Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The advice paradox for married parents versus single parents.

Photo Credit: smconner-acreativelife.blogspot.com
When you're married, after you have children it can seem as if everyone is always telling you to carve out time for romance so that you don't lose your relationship intimacy and the happiness that brought you together in the first place.  It took love and romance (or maybe, just sex? -- I really don't know your story, now do I?) to actually make said kids exist, did it not?  What partnered-up parents aren't being constantly reminded to avoid letting romance die when the kids are born?

As you trudge though the perils of trying to morph munchkin rug-rats into productive members of society as a parenting couple, there always seems to be that constant reminder coming from just about everywhere (your mother-in-law, Dr. Phil, newsstand magazines at the grocery checkout) that one mustn't forget that you are still a romantic couple just as much as you are parents. How many parenting websites and books are out there sporting articles directed at actively fostering a strong and fulfilling romantic relationship despite while also being parents? A zillion, maybe?

If I'm not mistaking the above climate of what may be considered as healthy "advice" for married folks with children, then why is it that for us single parents, it seems as if we're constantly bombarded with the absurd advice that it is somehow best if we forgo our own personal happiness and chances at finding a fulfilling romantic relationship for the sake of raising our kids?

Believe it or not, there's even the utterly ass backwards notion floating around in some parts that single parents shouldn't date or even dare to seek out a romantic relationship until their children are "older". By "older", I'm assuming most of these ignorant asshats mean until said children have reached adulthood.  Since my son, C, is only just over one and a half years old, that idea makes my chest tighten with panic wondering what on Earth it would cost me in batteries and vibrators over the next 18 years or so.  I have a hard time fathoming how I would make it through such a death-sentence of abstinence.

Anyway, the conflicting concepts between romance advice for married parents versus those that are single is perplexing to say the very least.

What gives?

I think I may have stumbled upon an extremely contradictory societal stigma here and I'm wondering if any other like-minded folks out there have every pondered the same paradox that surely does exist ... it can't be just my own somewhat biased perspective.  Can it?  To further add to the presumed absurdity, ponder this one:  if fostering romance is encouraged as a way to prevent divorce when married with children, then why isn't the same encouraged for the single parent as a way to provide stability and happiness in their lives since they too have children?


Married couples who aren't actively in love with one another (read: those who are unfulfilled and unhappy due to lack of committed intimacy) probably have just as much of a negative impact on their children's upbringing as single parents who aren't actively in love with a significant other adult partner (read: those who are likewise unfulfilled and unhappy due to lack of committed intimacy).

I'm speculating here, so please resist the urge to jump down my throat. I'm kind of thinking aloud on my blog ... it is my blog anyway. I just let you read it.

And for the record, I am fully aware that there are plenty of single parents out there that are fulfilled and happy 110%, regardless of whether or not they are actively in love with a significant other adult partner.  However, since most human adults will ultimately seek out love and intimacy to find themselves engaged in a committed relationship at some point or another ... the happy-to-be single parent isn't usually something of permanence for even the most independent of souls.  We are all biologically programmed to love and be loved and that is a fact.

I'm straying from my wonderful point that I'm trying to make here.

My point ....

Our love lives are a central component of our well-being and happiness and that truth does not carry different weights of significance depending on if you are single or married.  If, as parents, our general well-being and overall happiness is paramount to our ability to provide the very best for our children while raising them (how many parenting websites and books are there advocating that we as parents ensure we are taking care of ourselves etc. in order to be good parents? ... another zillion?), then why does the above-mentioned advice paradox exist in the first place.

Again I ask, ... what gives?

If married parents are encouraged to have more sex and to carve out more romantic adult time for re-connecting because loving intimacy is ubber important to their well-being and happiness, why aren't single parents encouraged similarly more often?  Why are only some people advocating that single parents get out there and have more sex and romantic adult time for connecting because loving intimacy is just as ridiculously ubber important to their well-being and happiness?

Before you get all hot and bothered on me:  yes, I strongly believe that children should always come first and that their best interests should always remain as a top priority no matter what.  This is a given, is it not? Whether you are married parents or not.  But I also believe, wholeheartedly in fact, that as parents we must take care of ourselves and our own needs too in order to be able to put our children first.  Like one of my readers mentioned to me previously, the concept is sort of akin to how airlines instruct you to put on your own oxygen mask before helping someone else with theirs.

If you are happy, your children are more likely to be happy.  If you are in a loving adult relationship that makes you happier still, your children are even more likely to be happier still.  This should be universal for all parents. Married or not. Single or not. Divorced or not.

The contradictory advice out there surrounding how married parents should foster their love lives versus how single parents should foster their love lives befuddles me.

To go even one step further, here's what I have to say to anyone that tries to tell me that I shouldn't be actively seeking to start over wonderful in ways that include love and romance (and yes, sex too!) because I am a single parent going through a divorce ...

... you can go shit in your hat.



What do you think?  


Is there a paradox in our society/culture when it comes to love and relationship advice for the married parent versus the single parent? 


Does it irritate you as much as it does me?

26 comments:

  1. I'm in complete agreement with you. Parents, despite being married or single, should be encouraged to get out there and find happiness, period. Whether that means getting a divorce if you're unhappily married, going on plenty of date nights if you're happily married, and dating (if you so choose) if you're single. Period.

    I personally feel that society is full of too many people out there offering advice anyhow. What do they know?

    One message that I want my girls to receive in this life is that happiness matters. For me, being in a loving relationship with someone is something that brings me happiness...and dammit, that's something that I'm going to have.

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    1. I was hoping you would comment. Yay! You made my morning.

      I love how you point out that there are too many people out there offering up their (usually unfounded, uneducated, biased and/or unwanted) advice ... and then I love the added irony that we are both bloggers and some of what we put out there ourselves may be construed as "advice". What do we know, anyway? ;)

      I guess what we know is that happiness is paramount. Period. I think we're pretty effin' genius. EPIC levels of genius!

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  2. Great post. I agree. I think that the "advice" you speak of stems from the cartoonish bad single mom (and I know some of these exist) and so the advice is meant to warn of the perils of becoming 'that" kind of single mom, you know the kind who have a revolving door of men visiting their home and bed in front of and interacting with the children and where the children have so many "uncles" they think the word means "men who sleep with mommy." So the advice really is, "wait until your children get out of the house before you become a slut" -- based on the assumption that seeking adult romantic companionship means being sexually indiscriminate and without sensitivity to the children. Wrong assumptions. But if any mom wants to be a "work from home prostitute," hell yeah, wait until the kids are grown and out of the house. I'm exaggerating, of course, but I actually think that people secretly think of "those" kinds of moms when they think of moms dating. Assuming however, that will never be the case, the whore/slut mom, I mean, I actually think it's good to model happiness, respect and that mothers are (gasp) women, not just moms.

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    1. Totally get what you are saying. And thanks for leaving a comment. I appreciate your added insights.

      I think you're really going to enjoy the book review and giveaway coming up soon on my blog. Stay tuned!!

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  3. I don't see society doing this at all. What I see is society telling you to go out and have fun, find a relationship, have sex but don't do it around your children. More likely than not the first few relationships you dive into in the midst of a divorce are going to end in heartbreak, heartbreak not only for you but also for your child. Your not just losing a boyfriend your child is losing a father figure also, hence teaching that relationships are not made for the long haul. Teaching that when times get tough, bail. Making it harder for a child to commit, find love, and settle down later in life when it comes their turn to date. So, I say go out, have fun, have relationships, have lots and lots of sex, just don't so it around your child.

    Also, some people believe sex before marriage is like putting the cart before the horse. But that's for anyone, not reserved for the single parent sect.

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    1. I think the whole decision of when you should introduce a new significant other to your child(ren) as a single parent depends on way too many factors to generalize for all ... like the age of the child(ren), if the new relationship started fresh with a stranger or with someone you've been friends with for awhile etc. Too many variables to generalize.

      Having my son meet James Dean sooner rather than later fits well for me right now and I am confident in my decision, mainly because my son is so young. He doesn't know what is going on for the most part. He's only one and a half. If he was, say 3-5 years old right now ... I probably would have held off on the introduction a bit longer.

      Then again, my mom had me when she was young. And I remember her dating openly with me. And I do NOT feel that her dating a few different men by the time I was 7 years old had any negative impact on my development or emotional well being. I learned important lessons from her ...

      I strongly believe that children need to know that people are going to come and go in their lives from an early age. I don’t know of a better lesson than to learn of the impermanence of things by allowing my son to see me date without shame etc., regardless if it works out or if it doesn't. As a self-proclaimed serial monogamist, I highly doubt there will be any sort of parade of men in front of him.

      If it doesn't work out with James Dean (and I am hopeful that it will work out, but that's not really the point I care to make at the moment), I hope that I'll be able to teach my son about healthy ways to deal with good-byes and that when people come into our life, some stay and some don’t; I hope he might learn that what is healthy is for us to take what’s good and leave the rest behind by actively dealing with grief and/or loss and/or sadness. This is a realistic aspect of life that I really wish people would confront with their kids earlier. It is from building up an idealistic fantasy with them that everyone we befriend or fall in love with will be with us forever that causes them extraordinary hurt, pain and grief they can not process when the realities of people coming and going cuts them like a knife ... when they learn the truth vs. the fantasy we like to pump them up with.

      As to your comment about sex before marriage ... I am not going there. I respect your opinion, but I do not share it.

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    2. It's very stupid to believe your son doesn't know what's going on. You're confusing the poor child.

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    4. Years 0-5 are the years where a child's personality and foundations are made. That includes the first year and a half. It's naive to think that he doesn't see it happening. That's like saying he wouldn't notice if you left his life.

      I have no problem at all with teaching healthy ways to say goodbye, it is an important lesson. But a lesson to be taught when an animal dies or a friend moves away.But having to say goodbye to someone they see as daddy over and over is just cruel. I am sure your son will have plenty of opportunities of his own to say goodbye, its not something that needs to be pushed.

      As for your mothers dating not affecting yours, its also naive to think that had nothing to do with where you have found yourself now and your ability in choosing men.

      I never said that I agree with no sex before marriage, just that there are a lot of people out there who do.

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    5. I am open to constructive criticism on this blog. That's why I will leave the comment re: allegations that my son is "confused" here.

      However, in reference to the comment I just deleted, hostile hate compounded by ignorance will always be deleted. Promptly. And insults cross the line. If you can't play nice and act like an adult when you comment, then don't comment. Especially don't accuse me as being the one that is childish. That's just ridiculous and, I must say, it makes me giggle.

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    6. The stage of which to introduce children into their prospective significant others depends greatly on their age that I totally agree with Phenom... As to the people saying that your son is confused about the whole situation at hand I disagree with. Different children adjust at different times to situations depending on their age. As for say a 6 year old the degree of hellos and goodbyes with the possible people coming in and out of your life he is still really young and children his age do not start actually retaining many complex memories up until they are about 2 1/2 to 3 years old as cases have shown. Still he will recognize faces and eventually be able to pronounce names of the people you involve yourself with and teaching him that some of these things are normal will help him developmentally with his younger days especially if you find someone that will help you to nurture his cognitive abilities and assist you in teaching him the values that you have respectively. AS for the sex thing with the kids in the house... If they are in bed and your significant other comes over for some intimate time between the two of you how is the child going to know if they are asleep...

      My apologies on being somewhat biased on this subject... but I'm attempting to be as objective to the subject as possible

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  4. I think the thought of dating before the ink is dry on the divorce papers ( and you haven't even been handed the pen to sign yet) is just absurd. What does that teach your child daddy leaves don't worry a new man (men) will be here! Give yourself and your child some time just be you and enjoy this time you have with your child. If you ant live without a man in your life even for this short bit of time you have much bigger issues here.

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    1. Thanks for reading and commenting. I appreciate it. Truly.

      However, I would like to point out that I left the STBX 7 months ago this week. SEVEN months ago. If we could be divorced NOW, we would be. Also, I encourage you to take a gander at some of my past posts where I have thoroughly discussed how it took actively grieving and mourning the loss of my marriage -- while I was in it -- to effectively find the motivation to physically pick myself up off the floor of sorrow and leave.

      I have emotionally moved on. I refuse to pay penance for months on end. It isn't necessary. In fact, a mental health professional recently told me it isn't wise. If I feel an overwhelming sense of relief and liberation from leaving a failing disaster of a marriage ... then I should celebrate starting over wonderful in a manner that is suitable for me and not what anyone else thinks I should be doing.

      Unfortunately, because the state of residency when we separated is old fashioned and not on board with "no fault" divorce, we either pay a crapload for a trail-based "at fault" divorce (effectively fighting over nothing but debts) or we wait an entire YEAR from the date of separation before we are eligible for a much less expensive un-contested filing that doesn't require a hearing.

      I refuse to be held hostage by the legalities holding up the formal "divorce" papers.

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    2. Here is a summary post with embedded links where I thoroughly discuss moving on and achieving closure from the emotional fallout of my failed marriage. FYI.

      http://startingoverwonderful.blogspot.com/2012/04/six-months-of-separation-later.html

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    3. It doesn't matter. You're married. You took vows to spend the rest of your life with someone for better or for WORSE and you can't even respect the sanctity of marriage enough to keep your legs closed for one freaking year?

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    4. Oh.My.Goodness.

      Um, considering what I went through IN my marriage and what led to its eventual demise (lies, manipulation, pornography addiction, drinking problems etc.; it goes on and on) ... I do not believe that I was the one to break the vows we made to one another in the first place. Regardless, it doesn't matter because the marriage is over in my heart ... I don't care what the legal system has to say on the matter.

      And neither does he. He is also dating. We both have moved on and are BOTH anxiously awaiting the legal part to be finished. If the STBX doesn't have a problem with it, why should you?

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    5. What did that mental health professional say about bringing men you date around your son?

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    6. Correction: there is only ONE man that I am dating.

      In response to your question, I hope you might take comfort in knowing that I tend to make very well-informed and thought out decisions when it comes to my son and his interactions with my female friends, my male friends and anyone that I may be seeing currently or in my future. That includes discussing my choices with any necessary individuals as I see fit. That is really all I need to say here on this blog.

      Your exceeding persistence on the matter leads me to believe you are a hater from the "other side". Say hello to the STBX and his girlfriend for me, would ya?

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    7. Sorry to butt in here, but this is a little bit ridiculous. I have not ever been married, and do not have children but am a product of divorce. My mom dated, and left my abusive dad, and because she did that, I don't tolerate shit from men who try to traet me like crap. I don't buy into it, i dont give multiple chances.. I don't justify bad behavior. Why, you ask.. because back to that bible I'm sure you quote in your daily life, no where does it say you are allowed to be abusive, call names etc.( in the "sanctity" of a marriage or not).. What a mother does, (Which i'm sure you have some sort of an idea of) .. is to protect her child... Phenom was smart enough to move her son out of a bad situation .. and is smart enough to know who to introduce him to moving forward.. Her son will grow up appreciating love, and knowing that you not only can exit a situation you don't wish to be in, but also.. to treat people with respect.

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  5. I think you are right. Only you can decide how and when to introduce your child to people. How could you go about life if you were to never introduce your child to someone that you might possibly date in the future. It makes no sense what so ever for a mom to be lonely and unhappy because she is divorced. If I were in your situation I would be dating too.

    My only issue with single parents dating is when the relationship comes before their children. "Someone I know" sent her child to live with her ex in another state because the teenage daughter didn't get along with the boyfriend. I think the daughter should have been more centeral to her life and the bofriend should have had to deal with seeing the mom less often.

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    1. I think that part of dating when you have kids has to include their interaction with your child(ren). How can you make any inferences from how they interact with and treat your child(ren) if you keep them hidden from one another.

      Also, I think it is stupid to get romantically and emotionally involved with someone BEFORE seeing how they are with your child(ren). It would be horribly heartbreaking to develop deep meaningful feelings for someone only to later find out that they would make a horrible step-parent and/or that your child(ren) hate them. You know?

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  6. Ha! This is *exactly* what I was thinking about when I wrote my original comment...that too many people out there have WAY too many judgments about what other people should and should not be doing. It's incredibly easy to hide behind the the title "anonymous" and say whatever the hell you want to someone. And it takes a huge amount of courage to put yourself out there and be honest about your life.

    I think you'll find that there are a lot of people out there who are separated and dating other people before their divorces are made official on paper. I sure did. My man did, too. Hell, I could make a whole list of people in the same situation.

    Don't let some asshat make you feel bad about the choices you're making. There will be people out there judging you regardless of what you do. The only two people you have to answer to at the end of the day are yourself, and your son...and if you can say that you're doing your best then kudos to you, my friend.

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    1. I could not agree with every single word you have said any more than I already do. Not one iota.

      Hateful spite that typically lacks well-founded merit and/or insight is most often spat out by people hiding behind a mask of anonymity. It does take a great deal of courage to blog about my journey and I thank you for acknowledging that. Much appreciated. In fact, any blogging that is deeply personal yet shared publicly takes courage. It isn't for everyone.

      When people can't see what this blog is doing for myself, and for others out there in a supportive sense,, or when they can't even acknowledge that sharing here takes a great deal of courage, I feel sorry for them. By failing to offer constructive criticism instead of dishing out mean-spirited, hateful and snide criticism that borders on insulting and intentionally meant to cut one down, ... well, it is ironic that such actions say a hell of a lot more about the person leaving the comment than they could ever say about me and my life as I share it here.

      That is why I generally allow haters to hate. I leave shit where it lands when people want to throw it at me; more often than not, it doesn't bother me. It usually has the opposite effect, which I've discussed on my blog before in a post titled, "Judgey Wudgey was a Bear".

      http://startingoverwonderful.blogspot.com/2012/02/judgey-wudgey-was-bear.html

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  7. Romance helps to keep marriages healthy and healthy relationships are good for kids. As for single parents, you may or may not find happiness in dating and new romances, especially if you are not happy with yourself. When we hurt and feel alone there is a tendency to look for a relationship so that we will feel better. Hence we can loose ourselves in a love relationship and forget the kids. However, if we have healed from our divorce and feel happy inside, then I see no reason to not date.

    Jacque
    www.yourdivinedivorce.com

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    1. Yes! Thank you!

      I have moved on from my my failed marriage emotionally in many, many aspects. I feel free. Liberated. Relieved. Enlightened. Wonderful!!!

      Navigating effective co-parenting will forever be an ongoing learning experience.

      I won't say I've moved on from the "divorce", because legalistic logistics prevent me from being divorced sooner rather than later unless I had unlimited funds to file a contested divorce proceeding. And I don't.

      Thanks for sharing here! I hope you'll stick around to read more ...

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  8. I'm mostly in agreement in with all that is being said here. Well, with exception of the hater. You're probably right, it's probably someone spying on you from the STBX camp, or the STBX himself. What I love the most about your hater is they talk big but obviously don't have the balls to post as anything other than "anonymous." Anyhoo, I digress. When I left my ex, those who knew me well knew he was my first "partner" so everyone was encouraging me to get out there date...a lot. I had one steadfast rule....my kids never met any man I was dating until (when/if) I met someone worth entering into a relationship and had some sense that it would last. Why? Because they had already been abandoned by one man; I didn't want them to get attached to another man that I was simply dating only to go through a sense of abandonment all over again if it didn't work out.

    But when it comes to love, romance, and sex....you're right, a happy mama = happy kids.

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Have something insightful or intelligent to contribute? Please do. A diverse variety of comments ranging from praise to criticism are welcome here, so long as we all play nice and refrain from hostile hate compounded by ignorance.

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