Just over 12 percent of all family households include a single mother and her children who are under 18-years-old, according to 2012 statistics provided by the U.S. Census Bureau. If your potential romantic partner is one of those single moms, keep in mind that dating a woman with a child from a prior relationship isn't always easy at first. When you make that four, instead of just one child, dating her might seem even more daunting. That said, it's quite possible to successfully navigate her family situation.
Seeking Out a Schedule
Keeping life consistent for the kids is usually a priority of any single mom. After a divorce or separation, it's key for her to continue on with a schedule or routine as a way to provide comfort and a sense of security to her children, according to the KidsHealth website. This may mean following the same daily rituals, such as a bedtime story every night at 8 p.m., or keeping up with carpools and after-school extracurricular activities. When you multiply this by four, it's clear that your girlfriend has her plate full. Don't expect your single-mom-of-four girlfriend to have time for an impromptu night out on the town, or a spur-of-the-moment weekend trip out of town. She may find it challenging to schedule time for you at all -- may need to wait until the kids are with their dad until she can go out on a date. Instead of expecting her to rearrange her family's lives to date you, offer flexible options and work around her schedule.
It isn't necessary for a single mom to introduce her kids to every man she dates casually, as the children may form attachments to a boyfriend, making it tricky for everyone involved if they suddenly stop dating, notes HealthyChildren.org, a website of the American Academy of Pediatrics. With four kids, who have four different personalities, your girlfriend may feel anxious about how each one of her brood will react to meeting you. Don't rush her to introduce you to the kids before she -- and the children -- are ready. This may mean staying away from the house and having dates out instead of spending an evening in watching a movie or having a romantic dinner at her home. If the relationship looks like it's getting serious, then it's time to talk to your girlfriend about planning a first meetup.
Meeting the Individual
If you're ready to meet the kids, keep in mind that they are four individual children, each with his own interests, likes and needs. Choosing activities that play to each child's personality is key. Although at first you might want to try a group or family activity, allowing everyone to get to know you, later on, you should consider individual one-on-one time with each child. When dating gets serious, spending time with each child shows that you care and are interested in them all. For example, take Bobby -- who is an avid baseball player -- to a Sunday afternoon game, take artsy Mary to the museum, stay home and read a book to literature-loving Johnny and watch a DVD with Jane the movie-enthusiast.
Running into Romance
If your single mom date invites you in after an evening out, don't necessarily expect to start getting hot and heavy on the living room couch. Having four kids around often means keeping romance under wraps. Public displays of affection aren't appropriate around your girlfriend's kids, whether they are toddlers or teens, until the relationship is solid, moving toward permanence and the kids are comfortable it. The children may feel territorial or look at you as trying to replace their dad. Although keeping your hands off until all four kids are asleep or are out of the house may seem like a challenge at best, you'll need to pull together your self-control and save the romance until the two of you are alone.
Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.
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