(Parenting.com) -- You've mastered the playdate, but now it's time for the date-date. If you're feeling nervous or confused about entering the complex world of dating again, you're not alone.
Read on as single parents share their dating dilemmas and Amy Spencer, relationship expert and author of "Meeting Your Half-Orange: An Utterly Upbeat Guide to Using Dating Optimism to Find Your Perfect Match" solves them.
Where Can I Meet People?
Problem: Park, zoo, Chuck E. Cheese, library, my backyard -- I don't really find myself in adult environments these days. How can I meet a guy when I don't really go out to the bars or clubs anymore? --Renee, 30, Totowa, New Jersey
Solution: Spencer says to rethink that afternoon of fun. "It's hard to meet your match when everyone you're hanging out with is under three feet tall."
She recommends, instead of heading to kid-centered places, to try some kid-friendly ones, where you might be able to scope out a cutie.
"A museum, bookstore, sidewalk fair, farmer's market, or a park without swings where your kid can run on the grass and play catch are all places where adults hang out too," advises Spencer.
When Should You Reveal You Have Kids?
Problem: I took the plunge and joined an online dating site. I'm anxious to note I have a kid because I don't want to scare guys away. What should I do? --Ashley, 28, Winter Garden, Florida
Solution: You're teaching your kids not to lie, right? Well, Spencer says to follow your own advice. "If you're going to send mixed or false signals, there's no point in shooting the flare gun up at all.
Check the 'yes' box that you have a kid, and when it comes to filling in your 'About Me' box, mention in one brief sentence that you have a child you're nuts about.
But then, use the rest of the space to talk about nothing but you. This is the one area of your life that isn't about what your child wants, but about what you want."
For example, tell potential suitors what books you like to read (this is an Elmo-free zone), latest movie you saw (Don't you dare say Toy Story), what food you like to cook (chicken nuggets don't count even if you prepare them every, single day!)."
Bottom line: If things work out, then you can start gushing about your little one and eventually let your date see for his- or herself.
How Do I Talk to My Kids About My Dating?
Problem: My daughter is twelve years old and I want to be honest with her when it comes to leaving her with a sitter to go out. In other words, if I'm going on a date, I don't want to tell her I have a work obligation. But, is it OK to be honest about dating with my child? --Carol, 34, New Haven, Connecticut
Solution: Just like you're not lying about having a kid to your date -- don't lie about having a date to your kid. Still, less is more, says Deborah Roth Ledley, PhD, licensed psychologist, founder of the website TheCalmMom.com and author of "Becoming a Calm Mom: How to Manage Stress and Enjoy the First Year of Motherhood."
"Keep it simple and say something like, 'I've been feeling so lonely and it is time for me to start meeting some new people.' If your child asks a question about your date, respond with a short and simple answer, but if they are satisfied with the initial statement, change the subject to homework or something important to them."
When Do I Introduce the Kids?
Problem: I've been dating a nice man consistently for seven weeks and I'm wondering if it's time to introduce my 10-year-old son to him. Is there ever a right time? --Diane, 40, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Solution: Just like you don't tell your kid everything, you don't have to introduce them to everyone. "It is important to not introduce your kids to every person you go on two or three dates with. Many kids form attachments very easily. When kids are introduced to someone 'special,' they assume it actually means something and then if the person disappears, this shifts their whole belief system," says Ledley.
This doesn't mean you can't ever introduce your child to Mr. Right or that you have to sneak around like a high schooler.
"Just wait until it really seems as if the relationship is serious and stable. Then, it can be nice to introduce your child to a new person in their own environment. Have the new boyfriend/girlfriend over for a casual pizza party. The kids will feel more comfortable in their own home and might enjoy bonding by showing the new person their stuff, like a favorite toy or backyard space," advises Ledley.
How Do I Make, uh, Sex Actually Happen?
Problem: Face it, even though I'm 29, I have a curfew -- as in I have to get home to relieve the babysitter. I've been seeing someone for two months now and I want to...you know. How do I have my adult fun when the date is on a time schedule? --Shannon, 29, Avon, Ohio
Solution: Yes, you can have your cake, eat and enjoy it too. Spencer says, "If your carriage is turning into a pumpkin just when your night is getting more interesting with someone you've been on a few dates with, consider starting your next date at his place, rather than ending it there. Cook dinner and then watch a movie so you feel like you're getting more out of your night."
You could also schedule a mid-day romp on your lunch break or when your child is at after-school activities. It's invigorating!
How Do I Get Back Into the Game?
Problem: The last guy I dated was my son's father. My son is now four and I am really nervous to go on a date and almost feel like I've never even been kissed. I'd rather stay home, read books to my daughter, tuck her and then me in, because it's familiar. How do I get out of this funk? --Heather, 30, Indianapolis, Indiana
Solution: If you're feeling butterflies in your stomach (or like you could use a shot of liquid courage) don't worry -- it's normal, according to Spencer.
"We're always nervous when we step into new or unfamiliar territory. Embrace that nervous energy, those sweaty palms and the knots in your stomach, because they're all signs you're taking a positive step forward to try something new in your life. You have to step out on a limb sometimes -- that's where all the fruit is."
To put things in greater perspective, think about all of the things you've managed as a single parent: middle-of-the-night illness, potty training, getting the bills paid. A date with a cutie and a cocktail is nothing -- it's fun! And you deserve it.
How do I Overcome Insecurity after a Break-up?
Problem: I'm really insecure about dating. If the father of my child didn't like me enough to stay around, what makes me think a guy who has no biological connection to my child will? --Tia, 34, New York, New York
Solution: "It's so completely understandable that you feel insecure for this reason, but the decision by the father of your child to leave was his, not yours -- and a choice that big cannot boil down to something as simple as 'not liking you enough.'
"Whatever his reasons were, they were his reasons, his issues, and his problems, not yours. So please, don't let his life choice mirror back that you weren't worth it. You are worth it," says Spencer.
She suggests this trick: Make a list of ten reasons why you would want to date you -- qualities you bring to the table that your friends, family and child appreciate. Maybe you make a mean lasagna, can hold your own on the tennis court, can tell a great joke, or always know what someone wants before they speak.
Once you see ten reasons (and if you're on a roll, make it 20!), you'll be on the path to seeing that your ex leaving was his loss, but another great man's gain.
How Do I Find Time to Date?
Problem: I have my son every other weekend and every Wednesday night. Should I let my date know that I have priorities when it comes to scheduling? I'm ready to meet some women, but should I even bother? -- Mike, 40, Boston, Massachusetts
Solution: This doesn't sound like a problem, but more like an excuse! Spencer says, "If you really want love in your life, you're never too busy to make it happen. Maybe you're not looking for a full-time serious relationship yet, and that's okay. Maybe all you're up for right now is meeting some women, without the pressure of a big relationship looming.
"As much as you feel encumbered by your busy schedule, don't come to the table with an appointment book that makes your dates feel like business meetings you've squeezed in between the office and time with your son. Ask them out in the times you have open without listing every one of your commitments before you've even met for coffee."
Can I Date a Non-Parent?
Problem: This younger guy at my work recently asked me out. He knows I'm a mom, but I doubt he's ever changed a diaper in his entire life. I think he's really cute, but should I blow him off because we have nothing in common? --Jade, 32, Adrian, Texas
Solution: Don't close doors before you even open them. And remember you are more than just a mother to your child.
"As much as it feels like it right now, your life goes deeper than changing diapers and watching cartoons. With all the parenting you've been doing, it's easy to forget that, but you're a person unto yourself. Just because you enjoy ice cream at the park with your kid doesn't mean you can't love wine, museums, movies, or a night out dancing -- all of the things you engaged in prior to becoming a mom," advises Spencer.
Do I Have to Introduce My Ex to the New Person in My Life?
Problem: When my wife comes to pick up our daughter, I tell my new girlfriend to stay inside, and last time I picked my daughter up at her mom's, I had my girlfriend wait in the car. Do I need to introduce my girlfriend to my ex-wife? --Sean, 31, Farrell, Pennsylvania
Solution: If you're feeling awkward about this, don't worry -- this is awkward. Ledley says there is no need to rush this introduction and interaction.
"If a relationship becomes very serious, like living together or re-marriage, yes, it totally makes sense that the ex and the new person should meet. Have this meeting away from kids, so just the adults can try to get off to as civil a start as possible. Be mindful of the purpose of the meeting -- it's not to establish a new friendship between ex-wife and new wife (but if that happens, great!). It is to establish a cordial-enough relationship, so children don't sense undue tension when everyone is together."
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