All the Single Ladies

As far as my daughter is concerned, I’m a nun.

Since I split up from The Father, Flea has never seen me with another guy. Of course, she’s aware that I have male friends, but as far as she’s concerned, these are just friends we meet occasionally for lunch, or who come round to the house to put up lights and fix door handles.

Preserving this illusion takes some effort, and the odd bit of outright subterfuge. There’s a fair amount of military planning involved in my social life, but it means that Flea hasn't encountered any new faces over the breakfast table. If a guy is visiting during the day, then what my old headmistress referred to as “PDAs” are strictly off the menu.

I don’t know when is the right time to introduce your child to a new partner. A few months seems too soon. For me, personally, a year would probably still be too soon – but that's probably just my commitment issues talking.

I had a childhood with more than its fair share of upheaval, and I want something different for Flea. I feel as though, having made the choice to be a single parent, I have a responsibility to provide her with as much stability and security as I possibly can. And – to me – that means not introducing anyone new to our family unless I’m pretty damn positive they’re going to be a permanent fixture.

Flea has plenty of contact with male friends and relatives. Actually, she loves men – I think not seeing her Dad so often means she craves male attention. For example, recently we met one of my friends for a drink in a hotel, and Flea actually moved my chair while I was at the bar so she could sit next to him. She then proceeded to insist he ran through his entire repertoire of magic tricks, while I munched peanuts and read the bar menu 5,000 times.

This is cute to watch, of course, but it worries me that Flea would become very attached to anyone I was involved with, and of course I worry what it would then mean for her if my relationship didn’t work out. I guess at the moment, I feel she's too young and I would rather wait until she's old enough to understand a little more about adult relationships before taking that next step.

I’m not sure there’s a simple answer, but I’m sure it’s something every other single parent must think about. I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences – when did you think the time was right? 


Sally is a full-time blogger and founder of the Tots100, Trips100, Foodies100 and HIBS100 communities, along with the MAD Blog Awards. She spends a bit too much time on the Internet. She’s also a very happy Mum to Flea, the world’s coolest ten year old.

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  1. 26th February 2010 / 8:13 am

    My sister left her husband about 3 years ago and got into a new relationship fairly quickly – maybe 6 months later. Her kids have met him but still don’t know what’s going on – he’s just mummy’s friend. They’re 8 and 11. This relationship’s hit the rocks and she’s glad she didn’t tell them but I think she knew there was no real future in it.
    I may be being a bit dim here but “PDAs”?

  2. 26th February 2010 / 10:04 am

    After we split up in 2006, I met someone else in 2007 and I was presented with a fait accompli when he got fed up of my not wanting him to know my children. They knew he was with me, he would collect me and bring me home so they’d met him briefly and knew who he was. I arrived home from work one day and found him in my kitchen, turned up hours early for a date. It was forced on me and I so wasn’t ready. But maybe he was right in that I would never be ready.
    We didn’t work out although the children are all still friends and his kids still come and stay over with me, I think I’ll always be a part of their life.
    I’ve never let another man meet my children since and I can’t imagine ever living with someone whilst they are still here. Like you I worry about the impact it would have on them.

  3. Nikki
    26th February 2010 / 10:18 am

    Although Flea has other male contacts, it does seem a shame her Father isn’t about much Sally. Does she see him on a regular basis? Sorry – none of my business it just seems a shame as Flea’s such a bright, funny child.
    With regards to introducing new partners, I guess (cliché time) when the right guy comes along you’ll know and introducing him to Flea will hopefully go smoothly. I also think it’s important for her to know you’re a person as well as her mum as you don’t want her to become one of those children that denies anyone else getting a look in with you either.
    Not easy!

  4. Sally
    26th February 2010 / 10:28 am

    @Barbara – I think your sister probably did the right thing, in that case! And a PDA is a public display of affection…when I was at my (girls’) school if you were seeing holding hands or kissing with a boy outside the school gates the head would shout: “You, girl! No PDAs!”
    @AuntieGwen – blimey, what a difficult decision, and I don’t think you not being ready means never being ready. As I have explained to the chap, having got it so wrong in my marriage when I was convinced it was right, means I’m going to take my time deciding what’s “right” next time around – and that means taking the time to go through some tough spots and boring spots and all the other spots first. But, yes, he says I’m just commitment-phobic 😉
    @Nikki – Flea’s Dad doesn’t live locally and is self-employed so sometimes has to cancel visits for work reasons – she sees him a couple of times a month. I think introducing anyone to Flea goes smoothly – she’s so friendly and she does love men in a way that I fully intend to use to embarrass her in later years. It’s more the concern of what it would do if she then lost contact with that person. But you make a good point about her needing to see me as a person not just a Mum, perhaps that’s important too. You’re right, though – not easy!

  5. Liz (LivingwithKids)
    26th February 2010 / 11:13 am

    Single parent dating is incredibly difficult. The last thing any child deserves is constant upheaval and brief attachments. But it sounds to me as though you’re handling it perfectly. Kids love having someone different to talk to. But she does have a father in her life so it’s important to keep that relationship going too.

  6. 26th February 2010 / 2:30 pm

    I guess at Flea’s age, you could introduce a man as someone who you reckon is going to be a permanent fixture, a few months, or even a year, down the line, and that seems a very wise approach. But for an older child, that might seem wrong. Then they would possibly feel aggrieved: “so you’ve been hiding this from me for all this time?”

  7. 26th February 2010 / 3:04 pm

    Yes, I feel the same as you about not wanting to introduce a new partner too soon. I worry about the children forming an attachment to someone, only to then be disappointed if it doesn’t work out. My last relationship was for fifteen months and he never met my children – I suppose I knew deep down that it wasn’t going to be permanent. Now it’s over, I’m relieved that I made the decision I did.
    To be honest I find meeting potential new partners very difficult as a busy single mum anyway. Most men my age looking for a relationship are wanting to settle down and start a family, and I’ve already completed mine.

  8. 26th February 2010 / 3:33 pm

    Great post and very thought provoking. I can’t imagine introducing a man to the boys. Before ex and I separated I assumed that I would be in a new relationship before too long and that the boys would ultimately be a part of a happy ‘blended’ family. And maybe they will. But I am amazed at how protective I have become of them and how I don’t want to mess them about emotionally more than absolutely necessary. I read a dating book which said that you should introduce a new man to your kids sooner rather than later because this would be a true indication of whether the relationship could ever work. If he interacted well with the children then there is a chance. If from the outset he was uninterested and didn’t really seem to ‘get’ or be enamoured by your offspring, then best not to waste your time. I can seen the sense in this approach. It doesn’t mean you have to introduce the man as a boyfriend but it would give an insight into how the children relate to him and vice versa.
    Saying this, I think my boys are pretty astute. And part of me just wants to keep them all to myself right now – and wants the only man in their life to be their father for the time being.
    I hope that one day I do meet another man that can be a positive part of mine and my children’s lives. I think they have more to learn from watching and being a part of a loving adult man/woman relationship – which could really help their own emotional relationships when they are adults. I hope one day to ‘model’ a healthy, happy relationship for them because I think it has benefits for all of us. But in the mean time I am never going to settle for a relationship that isn’t great for my kids…and if I end up as a single mum for many, many years then that will be ok too.

  9. Sally
    26th February 2010 / 7:55 pm

    @Liz – yes, a part of my dilemma is also feeling I don’t want to eclipse her Dad. Because regardless of how I might feel, I do feel a responsibility to nurture and support that relationship until Flea’s old enough to make her own decisions on that score.
    @Iota – yes, that’s a really good point. Flea’s young enough that it doesn’t feel like I’m lying to her particularly – it wouldn’t even occur to her to ask the question, I guess.
    @Gappy – Yes, I’m in a similar position and it’s tough. But it sounds as though you’re handling it really well. I think the issue of more kids is really interesting, too – I wonder sometimes if I could really let someone who doesn’t have kids give up that opportunity on our account. Because I don’t think I’m up for having any more of my own!
    @Nicola – Great comment, thanks, I really get where you’re coming from.
    I do think it’s positive for kids to see an adult relationship, but it can go the other way, especially if the relationship is less than perfect. But like you, I’m very protective of Flea and I’d certainly be happy to maintain the status quo for years rather than jump into something that could harm her in the long-run.

  10. Sarah Wolf
    26th February 2010 / 8:01 pm

    It took me 18 months and even now, he is just Mummy’s friend (who brings amazing presents at birthday time). I made an early mistake with someone previously who turned out to be psycho and she still talks about him “that willy man who stole your keys” so I am being extra careful.
    In fact tonight she told me “mummy you are not allowed a boyfriend” and when questioned she said “I just don’t really like the idea” She’s five and actually I do have a life but I thought it an interesting comment.

  11. Sally
    26th February 2010 / 8:21 pm

    @Sarah – sorry to hear you had a bad experience, and I think you’re right to be cautious after something like that.
    @NixdMinx – Absolutely! I don’t feel any need to apologise for my status or choices to the Daily Mail brigade. I’ve never claimed a benefit in my life, I’ve always worked, I pay quite a lot in tax each year thanks very much, and I’m raising a fantastic, smart, independent kid with great manners and a big heart.
    I think it’s fabulous that your daughter has such a positive role model in her life, even if the relationship didn’t work out.
    For me, personally, I don’t think my caution relates to being judged. At the risk of veering into TMI territory (if there’s such a thing in blogging) I experienced a childhood with lots of changes, including various foster care placements, a divorce, being adopted, my adoptive mother remarrying and so on.
    I would say that while nothing TERRIBLE happened, watching people regularly disappear from my life definitely had a real impact on me. I feel fiercely protective of Flea and honestly, I’m terrified at the idea she might feel the sort of thing I felt as a child when my family situation got turned upside down yet again.

  12. Manda
    27th February 2010 / 11:41 am

    Yep agree. Me and partner of 10 years split – Me and my two kids left to rent. When I met mick, I waited 6 months before I told them he was my boyfriend, and let them meet him a few times as a friend first to see how they all got on.
    Ive had friends who have had lots of men come and go and the kids have got too attached far too soon as far as I was concerned…
    so the wait is a good thing.
    Poor Mick had to sleep downstairs on the rug in front of the fire with a make up bed if he came over to visit (living far away) for quite a while!! Whilst I was tucked up nice and comfy in my bed hahahahaha

  13. Manda
    27th February 2010 / 11:45 am

    Ps did you get your award on your last post?
    I wasnt concentrating and ‘copy pasted’ it twice on yours and not on one of the others!! DUH x

  14. 27th February 2010 / 1:33 pm

    I, like you, had a fair amount of upheaval in my childhood so I can understand your reluctance. My mum didn’t introduce us to most of her boyfriends although we figured out some of them were boyfriend. I think it’s a delicate balance between wanting to be sure and also keeping commitment issues in check – my mum admitted that we were often an ‘excuse’ as she either didn’t see it going somewhere or she was afraid of something going wrong. At some point you have to take a leap of faith. That said, when she did get married, they were a right pair of drama queens so all the work that went into ‘protecting’ us was undone by living with tension… You strike me as the type of person that goes with what you feel, so I think when you feel comfortable, you’ll do it.

  15. Sally
    27th February 2010 / 5:48 pm

    @Manda – thanks for commenting, it’s so great to see how other parents deal with this, and seeing everyone has similar concerns. I presume once he was given bedroom privileges, your OH got dibs on the best side of the bed!
    (Ooh, and thanks for the comment! Will get cracking on Monday)
    @Natalie – Yes, it’s a delicate balance and I do wonder about that issue of almost using your children as a shield against things potentially going wrong. Yes, I think the key is to wait until the moment you’re ready to trust your instincts and make that leap – I’m definitely someone who waits for that ‘inner voice’ to kick in, I think.

  16. Manda
    27th February 2010 / 7:57 pm

    Ooohhhh yes he certainly did!!! heehee!!!
    😉 xx

  17. 27th February 2010 / 9:59 pm

    Gosh – I know just how you feel – great post!!
    I have been single now for about two years and my youngest practically throws herself at any man who comes in the house, whoever they are! As do I, but for different reasons…
    I’m actually writing something this week about single parent dating and the dilemma of when to introduce potential partners. Please do get in touch if you have any comments you’d like to contribute!