Single dads have a lot of questions to grapple with when they start dating. How do you go out on a date when the kids still have a curfew? When is the right time to introduce a woman to the kids? And what if they hate her? How do you give children the reassurance they need while pursuing a social life?
When freelance writer Ellie Slott Fisher of Yardley, PA, started promoting her first book, "Mom There’s a Man in the Kitchen and He’s Wearing Your Robe," she says, "from the very first book talk, I went in expecting a room full of women, and I always found a room half full of men. These men would come up to me and say there’s nothing for us, what do we do?"
"Men are raised to believe it’s a man world, so they’re raised to not ask for help. The other thing I discovered when I interviewed children for my first book, is that they felt that their fathers were clueless in their own dating. I felt there was a real need for this book." Fisher took the idea for a book about dating for single dads to the agent she had gotten for her first book, Susan Cohen at Writers House in New York, who turned around and sold it to Bantam, a division of Random House.
Fisher, who appears on Saturday, February 9, at Borders Books in Langhorne, PA, and on Tuesday, March 11, at Borders Books in Nassau Park, took about a year and a half to write the book using the same approach as for the moms book. She sent out an E-mail to everyone she knew asking if they knew any single dads she could interview. She interviewed about 30 single dads and their children from different parts of the country and also worked with an online survey company, Zoomerang, to survey 100 more single dads and 100 children of single dads. Some of the men who had come up to her at book signings for her first book were interviewed. She also interviewed Paul Halpern, a therapist and clinical psychologist with a practice in Villanova, PA, and incorporated his professional expertise into the manuscript.
Fisher was interviewed by U.S. 1 in the May 25, 2005, issue for her first book, where we learned she grew up on the Main Line, Phildelphia, the daughter of a builder and a stay-at-home mom. She earned a bachelors in journalism from Temple University in 1973, then worked as reporter and editor for UPI. She went back to Temple to earn a degree in landscape design in 1987, and turned an industry newsletter (for the Association for Professional Landscape Designers) into a full-fledged trade journal.
She later earned a masters in English and publishing from Rosemont College (near Bryn Mawr) in 2003. The idea for her first book came after her husband died suddenly of an undiagnosed heart condition. "I would speak about my husband’s condition and give lectures at private schools and synagogues. But at the end, people were more curious about how I was surviving socially. More than one said, you have to write a book."
Fisher says she was surprised by some of her findings during her research for the dads book. "What I learned is that dating is different for single dads than for single moms. There’s also a difference in how children react. They see dad as the natural hunter and mom as the nurturer; in that respect it’s a little easier for dads, but the children assume the dad doesn’t know what to do, and they worry more about his dating."
Fisher also learned that men don’t like to be alone. "Women tend to have a larger support network, men are more private. Because they don’t like to be alone, they can easily rush into a relationship. It is so common that they think a relationship is serious when it is merely based on passion. Men often equate lust with love." Fisher’s research revealed that, indeed, the number one trait men look for in a mate is good looks, and number six is intelligence. "For women it’s reversed," says Fisher.
The target market for the book is bigger than you might think. "The other thing that’s changed for men," says Fisher, "is that we never really talk about single fathers, we always think about single mothers. But according to the U.S. Census, the number of households with men with primary custody is 2.2 million, an increase of 62 percent in the past 10 years. And that does not include those single dads with joint custody."
Following are five tips Fishersays she likes to share from "Dating for Dads:
1. Test the waters. A single dad is likely to fall into a few short-lived relationships before he can expect to hit his stride. This again goes back to don’t confuse lust for love, especially if you haven’t been in a happy relationship for a long time.
2. If you’re divorced, level with your kids as soon as you know you’re going to begin dating. You don’t want your former spouse putting a spin on your dating that could be inaccurate or unfair. Also, if you’re widowed, you must let your children know that your dating in no way means you’re forgetting about their mom. Don’t remove her pictures, don’t stop talking about her, give your children the time they need to grieve.
3. Be open to meeting women in many ways. This includes the Internet but also fix-ups, which men don’t like. You have to be willing to consider chaperoning your kids’ school trips, walking the dog, hanging out at cafes on the weekend. Be open to introductions from neighbors. Fisher knows someone who started dating his child’s orthodontist, who was a woman. High school reunions are big. "It is amazing to me how many men meet their next spouse at their high school reunion," Fisher says.
4. Don’t wait until a relationship turns serious to introduce her to your kids. Talk about being blindsided, don’t do that to your kids. So long as you’re not introducing them to a revolving door of women, it’s fine to introduce them to the woman you’re dating.
5. Recognize that your child is struggling with divided loyalties. At the same time you can’t let them manipulate your relationship.
Fisher is already at work on her next book, which will also be published by Bantam. "It’s about all the female relationships in a guy’s life, between his mother and his girlfriend/wife, and the relationship between a guy’s sister and his girlfriend/wife." As with her other books, the idea was born of her own experience. "So far I have written about things that affect me personally. I’ve been there and I get it."
Fisher’s son Noah, 22, teaches third grade in a private school for boys on the upper West side in Manhattan. "He has been seriously involved with a lovely girl for over two years. I realized about a year ago that this is a serious committed relationship. But I also realized as a mom of a son with whom I’ve always been close, that moms have no choice but to get along with and adore their son’s significant other as does the boy’s sister. My son and daughter have always been very close – they lost their dad when they were very young. So it is also critical for the two girls – in this case my son’s girlfriend and his sister – to get along so that my daughter and my son can continue to have a good relationship."
Speaking of good relationships Fisher is still dating the Princeton attorney she was dating in 2005, when we first interviewed her. He has never been married and does not have children but, says Fisher, he contributed a lot of information about men to the book.
Her parting words to single dads: "Go after dating like you would buy a car or a new flat screen TV. Test drive and research until you find the perfect fit. Dating is no different."