Dear Neil: I’d like to suggest some don’ts for men who date single moms.
Don’t expect her to have you over to her home early in the relationship. She is concerned about her children’s emotions and doesn’t want to expose them to everyone she dates. If you’re the right one, she’ll include you in that part of her life soon enough.
Don’t criticize her parenting—and don’t offer well-meaning suggestions about the kids—until you are well established or until she asks. Single parents live with more guilt, frustration, fear and worry than you can imagine. Don’t add to it.
Don’t expect an instant buddy relationship with the kids. They are wary, and with good reason. Be friendly, but let them come to you. Don’t be pushy with them.
Don’t demand too much of her time. She has responsibilities to tend to, and she needs to fulfill them in order to relax and enjoy her time with you.
Don’t take her to a family restaurant—or any other place with a lot of kids—when she is away from hers.
Don’t call her at dinnertime or during the children’s bedtime. She’s busy.
Dear Aurora: Most of your suggestions fit moms or dads with custody of their children. Perhaps I could add a few more.
Don’t bond with the children unless you really want the mom. You’re setting the kids up to view you as a step-dad, and if things don’t work out between you and their Mom, they’re going to get hurt.
Don’t act like a step-parent too soon. Children don’t like being bossed around, and especially not by an adult that they haven’t yet fully accepted. Don’t discipline the children if you can avoid it. That is not yet your place.
Don’t belittle or speak ill of either of the children’s parents. You will create resentment and mistrust if you do. Most children love both of their parents, and want to have as good a relationship as they can with both parties. Do whatever you can to help that along.
All of the above suggestions are basically “don’ts.” Here are some “dos.” :
Do understand that if you chose a single parent to bond with, the children come with the package. You’re choosing a family, not just an individual.
Do occasionally include the children in fun activities that all of you can do together.
Single parents—especially those with small children—have to pay for baby-sitting. It can be very time consuming to find good, safe and reliable babysitters or nannies, and it can get expensive as well. Be aware that a single parent cannot spontaneously go somewhere if child care is not available.
If both of you have children, go slowly in trying to blend families. Do not try to force kids to like each other and spend time together if they don’t want to. You can’t force kids to accept each other, although you can insist on courteous and appropriate behavior.
Without being pushy, do attempt to engage a child in conversations about him/herself. It will help children to feel more comfortable with you.
Do offer a single parent lots of pampering and nurturance. They are caretakers, and frequently have no one to take care of them.