Dating as a single parent can be a disaster, especially when you're looking for more than just a casual hook-up. That's why I was more than a little surprised when my first date with my now-husband was the best first date I'd ever been on. But even though we were completely honest with each other about our priorities, I wasn’t completely sure that he was “the one” at first. I mean, how does a single mom know they've found a parenting partner?
While I didn't know immediately, it didn't take me long to realize that I was going to marry the man sitting across from me on that first date. In fact, it was during one of the first times we hung out together with all four of our kids, as two families. I made dinner — spaghetti — and totally burnt the garlic toast. He didn't miss a beat, though, and ended up throwing the bread on the lawn for the birds and suggesting a walk to the playground. As I watched him push our kids on the merry-go-round, and swings, and give like 100 piggyback rides, I thought to myself, "I can really do this." I was so surprised to realize that I might actually be a parent with someone, and in a way that was never possible with my ex.
Blending our families together has been a wild ride. And while we're far from perfect, there have been hundreds of moments that remind me that I I made the right choice. I asked other single moms and formerly single moms (including my own) to share what that moment of clarity looked and felt like for them. Grab some tissues and prepare to ugly cry before you read on, my friends:
"With my husband, I was wary of dating anyone because of the negative reactions I would get from interested men when they found out I had kids, and they didn't have any of their own. My husband is also younger than me, so I had little hope beyond just having a lovely experience with a beautiful man I respected.
He surprised me, though, when the conversation came up early on. He explained he adored children, and family was everything to him as where he's from (Iran), he has a huge extended family that is very close. He was the only man I dated after my divorce that I allowed to meet my children, and he's proven to be beyond what I had ever hoped to find in a partner."
"Well it's still early in our relationship, so he's not quite a full parenting partner, yet. I'm starting to consider my boyfriend's opinion on some parenting decisions. Not only did he raise two wonderful daughters of his own, he has an active role in the lives of a lot of his friends' kids. We talked a lot about parenting during our first few dates and his philosophies are pretty in tune with mine. There wasn't one specific moment I knew he'd be a good parenting partner, but there is one that kind of epitomized it. He invited me and my daughter to his teenager's school violin concert. Just the proud parent look on his face and how he recorded the entire thing on his phone just melted my cold heart a bit."
"I knew I found a parenting partner when I heard the sweet jokes and conversations coming from the other room. I knew she was mom-mom, when I saw that she understands some tough situations better than I do, and how my kiddo can talk sincerely with her, and come away knowing she is not alone in her situation. Now she says, 'We have the power of three,' and I have no doubt that I have found a parenting partner who loves and will do anything to protect our child."
"It was the first time my kids really played with him."
"When I was moving, he spent the whole day packing and moving furniture. My daughter found her tea set in a box and set it up. He proceeded to indulge her in a lengthy Tea Party. Pinky up and all."
"I knew I found a parenting partner the first time we took a vacation together. He had been in the girls lives for about eight months, but only saw them every couple of weeks. He was always amazing with my girls, but I hadn't gotten a real chance to see his parental side. On vacation, he helped me feed them, put their pajamas on, and put them to bed, or let me go for a nice walk or swim while he watched them. It was one of the sexiest things I'd ever seen, and I knew that I wanted to parent with him. Not only was I in love with him, but my girls were, too.
Now we're expecting a little one of our own, and I'm so excited to experience this with him. Also, the way he treats me is a prime example for my girls of how you should be treated by a partner."
"Thirty six years ago in April I met my husband. Little did I know, or even dream, that this wonderful man would become my husband, my best friend, and the love of my life. I hadn't planned on a date that night — just a night out with my cousin and her husband. They had other ideas, though, and invited him along. So, it was a blind date that I didn't know I had until the three of them showed up at my door. I was so totally not in the mood for a date. I was a single mom with three kids — the oldest of whom was in kindergarten. I had had a few 'less than optimal' dating experiences, and wasn't really ready to deal with anyone else's baggage.
Evidently the universe had other plans. We had a nice time, although I refused to admit it at the time. He conveniently left his tape player (yes, folks, cassette tapes) in the car, so I had something of his to return, then beat me to it by returning the next day to retrieve it and ask me out again. There was really no question of introducing him to the kids or not — they were there from the beginning, and he always picked me up at home and seemed to enjoy their attention as much as mine. We dated for several weeks, and when my parents came to visit he stole my mother's heart as well. I think I knew sometime during that time of family outings, fishing trips, playing cards with my parents, cooking, and having him eat literally anything I made and seeming to enjoy it, and working in the yard, that this was a man I could live with.
I think what finally tipped the scales, though, was my kids' reactions to him — unbounded jubilation when he appeared at the house, and total dejection if they asked and I had to say he wasn't coming over. Some days think they fell in love with him before I did."
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.