I have 2 young girls (4 and 1 1/2), and am single. I have recently returned to the dating scene. I like guys and have brought a number home, that have slept over.

I'm worried that the girls, seeing them there for breakfast the next day will be confused, and in later years will sleep around thinking "it was ok for Mom".

But, I also don't want to sneak around behind their backs like I'm doing something wrong.

How should I handle it?

  • "I 'm worried that the girls, seeing them there for breakfast the next day will be confused" I never understood that. A friend of mine owns a Bed & Breakfast and his children are not confused. Also, why would it be wrong for your daughters to want to sleep around when they're adults? Is there something specifically wrong that you think you're doing? If anything, when your girls are slightly older, you can talk to them about the kinds of men you go out with, how you screen them, what you expect from them, etc. Jun 25, 2017 at 21:04
  • Children (particularly of the same gender) copy the behaviour of the parent, without discrimination, up to an age of some cognitive maturity. But they don't become carbon copies without free will. Would you perform less efficiently as a mother without male company? Probably. YOLO
    – user2497
    Jun 28, 2017 at 8:48

4 Answers 4


But, I also don't want to sneak around behind their backs like I'm doing something wrong.

Assuming you're not bringing home a new guy every night, you're definitely not doing something wrong, but somehow you don't seem to really believe that yourself, because you also say

...and in later years will sleep around thinking "it was ok for Mom".

Notice how you use "I have returned to the dating scene" and "my girls will sleep around". One is neutral, the other has a strongly negative conotation. Why is that?

Why wouldn't it be okay for your daughters when it is okay for you? Is it just an age thing? Thinking about that, does that really make sense? I'm assuming that with "later years", you're talking about maybe the later teenage years. This is when most teenagers become interested in actually trying sex. For boys it seems to be okay to go through a string of girl friends. Why shouldn't that be okay for girls?

Personally, I think that it helps for kids to see stable, longer-lasting relationships, so they can learn by example. But I don't think that's absolutely necessary; a lot also depends on the individual character of a person, and just because mom used to have a new boyfriend every five months doesn't mean that your children can't get a marriage that lasts a lifetime. If kids just imitated their parents dating behavior, then no divorce kid would every marry, and no kid growing up in a stable marriage would ever get anything else than a stable marriage herself.

The important thing seems to me to make sure your daughters don't run stupid risks when they're teenagers. That's when we're on our most risky behavior because our brains are being rewired, we don't have the experience yet to abstain from the really dangerous stuff, and we want to try out new things. You bringing guys home (and I'm assuming you're not bringing home a new guy every night here) might be a chance to discuss how you decide on who to bring home, and who not to get involved with. I think it's important that you're honest there, and that you can serve as a good role model in that respect - so don't bring home men whose character you question just because they're good-looking, and talking about character, it's difficult to judge someone's character if you just spend a single night with him for carnal pleasure, so I'd counsel against an abundance of one-night-stands. If you're having short relationships, make sure that your daughters get to know the kind of man your BF is, and talk about why a relationship breaks apart - without going too much into the really private parts. That's something your daughters might want to know, and something they'll eventually be able to relate to very well. You might also find a natural way to weave contraception and health issues into a discussion when the time comes for it to matter.

I 'm worried that the girls, seeing them there for breakfast the next day will be confused

I wouldn't worry about that. At that age, it should be enough to tell them the evening before they go to bed that you might have a friend stay for the night. That might already be enough information for them. If you are good at choosing your men, they'll be nice to your daughters, and that will probably be enough for them.

If they wonder where he'll sleep, you can tell them he'll sleep in your room, and leave it at that.

When they get a bit older, they might wonder why boy and girl sleep in the same room, or even the same bed, and when they're a bit older again, they might realize what you're doing at night, and that might be the time to start explaining a bit more, but I doubt that it will be harmful to them to know their mom has a sex life. Usually, it's not something kids want linger on; they'll just accept it as a fact.

Just make sure your dates are good men that treat you the way you'd want your daughter's BFs to treat them.


I am a little confused on why not bringing a man home would be sneaking around behind your kid's back. Sneaking would be lying or hiding things they have a right to know. If my spouse goes out & buys something that is a reasonable price & then puts it away without mentioning it to me, he didn't sneak it in. It's reasonable for him to buy things that are within budget & not inform me. In fact, I'd find it very odd if he felt he needed me to know every purchase he made. Likewise, my sex life, even with my kid's father, is none of their business. And when we have sex, I don't feel like I am sneaking around. So, I don't think bringing men home is somehow necessary to avoid "sneaking around"... it's whatever it is.

Also, if by breakfast, you mean meeting someone for the 1st time ever at breakfast, that would give me pause. Sometimes we have had overnight guests. We live close to the downtown, so even a friend will call a little tipsy maybe & ask to use our couch for the night. I wouldn't be okay with my children not knowing that person, I'd say no. I think since children are unpredictable, it could be alarming to run into someone you don't know in the kitchen getting a drink of water at 3am. I wouldn't appreciate it if my spouse did that to me either. Also I'd be leery of anyone I didn't know very well. I've had more than one friend tell me they were molested by a man mom brought home. I don't think this is such a common thing at 4yrs old, but certainly more common in tweens. So it's hard to know what you mean here, whether it's a man you are seeing that they know & you have gotten to know, or someone you just went out with that evening. And in the end, even people we know can hurt our kids. So you just have to keep it always in mind & be watchful & aware of anything that even a little bit seems off.

But the fact is there is no right way to be a mom, or a single mom. You do the best you can & try to minimize the mistakes. All parents make mistakes though. You will. I will. So you figure out how to best balance keeping your kids happy, healthy & safe & then doing that for yourself as well. Just use good judgement. Talk to your children. Listen if they say anything that sounds like they are unhappy with something & hear them out. That is about all you can do & make adjustments accordingly when things aren't working for them or for you.

And to put it into perspective, I drink alcohol. Not all the time, but sometimes. My kids see that from me and from their dad. I don't think they then have license to be wasted at 15. I don't think they believe that either. We have talked about how old you have to be to drink. I know they will drink one day. I take no issue with that. They will not be doing keg stands in my kitchen in high school. Same idea. What adults can do should always be discussed with kids in that regard. It's an adult thing & when you are grown, you can do as you please with that, as you will be old enough to understand how to be safe & responsible.


As always you have to think about what sort of example you are setting for your children. If sleeping around is something you do not want for your daughters then maybe it would be better if you do not let men enter your daughters life until you are in at least a somewhat serious relationship with the man in question.

Your attitude towards men in your daughters formative years will have a profound effect on how your daughters will perceive men in there adulthood. If they see you discarding men like a soiled washcloth then you really should not expect them to ever have much respect for the male specie, why would they it does not look like you are interested in teaching them that.

You are not a care free 20 something anymore, you have a responsibility to these children you made. You dont have the right to think solely about yourself anymore.

That being said you should not feel forced into becoming a hermit. There are good men in the world, they are rare but they do exist. You finding a person that is good for both you and your daughters can be great for everyone involved. No child should begrudge a parent a second chance at happiness.


Here's my two cents: My parents divorced when I was a child (older than your girls), and their dating approaches afterwards were very different: my dad had a new girlfriend-then-wife and two more kids within 2 years of my parents' separation; my mom did not date again and actually TELL us about it until my brother and I were both in high school, but she dated a lot at that point and nobody was ever around long. I can say that the negatives I experienced from each situation were very different, and I think they are both relevant things to consider in your situation:

First, with my dad, I was being asked to accept within a very short time that not only had the family I loved been dissolved, but I would also have a new adult -who had had no time to build a relationship with me or earn my respect - acting in a parental role with me, and replacing my mother - not necessarily replacing my mother for ME, but replacing her for my DAD. This was a terrible situation, and my first impulse when reading your post was to ask, "what is your daughters' relationship with their dad, and were you guys together recently enough that they still might have a fond sense of the family that you had?" This is probably more relevant for the 4 year old, but it is my experience (beyond personal anecdote) that children need a mourning period when their family changes dramatically like that, and it might take longer than you'd think. I honestly might recommend as you said "sneaking around," at least until you're ready to introduce someone as your boyfriend (or potential boyfriend), AND you're sure they are ready to have someone new in their life. From the perspective of a parent, my husband and I have been separated for the last few months, and my three-year-old son is VERY sensitive about it. He gets very angry any time a strange man speaks to me (to the point where he shouted "that's enough!" At a total stranger who was talking to me in a coffee line) and he likewise gets very mad at Dad if he talks to another woman, and is totally mistrustful of the woman, even if she is introduced as (and really is) just a friend. I'd say if you monitor your kids' reactions to day-to-day social interactions you'll probably get a good sense of their comfort zones, and I would strongly recommend against pushing them in this area at least for a while.

As to my mom's dating behavior, I will say that the way she went through men once she did start dating again was almost as harmful as what my dad did, only subtler. As someone mentioned above, there's a perceived lack of respect for men if new ones come and go too frequently - not to mention respect for yourself. It is clear in retrospect that my mom was seeking some kind of validation by dating, but she never seemed to get it. She would break up with the ones who wanted to commit to her and cling to the ones who didn't, and all the time she kept searching for that one special relationship that would make her feel like she was finally worthy of love and "successful" in life. The negative effects of this example have been extremely hard for me to overcome, and I definitely have noticed myself imitating my mother's pattern, especially when I was in my teens and early 20's. I do finally have respect for men, and I recognize how my own dating behavior in the past was off-putting TO respectable men. I also recognize that there is a lot more I can get from life by respecting and valuing myself and my own ambitions/commitments, as opposed to needing someone there just for the sake of having someone there. And that overall that will be better for my boys' understanding and opinion of women later in their lives.

I feel like my generation has grown up with the idea that it's better to have lots of relationships and sexual partners, and I'm not going to knock the benefits that come from experience - however, EVERYTHING changes with children, and it is my opinion that your conscience is your best guide: if you find yourself asking this question, you've probably had some thought or seen some reaction or interaction that made you think the behavior was having a negative effect. Whatever you choose to do, make sure that YOU are ok with it. If you feel like you're doing the right thing, then that's what's most important, since you are in the best position to be able to judge.

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