Things To Know As A Single Mum Dating

Dating Explained…

‘Dating’ is a word that gets hugely complicated once you off-loaded it, and what the term means to any given person is largely an issue of semantics, much like what a person means when they say they’re “seeing someone” or “hanging out” or “having a thing.”

The definition of dating shows us that there’s a difference between dating someone and just dating. “Dating” means you’re going on dates. You are actively getting out there and meeting people and spending time with them. “Dating someone” means you’re seeing somebody specific, with purpose and regularly.

If you can check these off your list, you are dating someone:

  • You like someone and you’re trying to get to know them better.
  • You’re spending time with a person (or persons) in hopes of finding a committed relationship.
  • You can see yourself settling down (or at least entertain the idea) with the person or persons you see regularly.

Here are some examples of situations in which you are NOT dating someone:

  • You don’t want a relationship at all, and you’ve been clear about that to everyone you get to know/hook up with.
  • The person you’re getting to know/hooking up with has been clear that they don’t want a relationship at all.
  • You don’t usually see the same person more than once or twice before you move on.

Dating comes down to intention. If you intend to get to know someone because you’re interested in seeing if there’s a future there, even if it’s not a down-the-aisle, Grandmother’s-wedding-band future, you’re dating them.

Here’s what “dating” isn’t- it’s no exclusivity. Not guaranteed exclusivity, anyway dating exclusively is rare. Even as things grow more serious, exclusivity is something that always requires a frank conversation about what each party wants, and without that conversation, it’s not safe to assume the two of you are on the same page.

Regardless of how much time has passed, how often you see each other, etc., two people being committed to each other, always requires that awful, painful, awkward conversation.

Just because you’re “dating” doesn’t necessarily mean you’re “dating someone,” however, if you are “dating someone,” you’re absolutely “dating.” All squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares. I think that’s an accurate analogy…

The difference between “dating” and “hooking up” or “having fun” or “hanging out” is intention. If you want to find someone to have a relationship with, you’re dating.

It’s not to say that something not-so-serious cannot turn into dating, but you most definitely can’t assume it will. You also can’t assume that dating will turn into an exclusive and committed relationship.

If you’re hazy about what you’re doing with someone, it’s always best to have an awkward chat with them. I permit you to have a glass or three of wine first if you’d like; it tends to make things easier. But just like most issues in the world of relationships, when it comes to clearing the air around the dreaded dating meaning, communication is almost always guaranteed to help any confusion.

Dating is an adventure, and one that evokes so many feelings as you bravely put yourself out there: Hope, elation, disappointment, anxiety, frustration, passion. If you’re moving on after a divorce, or you’ve been single but you’re back on the apps for the first time in a while, this emotional roller coaster includes some extra twists and turns when you’re a mom. Here’s what to know about dating as a single mom, according to women who’ve done it and a few things someone who has started seeing a single mom (and wants to impress her) should keep in mind.

Start only when you’re ready

Dating and the possibility of rejection that comes with it can test even those with unbreakable self-esteem. So before you post a profile or say yes to that coffee date, wait until you’re sure you’re strong enough to handle the setbacks, the ghosting, and other potentially bad behaviour out there.
This is especially important when you’ve recently made a major transition, such as a divorce or a big move. You’ll want to make sure you’re fully healed from your breakup, and that any decisions you’ll be making will come from a place of self-love. Don’t do it until both you and your children are in a peaceful place.

Do not feel guilty…

While your kids will always be at the top of your list, you shouldn’t feel bad for wanting an adult personal life of your own. Lara, the author of Mama, Mama, Only Mama: An Irreverent Guide for the Newly Single Parent, explains why trying to find romance can benefit your children in the long run.

“Kids need a healthy relationship role model,” she says. “There’s pressure for moms to be born-again virgins and sacrifice everything for their children. While this might sound noble, children learn a lot by observation, and it doesn’t teach kids what a good relationship or dating life looks like.”

“I never wanted my kids to choose to stay home because they worried about me being lonely,” Lara continues. “It’s important that kids don’t feel responsible for their mom’s social life. Plus, going out without kids on occasion gave me more patience with them when we were home together.”

Be as honest as you can with your kids about the fact that you’re dating…when the time is right.
As you well know, children are a curious bunch. Depending on their age, acting secretive may only bring more questions. There’s no reason to hide the fact that you’ve decided to start dating, according to Lanae St.John, a certified sex coach whose work includes counselling parents on sex ed. “Be upfront,” she says, and consider using it as a teachable moment with older kids. “When you get to a point where you’re seeing someone special, take the opportunity with your children to discuss your special someone’s qualities and characteristics, and why those are essential to you.”

“Our kids need to see us enjoying ourselves, getting out there, and creating a new life, just so long as they understand that their place is safe and secure in it,” Good says. “From a young age, my girls knew if I was going on a date, and whether or not I would start seeing him again.”

That said, you know your kids, their relationship with their father (if it applies) and your circumstances better than anyone. If initially telling them you’re going to visit a family friend feels safer, than mother knows best.

Brace yourself for people’s negative opinions…

Mom-shaming the critical and outright rude comments people make about a mother’s perceived parenting fails is all too rampant, and people may offer unsolicited thoughts on your new dating life. “Judgment may come from family or friends who have their own opinions about how appropriate it is for a single mom to date,” St. John says. “Take it with a grain of salt, and trust your instincts.”

Tell prospective dates you’ve got kids as soon as possible.
St. John, Good, and Lillibridge agree: You must disclose that you’re a parent at your first opportunity. Mention it in your online dating profile if you’ve got one, or bring it up on your first date (if not earlier). “Being a parent is such an important part of who you are that you shouldn’t hide it,” Good points out. “In fact, it’s often a plus, especially with so many other single parents out there looking for love.”

What to Talk About on a First Date

Tips for Dating After Divorce
Don’t worry about “scaring off” a potential love with the fact that you’re a mom. St. John says the k-word makes for a great filter because you won’t get attached to someone who doesn’t like or want kids. “While you may be making your dating pool smaller, the quality of those in the pool goes up significantly.”

“Whatever you do, don’t wait too long or worse, lie about how many kids you have,” St. John, who’s seen this happen before, cautions. It introduces honesty and trust issues before a relationship can blossom.

Screen potential partners thoroughly

While your kids should be on your dates’ radar, hold off on sharing photos and details until they’ve earned your trust over time, Good advice.

“A single mom still has the solemn responsibility to screen her partners,” says St. John. “Exercise caution, conduct due diligence, and check their personality and background thoroughly, so you’re not putting yourself or your children at risk.” This stands no matter how much of a good feeling you get from them, she adds.

As for the ‘When should a mom introduce their kids to someone she’s dating?’ question…
When and how you do it varies by what you feel is right for your own family, but as St. John says, “take as long as necessary to maintain the safety and happiness of your family first.” You’ll want to tell your kids about the new person ahead of time (consider explaining the qualities that make you like them so much, as St. John suggested), and address any questions and feelings they have. St. John said she didn’t introduce her kids to men until she was confident he was “safe,” and they’d been together long enough for her to know things were getting serious.

Good recommends asking yourself these questions (which you can also ask your kids, if it feels right) before you make any intros: “Are they ready to see Mom with guy who is not Dad? Will they be happy for you? Or feel sad for Dad?”

Karen, whose kids were toddlers when she started dating, said she took the approach of introducing new boyfriends as just another one of her platonic male friends. “I didn’t want to fall in love with someone who didn’t get along with my kids so I wanted a ‘test run’ fairly early in relationships but I didn’t want the kids to know it was significant.”

“One mistake I made was introducing my kids to a man I was dating and his dog,” she adds. “Although they didn’t care one bit about him vanishing, they asked about the dog for months after we broke up!”

Keep an open mind (and a sense of humor).

Dating requires resilience, and things won’t always go smoothly. If you meet people you click with, but don’t feel that magical spark, don’t let that discourage you, either. In fact, dating might widen your social support circle. Good says she never found Mr. Right online, but she did make new friends (and someone to tend her garden).

Enjoy yourself whenever you can, and try to laugh at the wilder moments. “Dating as a single mom is pretty reminiscent of dating as a teenager,” Lillibridge jokes. “You occasionally sneak out after they’re asleep with a babysitter, of course and you don’t want to be overheard on the phone, or caught necking on the couch.”

What to know if you’re dating a single mom

Follow her lead when it comes to getting to know her kids.
If you’ve been lucky enough to fall for a single mom, let her decide what she wants to share with you about her children and when. Remember, you might know that you’re a nice guy, but she just met you and has to keep their safety in mind. Let her share photos, stories, and anything regarding her life with them at her own pace. Showing an interest in her family is wonderful, but resist any urges to pressure her for an in-person meeting. When you do eventually spend time with her kids, never forget that you’re not their parent.

Once the two of you have started seeing each other consistently, Lillibridge has a non-intrusive suggestion for how to earn major brownie points: “Offer to help pay for the babysitter on dates (if you have the means). Just leaving the house without your kids in tow costs money. A lot of money.”

Respect her time, and be as flexible as you can.
Spontaneity is a challenge for single mothers especially if their kids are younger than high school age. Do your best to schedule outings well ahead of time…and be patient if those plans go haywire. “Sometimes she may run late because her toddler puked down her top and she had to change, but that’s okay,” Good says.

Don’t expect an immediate text or call back.
“If she has toddlers and promises to call after the kids are asleep and don’t, she might very well have fallen asleep,” Lillibridge points out. “Assume best intentions. Texts are much easier to swing than phone calls with little people around because children always need attention the moment you pick up the phone. Plus, they’re good at eavesdropping.”

“If she doesn’t respond straight away, is a little short, or accidentally calls you her ‘little soldier,’ you need to understand she’s spinning many plates and not give her a hard time,” Good says.

Plan dates that tap into her ‘fun adult’ side.
Again, a single mom’s free time is precious, and she’s probably in need of some grownup-style fun (that doesn’t just refer to sex, but that, too). While what’s considered “fun” varies greatly from woman to woman; some may simply crave a kids-free Netflix night in. But St. John advises you to “think adventurous.” After a divorce, she says, a mom might be on a journey of self-rediscovery.

“Even a beautiful dinner out, where she doesn’t have to force-feed a small person broccoli or do the washing-up, would be perfect,” Good adds.

Let her know she’s doing great.
A single mom is literally doing it all, every hour of the day (and sometimes at night). On a hectic day of wrangling kids, words of admiration can feel like getting a cup of cool water in the middle of a marathon. Good suggests sending “the odd text telling her that she’s doing a great job, and that you’re thinking of her. As wonderful as single parenthood is, it can be a little thankless. Show some support and love, and you’ll be on the right track to win her heart.”

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