Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Question: I'm a 45-year-old divorced mom of two boys (10 and 7). For the first time since way before my marriage ended, I miss dating and romantic intimacy - not just sex but closeness, having someone care for me.

I've done some online dating and find that the guys dating women in my age group either want to keep things completely casual to talk immediately about a relationship and marriage. I think I'm interested in the former, but am having a hard time feeling OK with that as a mother of young kids and someone who has probably frowned on that sort of thing in the past.

I don't have a great read on how others view this sort of thing now. Is it OK to just go out there and have a good time? Is that going to make me ineligible to have a relationship again someday?

Answer: Why so much concern about public opinion of this "sort of thing"? Who cares what people think of your values?

Why did you care enough in the past about others' value systems that you judged them for "that sort of thing"?

Why would you even want to date someone who would page through your history, including the choices you're poised to make now, and find it morally disqualifying? Wouldn't that make the guy a judgmental jerk - or at least wrong for you on principle?

As long as you're careful not to destabilize your kids' home life with the ups and downs of dating, you're fine with them, and as long as you behave respectfully of your and others' feelings, you're fine with everyone else.

Question: Is the divorced mom worrying about how a vindictive or judgmental ex/co-parent - and family court judges and social workers - will see her love life? That might necessitate different emphasis in the answer.

Still, usually a good mom is a happy mom, and in most communities, people understand that.

Question: I get the feeling she wants to be able to do something that she judges/judged others for and not be judged herself. So either she's changed her mind, in which case she needs to stop caring if others will judge her, or she still judges others, in which case she's a hypocrite and needs to practice what she preaches.

Question: She can tell friends she is dating men and taking time to get to know them before making serious plans and introducing them to her kids - a choice that seems wise. Or she can tell them she's bringing home every guy she sees on the dating site.

It's her choice how to spin this, but I'm not certain why she hasn't figured that out yet.

Answer: Touche.

Chat with Carolyn Hax online at noon Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.