I’m a single mom with a fourteen-year-old daughter. I recently started dating an amazing guy. We see each other once or twice a week, and every other weekend when my daughter is with her dad.
I feel like my daughter’s radar goes off any time I plan something with him. I get texts requesting mother-daughter time; shopping and other things. I feel guilty, and I don’t know how to make everyone happy in this situation. Help!
Jennifer J. — Austin, TX
I’m not a mom to anyone other than my dog, so while I haven’t experienced what you’re facing exactly, I do know what it’s like to be asked for things from people I care about when I’m not in a position to provide. While it’s uncomfortable and might make you feel guilty, it’s important for you—and, more importantly, for her—to hold your space and to keep your plans.
Like all of us, your daughter has a need for attention. You say you’re away from her to be with him one or two times a week—that doesn’t feel like too much to me. I bet she’s away from you at least that amount of time to be with her friends.
Besides time with you, there’s something else she needs as a soon-to-be-grown-up-person. She needs to learn the valuable lesson that people—yep, even moms—are entitled to have their own private life, friends, experiences, and time away from their kids and families.
Being available for her at every text request, especially when you already have plans with other people, teaches her the opposite lesson: That she can expect people to drop everything for her and jump to her command. There are already plenty of those people roaming the planet right now; I encounter them all the time, and you probably do, too. Let’s teach her not to be one of those people who feel entitled to everyone else’s time and are totally down for interrupting friends, family, and even the person ahead of them in life for coffee for their own needs. For the sake of all of us, teach her healthy boundaries now. We’ll all reap the benefits.