Internet dating, hookups, blind dates, and the odd booty call -- how does this cornucopia of dating delights mesh with your role as a mom and caregiver to your kids? It all comes down to this: You can have the time of your life right now. After all, you are a consenting adult and chances are you have been through hell, but your kids don't need to know anything about it.
For some of us, this "throwing our dates in the kids' faces" thing might just be one of our major issues with our exes. Some of them may have taken the relationship equivalent of a packet of Tang, added water, and created an instant family. He might already have a new girlfriend, perhaps who lives with him, and maybe even with kids of her own. Or, worse, your ex may have a live-in who wants to have a New Year's baby and you just happen to notice it's already Memorial Day!
Things can move really quickly when people get out of a relationship. And how can we expect our children to grieve and understand the loss of their own family as they know it if Mommy or Daddy already has a brand-new partner or family in place? The message it sends to them is: "You were a really good family while it lasted but I think I hooked a real winner this time round. And don't worry, it might seem like I just met your new mommy, but we have been together for ages -- just ask your mom! And wait until you meet her kids! I mean, your new brothers and sisters! We're like the best family ever, minus your mom and your own bedrooms, because now you have to share. Anybody want to go to Disneyland?"
Sadly, as so many of us know, that is not even an exaggeration. It happens all the time. Hey, it happened to my family. The new woman was introduced to the kids within a few weeks -- against professional counsel -- and it made things hell. The rule of thumb is to wait a minimum of six months, or even better, a year, to make the introductions. Take care of your first family first! Build up trust and establish the new dynamics of your reconfigured family. Make it about the kids and not about your ego. And when things start to settle and people begin to heal a little, then make the transition slowly and thoughtfully. It's not a fire sale. Not everything is replaceable. You can't swap item A for item B and think that nobody will notice. Your family is your own little piece of this world and at its core reflects who and what you are. Treat it with respect and dignity and give it the time it needs to mend in a real and meaningful way.
Copyright © 2009 Mary Jo Eustace, author of Divorce Sucks: What to do when irreconcilable differences, lawyer fees, and your ex's Hollywood wife make you miserable