Archive for the ‘Eugenia Parrett’ Category

Dating and the Single Dad

April 9, 2009

I recently received a friend request on Facebook from someone that I knew back in elementary school. Hearing from someone that I had not seen in over two decades made me wonder who else was out there that I had lost contact with. I began putting in random names from high school, college, previous jobs, and finally some family members. I eventually found a cousin that I hadn’t spoken to since we lived in the Northeast, over 15 years ago. We began to catch up and I asked about the two darling little girls that were in all of his photos on his profile. It seems that he is currently a single dad who is raising an 18 month old and a 5 year old without the help of their mother who walked away from the family when their youngest child was born. I have to admit that I was in total shock at hearing his story because it usually isn’t the mother who walks away from the responsibility of raising a child. (I guess I had seen one too many episodes of “Maury” where women were hauling men onto national television to find out the results of the DNA tests to convince these men to take responsibility for the children they had created.) After exchanging pleasantries, we started discussing our personal lives and he was very excited to hear about my pending nuptials. I asked him if there was a special lady (aside from the two little ones on his profile) in his life and that was when he began telling me the woes of dating as a single dad. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would hear such tales of heartbreak, sadness, and disappointment. In the movies men usually use babies and puppies as “chick magnets.” Why didn’t that work in real life? (Note to self—you watch WAY too much television!) Apparently, dating for single dads is no easy feat and may leave many wondering if they’ll ever find that special someone again. I asked my cousin if he had any words of advice for other single dads out there and he says he has come up with five easy rules to follow:

1. Avoid the “baby momma drama.” Whatever you do, DON’T TALK ABOUT THE OTHER WOMEN IN YOUR LIFE! At least not in the beginning of a relationship. Your dates and prospective girlfriends have a right to know if you are widowed or divorced; however, they will feel intimidated if you talk about them incessantly. Definitely avoid talking about how well you and your ex get along as this may cause your new girlfriend to think there is a possibility you are getting back together with them. You also don’t want to badmouth her either as this sets the stage for ill feelings towards someone your ex has never met.

2. Me, myself, and I. Take some “me time.” The better you feel, the better you’ll be able to take care of your child(ren). Get plenty of exercise, engage in hobbies, and spend time with your friends and family. These are great ways to stay physically, emotionally, and psychologically fit!

3. The truth shall set you free! First, tell the woman you are seeing that you have children. It doesn’t make sense to try and date someone who is adamant about not liking/wanting children. Second, be honest with whomever you are dating about your financial situation. Women were so used to dating men who paid for everything that it was difficult for them to understand that sole responsibility for two children was definitely taking its toll on my cousin’s finances. R.J. says that this was the hardest thing for him do since he had always prided himself on being able to “wine and dine” the ladies….

4. Variety is the spice of life. The last thing you want to do is enter a long-term relationship with the first woman you go out with. You may feel loved and needed-perhaps for the first time in a long time but chances are you may not be ready for a long term commitment immediately after becoming widowed or divorced. Try dating a few people first.

5. Hi, my name is….When you introduce your children to your girlfriend for the first time, don’t set your expectations too high. No matter how much you want it to happen, your new girlfriend and your kids probably aren’t going to be instant best friends. Relationships take time to develop. (So what if R.J’s oldest daughter Leah wouldn’t let his current girlfriend touch her, or talk to her or even look at her when they first met? They have taken the time to get to know each other and Leah now runs to give her a hug goodnight!)

Eugenia Parrett, Graduate Research Assistant

Alabama Community Healthy Marriage Initiative

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

February 16, 2009

Last week I went to pick my daughter up from her afterschool program and as usual, I was in a hurry to get home. All I could think about was how much I needed to get done and how I wished I hadn’t let things pile up and how I wanted to go to bed at a decent hour. Once my daughter was in the car, she told me that for the third time that week she hadn’t earned her behavior tickets because she had been talking to her friends. This would cause her to miss the good behavior party at school and according to her, she didn’t really care. Needless to say, hearing that didn’t improve my mood. As if things couldn’t get any worse, as I was ready to pull off from the school, I found that I was parked behind a school bus that was sitting there with its lights flashing, indicating that I could not go around. So I am ready to get home, I am not too happy about my daughter’s nonchalant attitude regarding her behavior, and I am stuck behind a school bus! After about 10 minutes of waiting, I just couldn’t stand it anymore and wondered out loud, “Why is this bus taking so long?!” My child’s response will forever be imbedded in my mind. With the tiniest voice she said, “Its Mikayla’s bus and she’s a wheelchair person and maybe it’s just taking them a long time to strap her in.” A sense of shame and guilt immediately came over me and I was literally brought to tears. Here I was focusing on myself and all that was going on in my world, not stopping to think that someone else was having a difficult time, possibly due to circumstances beyond their control. And to top it all off, I realized that a 9 year old had more patience and compassion than I did.

How often do we become so consumed by what is going on in our own little worlds that we don’t stop to think about what someone else might be going through? How often do we fail to realize that even those closest to us are just as busy as we are, yet they don’t take their frustration out on the rest of the world? In order to be a better spouse, parent, friend, significant other, etc., you have to first learn to be patient. Being patient with someone shows respect for them which goes a long way in relationships. Having patience helps you to be more relaxed around the people you care about, enabling you to have more positive interactions. After my experience last week, I have made a conscious effort at trying to be more patient and not so consumed by every little thing that comes my way. It has been a struggle but I keep reminding myself not to sweat the small stuff…and it’s all small stuff. So if you find yourself becoming overwhelmed and impatience begins to rear its ugly little head, remember: expect the unexpected, focus on what is most important, and if you can’t do anything about what is causing you to be impatient, let it go!

Eugenia Parrett

Doctoral Student

Alabama Community Healthy Marriage Initiative

Real Housewives of Auburn

December 4, 2008

One of my guilty pleasures this television season is Real Housewives of Atlanta. Each Tuesday evening, we get a glimpse of the “fabulous” lives of five women who consider themselves to be among Atlanta’s wealthiest socialites. There’s Kim, who purchased a Cadillac Escalade, in cash. DeShawn hired a full-time staff of 6, including a nanny, governess, estate manager, and personal chef, to handle various duties around her home. Sheree threw herself an over-the-top 40th birthday bash, replete with a $1,200 cake in the shape of her favorite Louis Vuitton purse. Lisa took pride in selling multi-million dollar homes to athletes, music producers, and other wealthy people. And there was NeNe, who spared no expense in ensuring that she would be the hottest person at whatever social event she attended. While I can name many of the extravagant things they did, I can’t say that I ever saw them do a lot with their children. I never saw them picking their children up from school. I never saw them at a school play or taking their child to dance classes. I never saw these ladies tuck their kids in at night or cheer for them on the sidelines. Have we become a society that is so entrenched in wearing the latest fashions, buying the biggest bling, or driving the hottest cars that our children fall by the wayside and become merely another notch on our accomplishment belt?

But while that was taking place on Bravo, a much better reality show was playing out in front of my very eyes every Wednesday and Thursday night…the Real Housewives of Auburn. I saw women dressed in sweats and scrubs bring their daughters to soccer practice and games each week. I saw women drive back and forth between soccer practice with their 10 year old and swim lessons for their 15 year old. We rooted for each other’s child whenever they scored a goal, blocked a goal, or just got an opportunity to kick the ball. We shared stories about how long the girls had been involved in extra-curricular activities, how we handled grades, differences in siblings, and the importance of being involved in our children’s lives. While it’s apparent that we weren’t rolling in the dough like the Atlanta housewives, we did have one thing in common—we were all committed to ensuring that our children had as many opportunities as we could give them to maximize their potential. Decades of research has linked parental involvement with higher grades and test scores, fewer instances of violent behavior, decreased use of drugs and alcohol, and increased motivation and self-esteem. As a single mom, it is not always easy to balance work and family. I have seen many a day when my daughter asked me to attend an event and despite how tired I was, or how many other things were going on, I made sure that if it wasn’t absolutely essential for me to be elsewhere, I was there to support my daughter. I have attended plays, soccer games, classroom presentations, and concerts. I have shown up at every parent-teacher conference, I have volunteered to read to my daughter’s class, and I even manned a booth at the annual Spring Fling, all to ensure that I am an active participant in my child’s life. For me and the other 7 women who gathered each Wednesday and Thursday night, the focus is on our children, not us.

So perhaps throwing extravagant social events or being able to keep up with the Jones’ is someone else’s reality, but it isn’t mine.

Eugenia Parrett, M.S.

Alabama Community Healthy Marriage Initiative

Wedding Planning 101

September 15, 2008

I recently became engaged and entered the vast world of wedding planning. Never in my wildest dreams could I ever imagine the details (and the costs!) that go into planning the “perfect day.” From “Save the Date cards” to reception favors, planning a wedding can be a daunting task. I see how one can become so involved in the details that they forget about the big picture. Although I grew up dreaming that I’d have an elaborate wedding, replete with a horse drawn carriage, I have come to the realization that it’s the love I share with my fiancé and the commitment we have to each other that will endure after the invitations are thrown away, (because only the bride is interested in framing one), the “I do’s” are done, and the band has stopped playing. Working on the ACHMI project has opened my eyes to the value of marriage education and its positive impact on strengthening marriages. How do we manage conflicts? How do we balance home and work? Do we have the foundation necessary to build a successful marriage that will inspire generations to come? I have come to value not the how, or the where, or the when, of getting married but rather the WHO. Who is this person that I have decided to marry? Who is this person that I am pledging a lifetime commitment to? Who is this person I want to grow old with, working in our garden while our grandchildren run around in the yard? Unfortunately, neither the calligrapher nor the caterer will be there to help us with these questions along the way. Rather than focusing on the details of the wedding day, I’d rather focus on the details of our relationship. So despite the lure of hand-crafted invitations, elaborate cakes, and designer dresses, my focus has shifted from planning a DAY to planning a LIFETIME.

Eugenia Parrett, M.Ed.

Graduate Research Assistant, Alabama Community Healthy Marriage Initiative