How do single poly parents find the time?

On Poly Weekly #132, PolyLizzie asked how other single poly parents found the time to be poly and meet potential partners. What a great question! Listener Jenny was cool enough to respond and give permission for her response to be posted here.

Parents (single and otherwise), what do you think?

‘m a single parent of a school age girl (now 9), and I work full-time as a writer for a computer software company. Although my situation is somewhat different from PolyLizzie (i.e., I’m not a full time student on top of everything else), I know well the feeling of never having enough time to do anything but survive day-to-day. Three years ago, I moved halfway across the US for a great job, leaving behind my parents, friends, and everyone my daughter knew since she was a baby. Where we live now, we have no family and no local support system — we are essentially alone here and I am pretty much the only engine that gets things done.

You asked for poly tips, but I think these could be applied to any relationship, poly or otherwise.

So, Tip #1: Establish a support system so you can make time for being poly.
I think the concept of “making time” is important to understand, both for the single parent and for anyone interested in being with a single parent. The difference between “finding time” and “making time” is intentionality. If you try to “find time” to be poly as single parent, you’ll never have the time. Instead, you have to “make time” — that means making the firm decision that this is something you want to do and then arrange things to accommodate that.

Tip #2: Understand and accept you can’t do everything “right now”. Even though PolyLizzie may want to find poly partners, she’s also has to recognize her limitations in terms of time and work with them. That’s difficult because sometimes we really do need something (like a loving relationship) and we just can’t have it right now because of time. With work, school, and kids filling her time, PolyLizzie may not have any room for “making time” for a poly partner — meaning, at this time in her life she may not be able to arrange things to accommodate being actively poly. That was certainly true for me when I was a bit younger, and I wasn’t a full time student. And it truly sucked to put that off to “later”, but I had to. There were too many other things going on in my life and adding an adult relationship to the mix would have been disastrous for both me and my daughter.

Tip #3: Establish early on with poly partners that you are already in a relationship (with your kid) so that the poly relationship can progress accordingly.
I know for myself this is non-negotiable. I also know that this can be a hard concept for people, poly or otherwise, to grasp. And frankly, NRE doesn’t help with that. Mind you, I’m not telling people “I’m a mom first and foremost and a woman whenever I have a spare moment” — quite the contrary. This is more of a clarion to say that time management is essential. So, if a partner is to show love and caring for a single parent, they must accept that certain things must be planned, not everything can be on-the-fly, and the kids have to factor in to a lot of decisions.

Tip #4: I don’t know if this would work for PolyLizzie, but I have found online or long distance relationships to be very helpful with regard to “having a social life” at my convenience.
Granted, I’m not very social anyway, but in my view, sitting at my computer writing my heart in an email to my partner is several orders of magnitude better than hanging out in a bar or going out on a bad date. Indeed, the technology that exists now to make people feel closer than geographically possible is astounding. My partner of 4 years lives on the opposite side of the country and from the beginning we have communicated nearly every day via email, twitter, IM/webcam, and phone calls. Does this replace actually seeing my partner and sharing time with him and his wife? Of course not. But it does bridge the sometimes sizable gaps between visits, whether him to us or us to them.

I know for myself, long distance relationships have pretty much been the only way I can have an interesting, worthwhile relationship. The costs in time and effort associated with going out on my own just can’t be sustained for very long, financially and emotionally. And frankly, when you go out on enough truly bad dates, you really don’t feel like gambling your time any more than you absolutely have to. I mean, time spent on a bad date is almost like a personal attack because it’s time taken away from you and your kid. At least with something online, it’s a little easier to figure out who’s worth my time getting to know, and to cut loose those who would waste my time.

2 comments to How do single poly parents find the time?

  • PolyLizzy

    THANK YOU SO MUCH!!

    It’s partly knowing that I’m not the only one out there that helps.

    I have been separated for almost 2 years and I am JUST at the point where I feel like my life is finally settling into some form of something that’s not just a crisis point.

    I want to reply so I guess I will do it this way. One number at a time.

    #1
    Support networks! YES
    I joined polyamorous percolations, (the one listed in Minx’s list of resources). I felt safe and comfy there and expanded my networking tendrils from that point. I haven’t always been active in my own networking and often wished the network would find me but that never happens so I gradually started trying to branch out from there.

    I still don’t have an “intentional community” around me physically, but I have a plethora of friends who I can call at any time and who I can run too when I do need a friend. That’s something I never had before my divorce. Family came with guilt trips and it felt like friends came with strings.

    #2
    Learning patience and planning.
    You mean I have to wait?
    Again it has taken time but I am learning some patience and time management skills I never possessed before. At one point, I looked at my OKCupid profile every day, waiting for dozens of e-mails. Now I hardly check it at all. I have worked from “I NEED someone in my life” to feeling happy with my life and wanting to share someone else’s.

    It took me 6 months to apply for financial aid to go to school; it was almost a year before I actually used it and finally started.

    I am also learning that no relationship will be as habitual after a few months, as my marriage was after a decade. That was a hard one from a divorce standpoint as much as anything else.

    #3
    Knowing that the kids are first.
    That is a critical part of the “this is who I am” that I have finally settled on. My kids are my life and my past is part of who I am. If someone does not like or can not accept that, then they are free to move on and find someone who fits into their “perfect partner” framework. I also do not introduce potential partners to my kids, at least not until I am sure that there involvement in my kids lives will be beneficial to everyone.
    I will admit I was shocked and disgusted the first time someone I was interested in asked me to do something for them, knowing that my plans with my kids came first. I was APPALLED when they were upset that I chose my kids. I promptly learned how to end a relationship at that point.
    I guess this step is no different for any type of relationship, poly or mono.

    #4

    I have had various online friendships for years, before and after my marriage ended. I would be a lonely, depressed, pitiful excuse for a human being without the dozens of friends I have made online. Even community forums help. I don’t remember ever being a full time extrovert before I found the internet. It Sounds geeky, but its true.
    From what you have suggested, it really feels like I’m doing the same things anyone does when looking for new relationships. Let alone the things any single parent does. It really does make me feel better knowing that I seem to be doing the right things.

    So now if anyone wants to make plans with me in the next 2 years…. better book it now, I don’t have much time left to share but I do have my online calendar to keep track of everything.

  • Jenny

    Hi PolyLizzy!

    Yes, you’re right — you are doing the things anyone else does when they look for new relationships. Overall, I think single parents aren’t much different than other people in terms of solving the relationship equation. In many ways the issues we face are magnified somewhat because there’s only one of us, and there’s more riding on our continued emotional and physical health.

    I think the most important thing we can do is simply take care of ourselves. That’s a feat in itself sometimes, and I’m really bad about not doing that, myself. But it sounds like you’re doing quite well in that regard, what with going back to school and all. You go, girl!!

    Thanks again, PolyLizzy, for asking this question and thanks once again to Minx for posting it!

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