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November 01, 1991 - Image 102

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-11-01

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Unmarried moms and dads struggle to balance social lives with parenting.


Staff Writer

hen Mark Pensler
decided to marry
Shirleen Lansky,
he didn't ask her parents for
her hand in marriage.
He asked his daughter,
Jennifer, now 19.
Suddenly thrust into the
world of dating in December
1985 when he and his wife
split up, Mr. Pensler, a high
school teacher, faced a prob-
lem common to single
parents seeking new social
avenues: How to date with
children in tow.
Mr. Pensler said his chil-
dren came first, but Jennifer
wasn't always too receptive
to his dates.
"My son, Daniel, was
amenable and responded
easily to the women I
dated," Mr. Pensler said.
"Jennifer had problems with
it. She had not maintained a
relationship with her
mother, and she was angry.
"I was her sole parent and
she was jealous and in-
secure. It was frightening for
her to see her only parent
with someone else. She
didn't want to share me, and
she acted out."
In fact, Mr. Pensler had
one serious relationship that
ended because of a conflict
with Jennifer.
With the blessings of both
their children, Mr. Pensler,
46, and Ms. Lansky got mar-
ried — each for the second
time. Daniel is 16. Ms. Lan-
sky's son, David, is 21.
"One of the reasons I knew
I would marry her is that it
worked out so well with our
children," Mr. Pensler said.



Photo by Glenn Triest


"If you have children, you
can't be serious with
somebody if it does not work
out with your children."
Ellen Reina is a trained
social worker and director of
the National Council of Jew-
ish Women's SPACE, a non-
sectarian project that helps
singles and families in tran-
sition. She works with many
single parents through a
support group, run by people
like Mr. Pensler, a group
"There is no winning in
divorce, especially when
there are kids involved," Ms.
Reina says. "The kids
always lose out."
Programs like SPACE
support families through
separate self-help gioups for
parents, single through
separation, divorce or
widowhood. SPACE also
provides support groups for
their children.
The No. 1 problem for sin-
gle parents who date is chil-
dren who naturally view
such behavior as unaccep-
table, says Dr. Melvyn

Daniel, Mark and Shirleen
Pensler. It's hard on the kids
when parents remarry.

L ■

Raider, a Southfield psy-
chologist who specializes in
family counseling.
"Generally, kids need to be
assured that a new person
will not replace a parent,"
says Dr. Raider, who teaches
marital and family therapy
at Wayne State University's
school of social work. "And
children need to know they
will continue to be loved. If
parents recognize that it is
normal for kids to have prob-
lems with their parents
dating, they can feel less
guilty about it."
Younger children talk
about their fears, Dr. Raider
says. Adolescent children, he
says, are the most difficult,
saying another person has
no right to come into their
"Don't try to use logic to
get kids to think the way you
do," Dr. Raider says. "No

child looks at dating as ac-
ceptable. They view it as a
threat. Parents should
reassure the kids directly or
indirectly that they will con-
tinue to be loved, even if
there is another person in a
parent's life.
"They must assure their
children that a new partner
won't replace mom or dad,"
he says.
Statistics show that 40
percent of today's children
will at some point become
single parents.
Fran Goldstein, 35, is the
mother of one 4-year-old boy,
Auren. She and her husband
of four years divorced two
years ago.
She works part-time
teaching drama workshops,
and is working on her
teacher's certificate. She
wants to teach theater full-
Although she and her hus-
band share custody, Auren
lives with her in Southfield.
Ms. Goldstein doesn't date
"I have no time, energy or

inclination to date," Ms.
Goldstein says. "There are
too many demands of taking
care of my child, myself and
making sure I can take care
of work.
"Dating is hollow," she
says. "What I've done in-
stead is I've developed some
very comfortable platonic
friendships. They are non-
Ms. Goldstein, also a
SPACE facilitator, has
learned that recovery from
divorce often takes two to
five years.
"I'm just now getting
there," Ms. Goldstein says,
adding dating may be more
important to her once she re-
covers completely from the
Still, she says, "My son
comes first."
Andrea Abramson, 39, of
Farmington Hills, is twice
divorced with three children
from her first marriage, now
13, 11 and 9.
For her, dating is a Catch
"I have wants, needs as an
adult," she says. "But I have
a lot of apprehension be-
cause of my children. You
can't keep leaving your chil-
dren. They are my first
She is dating now, but
tries to balance her time so
she doesn't take away quali-
ty time with her children.
Since the children's father
takes them on alternate
Saturday nights, she tries to
limit dating to the nights the
children are gone.
"It is very difficult," she
says. "There are a lot of
things I'd like to do to meet
social needs, but I can't.
Time is so limited." El

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