The not so single parent

It’s confession time. I have been operating under false pretences for a while now and it’s time to come clean. It’s time to admit out loud, or at least on my blog, that I’m no longer a single parent. It’s time to ditch the label.

Of course I am still a lone parent, that hasn’t changed. But I’m no longer running solo in life, and that’s a wonderful thing.

I thought it would take a while to adjust to a new reality, especially when things happen unexpectedly and take you completely by surprise. Having been single for a while I thought I’d find the transition cumbersome and a bit of a ball ache but my significant other has blended into our lives with little disruption, and it’s felt like the most natural thing in the world.

Would I feel some sadness about letting go of it just being Annie and I? Would I be resistant to the change of dynamics? These are the questions I asked myself. I was worried about becoming a little bit sentimental about how it used to be. But that hasn’t happened.

Even though Annie is only two and has limited understanding I was nervous about introducing a new partner to her. I was unsure how she would react to having a new person as part of our lives. So in this blog I wanted to share a few of my own experiences of making this transition.

Separating mum life and dating life (initially)

I have a very active 2 year old daughter. She’s very loud, very messy, very active and very needy. So naturally when I started seeing my boyfriend, I wanted to keep a firm wall of separation between my mum life, and my dating life.

Even though my new partner is a parent himself, and a very hands-on parent at that, I didn’t want to scare him off.

On an average day I feel like more of a disaster than my house is, and that’s saying something. Initially I was sure there was no way he could really love me if he saw the real life me. Because it’s not cute; there’s legitimately nothing endearing about my messy mum bun and eye bags.

So in the beginning, I made a choice: I decided I would slice myself down the middle into two versions—the mummy me and the dating me. The latter could be young(ish), vibrant, with clean hair and boundless, youthful energy, while the former would be unwashed, unshaven, and falling asleep under piles of laundry by 9PM.

But it wasn’t long before I realised that even though I’d tried to convince myself I could separate the two identities, it’s impossible; like winter and spring, they can’t exist without each other. At the end of the day they’re both me, one is just a little bit cleaner and has pruned more recently than November.

I decided that if my boyfriend was worth my time, if he really cared about me, he’d care about all of me, the whole package.

It turned out to be a gamble worth taking;  if you were to ask my boyfriend what he loves most about me, what he respects most about me, it’s that I’m a mum, doing it all on my own.

No expectations

Secondly, it was important for me to make it clear that I wasn’t looking for anyone to parent my child. Boundaries were there from the get-go and I wouldn’t be expecting him to get involved with babysitting, discipline, or other parent-like responsibilities. This, quite possibly, will evolve over time but for now we’re happy taking responsibility for our own children and don’t feel the need to blur those parenting lines!

Baby Steps – there’s no rush!

I’ve always believed in proceeding with caution when it comes to relationships and have never been one to jump right in with two feet. I’m more of a”dip your toes into the ocean” kind of girl. Since having Annie this caution has just been heightened and I’ve took a very measured and careful approach with introducing my boyfriend into Annie’s world.

I wanted to be sure about the relationship before Annie met him and only then did I slowly introduce him. Initially it was just for short periods of time and involved fun activities, and gradually we worked up to spending longer periods of time together, once everyone was comfortable. It was an onerous task at first, and it was nerve racking, but Annie bonded with him very quickly and now they’re the best of pals.

Kids come first – always

Annie will always be my number one priority. I don’t want her to ever feel like she’s second fiddle or that she’s being pushed out. There’s still lots of Annie and me time; it’s important for me to maintain that one on one relationship with her, and keep our family dynamic. Regardless of my relationship status that will never change.

The moral of the story…

Juggling dating and being a parent is a process that requires patience, good communication, and compassion, on both sides. When there’s kids involved and you’re trying to blend two families it isn’t always going to be smooth sailing, it’s a huge life change for our children, as well as us as parents.

There’s no handbook for being a mum, and there’s no handbook to instruct you on how to be both a lone parent and a girlfriend without screwing everything (and everyone up) in the process.

It’s been a lot of trial and error of course, and my romantic life is definitely not the same as it would be if I were childless; I have serious limits on the time and energy (mental, emotional, and physical) that I can devote to it. But despite that, it’s worth it.

If I was giving advice to anyone in this situation, I would say take it slow and listen to your heart. If it feels right, it probably is. If it’s right it’s worth taking that big leap into the unknown and allowing for new people to become part of your lives. I believe wholeheartedly that the best mum is a happy one, and if you meet someone who can contribute to your life and bring joy to it, then have it. Embrace it. Choose happy.

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