There’s a man in my house and he’s not my dad,” an outraged five-year-old Kevin* tells me when I go to visit my friend Tara Jenkin* (who had recently split up with Kevin’s father). Then you have to make all the elements gel—you and the kids and the new love interest.
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Accept that dating is hard “You never know what’s going on in kids’ minds,” says psychotherapist Naomi Galloway.
Dating for single parents is an extreme act of orchestrating: time, your needs, your dates’ needs, and, most of all, the needs of your children. Find a mature partner “There’s no other time I can think of that you need to be an adult more than when you date as a single parent,” says Ottawa marriage and family therapist Kathryn Guthrie.
Troy Hutchison, 36, from London, Ont., had to be an adult early in life.
He became a single dad with full custody of his then-four-year-old, Nivek, when he was 23.
Some girls found his situation cute—a guy with a baby being a step up from a guy with a puppy—but many of them weren’t mature enough to handle the reality. “It was Canada Day, and my girlfriend came over and we put the baby to bed and watched the fireworks going off in the park from the window.
She said: ‘I feel like I’ve been grounded.’” Hutchison couldn’t hang out at the bar on Fridays or go to parties on Saturdays.
His parents lived in another town, and babysitters are expensive. And the girls weren’t looking to hang out with kids—they were in their 20s, more interested in seeing bands than babies.
But after a string of unsuccessful relationships, Hutchison met Cherie Gibson at the record store he manages.
“Cherie is five years older than me, and she just seemed ready to settle down when we met,” he says.
He told her he was a single dad right away, and on their first date they took Nivek to a movie.
“Cherie and Nivek hit it off, right out of the gate.” Hutchison says that, in retrospect, it’s now clear that a serious relationship could only work with someone who was ready to be a de facto parent.