When I got divorced, my kids were 14, 10, and 6. As you would expect, it was a painful time for all of us. I had prepared for this difficult transition, trying to anticipate everything that would follow. And to some extent I was prepared. I knew how to handle most things that would change our lives from a two-parent household to a single parent household. Also, I was prepared for the anger from my kids for making the decision to divorce their father.
There was one new challenge that I was unprepared for—dating.
Dating at the age of 41 was very different then it was when I was in my 20’s. For starters, meeting single men is not the same as it was when I was younger. Also, this time around, I had to worry about my kids.
When you go out as a single parent, you have to decide what to tell your kids about where you are going. I decided that I would not discuss dating with my kids unless it became serious. However, I could not dictate what my ex would share with my kids. I had a few dates shortly after my divorce was final, enough to learn that there were any number of strange men I wouldn’t go out with again, let alone introduce to my kids.
One evening after a coffee date, I got home much later than I had originally planned. My daughter was waiting for me with a look of disdain and the statement that if I was going to be so late, I should have called. She said, “You cannot expect me to call you when I am going to be late if you do not do the same for me.” So here I am a grown-up dating and suddenly my daughter became my mother and I became the child. That was quite a reality check, and to some extent she was right. I realized that I needed to be more responsible about dating and late nights than when I was younger. Moving forward I made sure to set the right example in my dating life as my teenagers would be learning from me.
What also became clear to me was the change in how my children would see me and how I would see myself. I would always be a parent, but how do you balance that with also being a woman? Not so simple.
Whatever decision I made could be the wrong one. That became abundantly clear when I did meet the right man a year after my divorce. It was difficult to introduce him to my two sons but the real challenge was introducing him to my teenage daughter. She was less than amused at the prospect of meeting him. I was not sure why, but it was a difficult first meeting. Over time, I learned that her discomfort about meeting him was connected to her fear of more changes in her life.
At that point, I understood that the biggest anxiety in dealing with divorce is the fear of change. And no matter what, change was always going to be in the air. And when dealing with divorce, kids will learn how to adjust.