Life as a single parent is very exciting. Dating as a single parent is more than exciting and going through what can, even at this age, still be a wild and complicated dance with new romantic partners is both exhilarating and exhausting. I have been getting even less sleep than usual lately–and there is a very good, very personal, reason for that which I won’t go into.
And now for my little secret. I love the part of me that, with two kids, a house to run and a normal adult life to lead is still passionately engaged enough in my emotional world that sometimes things can go a little haywire. I like the part of me that gets swept up – or can even be thrown off kilter sometimes by life events. And you can’t convince me it’s bad. In fact I believe that if you want to be authentic, flexible, resilient and strong–it can be essential to let life toss you around a little–not try to control it all.
Of course there has to be balance. I always loved the idea that I would be all June Cleaverish by day, cheery and muffin-makey with my kids and significant other, and yet never turn into an automaton or end up with a medicine cabinet of “mother’s little helpers” burying every emotion or desire not appropriate to that role so deep that I could no longer even feel them anymore. But I equally love the idea that at night (or when the kids are not around) I could have a whole separate and different world, one wholly inappropriate for children–one that was more wild and free and creative and honest and uninhibited than any child of mine would ever want to know about. And, frankly, I have kind of got that.
I know I have a male counterpart out there too. You know the smoldering guy who is tough and ornery, lives life on his own terms and really doesn’t care about the rest? I like him too. We all do. But in my ideal world this man by day can do what I do, collect himself, take care of business, and manage the rigors of a reasonably presentable home and care about the details of a family. And then by night…well, it’s a whole different thing. And I’m not just talking about sex–but the whole great big sexy adult world opened up full of subtlety, bawdiness, and passion.
I have read articles written by single parents about parenting/self balance and a lot of what I have been hearing is that you need to incorporate elements of each into both–but after 17 years of this parenting thing, I’m afraid I disagree. Kids need and want full 100 percent parenting when they are with you–they like it conservative, regular, and, well, boring, for the most part–and frankly, what I have discovered at least for myself is that some kind of integration of that plus a more “sexy” or “cool” personality just doesn’t really work. At least not for me.
And if it did work, what would that even look like? Wearing stilettos while you breastfeed? Witty banter with your significant other, 9 year old, and 12 year old, at the dinner table? Flirtatious innuendo during The Wiggles? It just doesn’t make sense. Kids don’t like that stuff nor can they contribute to it. And what I have seen for the most part in this world where we like to think that we are “ourselves” in front of our kids–is that there is a large part of us that doesn’t get any play at all – and probably shouldn’t.
I think being only one way all the time once you have kids is far too limiting. For some parents, who are just trying to be the ‘good parent type’ day and night, the younger irreverent part of them may fade into nonexistence– and they begin to feel “old” in the, bad, zombie-like way. And among couples where their youthful more ‘dangerous and sexy’ personality is given free reign– it can cause real problems in family life.
So I try to divide and conquer when it comes to single parent dating. As challenging as managing both sides of myself can be I feel privileged to even have this problem to figure out. God knows most previous generations didn’t have the luxury of spending a lot of time ruminating about how to be “authentic” they frankly just had too much to do.
Whenever the challenge of managing two worlds at once, without screwing either one up, gets me down, I just think about how dull a full-time life in one or the other would be. I have no desire to inhabit non-stop momness nor to return to single life without my children, and I realize that my only problem is essentially that I want everything. I want to be both of the women we all love in the movies, the ‘good’ safe one who kisses babies and everyone likes and the ‘bad’ dangerous one who gets to have sex with everyone and has a ton of personal style, for after all, why choose only one? And the drama? This too will pass, and if I am honest with myself I’m more than a little proud that I have an exciting enough emotional life at 45 that 20 year old hipsters still find me relatable!
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