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Archive for the 'Dating' Category

The Separated Man

January
24

 This is a process, this whole separeted/divorced thing. I’m sure there’s a study somewhere that breaks it down scientifically. Some would likely say you go through the stages of death. Others would say it’s just that — a process.

Well, if you’re in that boat, you have your own version. It’s never easy to split from your mate, and particularly so if you have kids in the mix. There’s hurt, guilt, anger, etc. If you’ve read my blog with any regularity, you know that the kids in the mix is always a priority for me, whatever the dynamics.

But there’s also comfort in knowing you’re not the only one that went through it. And sometimes the web is the best place to find a diary of the process. That’s how I came upon Richard, otherwise known as the blogger, “The Separated Man.”:http://separatedman.blogware.com/blog

He brings his own story to the table, and does a good job of being open, honest and blunt about the emotions and trials he’s going through. He’s also in the minority, as he’s a single dad blogging about his experiences. Statiscally, separated/divorced dads are fewer in numbers than single moms, so it stands to reason that there’d be fewer of us blogging out there.

So, Richard becomes the latest member of the network of single/separated/divorced parents I’m trying to build. My ultimate goal is to link moms and dads in those situations through our blogs. Hope you’ll find The Separated Man a good addition.

And check out the blogroll on the main Parents Place site. Always open to new adds.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Thursday, January 24th, 2008 at 7:31 pm |
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The online scene

January
16

There’s little doubt that Internet dating is increasingly popular among single parents. I mean, most single parents I know are looking for a companion, and a lot of them are turning to the web to restart their social lives. A lot of them.

I think it’s for obvious reasons: Single parents have less free time to get involved in traditional dating rituals, less patience for the “dating game,” and, since they’ve likely been “burned” in some relationship capacity, they like being able to surf profiles to be more selective about who they express interest in. With kids in the picture, being selective is particularly appealing.

Personally, I don’t know too many single parents who haven’t delved into it in some capacity. I do know some who have met mates through groups like “Parents Without Partners,”:http://www.parentswithoutpartners.org preferring the face-to-face encounters that offers, as well as the child-friendly atmosphere it provides. But most folks I know like the convenience of the Internet, and know that the stigma and fear of online dating seems to have subsided a bit in recent years among both parents and non-parents.

But how does one get involved? The top dating sites are certainly active, but not particularly designed for single parents. If you’re considering it, the advice I give single-parent friends is to surf around and read up on some single-parent dating sites. There are plenty out there. But avoid “younger” sites, and hunt down what appeals to you. Then be selective and don’t compromise.

One single-dad blogger who reached out to me this week is putting together an online site that seeks to help. It’s not a dating site per se, but “Single Parent Romance”:http://www.singleparentromance.com offers links to some. More importantly, he’s putting together a list of online resources for single parents and will link relevant blogs in an attempt to create an online community.

I’d put it out there as a good starting point. And remember, while it’s not for everyone, there’s nothing wrong with having options.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Wednesday, January 16th, 2008 at 2:49 pm |
| | 6 Comments »

The dreaded teen years

January
8

Okay, this is way premature: My son is just 10.

But I’ve always accepted that my time with him is limited. We buddy around now and go on treks together, share movies and even joust in X-Box contests now and again. But what happens when he hits the teen years? That’s when dad has to drop him off around the corner so his friends won’t see him with me. It’s inevitable, isn’t it?

This came to mind this week when a colleague of mine told me the latest news about his 15-year-old. Both our sons take guitar lessons and fool around with the six-strings, so we’re always checking in on their progress. This week he tells me his boy has turned in his guitar for text-messaging. In other words, he has a girlfriend.

Now, my girlfriend’s 3-year-old has a girlfriend too. Of course, in pre-K it’s a slightly different dynamic. My son is in fifth grade, and had his first kiss in kindergarten. He has had a girl or two chasing him over the years. He’s still at that age where he blushes at the mere mention of that first kiss, but two girls in particular always come up year after year.

Anyway, the girlfriend isn’t even the ultimate point. It’s more a matter of losing some part of that father-son bond when my boy hits the teens. I know of cases where it hasn’t worked that way, but a lot more where it has. For instance, I have one cousin who remained close with her boys during those years, largely by staying current on the latest video games and playing with them frequently. Another cousin left home early in his teen years due to his inability to relate in any way to his parents.

Will my son be one or the other extreme? Or somewhere in the middle? I bring this up to him now and again, and he tells me that’ll never happen. He’ll always be my buddy. God bless his little heart for saying so.

But, as much as it as a rite of passage of sorts, I do dread it. I mean, isn’t it just a matter of time?

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Tuesday, January 8th, 2008 at 5:53 pm |
| | 5 Comments »

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Single mom appeal

December
28

Single-mom blogger and author “Rachel Sarah”:http://singlemomseeking.com/bio.html recently asked me about dating single moms, and particularly what’s appealing about them. Well, seeing as how I’m a divorced dad, my girlfriend is a single mom, and I dated a few single moms prior to meeting her and starting a blended family of our own, Rachel figured I might have some opinions.

Any one who knows me is well aware that I always have an opinion, which I will gladly voice at great length. So, true to form, I shared my thoughts with Rachel, which she has “posted on her blog”:http://singlemomseeking.com/blog/2007/12/27/why-2008-will-be-the-hottest-for-single-moms this week. She included input from a couple of other single parents to put together an interesting, honest and intriguing posting on the subject.

Rachel, who writes from the West Coast, does an excellent job overall on her blog, and has “published a book”:http://www.amazon.com/Single-Mom-Seeking-Playdates-Dispatches/dp/1580051669 on her single-mom experiences. I hope you’ll all read her stuff, particularly the single parents out there. Never enough voices on this, and hers is worth hearing.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Friday, December 28th, 2007 at 1:27 pm |
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Single-parent dating quiz

November
12

Every single parent has to make their own choice on when they’re ready to date. But why not test yourself?

I was surfing some Internet single-parent and parenting sites and came across this tidbit on the “About.com single-parent site,”:http://singleparents.about.com which I check out from time to time. And there I found this quick quiz, which apparently allows you to assess your readiness for dating if you’re a single parent. The test includes several levels of difficulty, which basically means you can control the number of questions you’re asked.

As I said, it’s a significant decision to make when you’re a parent and you’re starting to date again. But “take the quiz yourself”:http://singleparents.about.com/library/quiz/bl_online_dating_quiz.htm and see what you think. At the very minimum you’ll have some fun. And on the upside, it may help you make up your mind after all.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Monday, November 12th, 2007 at 4:27 pm |
| | 5 Comments »

What’s in a name?

October
8

What the heck are we supposed to call each other? I mean, we have this new family unit here, with two adults and two little boys. And the question has popped up a few times: What does my son call my girlfriend, and what does her son call me? In fact, what do we call each other? 

The first part is actually the easiest. The kids call us by our first names. Obviously, neither one of us wants to be called “mom” or “dad,” because that’s just not the case, and it’s also not fair to their actual mom and dad, as the case may be.

The part I’m most perplexed about is how the kids should refer to us to other people — and how we should refer to each other. My son refers to my girlfriend as, well, his dad’s girlfriend. That’s obviously accurate, and it’s the term I settle on by default. And if we end up getting married, then the kids get an out: “Stepmom” or “stepdad.”

But isn’t there a better term for people in our present situation? I’m 45 and she’s 36. “Girlfriend” and “boyfriend” just seem like odd terms for people at our stages in life. We’ve joked about alternatives, and the folks at the office have had a chuckle over this. I’ll spare you some of those suggestions.

“Partner” seems odd, because it sounds like a business transaction. “Mate” doesn’t necessarily work. “Companion” seems like the term for a puppy that keeps you company. And I think the term we settle on is relatively important, as it can help the kids define the roles in the home. My son’s relationship with my girlfriend is more significant than just a woman his dad is dating and lives with. She co-parents.

So maybe this calls for a contest of some sort.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Monday, October 8th, 2007 at 8:44 am |
| | 13 Comments »

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Dating again

September
28

One of the key questions for a single parent who wants to date is “when.”

Most single parents I know are dating for the first time in years, and now have to juggle time with the kids and all the issues that brings. I’ve found many of them are more comfortable with online dating, simply because the traditional dating places and rituals just aren’t appealing. They’ve just matured since they first met their ex — the last time most have dated.

The answer to the “when” to date question varies, simply because there are nuances to every single-parent situation, and you know our emotional readiness best. Parents also differ on the other “when” question of when to introduce your children to a dating partner. Obviously, it depends largely on the seriousness — and future potential — of the relationship. But it varies. I have one friend who dated someone of two years and never introduced him to her son. (There are issues there for another discussion).

Personally, I think you have to start by asking yourself some questions, about why you want to date again, how willing or able you are to discuss it with your children, and how prepared you think they are for a new relationship in your life. In general, I think you need to ask yourself what you hope for in a relationship first.

Anyway, it’s important to talk this through, particularly with other single parents. I found a pretty good piece on the subject from The Hartford Courant that was carried on the newswire. See what you think:

By Kathleen Megan

The Hartford Courant

The cell-phone calls would start a couple hours after she left. “Mom, it’s 10 o’clock, when are you coming home?�
And later, “Mom, where are you now, Mom?�
When Anita Garvey started dating a couple years after her divorce, her teen daughters said they were happy for her, but even so, it wasn’t easy on the kids — or Garvey.
“It was almost like I was a teenager. It was like a role reversal,� said Garvey, who was divorced four years ago. It was perhaps made harder, she said, because she had been an at-home mom for most of her children’s lives, leaving the house to work only six years ago.
“They were used to having me 24/7,� said Garvey, of South Windsor, Conn . “Working was a little hard for them to digest, and then divorce was hard for them, and then when I started dating, I could sense they felt me pulling away.�
Finally, one of her daughters said, “Mom, you know, I’m not liking this too much.�
For parents who are navigating the dating scene in search of a new partner, the process of parenting while on the prowl is delicate at best.
The challenges for a single parent range from the practical — finding the time, a sitter and a date — to the complex: gauging whether you are ready for a relationship, what your child’s emotional reaction is, whether the date has long-term potential. All of this may make it seem easier to simply wait until the kids are out of the house.
But even then there can be problems — twentysomethings have been known to dislike mom’s boyfriend as much as 12-year-olds — so it’s probably worth proceeding when you feel you’re ready, experts say. With 25 percent of families with children in homes run by single parents, according to 2006 U.S. Census Bureau figures, you’ll have plenty of company.
Here is some advice from experts and parents who have been there.
First, make sure you are ready to date, said Donna Ferber, a licensed professional counselor in Farmington, Conn., with a specialty in life transitions and author of “From Ex-Wife to Exceptional Life: A Woman’s Journey through Divorce.� When a marriage has ended in divorce, Ferber said, “It’s good to take the time to learn what went wrong before anesthetizing with a new relationship.�
Priscilla Dunstan, an Australia-based specialist on communication with children — known internationally as the “baby listenerâ€? — and a single mother herself, suggests setting up social and recreational times with friends from the beginning. This gives you social support, while also getting your children used to the idea that you need time for a social life, too. This way, Dunstan said, “when you start dating … your children won’t feel that your date is taking up their time with you, it’s just a regular night out.â€?
If there’s one mistake that gets made too often, according to Ferber, it’s introducing children to a partner before the child is ready or before the parent knows whether the person has much potential for a stable relationship.
“The child may not be through grieving,� Ferber said . “The parent may feel like this is something new and exciting, but their child may not be on the same page.�
“Secondly, if you do connect and then break up, the child experiences a loss all over again,� Ferber said .
Dale Macken, who was divorced 14 years ago when his children were 4 and 1, said that over the years he’d never introduce a new girlfriend to his daughters until he was fairly certain the relationship would be long-term.
And when he did introduce a date to his daughter, he’d call the woman simply a “friend.�
“But Dad, they are ‘girls,’ and they are ‘friends,’ so they are your ‘girlfriends,�’ he recalls his daughter once saying to him. “No, honey,� he’d tell her, “they are friends who are girls.�
Macken, who lives in Bristol, Conn., joined a singles group at his church. He liked it because he could get to know a woman first in a group setting before thinking about a romantic involvement. Macken and Garvey are now dating.
It’s “a slippery slope� deciding when to introduce kids to a potential mate, Ferber said.
A Bristol mother, who did not want her name published, said she probably introduced her two young sons too early to one boyfriend. “In the beginning you are naive about dating, at least I was,� she said. “This boyfriend, he made promises and then basically walked out. My children were kind of soured on me dating after that.�
That was two years ago, and the Bristol mom has been more careful since then about whom she introduces to her sons. She said she senses that her sons, ages 17 and 14 now, “are comfortable with the way things are. … They don’t want to meet anyone unless it’s serious, and they probably would prefer no one at all.â€?
Dunstan said in an e-mail, “Your family home is a sanctuary, not only for you, but especially for your children. It is therefore extremely important that you are guarded with whom you let into that sanctuary.�
If you’re not sure where the relationship is headed, Dunstan suggests seeing the person when the children are not home or going somewhere else.
Jeff Palitz, a licensed marriage and family therapist in San Diego, said he knew of some parents who wouldn’t introduce the kids to a love interest until the relationship had lasted six months or longer. “I’m not sure that extreme is really necessary,� Palitz said .
Therapists advise against inviting a date to sleep over when the kids are home. “This is their house, and they shouldn’t be intruded upon,� Garvey said . “I try to put myself in their shoes.�
But what if, after all the conversations, your child doesn’t want you to date or doesn’t particularly like the person you are dating?
Usually this is less about the person and more about the child’s grief about the divorce or a parent’s death.
Palitz encourages parents to keep talking to children. It’s natural for a child to act out or start to regress if they are going through a difficult time, he said. Keep open the possibility of getting therapy for the child.
There are some parents who say “if my kid doesn’t like you, you’re out,� Palitz said . In general, most experts say that approach gives the child too much power.
Palitz said some parents talk about waiting until the child is “healed� from a divorce or a death before they begin to date.
“They could be waiting forever,� he said. “So they may need to make a decision that they are going to start dating — and that may actually help the child move forward.�
If a child continues to hate the boyfriend or girlfriend, Palitz said, “parents have to be very careful to be respectful of children’s feelings, to hear them and acknowledge them, but the child is also expected to treat the significant other with respect. They don’t have to like them, but they need to be respectful.�
However, if a child persists in disliking your love interest, Palitz said, it’s worth looking closely at the relationship to make sure the child isn’t picking up on something you’ve overlooked.
Distributed by the Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Friday, September 28th, 2007 at 2:03 pm |
| | 7 Comments »

Single… by the numbers

September
19

Leave it to the U.S. Census Bureau to stay on top of National Singles Week. Actually, the bureau does this every year, releasing a “fact sheet” on singles and single parents to coincide with singles week. This year, it’s this week.

Among the findings in this year’s version: There were 12.9 million single parents living with their children as of last year — 10.4 million of them women. In all, 9 percent of the nation’s households were headed by a single parent in 2006, up from 5 percent in 1970. You can “read the rest here”:http://www.census.gov/Press-Release/www/releases/archives/facts_for_features_special_editions/010329.html.

On a related issue, the Census Bureau also announced new data on marriage trends today. Here is the news release on it with some of the highlights:

Most People Make Only One Trip Down the Aisle,
But First Marriages Shorter, Census Bureau Reports

In 2004, most people in the United States had married only once, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Marriage and Divorce: 2004 said 58 percent of women and 54 percent of men 15 and older had made 0nly one trip down the aisle.

The Census Bureau also reported first marriages for women during the peak of the baby boom lasted longer than recent marriages. Of the first marriages for women from 1955 to 1959, about 79 percent marked their 15th anniversary, compared with only 57 percent for women who married for the first time from 1985 to 1989.

People born in the leading edge of the baby boom experienced high divorce rates in the 1970s and 1980s. About 38 percent of men born from 1945 to 1954 and 41 percent of women in the same age group had been divorced by 2004.

Other highlights:

• On average, first marriages that end in divorce last about eight years.

• The median time between divorce and a second marriage was about three and a half years.

• In 2004, 12 percent of men and 13 percent of women had married twice, and 3 percent each had married three or more times.

• Among adults 25 and older who had ever divorced, 52 percent of men and 44 percent of women were currently married.

• Just over half of currently married women in 2004 had been married for at least 15 years, and 6 percent had been married at least 50 years.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Wednesday, September 19th, 2007 at 1:05 pm |
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It’s good to be a single parent

September
17

Single parents are as happy, if not more so, than married folks. At least that’s what Yahoo! Personals says in a new survey timed to coincide with the start of National Singles Week today.

Now, keep in mind that the survey was conducted by an online dating site, so the results may mirror that. (Note the Yahoo! plug at the end of the article). But I’m a big believer in making the most of what you’re dealt, and taking an optimistic view of life. So this may provide a boost for single parents who occasionally feel overburdened and down on life.

Here’s a newswire article with some of the details:

SUNNYVALE, Calif—(BUSINESS WIRE)—Sep. 17, 2007—Contrary to popular opinion, married (1) people don’t have the edge over singles when it comes to happiness. Just in time for National Singles Week (September 17 -21), a new survey commissioned by Yahoo! Personals and conducted by Harris Interactive(R) reveals that singles, including single parents, view themselves as more so or just as happy, financially secure, and adventurous as their married counterparts. Almost nine out of 10 singles (88 percent) say they are just as, if not more, happy than their married counterparts.
The survey also found that while single parents list finding someone as the most challenging aspect of dating, they face a unique test when deciding how to introduce a date to their children. Twenty eight percent of single parents wait until they envision a future with their significant other before introducing him/her to their children. At the other end of the spectrum, 19 percent bite the bullet and make the introductions when they first start dating.
“It has never been a better time to be a single parent and looking for that special someone,” said Anna Zornosa, vice president and general manager of Yahoo! Personals, the most visited online dating service. “Single parents are typically in a social circle filled with married parents. Online dating expands the dating pool, helping single parents find potential dates who are open to dating someone with children more easily.”
Single and Enjoying Life
The survey results about singles’ lives add context to a U.S. Census Bureau announcement earlier this year that more American women were living without husbands than with them, and a 2005 finding that for the first time, married couples had become a minority of all U.S. households.
When asked about how they perceive themselves in relation to their married friends:
• 88 percent of all singles surveyed say they are just as, if not more, happy;
• 81 percent feel they are just as, or more, successful in their career;
• 72 percent feel they are just as, or more, financially secure;
• 84 percent say they are just as, or more, open to new experiences; and
• 78 percent feel that they are just as, or more, physically fit.
The survey also showed that only 30 percent of singles feel that they are more self-indulgent than their married counterparts. In contrast, 39 percent of married respondents feel that they are just as, or more, self-indulgent than their single friends.
“Compared with their married friends, singles see themselves as getting more out of life,” says Caroline Presno, a psychotherapist, and author of “Profiling Your Date, A Smart Woman’s Guide to Evaluating a Man. “This study suggests that singles are seeing their lives as an adventure, and that they perceive no ’happiness gap’ compared to married friends.”
Bruce Willis: Most Admired Single Parent
Yahoo! Personals also asked single parents which single celebrity parent they most admire. Topping the list was Bruce Willis with 28 percent of the vote. The father of three received more than double the amount of votes as Reese Witherspoon, who came in with 12 percent. Britney Spears and Kevin Federline came in with an extremely low percentage of votes, with Britney receiving 2 percent and Kevin receiving 1 percent. Also on the list was Diane Keaton (6 percent), P. Diddy (5 percent), and Sheryl Crow (4 percent).
Sexy Sells! Singles Reveal Their Celebrity Favorites
Yahoo! Personals also asked singles which celebrity they would most want to date, and topping the lists were some of the sexiest celebrities in America. Out of the single celebrity males, People’s 2006 “Sexiest Man Alive,” George Clooney, received 20 percent of the single female vote for who they would most want to date. People’s 2005 “Sexiest Man Alive,” Matthew McConaughey, was not far behind on the list with 13 percent of the vote. Also included on the list: Andy Roddick (5 percent), Derek Jeter (4 percent), and Ricky Martin (3 percent).
When single males were asked which single celebrity female they would most like to date, FHM’s 2007 “Sexiest Woman,” Jessica Alba, topped the list with 28 percent of the vote. Jennifer Aniston was not far behind with 11 percent of the vote, Queen Latifah got 7 percent of the vote, and Jessica Simpson finished with only 6 percent of the vote. Also included on the list: Maria Sharapova (3 percent), Sandra Oh (1 percent), and Padma Lakshmi (1 percent), host of Top Chef.
About Yahoo! Personals
Yahoo! Personals was first introduced in the U.S. in 1997 and has grown to become one of the leading and most popular online dating services available. The service offers a large, dynamic dating scene where users can search for, meet and communicate with a variety of people. For more information, visit http://personals.yahoo.com.
About the survey:
The Yahoo! Personals Singles survey was conducted by telephone within the United States between August 16 and August 19 among 1,005 U.S. adults ages 18+. Results were weighted for age, sex, geographic region, and race where necessary to align them with their actual proportions in the population.
All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments.
Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words “margin of error” as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100 percent response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.
(1) For the purposes of this study “married adults” are defined as U.S. adults ages 18+ who are married or living as a married.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Monday, September 17th, 2007 at 10:58 am |
| | 6 Comments »

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(Step)parent balancing act

September
12

Alvin Toffler once wrote that parenthood remains the greatest single preserve of the amateur. I wonder what he might have had to say about step-parenting.

With my girlfriend and I and our two boys now sharing a roof, I’m realizing that parenting her son will be something of a balancing act. He’s a great kid, with unusually good manners for a 3-year-old. But he is 3, and going through a transition on various levels, which will mean there is a period of adjustment coming up.

We’re both acutely aware that we need to keep an eye on both boys while the move takes hold, and we’re both acting accordingly. But there’s a period of adjustment for the adults too. For instance, I’m still trying to set the parameters for my relationship with my girlfriend’s son. He’s a tad confused by me, and my role in his life. From my end, I have to fight the tendency to spoil him so he’ll like me, while also being cautious not to come down too hard on the other end and be too strict.

Don’t get me wrong: So far, so good. Both boys are happy and seem to be enjoying our new home. But as I think down the line, we need to fine tune the roles we will play as parents to each other’s children. I think the fact that we’re discussing it and dwelling on it is a good sign, even if we do feel like amateurs at times.

Anyway, stay tuned. We’ll see how this goes.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Wednesday, September 12th, 2007 at 3:44 pm |
| | 4 Comments »

The countdown begins

August
14

Our big move is set for Labor Day weekend. That’s when my girlfriend and I will merge our two mini-families into one.

There’s no shortage of stress associated with the move, but we’ve been careful to make it smooth for our two boys. Frankly, I think I’m most stressed about the physical move: The act of actually moving stuff from one place to the next. I’ve always hated moving, and the friends who helped me last time I relocated still curse me for all the unnecessary junk I couldn’t part with and that they had to lug upstairs.

I think our families are a tad concerned as well, largely because there are two little boys involved. I can entirely understand this. Some of it is unavoidable, and I think there will be a period of transition for the boys.

We’ve done as much as we could to ensure a smooth move for the kids. My girlfriend’s son is 3, so changing schools won’t be a problem. He will swap day care centers, but we found an excellent one that he took to on his visit, and we were able to get a spot after a couple of months on the waiting list.

After he settles in, we think he’ll benefit greatly from having a more permanent home: He currently spends time with me and my son, with his dad, and with his mom at their place. It’s a bit much for a 3-year-old, and I think this is one of the most difficult things for the child of a single parent who dates: A lack of a sense of place. The transition to a new family setting may be a bit unnerving for a child, but if the home is loving and caring — which this one will be — it is a huge benefit in the end. Both boys, I think, will be more secure in having a place where they belong.

It’s a slightly different set of hurdles for my 9-year-old son. His mom recently remarried, so he already has a stepbrother and will have two homes where he spends equal time. (My girlfriend’s son spends considerably less time at his dad’s house). So, how have we worked on that transition?

Talk, talk, talk. My son and I have spoken at length about the move, and he genuinely looks forward to it. We have involved him in all the decisions, including how to rearrange furniture — what to get rid of, what to keep. We made it clear his space will be his, and we are going to add some posters and personal items.

We also made it clear there will be time alone. That is, I will have  time to be alone with my son, and my girlfriend with her son. But this is where the balancing act lies, because it is important to us that we live and play as a family, not as two mini-families that simply share a household. I know parents in similar situations who continue to parent their own child separately after moving in with their partner and their child. This essentially creates a sort of sub-family within the new family. For us, it will be important to genuinely become a blended family. After all, and despite the age difference, the boys get along well and my son has taken to the role of being an older brother looking out for the little one.

So, we will mix it up. But we feel it is most important that, despite alone time with our boys, there is more together time as a family. What do you think?

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Tuesday, August 14th, 2007 at 9:42 am |
| | 2 Comments »

How much is too much?

June
24

Is there such a thing as being too friendly with the ex?

A single-parent friend of mine recently updated me on her budding romance with a single dad. Things are great between them. But his ex is kind of in the picture. For instance, they came home from a short vacation not long ago only to find his ex lounging in his living room. He’s also taken vacations to go out of town without her to visit his ex and her new husband. When confronted, he contends he wants a close relationship with his ex for the childrens’ sake — no doubt a valid reason.

Anyone who reads my blog knows my feeling on this. My ex and I are close friends: Just yesterday, my girlfriend and I took my son on a playdate with my ex’s fiance, his son and his parents at the new splash park on the Ossining waterfront (well worth a visit, by the way). And my ex and I have keys to each others’ homes as well. She’ll feed my fish when I’m away, I’ll get their mail when they’re away, I’ll drop my son off there and wait for them, etc.

But is there a line that shouldn’t be crossed? Last year, I raised the issue with my ex and her fiance about my access to their home. By the nature of our custody situation, I normally pick up my son once or twice a week and take him to his mom’s house. No one’s home when I do this, and my son and I will wait until one of them gets home. I felt uneasy enough to raise the issue with them, as to whether they — particularly her fiance — were uncomfortable with me letting myself into what is now his home as well.

They were both fine with it. Still, would they feel the same way if I let myself in without a specific purpose? If I decided to stop in, make a sandwich, watch the Yankee game on their substantially bigger TV? Probably not. I would think that to be an entirely different situation. Could I still make the case that it’s best for my son to have that level of closeness?

Or maybe my friend needs to have a talk with her boyfriend about his ex. What do you think?

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Sunday, June 24th, 2007 at 2:45 pm |
| | 2 Comments »

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The big merge

June
7

Our big vacation this year is in five weeks, when we’re set to spend a week in the Carolinas. By we I mean myself, my son, my girlfriend and her little boy. Obviously, it can’t get here fast enough for all the typical reasons: I’ll be on the beach for a week and won’t have to think about the office.

But there’s more. My girlfriend and I have been talking for months about moving in together, and we’ve finally decided to shoot for late August as the date to merge our mini-families. So the Hilton Head trip has become something of a dry run. Of course, we’ve had plenty of nights and weekends when we’re all together. But this will give us an entire week to function as a family. Much as we both look forward to it, there are a number of other emotions that range from curiosity to flat-out fear.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out the issue here: The kids. Moving in with a girlfriend/boyfriend is a big step for anyone. When you’re a single parent, there’s the obvious added dynamic. I like to say that single parents don’t just have baggage: They have a carry-on bag.

Much has been written on this, particularly as it affects the children. Online help sites “such as this”:http://life.familyeducation.com/stepfamilies/marriage/47533.html offer suggestions that seem basic. But I find that a check list of sorts is a good thing to have. As for me, I’ve spent a great deal of time discussing it with my son, who will have to share his room and his space with two new people, including a 3-year-old. Since he’s 9, the age difference will be a challenge because it puts him more in a big, big brother role, not necessarily that of a playmate.

My girlfriend and I have also spoken much —and I mean at great length — about this move, and continue to do so. We would not have considered it if we didn’t have the deepest respect for each other as parents, the deepest affection for our respective children, and the fullest understanding that this is where we want our lives to go. Our ex’s are also on board with the notion, which helps from the perspective of having support as we go through it.

As for the kids, I have begun including my son in decisions as they’re discussed and gotten input from him on certain things. For instance, we talk about how the apartment in general and his room in particular will be rearranged. He has gone through a similar transition with his mom, which helps. In fact, his mom is on the verge of re-marrying this month, which will give my son the brother he’s always wanted.

But no matter how much preparation there is, we are aware there will be a few bumps here and there. We won’t really know for sure until we make the move. A week at the beach will be a nice test-run. And I’ll get a tan in the process. Anyway, I’m sure there are more than a few of you out there who have gone through the process with your kids. I would love to hear the lessons learned.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Thursday, June 7th, 2007 at 2:17 pm |
| | Comments Off on The big merge

Single parent workshop

April
9

I want to fill in the blanks on my earlier post on the Greenburgh singles event this Friday. For those of you who didn’t see it – or are too lazy to scroll down — it’s titled “Dating Strategies for Single Parents Workshop” at the Theodore D. Young Community Center on Manhattan Avenue in Greenburgh. It’s at 7:30 p.m. on the second floor.

The event is open to all, not just town residents, and is sponsored by “Gramatan Singles”:http://gramatansingles.com, a local group that hosts regular events for single folks, including those of us living in one-parent households at least some of the time. I’ve added them to my single-parenting links and will keep up to date on their events.

In the meantime, George Coniglio is in charge of the Greenburgh workshop. It happens to fall on Friday the 13th, but George said he doesn’t put much stock in those things. Call him at 914-989-3622 with any questions.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Monday, April 9th, 2007 at 3:09 pm |
| | 1 Comment »

The unsingle parent?

April
3

A few years ago I sat down at my computer and googled “single parent dating.” I had reached a point where I had been a single dad for a couple of years and wanted to try to meet other single parents. As far as I’m concerned, dating is tricky enough without working in the complexities of being a parent. Some people simply don’t want to date you if you have a kid. In fact, I have plenty of friends who won’t date someone who has a child. So my reasoning was to find a social circle of other single parents and not sweat the dating part too much. As it turns out, I did join a group and have friends from there to this day.

But the wider question of dating as a single parent can be daunting. There are scheduling issues because, unless your kids are old enough to stay home alone, you need to find a “free night” for dates. There are the issues of meeting someone who doesn’t have an issue with you being a parent. Some talk a great game, but ultimately have an issue when push comes to shove and your kid takes priority. And if things work out, there’s the issue of introducing your child to the person you’re dating. Add to this the typical issue of finding someone you actually want to date at all.

To me, the solution was to expand my social circle to include more single parents. I found we had so much in common that friendship was easy for the most part. I focused very little on dating, because my belief — which proved true — is that it would follow if all else fell into place. A lot of the issues I encountered with dating as a single parent seemed to be neutralized, because all the major issues I had in the past were much easier to manage: parenting schedules, parenting responsibilities and a slow transition into integrating the children into the relationship if it progressed to that point. We simply tended to be more like-minded on those issues.

Anyway, this is a topic I will continue to address, and I hope there is some input on it. I’ve gotten quite a few comments and emails on it, so I think there will be plenty to discuss. In the meantime — and perhaps to get some of you started — a press release did come my way last week that hits on this topic. Turns out the Theodore D. Young Community Center, 32 Manhattan Ave. in Greenburgh, is hosting a “Dating Strategies for Single Parents Workshop” at 7:30 p.m. on April 13th.

According to the press release, “The goal of this effort is to have regularly scheduled activities which focus on fellowship, networking, and an exchange of information and resources which support singles.” They’re not picking up the phone tonight, so I’ve yet to find out if it’s only for town residents or anyone. Stay tuned. I’ll try to hunt down more events, groups.

Posted by Jorge Fitz-Gibbon on Tuesday, April 3rd, 2007 at 6:50 pm |
| | 4 Comments »

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About this blog
Parents’ Place is a hangout for openly discussing the A’s to Z’s of raising a child in the Lower Hudson Valley. From deciding when to stop using a binky to when to let your teenager take driving lessons, Parents’ Place is here to let us all vent, share, and most of all, learn from each other.
Leading the conversation are Julie Moran Alterio, a business reporter and mom of a toddler, Jorge Fitz-Gibbon, a reporter and single father with joint custody of a 9-year-old son, and Len Maniace, a reporter and father of two sons.


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About the authors
Julie Moran AlterioJulie Moran AlterioJulie Moran Alterio, her husband and baby girl — “Pumpkin” — share their Northern Westchester home with three iPods and more colorful plastic toys than seems necessary to entertain one tiny human. READ MORE
Jorge Fitz-GibbonJorge Fitz-GibbonJorge Fitz-Gibbon has been a journalist for more than 20 years and a father for nine. READ MORE
Jane LernerJane LernerJane Lerner covers health and hospitals for The Journal News in Rockland, where she lives with her husband and two children. READ MORE
Len Maniace.jpgLen ManiaceLen Maniace is a reporter and father of two sons. READ MORE



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