Courtesy of Steph Montgomery

9 Single Moms Share The Moment They Realized They Were Ready To Date

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When I became a single mom I realized I hadn't dated in over a decade. In other words, I was horribly out of practice. I had no idea how to get started, or how I would even know when I was ready to date as a newly single mom. Part of the problem was worrying that people would judge me for dating someone new, or assume my choice to date somehow meant I didn't care about my children. (People are the worst, right?) When people found out I left my husband, I was constantly told it was important that I just "focus on my kids" for a while. But how long was "a while"? Honestly, I had no clue.

For the longest time, I didn't want to date as a single mom because I was afraid of trusting someone again. I was so lonely, though. Looking back, I actually wished I had put myself out there sooner. When I did start dating again I was so desperate for human contact that I made some really poor decisions when it came to the men I associated with. That's when I took a dating break, tried again, and eventually met the man who would become my second husband.

So, how do you know when it's time to "get back in the saddle," as they say? For me, it was the realization that I had found a groove with my kids and our routine. I was finally at a point where I wasn't completely exhausted, so the idea of dating wasn't entirely overwhelming. I could invest time and energy on someone other than my kids, and without losing my mind. I also had the time to be picky, so I could vet potential suitors and, at the very least, limit the amount of time I spent on people who really didn't deserve my company.

I can't speak for all single parents, though, and I know that what "ready to date" means for one person won't be same for others. But in hearing stories from other single moms, I've realized that, when it comes to dating (or anything, really) the only person who's capable of judging if it's "too soon" or "about time" to date is the person deciding to date. Period.

Heather

"I didn’t date during my separation and for an entire year after my divorce. I was not ready to deal with men. I wanted to focus on myself, my boys, and living life to the fullest. I finally went out with a guy who lived in my neighborhood. We dated for 10 months, but that relationship was a bust for several reasons. Then, I started dating my best friend. It felt like soulmates. We spent every day and nearly every night together for about three months, without being intimate. When we finally had sex, it was mind-blowing. I knew from the start this relationship had an expiration date. He was moving to another state. I really love him and wish that we could somehow still be together, but long-distance relationships are hard. As of right now, I don’t want to date anyone. I know that if I want to find love again, I have to open myself up to new people, but I just can’t picture myself with anyone else."

Chelsea, 33

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"I didn’t set out with the formal intention to start dating again, as I didn’t know I was ready at the time. That changed when I met a woman by chance who made me feel comfortable with pursuing a romantic connection. My worries about jumping back into the dating world melted away when I let myself feel things for her. I realized that I didn’t have to compromise time with my children in order to have a relationship again."

Jenny, 45

"I used to beg my ex-husband to hug or kiss me or take me out somewhere other than the pub —a walk, a hobby, anything, for 13 years. I was ready to date the very evening I left him. Or at least, I thought I was. I felt desperate for affection, attention, and often foolishly lost my heart when I should not have. I am a bit smarter now."

Patricia

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"When my son asked me to date. He was 5. I had dated a little, nothing serious, since he was 1. When he looked at me and asked why I didn't have a partner, I had to ask myself the same question. I was happy with myself, my kid was loved. I thought why not date for real? That's when I started looking at men of substance and not just for fun. It was finding someone I wanted to actually get to know that was difficult."

Jennifer, 39

"The moment when I knew that I could handle it if my date didn’t meet my standards. In other words, the moment I knew I could kick ass on my own, and a partner would just be icing on the cake."

Amanda

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"I was the girl that had to be in a relationship, because I got all my validation from another person. After my divorce I made it a point to stay single because I recognized that it wasn't healthy for me. I was single for about two years. I focused on me, my daughter, work, and building a better life. I was always lonely and miserable. Then, one day, I was happy being alone, I was perfectly fine with it just being me and her. That's the day I knew I was ready because I was finally loving myself."

Jennifer

"I was on a dating website and learned that my definition of 'activity partner' was completely different than the men on the same website. I was ready to socialize and watch an R-rated movie with an adult human. My daughter was OK with the idea of me dating. After sifting through bad ideas, d*ck pics, and not good fits, I gave up. Then, I met a person I thought lived too far away for a single mom. We'll be married for five years in July."

Mandi, 42

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"My divorce took almost three years to complete as my ex-husband used every trick he could think of to drag it out. I was ready to date as soon as I had evaluated the life choices that led to such a terrible choice in my husband. I went to therapy for a year that addressed almost solely this aspect of my life. I took another year to re-connect with myself and make conscious decisions about what was important and what I wanted to be as a partner. I dated very casually and never around my kiddo. It took over 10 months and a certainty that I would marry my husband before we introduced him into my kid's life."

Naomi, 42

"I basically bounced from relationship to relationship before this one. When my second marriage broke up, I’d had enough and I knew I needed to be on my own for a bit. It wasn’t easy, I had a few flings, but from 2009 to 2013 I was resolutely single. I loved it. I looked after my son, and went out with friends. I liked being by myself to be honest. Life was tricky in some areas and being single allowed me to focus on sorting that out. I reconnected with an old college friend who I’d always been attracted to. I started to feel that excitement again. Almost five years later we have two children and I’m happy. It always helps in a relationship if you know you can be happy on your own. That way you’re less likely to settle or stay in a bad one."