I have seen and heard every view point on this topic since I entered the sisterhood of “divorced moms” and did a decent amount of reading and browsing on the subject when I first got the opportunity to take a stab at getting this right myself.
What are the right words to say? Is it too soon? How should I act? What kind of expectations should I set with a new guy? And how about with the kids? What’s the best setting? If the moon is full and it is a Wednesday at least mid way through the month is it still “acceptable”?
I certainly found a lot of judgment out there while browsing for stories to relate to.
There is so much negativity out there around introducing new partners to the kids and a very large opinion that “its so bad!” if you involve your kids with someone who may not be there forever. This is not a rule, it is not a law and it is not by any means the only way to do this.
If you strictly follow that rule, there is a good chance that you are withholding some really good things from your kids. Another person to play with them, the chance to see you smile and laugh, the experiences of meeting new people and eventually not seeing them as much, or at all anymore. Sheltering your kids from “dating” is a delicate balance.
Kids learn nothing about how to handle change in life, get back on the horse or make tough decisions if you don’t let them actually experience some of this with you. What impression do you give them of love, if mommy and daddy divorce and mommy’s life is now as interesting as the Old Maid card game?
Daddy hurts Mommy, Mommy gets back up and decides to be brave and trust other people is a much better lesson, in my opinion, for them to learn from you directly.
At the time, I had been separated from my husband for 8 months. New guy had showed up about 6 weeks prior. When he offered to come visit all of us and do something fun for the day- like the zoo- I found myself in an internal battle over this decision.
Both sides were losing, casualties were high and the ground was barren. This battle wasn’t going to last long at all. How was I, devastated from the infidelity blowout of my marriage, supposed to balance complete bliss with new guy and responsible single mom-hood? New guy wasn’t exactly local and seeing him at all was an infrequent occasion, not to mention coordinating that with the kid schedule.
Sound like an excuse or point of justification? Maybe it was…
I said yes.
The battle was only half won though, by agreeing to the fun filled day. The other half of the battle, the one with the highest propensity to be an epic showdown, was communicating this to the boys’ father. There is far less advice out there for how to handle that conversation. And a tricky conversation it was going to be.
How do you tell the man who kicked you to ground zero, but wanted nothing more than to put his family back together, that you are seeing someone else and he is going to meet his kids?
You wait until after the fact, send a quick text about what the boys might bring up about their awesome day when they chat with dad tonight and hope for the best. If you are trying to epically fail, that would be my recommendation…
I blame myself, mostly, for that decision. It was poor, driven by fear of backlash, hurtful words and a strong desire to cause as little pain for my soon to be ex-husband as possible. Why tell him in advance, so he can just stew on it and be angry? It wasn’t a big deal, so I didn’t treat it like one.
Unfortunately that perspective did not carry over to him and it goes down in history as “that horrible thing you did that I might not ever let you live down.”
Even after I read all the advice! And thought so long and hard about it… I ultimately acted on impulse and path of least resistance instead.
Then came the shocking realization…
We are all going to do this our own way, there is no right or wrong way, and we are all going to make mistakes along the way. But guess what? The kids are going to be OK!
This realization is so true of life in general really. In an effort to simplify my decision making process for Kid dealings, I defined what I now call my “4 Golden Rules” to live and decide by.
1. Use your intuition and circumstance to make the call. It will be your best shot at making the right decision, every time. Don’t marry yourself to some ideal and then allow unhappiness to unfold just because you have a death grip on what you thought was “right” at one point. You will be surprised at how many perspectives you bounce through, now that you are a divorced mom. What a gift!
2. What experience do you want for your kids? Does this decision align? It doesn’t have to be a big deal. Behind the scenes, it may feel like a big deal, especially when it’s your first time, but it shouldn’t translate that way to them. The less of a deal you make about it, the easier it is for everyone involved.
3. Will this be respectful and conscious of your co-parent relationship? Be the co-parent that you expect your ex to be. How would you expect your ex to handle this situation? Give them the same respect, get on the same page and don’t allow this to be a spiteful activity. What you will learn, although as unfair and stupid as it seems sometimes (This is HIS Fault we are even in this position, F*$% his feelings!), this is a very important consideration for strong co-parenting. The kids end up being the ones suffering and I promise, it is never worth it.
4. Be forgiving. Of yourself and the mistakes you have yet to make. Oh, and your ex and their mistakes too.
Funny thing… when you mix a new love with the loves of your life, naturally, there will be conflicting priorities, thoughts, and impulses. You can’t win them all, love. Choose to enjoy the consolation prize. Even if it is a tough learned lesson. There is sweetness to be found in the sting.