Somewhere in the middle of being a mother, you decided to try and be girlfriend, too. It seemed harmless at first. A date here. An overnight there. Fueled by the early days of thrill and oxytocin, you found a way to add another human to your already full platter.
Rowr. You animal you.
Those early days of relationship can fill so many needs we single moms have. Time to be a woman, time to drink wine, time to practice naked yoga. These are serious needs. And they're so fun to fulfill.
But, if you're anything like the rest of us, those carefree days of sweet whimsy all-too-often melt into the mess that is real life. You bend and stretch and work overtime to be both mama and girlfriend, playmate and partner. And suddenly, you crack. Adding a partner to your life can sure as fuck add pressure. We get it. It's normal. It's okay to feel this way.
But when does that feeling mean "be patient" and when does that feeling mean "run like hell'? Our single mom guru, Julie K. weighs in on her Top 10 Questions To Ask Yourself Before a Break-Up. Ten asks to help you sort yourself out. Ten ways to know if you're ready to dive a little deeper, or if it's time to take a breather.
1. “Is it making my life easier?”
A relationship should add something to your life. It's okay to think of it like a math equation. There are costs and benefits, and the benefits should be greater. If you feel as if your relationship is just one more demand on your time (or money) complicating your already hectic life, it's okay to say, buh-bye!.
2. “What do my children think?”
If you've intro'ed the kids to your Red Hawt Lovah, what do they think? They don't necessarily have to love 'em. They don't necessarily need to be loved back. But everyone should be trying to get along. If your relationship is having a noticeable and consistent negative impact on your children (or your relationship with them), it may be time to get your family ducks in a row before inviting in another rooster.
3. “Am I getting help?”
If your Sexy Thang is willing to roll up their sleeves and help out, you may have found a good partner. Perhaps you don't need physical help, but crave emotional attention, friendship, and a sounding board. Is your relationship caring for you in some way? Or are you playing caretaker to one more human? You already have children; you don’t need an adult baby, too.
4. “Are they real?”
Is your partner rockin' unrealistic expectations? Single motherhood requires tremendous support, strength, and flexibility. If you partner is overly black-and-white, can't sit in the grayness of life, or if he requires perfection, predictability, or ever-clean socks, it may be time to let them dream that dream without you.
5. “What do they think of my children?”
Is your partner highly critical of your kids? Then your partner is constantly calling you to the battlefield. Ain't nobody got time for that. Ditch the warlord and find a better fit for co-kid-ing. You may not "need a daddy" for your children, but you still don't deserve a drama queen picking cat fights and waiting for you to clean up the mess. Having a partner that can work through problems with your kids is a crucial skill. If they don't get it, and they aren't actively willing to work on improving it, it might be time to nix that shit.
6. “How do they treat your kids?”
Is your partner capable of letting you be both girlfriend and mommy? Do they make your kids part of your relationship, or do they sulk and sit in the corner until bedtime? Any partner willing to watch you pull the entire load will always be willing to sit back and stare. If they’re not actively making your kids comfy, lending happiness to your home, or helping you with parenting duties, they're showing you just what life will always be like with them. Is that okay for you?
This is a tricky one. Remember, even happily married couples can disagree with childcare and parenting. And even you get exhausted by your kids sometimes. Open the conversation, discuss your hopes and expectations, see if you can collaborate. This can start to set the tone for the rest of your relationship, and can help you see if you're going into this relationship with partner... or a prick.
7. “Are they jealous?”
Everyone has different expectation for a relationship. But, most Single Mamas have the same basic relationship need--evolved humanness. This is not a gig for the self-centered, self-involved, or selfish. It's most certainly not a good fit if your guy gets jealous of your time, your ex, or your children. You should never have to choose a relationship over the responsibilities you've chosen to meet. If your partner demands to be the center of your life, it's time to remind them just how big and wonderful your life is...especially without someone so small in it.
8. “Do you want the same type of relationship?”
Is he in it for the long haul or just having fun? For a relationship to work you have to be on the same page. If he's packing to move in and you just want to grab Chinese, or he wants to stay casual forever when you are ready to make a commitment, don’t spend the time trying to reconcile. You can’t change his wants or your needs. If you aren’t on the same page, it might be time to see what's next in your story.
9. “Can he share?”
If you're with a guy who's downright selfish about his money, about his time, or about your time and about your money (Alright...this one really comes down to love and money, ladies.), it's not worth it. Selfishness has no space in a single mom relationship. Don't waste another penny on the miser and embrace the abundance to be found when you're unattached. Feeling like you're always squeezing everything to fit a tightass sphincter is for proctologists, not savvy single parents like you.
10. “Is this The One?”
No matter how you feel about "love ever after," it's wise to enter relationships with intention. Whether you want wedding bells or not, if a partner makes waves in your world--and in the world of your children, wedding bells can sound more like clanging. Are those waves moving you toward a more peaceful, positive shore, or are they stranding you somewhere you don't really want to be? Don’t hang on to relationship just simply because you don’t want to be alone. Settle into the things that will certainly be here tomorrow...you, your kids, and that pile of dishes.
And they say nothing lasts forever.
Julie Keating is a full-time freelance writer, widowed for 5-years, mom of 6. When not writing about the medical establishment, we're fairly certain she's winning the Nobel Peace Prize for Love Advice. That's a thing, right?