How To Date As A Single Mum Part 3 – Bringing Him Home
Have you succeeded in getting out there on dates, as a single mum? If so, congratulations! Chances are you’re on the brink of finding someone you want to bring home to meet the kids – and wondering how to approach it in the right way. If not, we’ve discussed how to get back out on the dating scene and what to do when there, in parts one and two of this series.
Back to your potential ‘Mr Right’ and how to introduce him into your family life. There’s no doubt it’s a delicate situation and one you don’t want to jump into, without first getting to know him over at least a few months. Next, you’ll be pondering how to go about it, what happens if the kids don’t like him and how to ensure everyone gets along.
It’s pretty overwhelming and it pays to remember you’re kicking goals just by getting to this point. In terms of making it work, it all starts with easing gently into the family and love life you deserve.
Organise A Low-Key Introduction
At the end of the day, you can’t force anyone to like anyone else, so take the pressure off by organising a low-key introduction. Don’t make him the focus of the meeting or create expectations that anything rests on how well it goes. This way, your kids won’t feel like they have to make any kind of impression. Telling them to “be nice” or “behave”, for example, often creates resent before they’ve even met someone, which might just get directed straight at him.
For your man, arranging a big first meeting like a family dinner or a weekend outing means hours of potentially feeling like he has to prove himself. Even if he’s a socially confident, all-round cool guy, no one likes to feel the pressure of living up to preconceived expectations or only having one chance to get it right.
The easiest thing to do is introduce him spontaneously. Before he picks you up for a date, let the kids know your friend is coming over and he can simply come in and meet them before you go out. Or, perhaps he could pop round one morning before work for a quick coffee, just like any friend might do.
This way, your kids get to sit with a first impression that’s not a big deal. All they’re doing is meeting one of mum’s friends who has a nice smile, twinkly eyes, a funny joke or two or whatever else helps define the man you like. The next time they see him, chances are they’ll automatically warm to him, just like you did.
Frame Him As The Cool Uncle
When you frame your man as the ‘cool uncle’ in your mind, you set a positive path to follow in terms of the role he plays in your family. Children can feel unsure when a new person enters their lives and firmly established routines, so it’s important they think of him as an uplifting influence, rather than a source of insecurity.
Think about everyone’s favorite uncle. He’s not generally taking away mum’s attention. In fact, he’s expanding it by being that funny, playful or interesting person around the house that brings everyone together when he visits. Children accept him as someone who’s there with everyone, rather than worry about him receiving more attention than them.
It’s important, also, that your new guy views his role as such. If he feels like he’s in uncharted territory with kids, guide him by letting him know he can relax. This means not expecting him to clean up spills or tell them to stop jumping on the bed. On the other side of the coin, if he has kids of his own and automatically disciplines yours, let him know you’ll take care of the parenting and, though you appreciate the help, he doesn’t need to jump in.
Remember that, in order to accept others and, especially, to like them, we all need to associate people with positive emotional experiences – which is the ‘cool uncle’s’ specialty.
“When you frame your man as the ‘cool uncle’ in your mind, you set a positive path to follow in terms of the role he plays in your family.”
Keep The Mushy Stuff To Yourselves
If you picture yourself as a kid for a moment, you’ll remember that watching adults kissing is totally gross, let alone parents. Though it’s extremely tempting to be all over your great new guy, the kids almost certainly don’t want to see it. More often than not, seeing you captivated in that way leads to feelings of insecurity and negative emotional associations.
You want to represent to your kids the way you want them to be in relationships, when they’re old enough. Affection is fine and they’re likely to view it as normal behaviour. However, outward displays of lust put your guy in a scenario with you that they’re not a part of and don’t understand. Once they get used to his presence, they’ll start dealing with it a lot better, as long as you give them time to adjust.
Remember That Parenting Duties Are Yours
Unless the kids are about to do something that puts their lives at risk, the ‘cool uncle’ doesn’t dish out discipline, let alone tell them not to jump on their beds. That’s half the reason he’s so cool. Always remember that parenting duties rest with you and your children’s father, providing he’s still in the picture.
If your man does start applying discipline, the kids are likely to feel resentment that a new person in their lives is telling them what to do. On the flip side, if he’s suddenly doing things like picking them up from school when you’re busy, they’ll wonder why you don’t have the time and potentially resent both of you.
As time goes on, it’s ok to use him for support and behind the scenes help with the kids. However, until you’ve lived together for at least 12 months, it shouldn’t come from him as the source. In fact, psychologists recommend that a new man doesn’t act as a father figure for at least three to five years.
Though it’s likely your new man and children will form close bonds, always be aware of role confusion and ensure he is too. Especially, when their father plays an active part in their lives. In this case, your children don’t want a new dad and anyone who tries to interfere with that will quickly become a source of resentment, anger, and often, longer term emotional issues.
Balance Who Gets Priority
Your kids most certainly always come first, but you need to obtain balance so that children learn respect for your man, and others. A better philosophy is, ‘kids always come first when it matters’. As a mum, you need to know which areas to always put them first and which to prioritise adults, in order to teach children about healthy boundaries.
“Your kids most certainly always come first, but you need to obtain balance so that children learn respect for your man, and others.”
Start differentiating between everyday scenarios, to clearly see when adults come first. For example, if you all go for a drive together, it’s simply respectful that your man sits in the front seat, without an argument. If your children keep deliberately interrupting while he’s trying to speak, it’s showing respect for him to ask them not to. If they do or say something deliberately inappropriate towards him, it’s a sign of respect to discipline them for it.
It can be tricky, because you may want to keep the peace and give in to demands without a fight, especially if you’re feeling desperate for your kids to accept him. You might even feel guilty about having a new partner, so you overcompensate by giving the kids what they want. Try to make the situation less personal, by reminding yourself that children need to know how to show respect with everyone, so it’s not all about your new man.
On the other hand, if you’ve made plans with him and your kids get sick, it matters that you prioritise them. If he wants to go away for the weekend but your child has a soccer game, it matters that you prioritise your child’s need for you to be there. If he has to move towns, it matters that you stay put because the kids are settled at their school.
To make it easier, always be aware that it’s the example you set from your own behaviour, that your kids will ultimately follow. So, if you let your children disrespect your man, they’ll think that it’s acceptable behaviour. If you prioritise your man over your children when it matters, they’ll learn insecurity and fear of abandonment.
Balance really is everything in love and life. It’s easy to maintain, when you replace thoughts that create a feeling of pressure, guilt or desperation, with those that stem from common sense, respect and calm. When you do so, you might still encounter some minor potholes on the road to harmonious cohabitation, but you’ll fill them in quickly for a smooth ride into the future.
This article “How To Date As A Single Mum” is the final article of a 3 part series.