The Single-Mom Dating Guide

Dating Tips

I'm Ready to Date, But Where the Heck Do I Begin?

Wait--so you're saying there isn't a line of handsome, well-adjusted suitors waiting outside your door because they got the memo that you're available? There were no obvious candidates for me right off the bat either. Also, I found much of the common wisdom, which advises the single gal to ask friends to fix her up or to hunt for hunks in the aisles of The Home Depot, maddening and unrealistic.

By all means, get the word out that you're interested in meeting someone and cross your fingers. People do get fixed up, from what I hear, and I suppose there are women who can make things happen at bars, playgrounds, and big-box chain stores. I'm not one of them.

The fact is, you're a busy mom, which means you're often housebound. If you want to have some control over the process, carve out a few hours for yourself and your laptop during your kids' naptime or after they're asleep. Sniff around on Facebook. (Surely there's an old flame, or a friend of a friend of a friend worth, um, friending?) Or join an online dating site where you can cast your net as wide as you'd like. Your married friends will eagerly help you write your profile and, in return, you will provide them much-needed vicarious thrills. They will love it, I promise!

Should I Date Only Dads?

Maybe. Having children is such a life-altering experience that it can be hard to relate to men who don't get the intense pull on your heart and pressure on your time that is parenthood. In my three-plus years of postmarital singledom, I've gone on one or two dates with non-dads, but my two longer-term relationships have been with fathers. Men who haven't been in the parenting trenches, even if they love kids, just seem to speak a different language, one that doesn't necessarily have a translation for phrases such as, "I can't leave my son with a babysitter tonight because he has the flu."

On the other hand, dating a man with kids can be a scheduling nightmare, requiring both of you to synchronize with your exes and their new love interests, and the new love interests' exes, ad infinitum. Julia Landry, the author of the parents.com blog Unexpectedly Expecting, where she chronicles her life as the single mom of a 3-year-old, says she prefers to date dads: "They're less likely to unfairly judge me for being a single mom and they understand that my child will always come first." But Landry doesn't promote a hard-and-fast rule. "Non-dads tend to be able to work better with the crazy schedule of a single mom," she says. The bottom line: There's no explaining chemistry. If it works with someone, it works, dad-ness be damned.

When Is the Right Time and What Is the Right Way to Introduce a Guy I'm Dating to My Kids?

Can I tell you how much I dreaded this? Okay, I will. I was dating a guy for a couple of months when my girls, then 8 and 12, got wind of his existence. Because their dad had already introduced them to his girlfriend and everything went fine, I figured they wouldn't give me a hard time. But they're girls and I'm their mom, so it was a whole different thing. My older daughter was not cool with my even mentioning my boyfriend and announced that she refused to meet him. Ultimately, about eight months into it, I invited him to join us at a dinner party with some family friends. He and the girls got to interact casually in a group setting, without him feeling like he was on a job interview.

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