After my marital breakdown, and once I was facing tackling the rock face of dating again, it was my younger brother who said to me, ‘you don’t look cracking on paper, Soph.’ The words stung, like all casual insults that younger siblings deign to chuck your way – but there was a truth that resonated within his words. I was messily divorced, with an irascible ex, and was now, and still am, a single parent of a young child. The future for my love life looked, at best, bleak. Who was going to take a gamble on me, with all my ‘baggage’ in tow?!
Now, for the record, I have an issue with the word baggage, and if someone starts to bandy the ‘B’ word around me, they are swiftly shown the door, baggage or not, in tow. Baggage implies useless, superfluous heavy weighted items that drag you both physically and metaphorically, down. Now, this may quite accurately describe my ex (ha! Just a wee jest) but certainly NOT my child – yet it is often used to describe parents who are looking to date again. ‘Life experience’, I prefer. Experience that has moulded me into a better person with a clearer idea of who I am and what I want, thank you very much.
One of the crash courses that I have had to negotiate since becoming the main carer of a child, whilst juggling a job and home, is the tricky world of single parent dating. This is definitely not for the faint hearted. I may be proud that I am wiser, more mature, and have a deeper understanding of the ways of men, but unfortunately, this is coupled with ageing, having non-negotiable responsibilities and being massively time poor. All of these add up to make dating arrangements rather challenging – certainly more difficult than when my only worry was what to wear to when meeting someone for the first time. Now I have to consider child care arrangements, how to actually get myself ready and out of the house in the minute window between bedtime and taxi time and, further on, how and when to introduce a new someone to the main (and infinitely less glamorous) role in your life as parent, housekeeper and general dogsbody.
The rules may have changed, and your game plan may be completely different to the one that you were following pre-child, but the excitement of meeting someone new and exploring each other’s personalities is still as thrilling as it was in what seems like a lifetime ago. Sure, there are more potential hurdles that may require careful manoeuvring round, and an extra small person or two whose needs have to be carefully considered, but with extra communication from both parties, and a shared outlook on the future – dating can be just as fun and fulfilling as it was ten, twenty years ago.. just don’t mention the ‘B’ word.