Are parents better partners?
By Lisa Lombardi
When you think of a group that has a dating edge, single parents probably don’t leap to mind. After all, unmarried moms and dads have to line up babysitting just to go on a date! And run potential partners by a panel of pint-sized judges! But raising little ones can actually give you a leg up in the dating world, says Sharon McKenna, author of Sex and the Single Mom. “Parenting skills are definitely transferable,” she says. “As a parent, you’re more patient and not as focused on yourself anymore.” And that can be a boon to your love life, as single mom Sheila Green of Boston has discovered. “Being a parent has helped me in my relationship, because the qualities of a good parent, like compassion and trust, are the same ones you need in love,” she says. What other traits make you a dream partner? Here, the perks of parenthood:
Let’s face it: Between coaching soccer, quizzing the kiddos on spelling words and reading bedtime stories, you don’t have time to make your sweetie a scrapbook of your first 30 days together. And that can make you a hotter commodity. “When you have a life and kids of your own, it makes you a little less available, which is attractive to many people,” says McKenna. You can’t help but be less clingy, as McKenna — a mom of twin boys — has found. “It’s made me more independent within a relationship,” she says. “I have my kids. Love would be a nice addition, but it’s not my sole focus, so I’m more relaxed about it.”
#2: You’re more in the moment
You know how when you have kids an ordinary moment can turn extraordinary in an instant? For instance, one second baby’s making random faces, the next she’s cracked her first honest-to-goodness smile. And the stages are fleeting, too, so you learn to savor every last second. Well, that seize-the-moment mindset can help you connect with your partner, too. Post-kids, “you appreciate what you have and aren’t so future-focused,” says McKenna. When you stay in the here-and-now rather than stressing about how the future will unfold, it can be easier to build a meaningful connection. Just ask divorced mom Green, who has a relaxed attitude toward finding and savoring love. She recently built a patio off her dining room with her boyfriend of one year and her son. “It wasn’t perfect, but that was OK because the three of us had such a nice time creating something together.”
#3: You don’t take yourself too seriously
Being a parent means giving up all sense of dignity. It starts when you get spit up on for the first time and continues as you’re cheering potty efforts or spitting into a tissue — something you swore you’d never do! — to wipe your child’s grape-juice-stained face. “You’re no longer so worried about how you look,” says Debbie Mandel, author of Turn On Your Inner Light. “Most of all, you are not inhibited by what other people think. When you are less self-conscious, you are freer with your partner.” The most immediate benefit? You’re more fun to be around (yes, in the bedroom, too). But also, notes Mandel, “You’re more accepting of your partner’s behavior, because you don’t see everything he or she does as a reflection on you.” So your sweetie belts out off-key tunes at karaoke night. Whatever—as long as everyone’s happy!
#4: You’re in touch with your inner child
Maybe you dance around the living room to The Wiggles. Or tell ghoulish ghost stories to liven up a blackout. Hmm, how did you get so in touch with your playful side? From your little ones, of course! “Kids have an eye for fun,” says Mandel. “They can see it in the most ordinary things, like the way they’ll turn a cardboard box into a fort.” In grown-up terms, this means you possess the wonderful ability to see the bright side of anything. When the fancy-schmancy restaurant loses your reservation, you’re probably able to turn on a dime and suggest grabbing cheap beers and juicy burgers at the local dive. And have a good laugh about the mishap! “Laughter releases stress, raises endorphins and creates positive energy,” says Mandel. “When you’re positive, you can brainstorm other solutions.”
#5: You’re more patient
Good news: Those loooong minutes waiting for your toddler to brush her teeth or preschooler to zip up her own jacket weren’t in vain. Because even on your most rushed days, you’re now worlds more patient than you were before parenthood. “You’re more understanding and able to ‘deal’ with a partner who may be not at his or her best,” says McKenna. “You can stand back and let things cool instead of instantly reacting.”
Patience also gives you the fortitude to hold out for someone special. “We’ve seen firsthand how being patient with our children and their needs can help them become the best they can be,” says McKenna. “The same is true for us—we have learned to be patient with our own needs for intimacy and love, because in the long run, it’s worth it to wait.”
So now that you’re aware of all you have to offer, get out there and get dating!
Lisa Lombardi is a writer and editor in the New York area. She is also the mom of a 2-1/2 year old son.
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