Sorry that headline is misleading! This post is not about that kind of finishing. It’s about the kind of person it takes to date a single parent.
Because I’ve decided it takes a special kind of person to date a single parent. Not to generalise (because all families are different), but single parents are typically busy, juggling various commitments, and regardless of how well packed it is they’re also probably carrying a bit of emotional baggage (who isn’t though, right?) Well actually now that I think of it – most adults are all of those things. We’re all stretching ourselves too thin, presumably to prove some kind of point although I’m not quite sure what that point actually is.
But a person who dates a single parent has to be different, because they need to be patient. Really, really patient. Because, single or not, parenting means most of our life and our decisions will revolve around the child/ren. The hours you work, where you live, and importantly – how you choose to spend your time when you are child-free. And sometimes even single, childless adults struggle to find time to be together or do the things they want to do, so balancing dating and parenting is even harder!
If I can just interrupt my train of thought here by stating that I don’t subscribe to the theory of giving yourself over to a child completely or putting them in the literal centre of your universe. I believe all parents need alone time, self-love, fulfilling careers or hobbies, weekends away etc. They need balance and to remain connected to the person they were before children. You’re not just someone’s mum or dad. You have a name and a life and dreams etc. There are numerous reasons I believe this but I feel it benefits the child to see a parent thrive in many aspects of their life, and to see them finding joy in things. I suppose to prevent them becoming self-centred selfish brats? Not sure! I’m also not a scientist or psychologist – just winging it like the rest of us. Let’s compare notes when they’re adults to see how we did!
But as I was saying.. single parents are busy. So if a single parent chooses to spend time with you, that’s bloody special. Their alone time is precious and could be spent doing any number of productive or unproductive-but-fun things. My advice to those dating a single parent is: don’t dwell on the perceived ‘lack’ of time they have to spend with you, but focus on making that time really good. Becoming a part of their life will happen in stages, but this is only temporary. Eventually once you both decide to give it a red hot go, you’ll see them all the time and share in the special glow that is their family. And in my opinion: this is worth the wait.
But secondly, people who date a single parent need to accept – and be comfortable with – coming second. They won’t be second all the time sure, and most parents will probably over-compensate for not being as readily available as other men or women. But at any given moment that parent’s child comes first. Dates will be cancelled and plans changed – the child is sick, the co-parent has bailed, the school play is on that night etc. That’s the nature of their life but it’s not for everyone, and that’s fine.
So even though you might not be the first thing they think about when they wake up, or the last thing on their mind as they drift off to sleep, you will be a much-loved, needed, and appreciated second-place getter. Because as the famous scene in Jerry Maguire so wonderfully summarises, single mothers (and obviously fathers) have been to the circus and the puppet show and have ‘seen the strings.’ They’ve been through a lot and taken a lot of shit. They’ve seen the dream disintegrate. So when they think they’re onto a good thing – you as their partner – they will treasure you and appreciate your love more than they can articulate and more than you’d ever know. You just might not be a top priority 100% of the time.
And only a really great person, confident in themselves, who knows gold when they see it, will be comfortable with that. (And THAT’S why they’re so hard to find. Because they don’t exist!)