Just the three of us
May 5, 2008 10:45 PM   Subscribe

Single mom/Single parent: How does one go about building a lasting relationship with a single mother, to show her that you will not only be there for her, but also for her son? (She's 22, and he's under five I'm assuming.)

I'm pretty good with kids, but have no experience what-so-ever dealing with a child whose father is not in the picture. (We haven't yet discussed it in length, so I don't know the specifics of who the biological dad is, but I do know that this woman is special, and if there's any chance in hell--I would really, Really like to take things forward with her the best way I can.) Also, for any of the Single Parents out there: what's the best way to proceed in doing this. We've already started talking and have got a good rapport going, and I don't want to mess things up by asking the wrong questions (eg: when do I bring up the topic of her son in a little bit of detail?).

Thank you to anyone in advance who can shed some light on this for me. Much appreciated!
posted by hadjiboy to Human Relations (10 answers total)
Are you still in Hyderabad? And is the woman in question Indian?

I think these details might have some bearing on the answer.
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:23 PM on May 5, 2008

You're sure you like her, and that's a good thing, but you're not even sure how old her son is, which indicates you don't really know her well yet. Have you dated as such yet, or are you still just talking? Ask her out. Talk about your lives. Talk about past relationships. Talk about things you enjoy, that mean a lot to you in life.

If she's a full-time single mother, her child is very important in her life, so the topic is bound to come up. You don't really have to have it all sorted out before the first date, which is what it sounds like you're trying to do. Get to know her better, and things will follow. There's no need to make any definite decisions in advance.

She's probably not sure yet what she thinks of you, either. Even if she's sure she likes you, she may not yet have decided if you're friend, boyfriend, or husband/father material. At the moment you seem to want to be the latter, but once again, you need to get to know her better before you make any decisions.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 11:44 PM on May 5, 2008

Hmm, I didn't really directly answer your question, did I? Basically, the question of her son and her future plans with you will naturally arise from the rapport between the two of you. You're unlikely to be able to mess that up with a "wrong question". You are much more likely to mess it up by being anxious about it. Relax. Be fun and friendly, develop a genuine interest in her, and show you have interests and a life of your own.

Now I personally would not bring it up of my own accord 'til maybe the fourth date, or the date after she slept over, whichever was first, and in that case I'd ask "how do you see things going with us?", and abide by her decision (which may well change later, if she likes you more later). YMMV.

Everyone has issues and obligations of one kind or another. You do as well. The child is (probably) her major dating-related issue and obligation; she may choose to share that part of her life, or she may not. You get some input into that decision too, in accordance with how she values your company.

Of course, she might bring the question up of her own accord ten seconds after she sits down, in which case "Sure, I'll meet your son. I'd like to get to know you better, though," is appropriate. :)
posted by aeschenkarnos at 12:04 AM on May 6, 2008

I was in a similar relationship a few years ago. As a single mum, 90% of her affections are focussed on her kid. That's just default. There will always be four people in the relationship -- you, her, the kid, and the kid's father. The kid's father is the weakest element, of course, but he's there, and there's no getting away from him.

I'd just say that you should embrace the kid. Give him room in your relationship. She and the kid are part of the same entity.
posted by deeper red at 12:45 AM on May 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

I had a relationship of this type for about five years. When it ended, I lost not only her, but the kid. None of which is to discourage you, I merely relate. Her primary bond is with the child.

Good luck, I hope it works out. There's really no reason it shouldn't if all parties are compatible. The child may well be jealous of you, depending on age. This too can pass.
posted by Wolof at 1:01 AM on May 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

You actually cannot truthfully communicate this as you have not met the child. Children, though short, are just like taller people. They come in a very wide variety, and you may find that you detest this child or that he hates you to the point where this is a no-goer. On the other hand, he may be a bucket of charming. You just have no way of knowing. And as everyone else has pointed out, they come as apackage deal.

Tell her that when she is comfortable, you'd love to meet her son. This seems like the most positive way to open up the topic. Single parents tend to be quite protective of their children in this regard because they are quite rightfully trying to preserve the child's sense of stability. Many have criteria whereby only parterns in serious relationships are allowed to meet the kids so that the wee ones are not being presented with, for lack of a better term, a parade of men (or women) who mysteriously disappear at some point.

Also be aware that the circumstances around this kid may potentially be a barrel of hurt for her; there really is no way of knowing until she tells you.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:32 AM on May 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm thinking slow slow slow slow slow slow slow. Like DarlingBri just said, actually meeting the child might not be in the cards for quite some time.

I'd say treat her as you would any other woman; she's a mom, and a single mom, but she's still herself as well. Get to know her, and be yourself. I agree that the conversations about her child will come. Don't be afraid to talk about it, though; it's just as natural a topic as what her interests are, where she lives, etc. It's a huge part of her life after all!
posted by Stewriffic at 3:51 AM on May 6, 2008

How does one go about building a lasting relationship with a single mother, to show her that you will not only be there for her, but also for her son?

Like others have said, slooooooooow down. You barely know this woman. It's very romantic to think of devotion separate from people, but devotion has to be to attached to a person, because otherwise you're just casting a body to fill a hole in your script of Love. Get to know this woman as a person and see if she's even someone you want to "be there for". Worry about the kid later.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:12 AM on May 6, 2008 [3 favorites]

Let her take the lead. It's her kid; she'll decide how much interaction there's going to be and when it's going to happen. You don't need to bring up her son. She will. That's her business and her decision. Just be calm and let her worry about it. If you start going all "Oooooooh, you're so stroooong and I can't waaaait to meet your kid!! Motherhood is goddess like!" trust me, you will creep her out.

Look, I've pretty much always been a single mother. I've also always been upfront about that with any potential partners and even friends. Back in the day, I watched a lot of them bail just as soon as they realized that, yes, I did have kids and yes, I was serious about my kids. That was okay; it weeded out the losers. I also ditched the ones who waxed all weirdly sentimental about motherhood - and the ones who I realized my kids wouldn't like.

If you don't disappear, if you're relaxed and calm, she will assume that you know the score, which is, in short, that the kid is always going to be her first priority. That doesn't mean that you can't have a relationship with a single mother - actually, I'd say that those relationships can be totally wonderful and there is plenty of room in a single mother's heart for a man as well as a child (I am slightly biased, maybe) but if she's a good person her child's needs are always going to come first.
posted by mygothlaundry at 7:55 AM on May 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

Congrats on finding someone you like! I agree with TPS that you should first make sure you really get along with the woman.
That said, here's some advice for the situation with her child:
This is a "show don't tell" situation. Show her that you are there for both of them by always asking about his health, his schooling, what he likes these days. If you demonstrate that you are actually interested in hearing about the kid, and encourage her to tell stories about him, she will get the picture that you care about him and his well-being in addition to hers.
If you've been reluctant or nervous to talk about him so far, start with something non-invasive and light, like "How's X doing? What kinds of toys is he into now?"
I wouldn't ask about the kid's father or anything about their home life or relationship. She can tell you those things when she is ready.
Good luck!
posted by rmless at 8:37 AM on May 6, 2008

« Older Pay for adult screenwriting?   |   Finding the Walls to Breakthrough Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.