about the children

The other night, I held my phone out at arm’s length and snapped a photo of me and my daughter enjoying dinner out. I posted this photo on Facebook, checking in at the restaurant we frequent. Then I messaged the photo to my guy. I didn’t think twice about it.

I’ve had my guy over to my house, he’s seen photos of my children and listened to my stories about them. But that was the first time I’d sent him a photo that included one of my children. And it kicked off (again) the whole discussion about when it’s appropriate for him to meet the children. Sure, we’ve talked about it…

Early on in a relationship, most responsible women don’t introduce men to their children for several reasons, which (just off the top of my head) include these:

  • They barely know the guy and want to be sure — let’s be honest about this — that he’s not some creepy pedophile who’s going to prey on her children.
  • They don’t want their children to see a revolving door of men coming in and out of their lives.
  • They want to step into the fantasy world of dating without children.

While the first of these needs no explanation nor commentary (and I’m confident my guy is a pure soul), let’s further explore these other reasons.

I’d hate to allow my children to become attached to a man who I’m not certain will be in my life for good. Divorce, I’m sure, was hard enough and I’d hate for them to go through something like that again.

Then again, I’m pretty open with my children. I’ve talked to them about dating, and they know I have a boyfriend. We’ve talked about whether they should meet him, and they know I haven’t decided yet whether to introduce them anytime soon. You see, I think it’s important that my children know that decision-making is a process, that I don’t always or automatically know the right answer, that some things are worth deliberation and discussion. An early conversation included these observations:

Eight-year-old:  “He should like to play football and go sledding.”

Ten-year-old:  “I’m going to give him a quiz, like his favorite food and color and stuff. And preferably he won’t be blond.”

Another of our conversations went something like this:

Me:  “I’d hate for you to get attached to someone I’m seeing, because then what if we broke up?”

Eight-year-old:  “Well, maybe he could come and play with us sometimes anyway.”

Ten-year-old:  “That would be awkward.”

Conventional wisdom says that we shouldn’t introduce a man to our children until we know it’s going to grow into commitment. If not, they’ll see a “revolving door” of men and develop beliefs about that — e.g. men leave, or Mom gets tired of men and kicks them out, or some such. Furthermore, in the event that things don’t work out, I don’t want the breakup to be harder than it might otherwise be, because he’s attached to my children or they’re attached to him.

I recently read a book (by a man) who suggested the opposite is the proper approach for men. He opined that women should introduce a man to her children early on, because a man needs to see the whole package so that he can envision himself as a provider and man of the family before deciding whether to stick around.

My children are resilient and, while I want to spare them heartache and pain in every possible way, I genuinely believe they can handle meeting someone with whom I’m spending time, as long as it’s in a casual environment, their meetings are few and far between, and we keep the dialogue going. But there’s more to the decision than that:

Right now, I get to date and spend time with my guy on weekends when my children are with their father. At those times, it’s almost as though I’m young and single — it’s romantic and exciting and fun. How will that change if I introduce the children? When he comes over to pick me up for a date, will they try to persuade him (us) to stay home and play a board game instead? Would he be tempted to relent to their pressure to win them over? In other words, for purely selfish reasons, I’d like to prolong this “just the two of us” period. I’m not sure how the dynamic might change if my children meet my boyfriend, I’m only certain that it will.

So, while I’d love to include my beau in my family’s holiday activities — that would definitely give him a view to what he’d be getting in to — we’ve decided to wait to introduce him to the children until we figure out our own relationship first.

taking it for granted

It’s a holiday weekend. I won’t be spending time with my beau, because I’ve got the children (who have yet to meet him) and my family will be in town. But last weekend, my weekend “off,” my guy was out of town.

  • On one hand, I want to spend time with him. I have fun with him, I feel relaxed when we’re together, and I enjoy the affection and good times.
  • On the other hand, with everything on my plate, arranging a sitter is just one more thing to add to the long to-do list and yet another bill to pay as the holidays approach.

As I finally managed to fire off a text to the usual sitter, I realized that I’m making a pretty big assumption that my guy will make himself available when my sitter is — and therefore I am — available. I’ve been taking his availability and desire to see me for granted.

So does that make me a jerk? I suppose sometimes I can be. But I can be pretty damned fabulous and make it worth his while, too!

At any rate, tomorrow’s holiday is a wonderful opportunity to pause and give thanks for the blessings in our lives. I am blessed to have a family with whom to share the holiday, opportunities to learn and grow in my humanity, and new friends (wink wink) I enjoy getting to know.


meeting Mister Right

I don’t know whether I’ve met Mister Right or not yet, but I think there’s one way I’ll know for sure if I do…he’ll ring me up and say, “How about I come over this afternoon and help you around the house and, after that, we can clean up and get some dinner.”

I know it sounds so ridiculously silly, but hear me out: As a single, stressed-out, working mother, my mind is nearly constantly occupied with a running list of to-dos, feeling completely overwhelmed at the sheer impossibility of accomplishing them all, and trying not to break down in tears of frustration or failure. And when I’m dating, I’m thinking that I can either spend time with my beau on the weekend or accomplish long-overdue tasks around the house. It would be nice to do both, but I can’t help but feel I’m sacrificing or giving less effort and attention than I ought to on both fronts.

I can’t imagine any guy thinking this dreamy scenario sounds appealing. In fact, it’s been suggested to me that I need to “let go.” But household maintenance is a reality — “letting go” adds up in ways that, over time, can lead to decline in property value. And, while I’m not abnormally anal about my housekeeping (any longer), I believe that keeping a warm, comfortable and somewhat clean home is one of the important ways I take care of my family. (I do — now that I’ve got a reasonable salary — intend to hire some help in this regard, so that it takes less of my time and psychic energy.)

Just hearing a willingness to partner, to work side-by-side, would demonstrate that a man has listened to me, knows what causes me stress and wants to help ease that stress (because I can’t very well allow him to make such valiant efforts to ease the stress I might feel at my job).

But mostly, a simple demonstration of willingness to pitch in around the house is likely to say — loudly — that this is the sort of fella that might make a good husband.

committed, again

I finally decided to become a career gal again, and I worked my way into a decent job (that’s proving a little stressful already). It’s kinda gratifying that it has a pretty decent title and a salary that’s higher than what I earned a year ago. Nice, right? (No one changes companies for less than a 20% increase anyway, right? It’s just too big a pain in the butt. If you think I sound spoiled, try that sort of language on a recruiter — they get it.)

It took me awhile to decide to commit. At one point, after I’d been offered my current role, I actually confessed to my boss that I wasn’t sure I was ready to make adult decisions. I wasn’t sure I was ready for that sort of commitment. And then they sweetened the pot, so to speak.

But another key factor was this:  While chatting with one of the executives with whom I interviewed, we discussed children. I let him know that, yes, I have two and am, in fact, a single mother. He said, “You can play the single mother card on me any time. I was raised by a single mother and I get it. There is nothing that I do that can’t wait one more day if you’re needed at home.”

I like the work. And I don’t have to travel. Not regularly, anyway. Which makes this a pretty sweet place to be right now.


Something subtle shifted inside me recently.

This subtle shift manifested in an external change that caught more than just me off guard. Evidently I’ve become comfortable enough in my young relationship to use a sort of shorthand. Among friends, I’ve begun referring to “the man I’ve been seeing” as simply “my boyfriend.”

A sharp girlfriend was quick to point out this slip over a glass of wine recently. I shrugged and admitted that I’m comfortable and enjoying it.

And then I had to think about it for awhile. Perhaps I hadn’t really wrapped my head around what two people in an exclusive relationship might call each other.

After I’d thought about it for awhile, I realized that this is what I’d wanted. All those first dates — meeting complete strangers through a computer screen — were about getting to where I am at this moment:  I have a boyfriend. I am in a relationship. I don’t know where this is going, but I’m enjoying getting and giving attention, being romantic, holding hands, kissing. I am happy.

Perhaps it sounds strange that I’d agreed to be exclusive awhile back and hadn’t yet thought of “the man I’ve been seeing” as “my boyfriend.” Perhaps it’s because I don’t particularly like to be called a “girlfriend” (except by my girlfriends), or perhaps it’s just taken me awhile to wrap my head around the concept of a new, positive relationship that may have some potential, or perhaps I’ve just had a lagging mental indicator based on my absolute conviction to take things slowly. At any rate, my brain finally appears to be catching up.

I have a boyfriend. And there is a smile on my face.

(And there is a part of me that is terrified to hit “publish” on the off-chance that saying so just might jinx it…)

the thrill of first base

At the thoughtful recommendation of a reader, I’m beginning to read “The Thrill of the Chaste”…I forget who it’s by and, frankly, I’m feeling a little lazy just now (so you can look it up for yourselves).

While I’m far from in love with the book, there is something about the notion of going back to chastity, back to a simpler time…

I recall high school days of boys driving up, knocking on the door, politely — if not painfully — chatting up my parents, and dropping me off at the end of the night. Holding hands in a movie theatre or necking in the car were thrilling, and were far from taken for granted.

Sometimes I think it’s true that, these days, we get too caught up in the sex. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s absolutely wonderful and I enjoy sharing physical intimacy with someone special…but I can also see how difficult it might be to look beyond the sex to all the other qualities that impact a couple’s daily life together. Heck, I think it may have blinded me in the past.

I’ve always thought of sex as a barometer — an indicator of the health of a relationship. In the early stages, of course it’s hot and heavy. But a truer test of the long-term potential of a relationship is how it holds up when the flu is passed around a household, keeping parents up with children, juggling clean-up responsibilities between day jobs, until one spouse goes down and then, inevitably, the other and sex, for a good two-week interval or more, is less than a distant thought. How we treat each other during those ugly, smelly, sleep-deprived times might show us more about compatibility than our sexual chemistry.

More than that, daily life, when there are no reasons for our sympathies to be heightened, amidst the day-to-day irritants of leaving a toilet seat up or towel on the floor or using a particular tone or running late to school, work and extra-curricular activities, how do we love and support each other then? These are the real questions, the real juice of a relationship that may, at times, be obscured by great sexual chemistry.

So it’s tempting, at times, to look back and wonder whether it was easier to know what a relationship was truly made of, whether it truly had staying power, before getting physically involved. Yet sexually active or chaste, I think I’m old enough and wise enough to take my time, make better choices and let the answers reveal themselves to me.

modern day Delilah

In my twenties I had a boyfriend with long, blond hair that he mostly wore pulled back in a pony tail. I mean, his hair was enviable…a super model would have been jealous of his natural gift. But he was a man’s man and, while he kept clean, certain types of grooming were lost on him.

I volunteered many times to trim his hair with the pure mission of removing his split ends. It was weeks, if not months, before I was ever able to convince him. He was suspicious of my motives. He reacted as though he thought I was trying to change him, trying to castrate him, to weaken him somehow, as though I were Delilah to his Samson.

A couple of months later I again had to persuade him to allow me near his locks with a scissors.

But, after that, it seemed only a few weeks went by before he asked me to trim his hair again.

“Hmm. This is strange,” I thought, “It took weeks to convince him to let me near his hair the first couple of times, and now he’s practically begging me to trim it.”

So I asked him what was up.

He gave me some phony answer about getting lots of compliments and feeling good about it. Finally, though, the truth came out:  he recalled that we’d had mind-blowing sex after the first two times he’d allowed me to trim his hair, and he’d now made the association that we were going to make especially intense love after I’d trimmed his hair.

I’m not sure two instances are a valid foundation on which to adopt this sort of theory, but there’s a reason this memory recently came to mind:  This time, my guy would probably tell you it has to do with yard work.


drama-free me

The other day I just stopped and noticed that, while I’m dating someone I genuinely like and with whom I enjoy spending time, I don’t long or pine or yearn to be with him when I’m not. It’s nice. I feel healthy and whole all by myself…well, I mean, with my full life as it is, which includes my children.

Of course there are moments when something happens that I wish we were able to share… so we text and talk about it later. There’s no urgency, no drama, no neediness. If a day or two goes by and we haven’t spoken, it’s okay.

And that’s nice.

kid gloves

I feel friggin’ awesome! I love life! Yet it would be a total crock if I were to try and convince anyone that I weren’t still healing from my failed relationship. For example, I occasionally catch myself behaving in ways that suggest I’m reacting — seeking qualities that are opposite those of my ex or placing inordinate emphasis on things that might otherwise not draw my focus.

By this age, I’d say the same about the men I’ve met. Most are in some stage of healing or another…which got me thinking:  I’ve vowed that I won’t treat a man nor relationship as a project. I’ve vowed to be firm, direct and absolutely myself. I’ve vowed to be clear about my high expectations. And I’m not going to treat any man with kid gloves. So how do I maintain the balance between treating another with care vs. being careful?

And that’s when I realized that it’s all in the delivery. I can be conscious and kind, and still communicate what I want and need. Because there’s a difference between acknowledging that we may still be healing and treating each other as fragile, inferior beings.