When Thomas Mattingly finally started dating him again, his first thoughts turned to his children.
Mattingly waited a long time after his wife Lori passed away in 2005. He became a single parent to Jordan, then 7, Katie, 4, and Wade, 7 months.
The only things he had in mind were to work, put food on the table, and take care of the children.
“You’re just trying to make things work on a daily basis with your kids,” said Mattingly, whose kids are now 24, 21 and 16. As he navigated life as a single parent, he said he made mistakes. , but found many successes along the way and recognized that others were going through the same thing. So he wrote a book.
He wrote “The Single Father’s Guide to Life, Cooking and Baseball” in 2012.
“I’ve tried to provide really basic feedback and advice, including recipes just to help this new single dad get through this tough time,” said Mattingly, owner of Mattingly’s Tavern in Florida.
At some point, he said, most single parents will want to return to the dating world. But the thought of doing this after a marriage breakdown or the loss of a spouse can be frightening and intimidating.
Mattingly has once again put his own experiences and advice into a book, “Getting to First Base: The Single Father’s Guide to Dating” (Matting Leah Publishing Company, 2021).
He’s sprinkled it with classic sports quotes and yes, a few easy-to-prepare recipes, with the aim of helping single dads find a “lasting and successful romantic relationship while raising healthy, well-adjusted children at the same time.” time “.
He admits that despite being the same guy, things have changed since the last time he and other single dads may have been in the dating group.
“There is no doubt that I am the same person, just like a tree is the same tree, but 10 years later a tree is going to be taller but also wider and stronger and that is me,” said the resident of Warwick, who is now engaged to be married.
Triage for single fathers
Mattingly describes his first book as a “triage book for single fathers, who suddenly find themselves in an unusual situation”.
The sequel is a next-level book that deals with the personal relationships and self-care of a man, as well as his children.
“One thing I have learned about parenting in the context where my children have lost their mother and father starting to date is that children are ‘ready’ to receive information at different levels of maturity depending on the personality of each child, ”he said.
“When I first started dating, frankly my kids didn’t know much about it. When my children’s maturity stage improved, so to speak, and everyone was ready to ask questions, I answered them honestly and according to their age. appropriately. ”
As his children grew older and they began to understand relationships better, they had questions for their father, he said: “I responded by explaining that men and women. Adult women value these types of relationships and friendships for a number of emotional reasons. support for intellectual stimulation, just enjoy each other’s company. “
Dating challenges for single dads
According to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau, single fathers make up 2.5 million of the 11 million single-parent families in the United States. However, Mattingly recognizes that while widowers and divorced fathers have a lot in common, they also share unique challenges.
“There is no other woman in the picture for the widower, so he has the ability to make his own decisions unlike a divorced man who has an ex-wife and the mother of his children still in the picture” , he explains.
“When I went out as a widower, there was also a strange vibe from the women I met, wondering if I am still grieving and if she will live up to the late wife,” said Mattingly said. “So that creates a different situation… energy in the relationship.
He encourages the single dad to take the time to take care of himself before entering dating circles.
“I use the baseball offseason metaphor – the season is over and you haven’t won the World Series and now you have to take stock, whatever that means to you,” he explains. .
“For a widower, it may be to mourn. For someone else who hasn’t had a successful relationship, it may be about learning to communicate better or to listen better. There may also be one way or another that their health, hygiene, dress or weight must be taken into account. Whatever you think, you need to take care of yourself.
Mattingly, who includes true stories – both good and bad – of his dating experiences in the book, thinks one of the biggest mistakes single dads make before they start dating is that they don’t. have not yet mourned.
“You don’t have to lose a spouse to mourn a relationship that is dead,” he said. “So a man has to face this heartache and then be emotionally ready to move on. “
The second mistake?
“Don’t be honest with yourself and what you’re looking for,” Mattingly says.
“If a man just wants to go out and have a good time or have a long term relationship that culminates in marriage, then he has to be honest with every woman he is dating.”
But what if your kids don’t like who you’re dating?
First. Mattingly says to avoid the temptation to rush things.
“Make sure the person is the right fit for you as a single dad and for the family before you think about bringing them home – and I’m talking about a few months,” he said.
“If you’re a good dad, you take your time and know that the values of this potential partner match the ones you have. Then the likelihood of the kids not getting along with this new person is much smaller.”
Dad Dating Tips
And now that his own children have reached dating age, what advice does he give them?
“It starts by fostering self-esteem and self-respect by literally showing each of my children that they are precious, among other things, attending teacher conferences, volunteering at school, by being at the game, at the recital and at the ceremony. ” he said. “Don’t just tell your kids that they are important. Show them.”
When it comes to dating and relationships, his advice sticks better to that primed canvas, he explained.
“What is the real advice I am giving to my children today? This is the same advice I give to single dads who are dating, that is, only consider making a commitment if you’ve been dating for long enough and you’ve been engaged long enough to know, without the shadow of a doubt that you and your partner can keep the promise, “until death do us part.”
“Getting to First Base: The Single Father’s Guide to Dating” is available online at all major and independent bookstores.
Lisa Iannucci is a freelance writer from the Hudson Valley. Contact her at [email protected]