“Why are you all fancy, Mom?”
I’m standing in the bathroom, applying mascara, as my almost 10-year-old daughter scrunches up her face at me from the doorway.
I’m not exactly “fancy.” I have on jeans and cute boots, and there’s hair goop in my hair, which is a change of pace from my usual yoga garb. My observant daughter is not off base to ask questions.
For a moment I ponder whether or not I should be completely honest. I know plenty of single moms who date. Most of them don’t dare utter a word about it to their kids. In fact, they try pretty hard to keep their dating life a total secret. But the thing about 10-year-old girls is, they have a pretty good BS detector.
At least the one who lives in my house does, and especially about her own mother.
“I have a date,” I say casually, flashing her a half-excited, half-this-might-be-a-terrible-idea-and-maybe-I-should-stay-home-and-eat-ice-cream-in-bed kind of grin.
“OK,” she says, shrugging her shoulders and sashaying away to watch YouTube.
A half-hour later, my daughter and my 5-year-old son get picked up by their dad, and just a moment after that, I’m hopping in my car to go on a first date. I’m anxious, so I blast Katy Perry’s “Confident” and sing at the top of my lungs. It’s silly, but for a few minutes, it does the trick.
Regardless of how the date goes, I know there might be more questions from my daughter, or from both of my kids. But I’ve been a single mom for almost two years now, and during that time, I’ve had dates. I’ve also had relationships, and, for the most part, my kids have been aware.
Not about the nitty-gritty, of course. Hello, gross. But when a relationship has developed, and I’d get a sneaky grin on my face when reading a cute text, and my kids asked who I was texting, I told them. I didn’t want to feel like I had to lead a double life. I wanted to be real because it honestly felt more stressful not to be. Not just for me, but maybe for my kids, too.
I didn’t usually think too terribly hard about it, either. I mean, it’s not a crime for me to have a date. Why should I act like it is around my kids? I’m a single woman. I’m more than just a mother to my kids. And in the past couple of years, my kids have been growing more used to that idea — that I have a life outside of them, that is. In fact, that life is fairly active, and no, I’m not ashamed of that.
The truth is, all of our lives are incredibly different now from what they were just two years ago when we shared a home with my kids’ father. Now, both my ex and I are actively dating. And it’s a new, and mostly positive (though admittedly, there have been low points) part of our lives. I don’t think it’s fair to dump all of my relationship drama on my kids, but I also don’t think it’s fair to keep them completely in the dark, either.
I believe in giving them what they can handle when they can handle it. As far as my older child goes, she’s good about asking the questions she wants answers to and avoiding the chats she doesn’t want to have. She’s honest with me about what she needs, and in turn, I’m honest with her — at least as honest as she wants me to be. But either way, she knows I’m being real with her. To me, that’s valuable.
Every mom who ventures into today’s dating world has to do what is right for her. But for me, I don’t want to drop a bomb on my kids sometime down the road. Right now, by giving them little bits of information along the way, if there is someone who eventually becomes a part of all of our lives, my kids will have had some expectation that that’s where things were heading.
I know a lot of people wouldn’t agree. They’d say I should keep my private life private. But the thing is, it’s not just my life. It’s my and my kids’ lives. To some extent, they deserve to know what’s going on and what that means for them. I wouldn’t have it any other way. So right now, I’m going to keep doing what feels right.