7 Dating Rules for Divorced Parents

Mom Moment 10

date nightDating when divorced: It's different when you've got kids. It's not just that you so do not have the same body you did back when you were 23. Or that the guys you're dating aren't 23 anymore either. (Thank God for that!) It's the kids -- your kids. You just can't fling yourself around the dating world like some Carrie Bradshaw, no curfew, no babysitters to pay, no responsibilities. You've got to make dating fit into everything else going on in your life. And you have to make sure you don't violate the first law of dating as a single parent: First do no harm to the kids.

I've been writing my own dating rules (they're more like guidelines) since jumping back into the dating pool after a 16-year marriage. Here's what I've got so far.

1. Don't bring home strange men for sleepovers when you've got the kids. No child has ever woken up, seen a strange man in a towel smoking in the kitchen, and thought, "Oh goody! Mom got some well-deserved sweet action last night. I am totally OK with this!" I just don't think it's a good idea. Maybe, once you're in a long-term, committed relationship, and your kids have gotten to know your boyfriend (or whatever you call him) in other contexts, and you've given your kids fair warning, then it will be all right. But bringing home the flavor of the week on a night when you've also got the kids is just a terrible idea.

More from The Stir: Dating After Divorce Terrified Me but I Did It Anyway - & It Was Worth It

2. Don't introduce the kids to your guy until you've been dating for a long time. I don't know what my idea of a long-enough time is yet, actually. A year? Six months? You tell me! Maybe I'll just know when I know. But I don't think it's a good idea for your kids to meet a parade of paramours who move in and out of their lives.

3. Be honest with your kids about what you're doing. I think this depends on the age of your kids. But if they're old enough to know what dating is, I think they should know it's something you're doing. It helps them to see you as a whole person, and it prepares them for the possibility (I mean, who knows, it could happen) that you'll eventually have a relationship with someone new. They don't need to know you're if having sex, of course. Because EW. But it's good to open up those lines of communication.

4. Make sure your kids know they're still your number-one priority. You don't want your kids to feel like you've forgotten them, or you're replacing them, or you love anyone more than you love them. Dating can be awfully distracting, but parenting is one part of your life where you should be as fully present as possible.

5. Be upfront with your dates about being a parent. I don't think it should be the focus of a date, but that information should be out there. Other people appreciate knowing. Being a parent is a huge part of your identity -- hiding it will backfire. It's not ALL of who you are, but it's part of who you are. Also: Kids are your get-out-of-a-bad-date-free card. "OMG, a text from the sitter -- gotta go!" See? You can't do that if you haven't mentioned the kids in the first place.

6. Don't talk about your kids all the time. Still, your date is dating you, not your kids. What else do you have going on? (If the answer is nothing, maybe you should work on that ...) This is time just for you, to have fun and do a little exploring. JUST you, not your kids.

7. Just because you're a single mom doesn't mean you have to settle for dopes. I am so over being so surprised that any man might find me, an 300-year-old hag with a child, sexy and fun. Turns out I can afford to be a little choosy after all. Eureka! Don't sell yourselves short, ladies. Single parents do not have all the time in the world, so don't waste your time with guys you're not excited about or who don't treat you well.

That's all I've got so far -- oh, that, and don't run off to Paris without telling anyone. I'm sure I'll come up with more rules as I go along, but this is what's working for me so far.

How about you? What are your single mom dating rules?


Image via Derek Key/Flickr

dating mom, divorce


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nonmember avatar erica

The only thing I can think of to add is that once you've gotten serious about your new guy, it's probably a good idea to let your ex meet him when you're ready to make him a more regular part of your kid's life. That's assuming your ex isn't some crazy person who would go out of his way to ruin any new relationship. Me and my ex felt more comfortable knowing at least a little something about these new people that were going to be spending a good amount of time with the kids. Oh, and before I would actually even go on the first date with anyone, I'd let them know first thing that I had kids. That way if that was a problem for him, we wouldn't have to waste our time.


WOW! you make my day because every rule you have listed are mine and i don't play with them so sometimes one date is enough because he cannot stick to my rules.I always tell any man who wants to date me i have two beautiful children who means the world to me and  "NOONE AND I MEAN NOONE COMES BEFORE THEM" Thank you at least now i know i am not the only mother who puts her children first before any man.I would not change my rules for the world.Thanks again.giving mom gift


yea thats good advice i would add that too.shake hand

429fan 429fan

Sounds like good rules. I don't know that I'd introduce my boyfriend to my ex. It's really none of his business if I'm dating. If I'm going to get remarried, then yes, it becomes his business. I have hardly ever met his sluts so fair's fair.

nonmember avatar NoWay

429fan - I disagree ... it IS his business because it is HIS child(ren). It's not his business when you are simply dating, but if you become serious and he is going to be a regular part of your child(ren)s life, then the ex has the right to know what this person is like. I am lucky that my husband and my ex-husband get along great.

Darcy Nestler

2 things:

1. You know when its right.  I told my now husband that he wouldn't meet my kids until I was ready for him to meet them and it might be a year or two.  We had only been dating for a month when he met them, but I knew he was the one because he offered to quit his internship he had waited a year and a half to get because the company fired me for stupid reasons.

2.  My ex did NOT meet my husband for a long time.  It's not any of his business because he doesn't want anything to do with the kids.  My kids go to their grandparents house every other weekend, but only see their dad about 10% of the time at HIS choosing.  My circumstances may be a little different though.  We had a very nasty divorce and my ex made it a point to sabotage every relationship I had because he didn't want me to be happy and he didn't want someone else taking care of the kids he doesn't want. 

nonmember avatar Heather M.

One important thing I've learned is to make sure the children understand that even if he is Mr. Right and they love him, he is not a 'dad' replacement. My son had really begun bonding with my guy of two years now but started withdrawing suddenly. Upon talking with him, it turned out his fear was that eventually Paul would become 'dad' to him, and he'd be expected to see him that way, or refer to him as such if we married someday. My son is 10 so I had the benefit of flat out explaining no one is his father except his dad, and Paul has no desire to take anyone's place. He was happy to learn he wants no more than to be a friend, and positive male figure in his life but that Daniel leads the pace and depth of that relationship.

I would have thought all of this a given, his father is actively in his life and a good dad at that, but I'd have never known if I didn't ask and my son was relieved to learn he had some say so. It's just as important to keep talking to them and asking them about their fears and concerns even when it appears all is going well, perhaps even moreso when things are great and kids realise this guy may be sticking around, as it is to talk when things are rough.

Elena Dariya

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Regina Vasquez-Nelson

I totally agree. I'm a single mother of five kids. Yep, five from one marriage. We were married for 12 years before he decided to up and leave. I am very upfront with the guy I am seeing sometimes too upfront be heck he is a single parent too. It takes time, it pays off when being picky about the men you want in your life than later your kids life. As for me, I look for someone who could be a positive roll model as well as someone I can completely fall in love with.

Alisa Hayner Comeaux

I agree with everything in this article. However, my ex-husband sent this to me after I told him that I have a date on Saturday night. Saturday afternoon through Sunday evening is his time to be with our daughter. There is no way I would have made a date on any other day of the week. I think my ex is trying to control me and manipulate me (one of the reasons we divorced). It just chaps my ass that he felt the need to send me this article at all, as if I'm stupid or can't be trusted.

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