For most single moms, plunging into the world of dating again may make you feel like a toddler who is just learning to walk and get on her feet. It can be daunting, scary, and downright awkward.
And of course, there’s the logistics to consider. Who will take care of your baby when you’re out being wined and dined? Should you go out before or after you’ve tucked your little tyke into bed?
Then, as if that weren’t enough, you’ll need to think about things like how (and whether) to introduce your date to your child, or how to even explain the concept of dating to someone who thinks kissing is, like, the grossest thing grownups can do, ever!
Given all this, some moms don’t think it’s even worth the trouble. Some think that becoming a parent means hanging up one’s party shoes, retiring those draw-a-man’s-attention-to-my-fabulous-legs heels forever. But being a single mom doesn’t have to mean you’ll be flying solo forever (or even until your kids are old enough to start dating themselves).
Here are a few tips we’ve compiled on how to get past the clumsiness and uncertainty that come with dating when you’re a single mother. Click on a tip to learn more about it, or simply read on!
- Know and accept that you are one person with two different needs.
- No guilt-tripping.
- Keep your expectations realistic.
- Going out doesn’t mean putting out.
- Don’t look for someone to complete you.
- Practice a policy of full disclosure.
- Give him a chance, and don’t compare him to your child’s father.
- Know your self-worth.
- Be unapologetic about your situation, but be understanding about his.
- Be honest with your kids.
(Photo ©iStockphoto/Sean Locke)
KNOW AND ACCEPT THAT YOU ARE ONE PERSON WITH TWO DIFFERENT NEEDS.
“Single mother” is composed of two opposing words that are forced together either by circumstance (like a break up of a marriage), by natural occurrences (like death), or by accident (self-explanatory). Whatever its cause, there are still two words there—“single” and “mother.” And while, as a mother, you’ll find most of your nurturing and caring urges filled by your kids, you also have needs as a woman—as an individual who looks for fulfillment in her career and, yes, even in her relationships.
Other people may raise a few eyebrows when they hear that you want to start or have started dating again. These are the people who will think that you should just be happy and content with your children now that your biological imperative to reproduce has been fulfilled. Some may just give you odd looks; some may even give you their unsolicited advice or opinions outright. You don’t need the additional guilt. The truth is you don’t owe anyone—except maybe your children—an explanation.
KEEP YOUR EXPECTATIONS REALISTIC.
Don’t expect to get it right on the first date. On the contrary, there will be men you wish you had never met, and dates that will make you wish you had stayed home watching animated movies with your kids in your jammies, but that’s what dating is all about. It’s a trial-and-error exercise, and this isn’t a problem restricted to single mothers—anyone in the dating game will have both funny, endearing, and horrific stories to tell you about life “in the wild.”
Dating someone means getting to know him to see if you will suit each other, and as the cliché goes, you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find a prince. That means not letting one, two, or even three bad experiences make you a quitter.
GOING OUT DOESN'T MEAN PUTTING OUT.
Engaging adult conversation, getting the attention from a man who finds you attractive, even just considering the prospect of having sex again—all these may make you weak in the knees. Don’t let it cloud your judgment. Casual sex is not for the faint-hearted; you should know when you are ready for a level of involvement that involves getting between the sheets.
Be prudent and wait until you know each other well enough; if he’s a keeper, he’ll respect you enough to wait. Besides, sex carries a risk, and before you take a gamble on your future and that of your children, shouldn’t you make sure he is worth it?
DON'T LOOK FOR SOMEONE TO COMPLETE YOU.
Perhaps the most famous single mom movie is Jerry Maguire, where the line “You complete me” was forever immortalized. But in reality, when you’re a single mom, it can make you unnecessarily vulnerable to look for someone to “complete you.” Think of it this way: as sweet as the line may be, it’s an acknowledgment that you’re going through life “incomplete.”
As blogger Ms. Single Mama so aptly puts it, “Remember you and your child/ren can be completely content and happy without a man in your life. If a man wants in—he has to earn it.”
PRACTICE A POLICY OF FULL DISCLOSURE.
You may wonder how you’ll know when it’s the right time to tell him that you’re a single mother. That should be the second thing you tell him, the first being your name. Once you decided to have and raise your children, you should have made the decision to put them first; that means no hiding them away like some deep, dark secret.
Marina, a 28-year-old single mom, says this about her well-meaning friends: “My friends set me up on blind dates after my separation, but always advised me not to tell the guy right away that I had kids because it would scare him off. I took their advice at first, but it didn’t feel right. I felt like I was ashamed of having kids.”
Now Marina is up front about her status, which has also served as her filter mechanism. “If a guy has issues about dating a single mom, then I know right away that I shouldn’t waste my time dating him.”
(Photo source: sxc.hu)
GIVE HIM A CHANCE, AND DON'T COMPARE HIM TO YOUR CHILD'S FATHER.
Trust us, he will make mistakes, and he will at some point say something that may offend you. That doesn’t mean you should drop him like a hot coal. Allow him to make an impression for himself, rather than comparing him to your previous husband or boyfriend. Give him a chance—dating a single mom is like dating two people (you and your kids), so he’ll need time to get used to that and take in the whole situation, especially if he hasn’t spent a lot of time around kids before. But if he’s willing to try and try again, even after an embarrassing or awkward faux pas, then that tells you that he thinks you’re worth the effort. Shouldn’t you give him the same courtesy?
KNOW YOUR SELF-WORTH.
Annette, a 36-year-old retail chain marketing director and single mother, shares, “I once had a guy friend who told me that he would never ever date a single mom. He was very vocal about this, so you can imagine my surprise when he asked me out. I reminded him about his adamant objection to single moms, and he had the unknowing audacity to tell me that he was so into me that he was prepared to lower his standard. I was appalled. He was living with his parents, had no steady job, and he didn’t once think that I was the one lowering my standards if I dated him.”
Bottom line: A guy’s single status and his willingness to date you, children or no children, doesn’t automatically make him a catch. And corollary to this, being a single mom doesn’t make you “damaged goods.”
BE UNAPOLOGETIC ABOUT YOUR SITUATION, BUT BE UNDERSTANDING ABOUT HIS.
Yes, it will be complicated to schedule a date when your availability is a vague some time “after homework and bedtime.” Spontaneous out-of-town trips with just the two of you will be next to impossible. Such is the life of a single mom.
You don’t have to apologize for your crazy schedule, but you do have to understand him if it turns a guy away—even one you might have thought was the one. Of course, that doesn’t give him the right to be obnoxious about it, just the right to tell you up front if he isn’t ready for the kind of relationship you’ll need from him.
BE HONEST WITH YOUR KIDS.
While you may want to wait before introducing any man to your children, don’t hide the fact that you are dating from them. Explain that you deserve to be happy, but make them understand that a man will never dislodge them from the secure place that they have in your life.
(Photo source: sxc.hu)
Ana Santos is a freelance journalist and sexual health advocate. She writes about gender issues in relation to sex and relationships and armed conflict in Mindanao. She thinks the intersection between those two points is the need for “protection.” Her stories may be accessed on www.anasantoswrites.com.