Note: This piece was originally published on the Good Men Project
Dear Divorced Dad,
Of the many women you’ll encounter after you reenter the dating world, chances are it will be someone like myself, the single mom, to whom you’ll feel the strongest pull. My situation will strike as familiar. There’s the added bonus that I bring to the relationship a little girl who will absolutely adore you. For this reason alone you need to be honest about your real intentions. Is it romance or an attempt to recapture the family and all that you lost in your divorce?
As the relationship progresses, I urge you to move slowly. You’ll be the shiny new toy in our two dimensional life and my daughter will note everything you say and do. After all, she’s only 10. It’s easy to get carried way in the early stages of a relationship, but know that your irrational behavior will be duly noted.
Loneliness can be haunting and since your tsunami of a divorce you’ve experienced it in abundance. You’ll miss the mundane family tasks—movie night, the Sunday morning pancake breakfast, shopping at Target—more than the grand occasions. Resist the impulse to recreate what you lost in your divorce with my daughter and myself. Doing so only creates power struggles and resentment on both sides.
Keep in mind that I’ve been flying solo since before my daughter could walk. All problems, big and small, have fallen on me, and me alone. When my daughter was sick, I was the one who took off work for the doctor’s appointment. If the toilet was backed up, I fixed it. Miraculously things worked out, so keep your criticism at bay.
Whatever you do, don’t compare my child to your older grown children. It’s two entirely different families. Saying things such as, “When Sarah was that age she always finished her breakfast” is annoying. Likewise, I’ll zip my mouth about any of Sarah’s irritating behaviors.
Go easy on the ice cream and candy. Yes, my daughter loves sweets, but I typically try to limit such things. Having to tell my kid she can’t have another scoop of Mocha Chocolate Brownie after you pulled out two bowls only creates problems.
You’ll feel giddy from all the attention my daughter lavishes on you. She’ll laugh at your corny jokes and squeal when you buy her gum. Resist the urge to respond to the attention by making any lofty promises you can’t keep. I don’t want her to think men are liars. She’ll remember that you promised to take her to Great Adventure or the latest Star Wars film, so if you renege I’ll be the one to clean up the mess.
Should you live at a distance and we come to visit, understand that I’m not going to sleep in your bed. I need to set an example for my daughter. Arguing that my daughter needs to know we’re a couple won’t work. Yes, we’re dating today, but what about next week? Or next month? And didn’t you once believe that you and your wife would be forever and ever?
Should the time come that we part ways, remember there is not one, but two hearts, at play. Be gentle with my daughter. A few parting words would be nice. If you wanted to stay in touch with her, I’d welcome that. Very much so. Because, remember, she’s only 10.
Your Future Girlfriend