I’ve written a lot on my personal blog about the challenges of dating as a mother. Finding that balance between getting my own needs met as an individual while respecting the impact that my actions have on the life of my daughter.
There are so many things to take into consideration, it’s kind of daunting – which is probably why I mostly just choose to live with integrity and answer any questions that come up. In that regard, being a mother is such a help. I simply have to imagine explaining a situation to my daughter; what I would say and how I would feel about it. If I don’t like what it would teach her, then I know I have something to think about.
The first part of that is to openly have relationships and be clear about what I want from them, for both of us. When her dad and I first split up, I entered into a serious relationship that lasted two years. She couldn’t stand the guy, but I was unconsciously determined to do whatever I wanted, just to remind myself that I could. I could see in her face and her body language that she really didn’t like him, but I convinced myself that it was just because he was the first after her father.
I was blind. She was so relieved after we broke up. We talked about it and I promised her that I would never again ignore what she was telling me, even if she was telling me without words. But I also told her that she had the right and the responsibility to use her words, even if it scared her. It was a “failed” relationship with a jerk of a man, but it was a great development between my daughter and I.
The next big one was the dizzying love that I previously wrote about as the great romance of my life. That was the first time that I really went through one from start to finish with her. It was dizzying when it ended, partly because she loved him too. At the time, I wrote about how I felt it was okay for her to see that whole process, because it was is one that she will go through herself and I want her to know that it’s normal okay. Hopes get raised and dashed, hearts get touched and crushed. It happens, it’s okay.
The next one that mattered is the one that I’m still working my way out of. I was clear with her at the time that it was probably just a summer fling, but that we would always be friends. Sure enough, as advertised, it was a summer fling. And we are ALL still friends. (He just left, after having dinner with us…) And I’m glad she has seen this one work this way.
The point is, they’re all different. Every relationship is different, and I think it’s good for her to see the many ways that relationships can unfold. And that it’s all fine, as long as people are treated with kindness and respect. Sometimes things work how we think we want them to, sometimes they don’t.
However, there are a lot of things that I just can’t do:
- I can’t bring people into her life who are going to endanger her in any way. That includes people who abuse drugs, who aren’t responsible for their actions.
- I can’t bring people into her life who are likely to treat other people in a way that will invite drama and scrutiny into our lives because of how they treat their bosses or friends or former lovers.
- I can’t bring people into her world who are going to drain me physically or emotionally so that I can’t be there for her 100%.
- I can’t bring people into her life that will make her think that I value behavior that is reckless, inconsiderate, unhealthy or dangerous.
- I can’t bring people into her life that treat me in a way that I wouldn’t want her treated.
I must bring people into her life who are positive examples and bring out the best in both of us.
At the same time, I can’t let her think that my life and happiness can be sacrificed for the opinion of anyone else, including her. The idea of “staying together for the kids” or hiding conflict from them seems very dangerous to me. Staying together for the kids is a surefire way to teach them that they should sacrifice their own happiness for the expectations of others. I don’t want her to learn that. Likewise, hiding conflict and pain from them teaches them to be ashamed of that, and doesn’t teach them how to deal with it.
For better or worse, my daughter has a human for a mother. A passionate one, a vital one and a human who needs, wants and deserves love on her own terms. I want to teach her to demand that for herself too.
As for talking about it, it’s simple. I don’t tell her every time I have a date, or even with whom. But if I start to think that someone might stick around, we talk about it. Directly. I don’t offer her details that she doesn’t want to hear – she does NOT need the details of my sex life. But I have let her see me buy condoms, because it’s okay for her to know that I have sex, and am smart and safe about it. I have let her see me cry, because it’s okay for her to know that I feel pain, and heal from it.
But no matter what, she comes first, and she gets the truth. I want that for her always, which is why I’m letting her have it from me. Our children learn from US how relationships work. They will model their relationships after ours, so yes, I am very careful.
I imagine her in the relationship instead of me. If someone was treating HER this way, would it be okay with me? If she were to replicate this relationship in her future, is that what I’d want for her? It makes things very clear to me. If you’re not good enough for my daughter, you’re not good enough for me!
A while ago I was dating a guy who didn’t want me to meet his daughter because I was too wild sexually. It was a weird concept, seeing as it was him that I was being wild with, and really, we weren’t wild at all. But I still love this piece of writing I did, about being The Kind Of Woman You Can Bring Home To Your Daughter.