What I Know Now: I Need Boundaries When Dating With Kids

Dating as a single parent is hard for about a billion reasons. I have taken my son on a few dates while my daughter was at her dad’s. Let’s just say they weren’t very good dates. My son did not listen to me whatsoever on any of them. One time we went to a steakhouse that was packed, and it was almost a two hour wait. They had barrels of peanuts to crush and eat while you waited. Well, my son had the shells in his nose, mouth and ears—just a little embarrassing right?! Usually my date doesn’t know exactly what to do or say to my son. My son, on the other hand, has no filter and says whatever pops into his head.

Britt and Addison
Brittany and her son.

With kids in tow it’s hard to actually get to know a guy on a date, which, of course, is the point of dating in the first place. But it’s a rare occasion that I get a babysitter or a family member to watch the kids so I can go out—so in the past that meant that I let dates meet my kids early on because it felt like a choice between bringing them along, or not dating at all. I never thought much about boundaries when it comes to meeting my kids. I’d let the guy know ahead of time that my son is very hyper and that my daughter does whatever her brother does, so that makes two hyper kids usually. After that fair warning if a guy wanted to meet my kids I’d usually let him.

But my son tends to get really attached to any guy I date, almost as if he sees him as a potential father figure. When we break up, my son acts out some, and I know it can be hard on him.

Especially as my kids get older, I’ve been thinking more about how my dating life affects them. What I know now is that I do need to place boundaries for dates meeting my kids, not only for my kids’ safety, but for everyone’s sanity as well. It’s a lot of pressure for a guy to meet my kids on a first date, and it’s a lot of work for me to set expectations and explain to guys how they should interact with my kids—for example, that it’s not their place to punish or yell at my children.

valentine for britt
For all his goofiness, my son can be really sweet, too.

When it all comes down to it a guy has to essentially date my children, too. I need to see how they interact with my children at some point, but I also need to have an appropriate time to introduce him so that my kids don’t get attached if nothing is going to come out of the dating stage. I don’t want it to be too soon but I don’t want it to be too far into the relationship either, because it’s important that my kids like any guy that I get serious with. Plus, seeing how he interacts with my kids teaches me a lot about the guy. So figuring out that right time to introduce my kids is a balancing act. Being a single parent is hard enough, but add in dating and it’s a whole other ballpark.

It’s all worth it, though, because I love my children and I want to do what it takes for them to be happy. But of course that doesn’t mean that they have to go on every single date with me. Next time if I’m off for a first date, I’ll find a friend to do a babysitting swap with me so that we can each have a turn going out, or I’ll drop the kids off at my mom’s house. And maybe then I’ll get to talk to my date without having peanut shells stuck in my nose.

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