Everyone is under the impression that the hardest thing about dating when you're a single mom is ultimately scheduling. You have to arrange for your kid(s) to be taken care of — whether that's by a family member, a co-parent, or someone you're paying — anytime you want to so much as grab a quick drink with another person. And to be fair, that stuff can be a pain in the ass, but every part of being a mom requires coordination to a degree that seems super-human to non-parents. The truth is, booking a babysitter is a minor, easily attainable detail about dating as a single mom compared to the actual big variable we have to deal with: the people we date.
While some people who don't have kids somehow magically slide into dating a mom with ease and a shocking lack of burdensome presumptions, most people we date... don't. This is especially true with the men we date. As if existing as a woman isn't an inherently foreign enough concept for dudes, throw the element of parenthood int the mix and they are wildly shooting in the dark when it comes to understanding our lives. Yes, even if they were raised by single moms. Turns out, a lot of things about how women parent and date have changed in the last 30 years. I know, man, it's crazy how women aren't frozen in time.
Anyway, it's not a big deal. No one grows up assuming they're going to find themselves dating a single mom one day, and no one is flawless at it, even the people who are comparatively really good at it. Here's are some things you can do, though, that us single moms would definitely appreciate if dating us is something you're trying to do:
Ask Questions Instead Of Making Assumptions
Anyone who doesn't have kids unavoidably has ideas about what life with a kid is like. When you're first starting to date a woman who is a mom, you'll understandably have some guesses or preconceptions about what that means for her, and what it might mean for you. The fact is, most of what you think you know about a single mom's life (and her love life) is wrong, and that's fine. Any woman who gets upset that you A) walk into the first date with a few assumptions about her life, or B) that those assumptions are wrong, is kinda of a d*ck and maybe you don't want to date her anyway.
But it is a good idea to ask questions more than you project assumptions. She'll tell you what's up when it comes to her kid and how being a mom intersects with dating. Although, that said, the best assumption to leave at the door is the one about how all moms want to talk about their kids all the time. Especially in the early days of dating, talk to her about anything and everything else, just like you would anyone else, and let her show you how much she does (or doesn't) want her mom life to be a part of her dating life.
This is good advice when dating anyone who is a human and, like humans do, sometimes needs to cancel or reschedule or is 10 minutes late. But when you're a human whose ability to keep a tight schedule is in part dictated by a tiny human who doesn't give half a sh*t about schedules, maybe be slightly more forgiving. Not even a single mom should be wildly inconsiderate of your time, but if she's a few minutes late to meet you, just move past it.
If We Aren't Sweating It, You Don't Sweat It
Did we mention that we told the babysitter we'd be home by 11:00 p.m., but there's hella traffic, and there's no way we're getting home anywhere close to on time? Don't freak out, especially if it's just to show us that you take the responsibilities of parenthood seriously. We appreciate the solidarity, but when it comes to stressing kid-related issues, take your cues from us. We'll react appropriately, and then you'll know how serious something is (or is not).
Don't Assume We're Dating To Shop For A New Dad For Our Kids
The idea that all single moms are dating with the exclusive goal of finding someone to marry us and alleviate some of the parenting burden and keep our kids from growing up in a Broken Home™ (*insert overly dramatic anguish face here*) is offensive, in addition to being laughably wrong in so many cases.
Single moms date for as many different reasons as people without kids, and are as likely or unlikely to be open to a serious relationship as anyone else. Moreover, very few single moms view their families as "incomplete" in the absence of a second parent — we aren't desperately looking to fill some gap because we simply don't feel that our single-parent families are "missing" anything.
If anything, single moms tend to get their lives down to carefully created systems that really work for them, and they've been singlehandedly steering parenting duties for a while. Basically, instead of "filling a gap," if we were to add another adult to the family, they would have to add a tremendous amount to something that is already really great. Adjusting from one parent to two requires so many massive shifts and arduous transitional periods — no single mom is rushing to do all that work.
So calm down. I'm sure you're great and all, my dude, but no one is trying to crown you "dad" after like three solid dates.
Don't Try To "Play Dad"
Along those same lines, if you do get to the stage of meeting the children of the woman you're dating, just be cool. Don't try to parent them in some earnest attempt to show your lady what a great and awesome dad you would be. Like, if we get there, we get there, and we'll deal with all of that when and if we are there. But for now, you're just "our friend, Tim" which our kid doesn't give a sh*t about anymore than they do the rest of our friends, and that's fine. It's great, actually. When you're dating someone with a kid, let it stay only about the two of you for as long as possible. She doesn't need to (or even maybe want to) see you in dad mode right now.
Advocate For Your Needs
When you don't have kids, the needs of all the people in your life are (to varying degrees) roughly on the same plane of importance. Yes, some friends get priority, and family generally takes the top spot (behind yourself of course), but all of that shifts when you have a kid. Suddenly, their needs almost always come just behind yours (OK, sometimes before yours, too) but ahead of everyone else.
This doesn't mean that the single mom you're dating doesn't care about your needs. I mean, don't ever date anyone who uses any part of their life to nullify their obligation to consider you. But it totally does mean that she's juggling at least one additional person's needs, and that person is a kid, and kids are needy as hell.
So, just make sure you're heard. Be clear, be direct, be understanding that she might not be willing or able to give you everything you need, but also don't accept less than you truly need to be able to thrive within the relationship. Dating a single mom doesn't mean you don't get to have needs — and swallowing them or carrying on without having them met will do nothing but result in a lot of resentment and toxicity for everyone involved.
Maybe Stop Thinking About The Kid Thing
Ultimately, all of the items on this list can be checked off if you just stop thinking of us as "single moms" and starting thinking of us as "women with whom you'll do all the things you know you should've been doing with everyone you date anyway." Seriously, which thing on this list isn't just reflective of healthy dating habits?
The biggest difference between single moms and any other woman you might date is that the presence of a kid in her life means having strong boundaries is a non-negotiable. It's something most people aim to have regardless, but it's a thing we have had no choice but to learn to be great at.
So do everyone a favor and, in the beginning anyway, put the kid thing out of your head. You're dating someone whose love life isn't her whole life, who consistently makes time for the other parts of her life, has healthy boundaries dictating the relationships in her life (like you and her kid), and thrives on open communication and mutual trust with romantic partners. If you can't hang with that, you probably shouldn't be dating anyone, whether they're a mom or not.