Swim Lessons are lessons I've learned from being a single mom that are encouragement to other single parents, and as it turns out, married parents too! The biggest lesson is, as Dory from Finding Nemo says, "Just keep swimming!" The rest are nuggets of truth I've learned along the way that made the difference between drowning and survival.
The two most important lessons I learned about dating as a single mom were:
- Know who you are.
- Know what you want.
You have to know who you are so you can be truly happy in your life, regardless of whether or not you have a man in your life. Plus, if you don't know who you are, you have no business dating. You have to know what you WANT so you know whether or not you even should be dating, and what to look for when you do. I could elaborate on that more, but instead I'd like to share a post I wrote last year on my own experience, after I'd learned some hard lessons.
P.S. If you're a single mom and you're not reading Ms. Single Mama's blog, you need to start now. And purchase her e-book pronto.
And, learn from other people's mistakes, starting with mine:
"love bites! love bleeds! it's bringin' me to my knees!"
First posted 6.4.2010
Several months ago I began keeping a small notebook in my purse for journaling the most important things. The things that hit you like a brick. Dreams, passions, deep desires and longings that occur to you as something you must have in life, something for which nothing else will substitute. I strive to be intentional about my life. Raising my boys to become good men, pursuing my own hobbies and loves, taking care of my body with exercise and food, enriching my mind with books and news, and my heart and soul with art and nature. These are the things that fill me up, so I can pour out goodness on those around me, and on my boys first and foremost.
It goes without saying that after a failed marriage one would desire to be intentional about love and dating. At least, one would hope so right? I didn't really date before the relationship that led to my marriage five years ago. I could hardly call the Jr. High "boyfriends" dating, or the two month relationship I had my junior year in high school dating. Since my separation and divorce, I've had several first dates, a couple of crushes, a semi-long term (10 month) relationship, and an intensely emotional 4 monther. Whew! I'm assured by other single, dating parents that each one gets easier.
As if I didn't have enough dating experience in the first place, dating as a single mom is a whole 'nuther ball game. Besides the extra time and energy it takes to get kids taken care of so you can spend time with another person, and the work involved in caring for another person's life and emotions, consider this: when you're a parent, you're no longer judged on you alone. I have to consider who will be a good influence in the lifes of my sweet children, and who will care about them and doing good to them as well as myself. Consequently, he must decide if he wants to be with both me, and my children. That means (insecurity flags UNITE!), no matter how much a guy likes me, if he's not crazy about my kids or how I parent or losing his opportunity to sleep in on the weekends, he's not going to stick around. Don't get me wrong, I don't WANT a man in my life that can't accept those things. But I'm not going to pretend like it doesn't hurt to think that I can be discarded or not chosen for something outside of my control. I'm not ashamed of being a mother. I love who I am and adore my children. I love the adventures we have together, and desire more than many other things in life to be able to take the hand of the man I love and say, "Come on. It's going to be fun. Absolutely crazy, but we can do it together! Trust me."
It's just...a lot to swallow.
I on the other hand want someone for ME. I've got the motherhood thing down (not that I'm always perfect about it - more that I've accepted it's a part of my life and it's not going away, or getting any easier), and I'm not looking for someone to rescue me with babysitting and a second income. If I'm going to welcome another person into my life for whom I'll cook, or do his laundry, and spend more energy and time on, he's got to be worth it. And he's got to be for ME first. I don't know completely how this balance is supposed to work, because I know he's got to be good for my children as well. I don't know what all to expect of a man entering my life. Is he supposed to want to be a stepdad? Who really wants to be a step parent? Who wants to join in the fun of child support battles and "dealing with the ex for weekend visits?"
That's what I thought, crickets.
But I truly believe that for the right person, I will be enough. I will be worth it. He will see me and want me, whether my life is crazy and I have children (two, at pretty difficult ages...bed wetting, whining, temper tantrums, food refusal, LOUDness, really annoying cartoons and LOUD toys) or not. I want someone who's crazy about me and all of the things that make me ME, which include my Aidie and my Alec.
So for now, I continue to work on my love list, which already has several significant things on it, to me. The other things I've written in my little journal, you've seen on my Top 40. This is a separate, obviously more vulnerable list. Every now and then I come up with another little light bulb flash that gives me guidance on what I need out of a relationship, a romance. And these are things I won't settle without. I can't. The cost is too high. For the time being, I need to keep the list mine, but I'll share it with you in due time. In the mean time, what's on your list? And these really aren't just for love, but life. What MUST you have? What means happiness in your life? What means settling to you?
I was reminded this past weekend as I embarked on my first vacation without children in over 5 years, of some incredibly empowering and inspiring words from a dear friend of mine, who told me, "I decided never again to settle for unhappiness..."
So, my new life motto: I choose happiness. In love, and in life.