Sex and the Single Mom
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Sex and the Single Mom

Sharon McKenna, single mom (twin boys!) and author of Sex and the Single Mom, helps other single mothers figure out what they want from a relationship, how to rediscover their sexual confidence, and why being a parent makes it easier to find a partner.

First: Kill the Guilt

Q. Why do you think the average single mom is "lost" in the dating world?
A. Many single moms are surprised to find that dating isn't at all like it was when they were single and childless. Now that they are parents, they need to consider a whole slew of things just to go out on a date, such as: are my kids going to be okay with this? Can I get a sitter for Saturday night? Where can I meet someone who likes kids and is responsible enough to date a woman who has them? All of these questions -- and so many more -- can overwhelm single moms so that they are tempted to just throw in the towel and stay home every Saturday night. They don't know how to start dating again, and they often feel bad about the failure of their marriage/relationship. They also may have lingering issues with the ex. All of this combined may make a single mom feel lost. She needs guidance -- a roadmap if you will -- and I've tried to provide that in my book.

Q. How can a single mom successfully balance her professional, home, and personal life?
A.
This is difficult for married moms, too. But for single mothers, the stress and responsibility is multiplied many times over. Not only do they have to bring home the bacon, they have to take out the trash and manage the family finances. I believe the key to staying sane is to not be too hard on yourself and to ask for help -- from friends, relatives, social workers -- anyone who can lend a hand during hard times. It's also important for single moms to build a strong social and support network with other single mothers AND single fathers -- it really takes another single parent to understand these struggles.

Q. Do you believe single moms feel guilty about having their own lives, aside from their children? Why or why not?
A.
Guilt was a theme that came up time and again from the single moms I spoke to. In my book, I recommend women "kill the guilt" before it kills them -- and their love lives. One way to do this is to keep track of all the time you spend on taking care of your kids, your job, your house, etc., and compare it to how much time you spend on yourself and your social life. Once you do that, chances are you'll feel a lot less guilty about taking a few hours out of every week for your romantic life. Plus, it's healthy for your children to see you having a life and friendships of your own -- they need to learn to respect Mommy's needs just as she respects theirs.

Why Singles' Sex Is Better

Q. Do you believe single moms have better self-esteem and sex-esteem than a childless woman? Why or why not?
A.
Absolutely. I cite a study in my book which was conducted by the staff psychologists at the dating site www.true.com which was very extensive. I believe they surveyed thousands and thousands of single, childless women and an equal number of single mothers. They found that the single moms were more sexually confident, more open and affectionate, and felt better about themselves as lovers than childless women. Some may find this surprising, but it makes sense to me. Moms have to possess great listening skills. They have to be patient, affectionate, giving, and open in order to be successful parents. All those skills come into play in the bedroom and can enhance a woman's self- and sex-esteem tremendously. Also, since single moms don't have a live-in partner ready, willing, and able to have sex whenever they want to, they tend to appreciate sex and sexuality more than other women.

 

Q. How can we as women change the negative stereotype imposed upon single moms?
A.
It starts with single moms themselves. No one is going to do it for us, that's for sure. I would like to see more political organizations of single moms and single parents in general, because even though this is a HUGE demographic in America and around the world -- and is growing faster than any other family type -- we are all ignored by politicians who have the power to make our lives better through family-focused legislation and policies. Single parents need to speak up more. I also think the media, television, and entertainment industries need to wake up and smell the coffee and stop portraying single moms as ignorant sluts -- or worse. This group has plenty of spending power and would like to see themselves represented more accurately -- as the smart, involved, caring parents and people that they are.

Q. Do you think being a mother makes a woman better in bed?
A.
I do, for the reasons cited above. Plus, being pregnant and giving birth, and all that it entails, makes women so much more attuned to their own bodies -- what gives them pleasure, etc. In general, just having experienced birth makes you more open-minded, more willing to experiment, which makes you a better lover.

Introducing Him to the Kids

Q. How do you feel about single dads dating single moms?
A.
Well since my boyfriend is a single dad, this is my personal favorite :)! I think it can be great, because you understand each other's crazy, hectic lives and you can be such a great source of support for each other. The flip side is that you are also "dating" his children, and he yours, and both of your exes...and well, it can get pretty crowded, if you know what I mean. If he is a good father and dedicated to his kids, then it can be wonderful, but I suggest staying away from single fathers who complain about their kids, child support, etc., too much -- if he feels that way about his own kids, how's he going to treat yours?

Q. What's the best/cutest way (and best time) to break the ice and tell a man you've got children?
A.
This really depends on the guy. If he's a single dad, chances are you met under circumstances that involve children, so he already knows and may very well be interested in you for that very reason. If, however, it's someone you don't know well or you aren't sure how he'd react, I wouldn't say anything until the third date -- and only then if you think you could like him. "Then, if he bails, you'll know it was because you had a kid, in which case you don't want him anyway," as one single mom put it in my book.

Q. How and when do you introduce a new man to your children?
A.
This is SUCH an important issue, and one that most single moms pay little or no attention to. However, nearly all of the single mothers I interviewed for the book were adamant that it's important to wait as long as possible to bring a man into the family fold on any level. It can have a big impact on a child to see men coming in and out of your life -- so you need to be very, very careful and very respectful of your children's feelings and their privacy. I personally feel that if you have been SERIOUSLY dating someone for a solid three months, then you can set up a time for him to meet your kids, in a nonthreatening environment (say, at the park or a street fair) so that if things aren't going well, you both can exit gracefully. I talked to single moms who waited more than a year to introduce a man to their children -- and I totally support that.

Q. If your children have become attached to a man you were dating (but not anymore), how do you wean your children off of him?
A.
I recommend making this extremely clear to the guy you're seeing: If things go south for whatever reason, he needs to be committed to helping explain the breakup to the kids. If you both agree, perhaps he can continue to see them occasionally. And, as hard as it is, I think you should educate your children early on about "beginnings and endings." They need to understand, as they grow attached to him, that not every relationship lasts forever. You want to prepare them for worst-case scenarios, without creating fears of abandonment. It's a fine line to walk and one of the most challenging issues for the single moms I spoke with (and for myself as well).

Sex and the Single Mom will be available in April 2006 at www.amazon.com. Visit www.tenspeedpress.com for more information.

 

Originally published on LHJ.com, March 2006.

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