There are plenty of fish in the sea… I just never liked fishing.
Let’s be honest: dating is hard, especially when you’re a woman in her 40’s, a single mom and never married. By society’s standards, I am washed up, damaged goods and should own 20 stray cats by now. Well, fuck society and its stigmatized ideals…I want to give this dating thing a shot. But this time I’m doing it differently. I am now a mom, and responsible for a little human who watches and learns from me. But even more than that, I have a bigger story than just being a single mom in my mid-forties. My story has become more enhanced and illuminated, and yet a bit more complex now that I am gifted with a child with Autism.
When I introduce Kellan to people, they’re not privy to his autism unless something occurs, or if I am asked. Because, as I mentioned in a prior blog, he has autism, but he is not his diagnosis. It’s not something I ever want to lead with because I want people to get to know the amazing 6-year-old boy Kellan is, not his disorder. So, this left me thinking about how I would address it while dating, and when the appropriate time would be to have the conversation.
When you’re dating a single parent (especially when there is no other parent in the picture) of a child with autism, you need to know how to pivot and flex on a whim. You have to understand that it’s about entering their world on their terms, and that your patience and compassion must be heightened, practiced, and polished often. Life of a family living with autism is unpredictable, because you never know what will happen on any given day. Yet, at the same time it’s extremely structured, and maintaining a consistent schedule is essential to keeping it all manageable.
I was able to get a sneak peek into this matter when I dated Mr. Nice Guy. I believe he may have been my greatest traveling professor for a few reasons, but the most important one was navigating how to date as a single mom with a child with autism. Mr. Nice Guy was VERY understanding of my situation, which made this dating as a single mom with a child with autism quite easy, but so very different.
Different has been the new norm in my life, so I expected nothing less from dating. Here’s what I’ve learned about what it’s like dating a single mom with a child on the spectrum:
- My time and sleep are limited and precious commodities. Between doctor appointments, therapies, school, work, administering meds, in-home treatments, taking care of the house and so on, I am fucking exhausted. I often feel time is not on my side, so I lose track of it and sometimes myself in the process. And then there’s sleep, or lack thereof. When you’re parenting a child with autism, sleep is often compromised. I don’t know what it is about their phenomenal brains but many children with autism choose to remain woke than in dream state. As a result, sleep is craved and cherished. Therefore, dating ME is knowing this and being really understanding if I pass out during Netflix and chill #sorrynotsorry.
- Shit happens, often and always. In my world, the day to day is NEVER predictable. I can never forecast how the day will unfold and how Kellan is going to deal with the world around him. I hope for the best, but some days it’s a circus and the monkeys are mine. Therefore, dating ME is understanding that my life sometimes takes a turn for the absurd.
Dates can get canceled/postponed or diverted. If Kellan is having a bad day or going through a tough time, I will always be there to see him through it. Therefore, dating ME is sometimes having to cancel the reservations and order in– while drinking copious amounts of wine– because shit happens.
Outings can be…interesting. Meaning, if Kellan accompanies me and my mate on a day out, there’s a chance that once we get there, we may have to leave within 5 minutes. Something (big or small) can set Kellan off and it becomes too much for him. Being open and understanding is necessary. Therefore, dating ME means not getting so attached to a plan, because we may have to reroute or switch it up on a whim.
Typical kid-like adventures are often traumatic for my son. Let’s start with amusement parks: we tend to avoid them because of the crowds, noise, and sensory overload. But that one time we did go, it was early in the morning, no crowds, no lines and about a 30-minute stay. And then there are holidays: Santa and the Easter Bunny are basically Satan, fireworks can suck it, Halloween is typically uncomfortable and costume-free, and birthdays are celebrated by singing the tune low and at high-speed. We love to celebrate all of the above— but, when you date ME, you need to know that we just do it differently.
We plan, over plan and then have a back-up plan for the plans we over-planned. I have always been a planner (it’s the Virgo in me) but having a child with autism takes planning to an obsessive level. We live by a schedule for everyone’s sanity. For instance, EVERY Saturday consists of the same schedule: chiropractor, Target, swimming lessons and Party City. There is little room for spontaneity. Therefore, dating ME means spur of the moment getaways or last-minute dinner dates doesn’t happen often, if ever. Care.com or a friend’s 3rd cousin doesn’t cut it when babysitting children like my son. He not only needs to be comfortable with whomever is caring for him, but they need to be well-versed in his limited language skills and understand his unexpressed needs. There are four people I trust to watch Kellan, and if they’re not available, neither am I.
- Tech is another member of the family. If you’re opposed or over-judgmental when seeing a child at a dinner table or in a store with an iPad or iPhone, then dating me will be a challenge. I’m not the one immersed in the tech, but it does make Kellan tolerate busy store environments and noisy restaurants. In fact, it’s the only way I (and anyone else who joins me) can enjoy a restaurant experience. Therefore, dating ME means inviting tech in (or out) and packing an extra charger just in case.😉
- Friendship is key. Whereas I would love a companion, it all starts with a foundation of friendship for me. I need someone who is going to be open to my lifestyle, supportive of my needs, strong and compassionate, receptive to learning about Autism, will allow me to vent, and sometimes reassures me that everything will be ok. That’s what my friends do on the daily and, therefore, dating ME means being a friend first.
Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa!
Wait a minute.
I just now re-read this list and as my eyes scanned line to line, wouldn’t you know it, my inner- shit talker paid a visit, and got me thinking (and believing for a minute): ‘why would anyone want to get involved with ME, and the life that is mine”? I mean, I get it: there are easier single woman to date out there with a helluva lot more time. More flexibility. More energy. More freedom. More, more, more…
And then I snapped the fuck out of that thought process, kicked my inner-shit talker to the curb and decided to re-design this blog. Here I am, flipping the script on my approach to dating so I will attract different men who not only get me, but my life as well. Men that will run wholeheartedly TO me and my life instead of FROM it. So, as I write this, I am adamant about reversing the question of “Why would anyone want to get involved with this life of mine?” to “Why the fuck wouldn’t they?” The man who eventually enters my life will get a solid, independent, successful woman who wears a cape most days, raising her gorgeous, kind, fun, little superhero who is her son.
This man will feel pretty lucky to date a mom raising a child with AWE-tism, and here are just some of the reasons why:
I am an incredible mom (I do it solo…hence the cape 😉)
I don’t run away from life when it gets tough (I run towards it)
I consider nothing to be gross. I’ve seen and heard it all (don’t try to out-gross me, because you’ll lose)
I am loyal as hell (at times to a fault)
I am fiercely independent (I learned from my Mama)
I don’t play games and I tell it like it is (truth is my religion)
I am financially stable & savvy (and this time my mate will be as well)
I love BIG & Deep (ocean depth-level)
I live for the little things (knowing that they’re not so little)
I am appreciative and express it often (gratitude is my daily practice)
I know how to juggle (balls and all!)
I find the ‘fun’ in the funk (because life should never be taken that seriously)
I am a great friend, confidant, listener, and adviser (just ask my tribe!)
I am unapologetically me (beautifully messy but amazingly real)
So, to all the ‘fish’ out there, this is ME, with a badass side of AWE-tism.
Janis Gaudelli is The Founder of The Daily Feels. She started this passion project to reveal the magic behind storytelling, and how truth-based narratives bring people together in the most heart-warming of ways. Fascinated by soul, depth, intellect, raw truths and rebellion with a cause. Often captivated by the awe of nature. Fiercely curious about the inner-workings of the human psyche, as she professionally studies human behavior for a living. Forever proud and grateful for being a mom to the force that fuels her life: her 7-year-old son, and greatest professor, Kellan.