Dear Nina: Your advice about things to do when you’re lonely over Christmas (# 3 Holiday Dating Challenge) completely misses out those of us who are alone and yet have obligations - i.e. all the single parents. I’m lonely, too, but I have to spend my holiday season making Christmas happen for my three kids who have massive expectations about ‘Mommy-Time’ or playdates. It is almost unbearably difficult to be a family and yet not a family (i.e. with no Dad) yet without the freedom to run away from it all; and with few babysitters available so that I can go out. The same probably goes for singles who are carers for elderly parents and relatives - they can’t just up and do. Some advice for those of us who are stuck on the track of caring or parenting would help us feel less isolated. - Helen
Dear Helen: You and others like you are in a very challenging situation - caring for children without the support of the other parent to give you relief. When you are single, this can shut down your ability to explore opportunities to meet and date. But like every other challenge in life, the onus is on you to embrace it and figure out how to grow. I’ll tell you up front - it’s not easy, but it can be done. You can have a social life while you are single parenting. Here are some possible ways to accomplish that.
First, you must develop a support system to give you relief. Reach out at your children’s school (or church, or elsewhere in the community) and connect with other single parents. Organize a support system between you so that you can take turns caring for one another’s children while you go out socially. Obviously, it takes time to pull something like this together and organize it; view it as a process, something you will invest in over time. You need to make sure that your other single parent friends share your basic parenting philosophies and values so that you don’t put your children at risk. Also, don’t discount your single friends who have no children; sometimes women who missed out on becoming a Mom like to be the “auntie” to their friend’s children.
Second, find ways to meet other single parents. Go online and search “single parent dating.” There are a number of internet dating sites geared toward single parents; one that I quickly found is www.singleparentmeet.com . Check around locally for churches or synagogues that have singles groups for single parents. If there’s a social issue, there’s a support group for it! So do your research and look for those resources. If you absolutely can’t find any nearby, be the person who starts one. A simple flier with a date/time for the first meeting that your church or synagogue passes out is all it takes.
Last, have a strong game plan for dating. When you have children, it’s essential that you clarify for yourself how much you are willing to involve them in your social life. Some single parents put off dating until their children are older and less vulnerable. Others date while the children are young but don’t introduce them to dating partners until well into the relationship. There’s no right answer here. While you can’t protect your children from any exposure to emotional pain (they attach quickly and experience loss when there’s a break up), you can minimize the trauma by making smart choices.