About five years ago, my three small children were caught in the chaos of my divorce. As the pieces of our lives rearranged themselves, the kids and I got busy doing what any family does when something unthinkable happens: we did our best to survive.
We found a place to live, I found some work, we leaned on friends. Much of my days were filled with kissing tears, driving kids places (‘cuz a mum does that whether she’s single or not, so it’s worth mentioning), and basically trying to hold things together. Ever see the opening scene in Nanny McPhee Returns when Maggie Gyllenhaal’s character is standing on the furniture and yelling at her kids? Yeah, that’s what “holding things together” usually looked like for me.
So, pretty much dating as a single mum was the very last thing on my mind.
Oh, my kids had expressed in the early days of my singledom that they wanted me to remarry. I believe the boys had said it was so they could have more siblings, and my daughter wanted to be in a wedding. Apparently, kids long for the Brady Bunch dream, even if they’ve never seen the show.
We shelved that dream for a while.
About a year-and-a-half ago, though, after I had turned in my manuscript for my cookbook (one of my dreams), I was done being lonely. My intellect would have argued differently, of course (You don’t need a man!), but mooning over fictitious characters for weeks at a time, might have been considered a tad unhealthy.
Since I lived in Suburbia, and had three kids with me everywhere I went, I think I was asked out on exactly one date. What’s that line from Erin Brockovich when she talks about numbers? I kinda felt like that.
So a friend made me go online and fill out a profile with a dating website. I was thinking rather cosmically at the time, and I figured that even if nothing came of my online dating, maybe by just “putting myself out there,” as my mum likes to call it, I would have some success.
It turns out, that’s exactly what happened. My first relationship happened when I had simply reconnected with an old friend I had sought out for some professional advice. I wasn’t looking to date him, but he wanted to take things there. He was tall and funny and dishy and way too old for me, but wow, we had a great time. Just dating again, having a crush on a real person again (Mr. Darcy, you see, is not a real person), kissing again—all of that made me come alive. I had no idea how dead I had been prior to that.
And it was very good for my kids to see that I had my own life. And it was good for my kids to see my happy side again.
Soon, the online invitations started pouring in.
I made sure my kids were very aware of what I was doing. They, of course, came first, and I asked what they were feeling with each person I came in contact with. I always kept in mind, too, that dating would most likely lead into creating a new family structure, so I wanted them involved as far as their age and maturity would allow.
When I would get emails from the online dating site, the kids would glance at the pictures and make assessments or assign nicknames. One guy they still talk about was “the cat man” (don’t think superhero, think catlady). Another guy had posted a picture of himself drinking a milkshake. When my 13-year-old saw it, he said, “Dude, if you’re posting your picture online, it should be of something cool, like playing basketball or something, not looking like a freaking couch potato.”
Being open with my kids really made dating a positive experience, overall. My showing them respect allowed me to see their maturity as we communicated. Life at our house was still crazy amidst all of it, of course, and one time, my daughter shouted at her brothers, “Stop acting crazy, guys, or you’ll scare away mum’s man friends."
We, of course, had a great laugh at what she said, but the truth is, what I wanted was a guy who loves me for who I am, and my kids for who they are, craziness and all. I actually thought that may have been too much to ask for. Lucky for me, though, I got it anyway.
But that is a post for another day.