“Who is that sleeping in your bed, Daddy?”
It's inevitable that single or divorced parents are going to date other people, form new relationships, and come to a point where they have to introduce their child to this new person.
Rachel Sarah is the author of Single Mom Seeking, co-founder of singlemommyhood.com, and a former single mom for ten years. “When my daughter was three, I introduced her to the man I was seeing without using the word ‘dating,’” she says. “I said, ‘We're going out for ice cream with one of Mommy's friends. His name is Sean.’”
This G-rated example is a safe way to get your child acquainted with a new love interest, but the reality is things can become PG-13 very quickly. When there's an impromptu sleepover, what then? There is no upside to letting your child see you in bed with someone, says Leah Klungness, Ph.D., a psychologist and coauthor of The Complete Single Mother. “If she does see you in bed, simply ask her what she needs and reassure her that you'll be right there to help. If you make a big deal about being caught, it's your startled reaction that will likely upset the child. Calm, cool, and matter-of-fact is the best way to deal.” But Klungness has this addendum: “While setting appropriate boundaries for yourself is important, you don't need your child's permission to have a fulfilling sexual life.”
“Is that pretty lady my new mommy?”
When Matt Logelin's wife and high school sweetheart, Liz, died 27 hours after giving birth to their now 3-year-old daughter, Madeline, the Los Angeles resident became an instant single father. For several years it was just Logelin and his little girl, traveling, playing, blogging about their adventures. Falling in love was far from his mind. That was before he met Brooke while visiting family for the holidays in Minnesota.
Roughly half a year later, Matt had to tell his daughter that Brooke was moving in. “Madeline didn't know what I was talking about. I could have told her Elmo was coming to live with us,” says Logelin, who chronicled his story in Two Kisses for Maddy: A Memoir of Loss & Love.
“There are cognitive limitations at two years old, so this is as far as Matt could have gone really,” notes Misito. “What the parent should do is focus on all of the wonderful things that are going to happen in sharing a life together as a family, while at the same time reminding the child that the person isn't taking her biological mom's place.” Logelin has done just that. “There are photos of Liz on the walls, and a lot of her things are still in the house,” he notes. And Liz's presence is memorialized beyond just pictures and mementos. “I love to hear the girls in the kitchen together. Brooke tells Madeline that the stool she's standing on is the one that her four-foot eleven-inch mother used to get things out of the cupboard.”