Not my bedtime. Sleeping with someone was not my issue, because I had a very strict rule about staying past my daughter’s bedtime.
Single parents everywhere have very regimented dating policies. They have to, because their social lives effect more than just the poor friends who have to hear about them. Single parents set up guidelines about where and when their significate others can meet the children, how much PDA is allowed in front of the children and whether or not anyone else can discipline the children. All of these situations are personal and complicated. They depend on the age of the children, the circumstances with the other parent, how much you love the movie Stepmom and just plain personal choice.
So here was my number one rule: No staying past my daughter’s bedtime.
When I first found myself as a single mother, I was pretty sure I’d never date again. I told my friends and family that I would be fine just taking care of my daughter. As time wore on, I realized that dating might not be horrible. So in my second stage, I thought that I would date every once in a while, when I had a babysitter, but just never get into a serious relationship. More than anything, I would never introduce anyone to my daughter. Without getting too specific, let me just say that I left my relationship with my daughter’s father feeling like I had terrible taste in men. I was pretty sure that this would be a continuing trait. So I decided that I would never inflict another bad decision on my daughter. Whoever I chose to date, they would just have to deal with the time I gave them and get over it.
Once I met my now-husband, this thought evolved. I started to give our relationship benchmarks to hit, before the inevitable time when he would meet my daughter. We had to date for a year… or maybe 8 months. We were already in a completely committed relationship. We’d met friends and then family. And finally, once I could push it back no further, he met my daughter. Those first few dates, because they were just like first dates, were informal and a little impersonal. We went to the zoo or he would meet us at our favorite park after work. They were always activities where my daughter could choose whether or not she would interact with “Mommy’s Friend”. Honestly, these first meetings were more anxious than any blind date I’ve ever been on. There were whole afternoons where neither my daughter nor myself, spoke to my boyfriend. I was trying desperately hard to prove that I would always put my daughter first. She was busy being an infant who only wanted her mother. My poor husband sat through all of it. He continued to make jokes and play games. He went on walks with us and invited us to picnics. He was patient.
After time, things became more relaxed. I finally invited him to dinner with my daughter and I. I cooked spaghetti, one of the few things that I knew Brenna would eat and he would like. It was also relatively simple in case I got distracted. And then, around 7:30, we said good night. We dated more and more frequently, but at 7:30, we said good night. Family, both mine and his, wondered why I made him leave before bedtime. “Wouldn’t it be nice to sit and talk after you put the baby to bed?” Of course it would have.
But something about letting my boyfriend stay after she fell asleep felt like I was sneaking around behind my daughter’s back. Mind you, I was completely sneaking around behind her back on weekends when she visited her father or nights where she stayed with my parents. On those nights, I’d stay over at my boyfriend’s house until the minute I needed to pick my daughter up. But at our house, at her house, I just couldn’t invite him to stay.
I was in a wonderful relationship with an amazing man, but I just couldn’t let my daughter know how much he meant to me. She was an infant still, but I clung to my 8pm rule like a life preserver. Over time, she met his family and siblings. He has a large and loving family and my daughter definitely felt like a part of it. But no matter who she spent her days with, my daughter spent her nights at home being put in bed by her mother. Going to stay at Mimi’s was special and visiting her father a welcome treat, but if she was home, I wanted her to know exactly what to expect.
Looking back, I know I claimed to be afraid of anyone abandoning my daughter. It was my job to protect her and I told everyone that I wouldn’t let her be hurt. I wouldn’t let her get too attached to someone until they had committed to being there forever. But realy, I had let my daughter get attached already. She loved my boyfriend. She loved his family. And I was just as petrified of being abdandoned as I was protective of my daughter.
My story ends happily. Finally, my daughter and husband spend the night in the same house, the night we got engaged. Finally, it felt right for us all to sleep under the same roof. After all, she got to help him propose during a game of hide-and-seek. It was only fitting that the night became special for my daughter as well. It was the first night she spent in her new bedroom. Shortly after that first night, it was painted bubblegum pink and filled with princesses, including our own.
My husband never spent the night in my daughter’s first house. That one belonged to just the two of us. Of course now, she and DaddyScott spend plenty of time trying to convince mom to extend bedtime past 8pm, but only because they don’t want to clean up the mess they’ve made.
Ed Note: It’s your last day to submit a fear of intimacy! If you’ve got one you want to share in 6-800 words, shoot me an e-mail at Jennifer [at] thegloss.com