Why I Didn’t Date Until My Daughter’s First Birthday

May 3, 2013  |  

I remember it like it was yesterday. One Super Bowl Sunday, I called my long-term boyfriend (and baby-to-be’s father) and asked if we were still attending a friend’s football party. He told me he had plans to watch the game—at a get together hosted by an ex-girlfriend—without me. Although I knew our relationship was rocky, the news hit hard, as if a 300-pound lineman had tackled me. Before I got up, he dumped me over the telephone. In shock, I drove to his house to find out why I had been sidelined. I then went to the party by myself. I shared the news with my close friends, but for months, I didn’t let my co-workers in on my secret. I didn’t lie, but I didn’t confess what happened. I figured my daughter’s dad and I would reunite and work things out as we always did for nearly three years.

That never happened. Instead, he married someone else the weekend of our daughter’s first birthday. Looking back, I’m not surprised. We were meant to be co-parents not a couple; they say hindsight is 20/20. We were blind to the red flags and pink elephants for way too long. When we recognized those things, we were too tired to stay in the game. I’m no longer bitter or angry about our fate, in part because I didn’t date for more than a year. Here’s why:

1. I needed time to heal from heartbreak.
I was in an emotional and vulnerable state. Almost anything someone said to me made me cry. If I jumped into another relationship right away, I would have misplaced my anger, bitterness and blame. I felt as though someone stabbed me in the heart, and it took time to fully recover from that type of pain. I can now enter a new relationship with my whole heart.

2. I needed time to rebuild my self-esteem.
When I found out my daughter’s dad was in a new relationship, I compared myself to the other woman and wondered why she got the rock and I didn’t. I later realized it didn’t matter if I was better than her, prettier than her, smarter than her or vice versa. It was about personal preference. And just because I was a single mom in my thirties that didn’t mean I was no longer desirable. I looked in the mirror until I saw a reflection of inner and outer beauty staring back. I always had a healthy level of self-esteem, so I had to remind myself of who I was (in my case, who I was in Christ).

3. I needed time to forgive and let go of past hurts.
I had to forgive my daughter’s father. And not that, “I forgive you, but I’ll never forget what happened” nonsense. After I forgave, I still got upset from time to time. But the breakup no longer consumed me. I let it go. I also forgave myself. For a long time, I felt embarrassed about not being engaged and not raising our daughter in the traditional two-parent home I experienced. I learned that what’s ideal isn’t always realistic.

4. I needed time to replace anger and bitterness with peace and happiness.
I refused to be the bitter baby mama stereotyped in way too many movies. The woman ranting about a man she broke up with a decade ago. Even if my ex wasn’t a good boyfriend (and even if he thought I wasn’t a good girlfriend), he could still be a good father. I focused my energy on my daughter and our future—a future that’s more than I ever hoped for, dreamed of or imagined.

When I reentered the dating game, I didn’t hold onto past losses or keep score. Because I had a year of self-reflection and healing under my belt, I became a much wiser player.

Not long ago, Heather Hopson was a television host in the Cayman Islands. Today, she’s writing a different kind of story as a new mom for her new blog Diary of a First Time Mom. You can follow her as she transitions to motherhood and dating with a permanent plus one on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

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