1. Keep your children's welfare your priority
This is by no means an excuse for single moms to avoid dating, says Kathryn Guthrie, a registered marriage and family therapist and chair of public relations for the Ontario Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. It is possible to have the best of both worlds.
"A good and healthy relationship can be good for Mom," says Guthrie. You just have to remember that your children's well-being is always your first priority. It's important to stay focused on your children and to make sure that falling head over heels for someone new doesn't distract you from being their mom, she says.
2. Know that romance is important for moms, too
Don't feel guilty about wanting to pursue romance. "A single mom is a person as well as a mom," says Guthrie.
3. Look for a partner who accepts the mom package
While a romantic life is good for you, it's important for your partner to understand that you're a mom first and foremost – especially if he doesn't have children of his own.
"If a man asks you to choose between him and your kids, he's bad news," warns Guthrie. "That means he's not respecting your package, which comes with kids."
The new special someone in your life must earn your children's respect, she explains, and must be supportive of your responsibilities and priorities as a mother.
4. Beware of warning signs
To find a healthy relationship with good chances for success, Guthrie recommends keeping your eyes peeled for certain red flags. Someone who doesn't like children – or, more specifically, doesn't like your children – is a definite cause for concern. You can not have a successful relationship with someone who doesn't get along with your children.
You should also be wary of anyone who is looking to move too fast. "Anyone in a rush is a warning sign," says Guthrie. Your new relationship can only become a solid one if your partner is willing to respect the time that it takes for your children to become more comfortable with him or her around. It's the only way to ensure your children adjust properly to the new situation.
5. Hold back on PDAs
Kissing, touching and all of the fun stuff that goes along with a new relationship is wonderful, but it's also something you need to do in private.
"Let children be children," Guthrie urges. "It's not their job to understand or be overexposed to Mom's romantic life." Physical displays of affection can make them uncomfortable and may affect how they feel about your new partner.
6. Pace yourself
Going slow may not be as much fun, but it's the best way to go about beginning a new relationship. Guthrie recommends activities like skiing in the winter or going on picnics in the summer to allow your children to get to know your partner slowly. If you push someone on your kids too quickly, it could make them dislike a person who they may otherwise have gradually begun to get along with.
"Be an adult and look at your role as a parent in an adult way," says Guthrie.
7. Proceed with caution
"Not too many sleepovers," says Guthrie. First, there is the issue of safety. Do you know this new person well enough to trust that your children are safe when he or she is in the house?
Also, your children still have loyalties to their other parent, explains Guthrie. A new person spending the night could upset them and make dating more difficult for everyone involved.