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posted: 10/1/2012 2:41 PM

Is newly single mom destined to be alone?

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Q. I am 36 and soon-to-be-single mom of two daughters. I am having a difficult time with friends and family telling me I should not and won't be able to start over. I think I am relatively good-looking, and look young for my age. I do, however, have a few extra pounds, and have lost sight of what "single" life is like, what guys look for or expect.

I know my age and less-than-perfect body will make it difficult. I really don't want to end up alone for the rest of my years. Are guys really that tough on single moms? I have been told that since I will be divorced twice (first marriage ended due to abuse), I am not meant to be with anyone and will find flaws in anyone I am with. Is that fair?

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How do I move on after those comments? Please help a lonely woman start over and realize what life is really like out there!

Looking to Start Over

A. "Out there" will just be more of the same, if all you care about is not looking old and not being alone.

Please stop, breathe, think. You are the mother of and primary influence on two children -- girls, no less. Do you want them to tend to their clothes and bodies and dating mechanics, then consign the rest to hope? The palpably desperate hope that men will save them from being alone?

Or, do you want them to tend to their minds, character, interests, senses of self, and physical and emotional hygiene, and to feel empowered to make good choices from there?

If you want the latter, then you need to teach your girls by living that way yourself. And that means a long look at who you are, then some perspective changes:

Make choices that fill in the blank in this sentence: "I will __ because it is the best I can do for me and my kids." And, throw away this sentence: "I will __ because that's what guys look for and I don't want to end up alone."

• Take the comments of friends and family not as orders to be followed or defied, but as reflections of you worth considering carefully. Weigh them against what you both know and believe about yourself; weigh them against any biases these friends and family have. Heed or ignore the comments accordingly.

• Forget "fair." Fairness is a luxury; reality and prudence are necessities. Applicable not just to dating, but to everything.

• Know and stick to your priorities. First, list them seriously, write them down then place them where they can nag you whenever you're tempted to grab some immediate gratification. A suggested start to such a list: (1) Healthy home environment for kids, meaning consistency, low drama, and high safety for them to be and express themselves. (Unsure? Have your pediatrician recommend a parenting class.) (2) Your own health. (3) Economic stability. (4) The well-being of other loved ones. (5) Family mind-expansion (anything from reading library books at home to traveling abroad). Etc.

With choices that reflect sound priorities, you have two things of great worth: a baseline against which to measure the value of anything or anyone you add to or subtract from your life, and integrity. Hard to go wrong from there.

• Email Carolyn at tellmewashpost.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.

2012 The Washington Post

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