Happy Mother’s Day! In my mind, being a great Mother is the most difficult and most important job on Earth. Admittedly, I don’t know from personal experience, which is probably why I have such admiration for women who have taken this journey.
What I DO know, though, is how to help women and girls maintain their boundaries and dignity when meeting, dating and in relationships with men and boys. And while I am happy to help any woman who needs my support, I believe that as a Mom, you are in the best position to be the strongest teacher for your daughters so they don’t need me later in life.
If you’re a Mom with children still at home, I’m sure you have concerns about how your dating might affect your kids’ lives. Issues such as jealousy and challenges with time-sharing are real. But I’d like you to consider the positives.
Yes, it’s true that “a happy Mother is a good Mother.” But I also believe that Moms who date have a great opportunity to teach their kids – especially their daughters – essential lessons about taking care of themselves and interacting with boys.
How did you learn how to “be” with boys when you were young and maturing? Did your Mom sit you down as you were entering puberty and have “one of those talks” with you? Did she maintain an ongoing honest conversation about it advising and supporting you along the way? Or maybe, like me, your Mom had very little to do with your development in this area.
I never got much of an education from either of my parents about how to live in the world with boys. They were mostly just interested in whether I followed their rules, which were designed to keep me safe and keep them sane.
The most they ever gave me in the area of support or guidance was the customary “it’s their loss, honey” when I was ignored or dumped. Those were just words, and I never believed it. And seeing their relationship surely didn’t teach me much on the positive side.
Looking back with the perspective of a 50+ year old, my early education about selecting a companion, dating, and falling in love came from my friends, movies, and magazines. Armed with this going into adulthood, I was ill equipped to face the challenges of building healthy intimate relationships.
As a Mother of this generation, you no doubt get more involved than my Mom, or probably yours. You talk to your daughter about her life and her loves, show her support, and build her self-esteem whenever possible.
The strongest lessons we learn, though, are from observing the behavior of others; especially those we love and respect. If you’re married or have a life partner, your daughter will learn innumerable lessons about communication, appreciation, compromise, and intimacy.
If you’re a single mother who is dating, you have a wonderful opportunity to model other behavior in a positive way. By bringing your daughter into your experience she could learn so many important lessons. She could learn about:
- Maintaining her self esteem in knowing that she is not defined by whether a boy or man likes her.
- Making choices based on thoughtful consideration and what’s good for her – rather than going on pure emotion.
- “Pausing when necessary to ensure good outcomes.
- Setting clear boundaries in advance, and then adhering to them.
- Honoring and respecting herself, as well as the people she meets and spends time with.
- Maintaining awareness for her safety; both physical and emotional.
- Trusting her instincts.
- Seeking support when she needs it.
Of course, there are guidelines and limitations to what and how you share. I’m not suggesting that you divulge your most private feelings, what you do on dates, or any other intimacies.
What I’m suggesting is letting your daughter learn by example that there are things we can do to ensure we are respected, make good choices, and stay safe. You can let her know that we can have fun while focusing on what’s best for us. And that when we do, nice things can happen in our lives.
For the most part, the days of girls learning everything from her friends and from Cosmo magazine are over. Mothers are far more involved in their daughters’ lives and are talking and listening.
Sharing your dating and relationship experiences may be uncomfortable, or seem unnecessary. But remember that your example has the strongest influence on your daughter. And what is more important than teaching your daughter how to love herself while building relationships that are satisfying, healthy, and safe?
I have a wonderful daughter who is almost 15 years old. Ive been bringing up her and her nearly 18 year old brother alone now for 13.5 years and havent had any relationships (as such) in that time. Ive had a couple of short lived ‘flings” and dated a few times but nothing lasting or serious that my children ever became involved with.
I had a talk with them both separately just to test the waters, as it were, to see how they’d feel if I ever did meet a man. My son said he’d have no problem, so long as they treat me right, as he (my son) has a wonderful girlfriend who has made his life so much happier and he’d want the same for me. My daughter said she’d love for me to meet someone because Ive been alone for so long and she feels I deserve someone special and to be happy. Don’t I have the most wonderful grown-up kids?!
So, my daughter is at the “boy-mad” stage, constantly talking about them to me, She talks to me like I’m one of her friends and feels able to be open with me and share her feelings. So Ive started gently imparting some “Bobbi-wisdom” to her, such as encouraging her not to compete with boys, even though she’s very smart, and to be “feminine” but not “girly” (she doesnt do girly!). I explained how competing can make boys feel emasculated, and to compliment them instead on their achievements, also to be kind to them and give them a break. She was very interested, in what I told her and said she would give it a try next time she talks to a boy. I’m waiting to see how she gets on!
Anyway, thank you for all your wisdom Bobbi, my best friend says I’m a changed woman since I found you, and I always get asked back for a second date, so I must be doing something right!
With much love,