One of the most complicated aspects of dating after divorce with kids is deciding when and how often your new guy (or girl) will be around your kids. Is it going to be one of those relationships that you keep separate from your kids and only get together when the kids are with your ex? Or is he or she going to start sleeping over every night and become part of your family? Or, perhaps your relationship will be somewhere in between.
The first night my boyfriend ever spent the night at my house while my kids were there was about two years into the relationship. Yes, we took things kind of slow. I was worried the whole night and barely slept. Is this affecting my kids? Are they going to feel sad that the man in our home isn't their dad? Meanwhile, they had been begging me to have him sleepover. But still, I was a wreck. I actually ended up sleeping in my son's bed with him, and let my boyfriend take my bed!
I realize that is the ultimate extreme of being overprotective, but I have seen the other extreme countless times: the mom (or dad) who lets a boyfriend/girlfriend of two weeks practically move in. The selfishness of it really makes me cringe.
There are many factors to take into account when it comes to dating after divorce with kids and sleepovers:
-- The amount of time you've been divorced
-- The amount of time you've been dating the guy/girl
-- How old your kids are
-- If your kids are adjusting well to the divorce
-- What's going on over at your ex's house -- in other words, do the kids need to start having sleepovers with your boyfriend if they are having them with dad's girlfriend, too?
-- If your kids actually like the guy (or girl)
-- How serious is the relationship? What's the long term plan? Is this just a guy you're having fun with or do you plan on marrying him?
In my opinion, the time after your divorce is a time in your life to be very unselfish in certain aspects and really focus on your kids. And that means being very thoughtful in deciding if sleepovers are right.
I'm not against the sleepover, and I don't expect people to do what I did, but I wish more men and women would think the sleepover through a bit more before they let someone into their bed with their children two rooms down.
Here are the advantages and disadvantages of sleepovers:
1. A sleepover really allows the kids to get to know your boyfriend/girlfriend. So, if you are pretty sure you are ending up with him/her, it's a good way to get a picture of how life is going to be.
2. Sleepovers can be fun. My kids still beg me to ask my boyfriend to spend the night. They love their dad a lot, but they see the sleepover as something fun and different, and they enjoy being around him. I think I can credit that to us taking our time and not having sleepovers often. Less is more when it comes to sleepovers!
3. The person sleeping over can really bring something to the table, in other words, he or she can be a positive influence on your kids. They won't take the place of their mom (or dad) but they can be another role model and a support person for the kids in the future, which can be a lovely thing.
1. The kids might begin to resent the guy/girl for taking their parent's time and sharing their bed, especially if it's early in the relationship.
2. What kind of example are you setting if you have multiple men/women spend the night? Are you one of those people who allows sleepovers in every relationship? Ask yourself how many different men/women have slept over with your kids there in the past three years? If it's more than two, that's really selfish (just being honest.)
3. Your kids are (or have) suffered because of your divorce. Not faulting you for getting a divorce, but just keeping it real. They need you and your full attention. Having a sleepover cuts into the amount of attention and the time you spend with your kids.
In closing, I think sleepovers are okay if it's the right person, the right timing, and if you handle it the right way. Talking openly with your children and making them feel like they are part of the decision is such a nice idea. I'm not saying let your kids rule your personal life, but let them feel like their feelings on the situation matter.
Lastly, PLEASE close and lock your door if you plan on being intimate, and keep things quiet. Do you know how uncomfortable, even traumatizing it would be for your children to hear or see you having sex? Yikes.
Jackie Pilossoph is the author of the blog, Divorced Girl Smiling. She is also the author of her new divorce novel with the same name, as well as her other divorce novel, FREE GIFT WITH PURCHASE. Ms. Pilossoph is a weekly business features reporter and columnist for Sun-Times Media. She lives in Chicago with her two kids. Oh, and she's divorced!