My son has only ever known his parents as separate entities. Therefore, I have had approximately six years of experience dating as a single mom. In that time, my son has met two men, and I feel a lot of guilt about each of them.
So I was shocked after a recent text from “I Hope This is Dog Poop” Guy stated he didn’t want to keep wasting my time because he wasn’t ready for a serious relationship or to start a family. We were only dating for two months, so if he’d asked, I would have readily told him I was also not ready for a serious relationship or to start a family.
That is often the assumption when you date a single mom; that the logical step after casual dating is being a step dad. For me, this is not the case, nor is it logical.
Introducing my son to someone new is not something I take lightly anymore.
The first man he met was an amazing opera singer from North Carolina. He was one of those relationships that made you realize why nothing had worked out before. It was different and special. He traveled in and out of New York for auditions and gigs. After several months of dating, I asked if he wanted to stay with me the next time he was in New York. Bad idea. We played house for a few weeks here and there.
It was beautiful, but it caused me to want this thing I’d never had before: a co-parent.
So when he’d leave, and I’d lose him, I got really angry. Angry at people who had a partner to split the load. Angry at my son’s dad for not being there. Angry at my mom when she tried to help because even though she was helpful, she’s not who I wanted there.
When we broke up (long distance never works), I almost felt relief that I could go back to doing it on my own every day. This way, I could manage my expectations. So, I did, and I promised myself that the next person who met my son would be the man I married.
That promise was fulfilled. The summer my son was three, he spent a month in Maine with my parents (because I lost my apartment), and I met an Engineering student from Zambia. When my son returned, it didn’t take long for me to introduce him to the new guy I was seeing. A few months later, he was spending most weekends with us. A year later, we got married and moved in together.
This time it was different. He was certainly not a co-parent. I don’t know if “Zambian Engineer” didn’t feel comfortable in that role or if I didn’t allow him to take it on because of my past with “Opera Singer” (probably a combination of both); but, the lines were drawn.
My son referred to him as his step dad in public, called his mom Grandma. We even had a family Christmas card I sent out that year (a lifelong dream).
But, we didn’t make parenting decisions together, and he didn’t go to the park with us or help with bedtime routines. We were not in this parenting thing together.
It turns out we weren’t in a lot of things together. My son was devastated when I told him we were getting a divorce. He cried out of true sadness for the first time. My son told me his stomach hurt and then grabbed his chest/heart in pain. This broke me more than the divorce itself. And, on occasion, when my son asks after him or tells strangers he has/had two dads (which leads to some interesting park conversations), I spend a good chunk of that evening crying into a glass of wine.
So no, “I Hope This is Dog Poop Guy,” I was not looking to start a family with you. I was looking for someone to take as a plus one to weddings and talk about my day with.
The next person to meet my son needs to prove themselves in my life for an extended period of time before they are allowed into his.
I strongly believe that person is out there but, apparently, I have a few more first dates to go on before I find him.