly up until a couple of months ago……

  12. Emma on March 24, 2014 at 10:51 am

    Matt, if you lead a healthy, normal dating life — casually meeting different people, figuring out what you want and need and spending time with the opposite sex, that sounds normal and healthy. That is what single adults do until they find a serious relationship. Why would that negatively affect your kid? And I agree – your son picks up on EVERYTHING. If you are hiding this very important part of your life, he understands something is amiss. That affects his ability to trust you and others.

    From personal experience, I will share: When I was young my mom dated a lot. Many of these guys would come and pick my mom up at the house (old-school style), shake our hands and say hello. Some would come for dinner and handfull who were more serious boyfriends would spend more time with our family — as well as the man’s kids if he had them. Lord knows I am quite critical about a LOT of my parents habits, but I have really positive memories of my mom’s dating. They guys were all nice, my mom was happy around them, and she was doing exactly what she should have been doing at that phase of her life: dating.

    What do you worry you’re protecting your son from? What are you doing that is so shameful that he should not know about? Do you hope he will marryhis first sweetheart? Or do you expect he will date a bunch before settling down? Why not show him a positive rolemodel for what is likely to be a serious of relationships he will have in his life?

    • travis on December 7, 2016 at 11:43 am

      You couldn’t have put it any better.

    • SeattleSingle on March 23, 2018 at 2:51 pm

      Your kids are already suffering from abandonment issues and keeping your kids in an environment that stays consistent is very important. This is not my opinion, this is a heavily researched and universally agreed upon fact. Introducing your children to multiple random boyfriends/girlfriends in short periods of time just hurts them. Don’t put them in the middle of your life. You job is to protect them and help them grow. You don’t have to be ashamed of your sexuality or self, but you also don’t need to introduce them to random dates in order to communicate your needs and the concept of dating and trying to find the right person.

      You can talk to them about your dating, the people you are dating, and the reasons why things are or are not working with someone you are dating without introducing them to every person you date. If you get to a point where you think the person you are dating may be long term and is someone you want to introduce your kids to then great.

      You approach to this is childish and selfish. You are trying to talk others into the idea that this is great so you can feel better about your bad choices. What you are doing is harming your kids not helping them.

  13. matt on March 24, 2014 at 10:41 am

    Actually, I legally do have full custody via a protective order. That is a whole other issue. I choose to let his mother spend time with him because I believe that it benefits both of them.
    I don’t see any difference between what you said in your second paragraph. I take issue with introducing x number of men to a child, regardless of age.
    I don’t understand why you say that I am ashamed of my sexuality. I could care less about that of my ex as well. You completely miss the point of my original post, but I can’t say that I’m surprised. It has nothing to do with my sex life or hers. It has everything to do with what you choose to expose your children to. I don’t think I would have much respect if my mother had brought home a different guy every month or so. How could this behavior possibly have any positive effects on your children’s perception of acceptable relationships?
    I know what my kid picks up on. He is extremely intelligent. That’s why I choose to protect him from situations that will affect him adversely.

  14. Emma on March 24, 2014 at 8:59 am

    Whoah, Matt!

    First, I doubt you have legal rights to prohibit your kid from seeing his mom, and even if you did why would any responsible dad do that? Just because you don’t approve of his mom having a relationship? Or do you have specific qualms with the man? That scenario sounds really harmful to your poor son who must really miss his mother.

    Second, what is the difference between dating when my kids are with their dad or an evening babysitter (which I hire no more than twice per month, including for professional reasons) and you dating when your kid is at daycare or with the nanny? Sounds like semantics, but maybe I’m missing something?

    Finally, promiscuity – well, that is in the eyes of the beholder, but the only difference I can tell between your dating and mine is that I am not ashamed and you seem to be terrified of your sexuality and that of your ex. You kid certainly picks up on that, and to negative affects.

    • Jana on May 5, 2015 at 9:00 pm

      You have to be joking. This man is 100% right for keeping his son away from some strange man mom barely knows.

    • Former single mother (the five year wait was WORTH IT) on January 30, 2017 at 9:16 am

      Emma, I have often wondered throughout life why I WASN’T able to be taken by my dad! The laws have thankfully changed!

  15. matt on March 24, 2014 at 12:19 am

    Hi I just stumbled upon your article. After carefully reading the passage, I’ve determined a few things. First off, you’re selfish. Secondly, you’re kidding yourself if you think your children are unaffected. Thirdly, you seem to be advocating a lifestyle of promiscuity and deliberately subjecting your children to this behavior. Do you think boys won’t pick up on that? That they won’t view ALL women that way? In any case, I am a single FATHER. I have full custody of my 2.5 year old son, and I refuse to ALLOW his mother to keep him overnight. She is living with a guy she’s known for 6 weeks. I still date. I have seen several women even within the last month. I see women while he’s at daycare, and I have a nanny for him if I need for after-hours or on the weekend. This type of thing your advocating is not and never will be acceptable by any logical and unselfish person. Cancel that… not person, PARENT. The conversation basically comes off as a snooty OMG convo between 2 overgrown 20 year-old children that got knocked up before they fulfilled their dreams. Now it’s “OMG can you believe people judge me for dating?!?” and “ugh, I know, right?”
    Forgive me if what I post is hurtful and to-the-point, but I believe that MOST people (especially men) would agree with this point.

    • Jana on May 5, 2015 at 8:57 pm

      Matt. I agree with you and I am female. Totally selfish. It is 100% possible to date without involving your children. No one ever said moms cant date. No, they dont need to be introduced to and lose multiple men because you don’t want to seperate the two until its a mature adult relationship that has had plenty of time put into it. Can’t find a sitter to go out with a guy you’ve just started dating? Too bad. Welcome to sacrifice AKA parenting.

    • Madeline on June 8, 2016 at 7:05 pm

      I was looking for advice on when I should introduce a partner to family, especially my kids. I found this article. And I find it very disturbing and irresponsible. I have to give this one to you sir.

    • Former single mother (the five year wait was WORTH IT) on January 30, 2017 at 9:15 am

      Thank you, Matt!

  16. JCL on January 1, 2014 at 7:50 pm

    Your article just saved me. After more than a year of dating, I’ve met a man I really like. He’s the first person I have found myself even thinking about when I’m with my kids. We’ve only been on 3 dates, and he has a child the same age as my middle child. We are both devoted parents and enjoy many of the same family activities. We’ve talked about meeting each other’s kids as “someday”. We talk and text many times a day. He surprised me last night by suggesting he come to dinner with me and my kids. I’ve heard all the “rules” for introducing. I once dated someone for 6 months and never dreamed of introducing my kids… But when my new guy suggested it, it seemed to make sense. So I took to the internet for more “rules”, of course. Discouraged, I decided… Well to wait. Then I came across this.

    It occurred to me… Our kids are going to date one day, how does someone magically appearing as your significant other teach them how to date successfully? How do we teach them love takes time and work if they don’t see that part? I know my kids imagine I cease to exist when they’re not with me. What does that teach them?

    Thank you for this… I like him… Time to see if he’s worth it!

    • Emma on January 1, 2014 at 9:22 pm

      JLC – Thanks so much for writing! Good on you for listening to your instincts, and congrats on finding a great guy! Keep us posted.

  17. chd on December 3, 2013 at 2:05 pm

    Oh my god! I am printing this out and showing it to all of the naysayers in my life! Thank you guys for being thoughtful, for being brave, and for modeling that to your kids. I was divorced about a year ago and have recently begun dating. To my surprise, almost right away I’ve met someone I really like. I have no idea what type or duration of relationship might result from that feeling, but it’s so much fun nonetheless! I am so busy as a single mother, it is so hard to find time away from my son to date. I have been struggling with all of the advice to wait to introduce my new love interest. You guys have articulated so much of my inner dialogue. You rock!

  18. Raymond Cushing on October 27, 2013 at 11:44 pm

    I have two boys 8 and 10 years old who live with their mother. She cycles though relationships with men at the rate of one every three months. This adds up to a lot of men in the boys’ lives. There have already been two police investigations of her boyfriends for molesting the kids. The problem with your article and the comments, as I see it, is that none of you imply, suggest, or state outright that there might be limits to how much exposure to boyfriends is OK for little boys, and adolescent ones. And if there are limits, then who should set them? If a woman thinks it’s OK to expose her sons to four different steady boyfriends a year, which adds up to 40 different men over ten years, then who is to tell her that she’s wrong? Certainly not me, or I would be considered “abusive and controlling”, no? And please don’t suggest child protective services as an intermediary to instruct my ex-wife on the proper etiquette for introducing boyfriends into her sons’ lives. That’s not CPS’ business. The only reliable control is the mother’s own common sense, and if she doesn’t have any, then it’s the kids who inevitably pay the price.

    • Emma on October 28, 2013 at 9:41 am

      Hi Raymond – Sounds like your ex has some issues going on and those are having a terrible affect on your kids. I’m so sorry.

      However, cases like these are extreme and rare. We should not all be pressured to structure our own family guidelies based on the lowest- and worst – common denominator.

      I agree – your ex should be more responsible about her behavior. But she is not responsible so you must step in. Who cares how she considers you? Step up and do what you can to protect your kids. And if things are indeed so inappropriate that the state has investigated twice you should have a good case for custody, no? Have you sought it?

      • Former single mother (the five year wait was WORTH IT) on January 30, 2017 at 9:08 am

        Emma… you’re so very wrong. It’s not that rare. Your type of naivety is, well… the sort of welcome mat that morally bankrupt perverts look for. A GOOD man will have a very hard time finding ease with such an easy, and willing woman, especially with regards to her children.

        I suggest you start talking to abuse survivors, men and women, begin researching the grooming process for child sex trafficking. You’re not always the prize, honey, but the ice in the glass.

  19. Morghan on February 27, 2013 at 9:17 pm

    I think that sounds like a considerate way to approach your son Andrea. On the other hand, I’m sure Emma will wonder how much is your son in the drivers seat as far as his opinion? If he didn’t like someone you were dating, would that be the end of the story? (And I wonder that about myself so I don’t have any answers, nor am I passing judgment!)

  20. Andrea on February 26, 2013 at 12:52 pm

    In response, you’re absolutely right in many regards, Emma. My son is not responsible for finding (or approving) a boyfriend for me, but this conversation was at a time when we were discussing the breakup. Not only did I lose a partner when he left, I found it important to acknowledge that my son lost a friend he really liked. I believe that the right guy for me (partner, lover, confidant) will also be the right guy for my son (friend, role model, perhaps a father figure)….. hence the right guy for us.

  21. Emma on February 25, 2013 at 5:41 pm

    Andrea, this is great, thanks. However, I do take issue with one point — I understand the sentiment behind the “WE are looking for the right guy” — but that places your son in the position of being your partner. He is not your partner, and he is not dating and he is not responsible for finding a partner for YOU. I plan to write a future post about single moms inadvertently putting their kids in the position of being their partner, which is not their job.

  22. Andrea on February 25, 2013 at 5:32 pm

    What a great article! This is something I struggle with as I struggle to date. I was recently dating a guy both my son and I adored. And then he broke up with me. I’ve tried to be very clear with my son about how WE are “looking for the right guy”, so the one that just left we agreed was almost the right guy. … and the search continues. Not to say that I’m super proud about traipsing a series of guys through the house during his adolescence. I’d really rather his memories of his childhood didn’t include mom’s various boyfriends, but this is the life I’m living, so I’ll just try to do it as gracefully as possible.

    I wish you two lived near me! All my girl friends are married. I’d LOVE to have a conversation like this!!

  23. Emma on February 25, 2013 at 4:32 pm

    These are both really thoughtful insights. I like Faiza’s perspective of showing our kids’ the importance of self.

  24. faiza akhtar on February 25, 2013 at 2:15 pm

    I’ve led my life letting my 4 kids know that mommy has a life, many needs, and doesn’t just live for them. I’ve done it so my kids have a healthy sense of self, so they see how they can’t forget about themselves when they become parents, and they aren’t afraid of heartbreak when a break up is the right decision.

    Along the way, two of my kids have become teens and their reaction of what I subjected them to are polar opposites. My 14 year old son takes after me and understands that each attempt at a relationship means I get closer to finding the right person for me. My 13 year old daughter however, has anxiety about who will leave next. At first I blamed myself for her woes but then I realized her personality is the anxious type like her father and it is my job to take these opportunities to teach her about healthy coping mechanisms she can use to face heartbreak, challenges, and adversity – all of which are guaranteed in life.

  25. Honoree Corder on February 25, 2013 at 1:56 pm

    You two are hilarious — and spot on! Kids are smart and savvy and perceptive. And, they want to see their parents happy. They don’t need details, but they pretty much figure out the rest anyway (and sometimes figure it out wrong, without the right info). I say introduce those people you think are great to the other people you think are great (your kids) whenever it feels right to you.

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