I Choose My Kids – Dating As a Parent

I have made a commitment to myself.

I have made a commitment to my kids.

It is a commitment that many may feel obligated to comment on or judge. Perhaps, it’s even an unhealthy commitment that may make others question what is wrong with me. I get it. It is a bit radical.

Here it is.

I have committed that I will not date or remarry until all of my kids are 18.

Whoa. What?

Let me repeat that.

I have committed that I will not date or remarry until all of my kids are 18.

Take it in. It’s ok if you just did an eye roll, judged me or are silently thanking yourself that you are not me.

I get it. It is radical. It is different.

How did I get here? What was I thinking? All very good questions. Believe me, I often ask myself this especially when I see my friends start to date and get remarried. Being a self made single in a world that is geared for couples, I reassess this commitment often.

A little back story or what I call the nitty gritty of why I chose this lifestyle.

I married when I was 22, after dating my husband for 5 years. We were very young, not only in age but in maturity. I loved him fiercely and blindly. I admit I was codependent, stupid, naive and just wanted to be loved. My childhood home was a mess. I was a mess. I saw my marriage as a way to save me. Of course, it was a recipe for disaster. I lost myself in my marriage. Literally, I changed who I was to suit what I thought my husband wanted me to be. He liked that. I liked that. It was a codependent heaven. I changed my personality, what I liked and what I didn’t like. I became what my husband wanted me to be. Some of it was willingly but the majority was a subversive control tactic on the part of my husband. I was a different person. If you would have asked me what I liked back then, I would have honestly said I liked whatever my husband liked. It was that drastic.

Then my world was rocked.

My husband kicked me out of the house. He demanded a divorce. He was done with me. If you understand codependency, this was brutal. It made me crazy. I did stupid things. I said stupid things. I thought stupid things. It took me a long time to understand what had happened to me. One thing was clear, I love deeply. I love fiercely. Some of it is because of my abandonment issues related to my adoption. Some of it is my codependency issues. In all honesty, I think I am a very emotionally driven person. It is who I am. It is not wrong. There is nothing wrong with me. I just had to learn to control it and make sure I used it for good.

During the time of my marriage, I gave up control of my finances, parenting and what I wanted to do with my life. When I divorced, I was determined to never lose control of those things plus anything else. I promised myself I would be the woman I was meant to be. Strong, independent and self-reliant. I was proud of myself. I was doing it.


I started a relationship. I started to fall for him entirely too quickly. We started making plans about our future. He started making suggestions. I started to follow those suggestions. What he liked, I liked. My life started to look a lot like his. Good thing I was in therapy because my therapist stopped me from becoming my old self again. I ended the relationship not because of anything he had done but because of what I was becoming.

So why am I choosing to remain single until my youngest is 18 and out of the house?

I need to focus my energy. I have three kids who deserve all of me. Honestly, I can’t do that and be in a relationship. My kids always come first. I am sure that isn’t big news to those who are parents. During my divorce, my kids were put in the middle by the system, ex-husband and his extended family. It happens in divorce. To counteract all of that, I chose to stop dating, focus my time and energy on my kids and make it a priority to raise somewhat healthy kids.

(Let me say this. I am not judging nor condemning divorced parents who are dating as a parent or get remarried. I think if it works for you and your children then kudos to you. This is purely about me. As selfish as that sounds, it is all about me.)

My kids are thriving now. They are in much better place emotionally. Largely because of the time and energy I put into making sure that their lives are as stable as possible.

I know myself. I cannot date, be in a relationship, raise three teens and work all by myself. I just can’t. I admire anyone who can make it work. My kids deserve all of me. They deserve a happy, de-stressed and emotionally stable mom as possible. In order for that to happen, I must decide what I pour my energy and time into. I choose my kids. I will every time.

Maybe this isn’t healthy. Maybe I need to provide my kids with a healthy example of what a relationship looks like. Maybe. Maybe not. I choose to show my kids that there is something to be said about being happy with who you are as a person. I am demonstrating how to be healthy in mind, spirit and soul. I think those things need to be taught too.

For the next 5 years, I will be single by choice. I am excited about it. I look forward to it. I know it will make me a better person. I choose my kids. I will every time.

Sarah Heil-Brenny

Sarah Heil-Brenny is a single divorced mom of three teenage boys who lives in a suburb of the Twin Cities. Pack leader of two dogs with a combined weight of 9 pounds. She is often found knitting in inappropriate places, watching way too much Netflix, posting too many pictures on Instagram, and munching on anything gummy. Sarah pretends she is an extrovert but she is a closeted introvert who adores spending an obscene amount of time by herself and a few awesome friends. She is an adolescent psychotherapist who has a private practice. Photojournalism was a passion that turned into a business but really it’s because she can fly her drone. She does this all the while going to school for her PhD in Social Work. Someday she hopes she can just sit, relax and not stress about her yarn stash. Until then, she lives her chaotic life. Welcome to it.

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