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A recent letter from the mother of a 30-year-old divorcee with a three-year-old daughter really pushed my buttons.
“My daughter and granddaughter live with us and I take care of my granddaughter when her mother works as the father contributes nothing. We ask nothing from our daughter so basically she lives in a nice home with a full-time cook, housekeeper, and child caregiver. My daughter told me she met a man on the internet and is going to fly across the country to meet him. When I asked her what about her daughter she told me a friend volunteered to take care of her so I wouldn’t have to. My daughter said she doesn’t want to look back five years from now and realize she missed a chance to spend a weekend with this guy.”
My answer: “Bummer, you have a flaky daughter. It might be OK for her to do foolish and possibly dangerous things except for the fact she is responsible for her daughter. As it is likely your daughter’s friends are also flaky, tell her that if she chooses to go out of town, your granddaughter will stay with you in what is now her home. It would be too disruptive to have Mommy gone and be in a strange house too. I feel strongly that your daughter should put her own wants on hold, go back to school to get a better job so she can take care of her daughter by herself. She should be more worried about the effects this fling could have on her daughter now and in her future than how she herself might feel in five years. PS If she has money to fly to meet this guy she certainly has money to pay you for rent and child care.”
Post-divorce dating is serious business when children are involved. Everybody is hurting after a divorce. I sympathize with this young woman who has had a tough time emotionally, had to move back in her mother’s home which can be traumatic for an adult, and has to support her daughter by herself. Sure she wants to have some fun although looking for it on the internet is not what a responsible mother does.
But as far as I am concerned there are rules of behavior for newly-divorced mothers when it comes to post-divorce dating. Such rules keep you from doing dumb things.
Put your children first. Yes, put their welfare first. Think of their needs and wants and what is best for them before you start thinking about your wants. The children are your responsibility.
Second, don’t date for a big chunk of time like a year. Spend that time regrouping, figuring who YOU are now that you’re not Tom’s wife. Think about your future and ways you can optimize your income so that you can take care of your children and yourself. By all means socialize with friends but put the dating–which can be defined as looking for a new spouse or at least a new relationship–on hold.
Divorced persons are very vulnerable, especially right after the divorce. The stats are awful. Most divorced people remarry and many of these end up going through another divorce.
So when you do start dating do not introduce the new person in your life to your kids until you are pretty darn sure this is going to be a permanent thing.
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