Jump directly to the Content

Single Parenting

Walking the Tightrope: I was struggling to balance my career and my kids. Was I ready to add romance, too?

My kids couldn't wait to see the Ringling Brothers' Barnum & Bailey Circus, but I was a nervous wreck. Ray, a man I had been dating for several months, had come with us. This was my first "real" long-term dating relationship since my divorce, and I finally mustered the courage to have Ray meet my kids.

As we entered the auditorium, my son, Nik, reached for Ray's hand. Instantly, all the "what-ifs" of dating as a single parent came rushing to my mind. What if this dating relationship doesn't develop into what I desire? What if I simply don't have the emotional energy to make it work? What if the kids become emotionally attached to Ray but I don't want to date him anymore?

Back in the center ring, a clown began spinning plates on long poles. He kept running back and forth to keep them all twirling. Yep. That's me! Dating had become another "plate" for me to spin. Like the clown, I ran, slipped and fell in my awkward attempts to keep all my plates moving. The effort was exhausting.

In the ring to the right, I watched a man walking a tightrope. Like him, I was trying to balance my career, my kids and my social life. I stared at him and held my breath. There was no safety net below him. I sighed and prayed silently, Lord, where would I be without your net? Deuteronomy 33:27 spoke to my soul: "The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms." Yet even though we cross life's highwire with God's safety net below, our days are filled with risk-taking adventures. Dating is one of them, and watching this circus performer walk along the tightrope reminded me of my own tenuous emotional footing.

In the ring to the left, a woman jumped from horse to horse, landing solidly on each one. What precision! What trust! The hours of practice she had put in with each horse were obvious. Dating requires a similar level of commitment. A relationship won't deepen emotionally or spiritually without a significant investment of time and effort. As a working mother who already felt tapped out at the end of the day, I had to ask myself, Am I willing to make that investment?

Later that night, I tucked Nik into bed. "Mom, I want a daddy," he said. "Sweetie, you already have one." "No, Mom, I want a daddy that lives here every day. Can Ray be my daddy?" I held Nik's hands and squeezed them as tears filled my eyes. "I know you miss having Daddy in our house, and it has been very hard, but Mommy isn't ready to be married again. I need time. I think all of us do."

As I closed my son's door behind me, I realized I wasn't ready to join the dating circus?at least not right then. I didn't have the time or the energy. Most importantly, my children needed me to focus on them for a time. Suddenly Luke 14:28 made sense: "Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?" It became obvious my "tower" would have to be completed at another time.

Over the past 15 years, certain guiding principles have helped me make healthier dating decisions: 1) Don't date after a crisis (e.g. divorce, death, loss of job, moving). Everyone in the family needs time to adjust to change, sometimes up to two years. 2) Think twice before introducing your children to someone new. Young children can attach quickly and older children can resent someone else taking up your time and attention. Meet your date somewhere other than your home until you're sure the relationship will last. 3) Only the parent should discipline the children. If your date is frustrated by your parenting decisions, that needs to be discussed away from the children.

Dating as a single parent is never simple. But as in all things, we can trust that our Heavenly Father is holding out his loving arms to catch us when we fall.

Barbara Schiller is the executive director of Single Parent Family Resources www.singleparentfamilyresources.com. To respond, e-mail bschil4150@aol.com

We'd really like to know what you think about this article!
Is this the kind of article you'd like to see more of?
Is there a topic you'd like us to cover?
Please send your suggestions tocpt@christianparenting.net

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

Free CT Women Newsletter

Sign up for our Weekly newsletter: CT's weekly newsletter to help you make sense of how faith and family intersect with the world.

Read These Next


Join in the conversation on Facebook or Twitter

Follow Us

More Newsletters