Being a single parent is not an easy role. From sleep issues to tantrums to potty training, you have to tackle every arduous aspect of parenting on your own. Through this role, you learn just how much you are capable of and give your child the ultimate representation of a role model. One thing parenting doesn’t make easy though, it dating. You read books on how to give birth and how to breastfeed, but learning how to date when you have a child seems much more complicated.
When my ex-husband and I separated, I thought I’d be single for the rest of my life. I planned on keeping my married name, raising my 2-month-old daughter alone, and living out some kind of Gilmore Girls fantasy. But when she was seven months old, my heart yearned for someone to share Chinese food with me. I was terrified. I thought I was doing her a huge disservice. As a mom, you’re wired to put your children before yourself. In theory, this makes sense. But like they tell you on airplanes, you can’t help anyone with their oxygen mask until you put your own on.
In those months of being alone, I found my own happiness. It had been a long time since I viewed myself as an individual rather than a wife or a mother. But being a mom made me a much better dater. I was no longer looking for someone to complete my life – that role belonged to my daughter. Instead, I wanted someone to join us and add to our happiness. When you keep that in mind, you find that dating as a single mom is a little less terrifying. But if you’re still hesitant to re-enter in the dating world, here are some tips to make dating when you have a child a little less scary.
1. Make Sure You’re Ready
Whether your last relationship was a marriage or a short-lived fling, there’s never a right or wrong time to start dating. As a mom, your heart is already full of love for the tiny person you created. If you’re not sure you have room in your heart (or life) for another person, then you don’t need to add one. You’ll know when you’re ready to start dating again.
2. Let Them Know Your Intentions
You don’t have to share your five-year plan on the first date. But if your date asks what you’re looking for, let them know. Some potential partners might be looking to settle down, but you just want to go out a few nights a week and have sex. It’s totally fine to be on different pages, but it’s something you need to speak about sooner rather than later.
3. Don’t Waste Your Time
Time on a date is time you’re spending away from your child. It’s time you have to schedule in advance, and time you can’t get back. If you’re not feeling it with the person, go ahead and end it. There are other people out there that will make your dating time worth it.
4. Keep The Past Talk To a Minimum
Your date night shouldn’t center around your messy divorce and custody battle. Those conversations can come when you’re more comfortable with the relationship. Talking about an ex is pretty taboo to begin with, but as a dating single parent you might be asking a future partner to deal with your ex being involved in your life. Don’t scare them off with horror stories.
5. Remember They’re Nervous, Too
Dating a single mom is no easy task. Your potential partner has their own set of concerns, whether it’s being around a child, being a second priority to you, or even being upstaged by your ex. If they’re rude about the situation, then you should let them go. But if they’re being honest in telling you that they’re nervous, then give them a break. They don’t have to know all the answers right away, and neither do you.
6. You Don’t Always Have To Go Out
You enjoy dating and you look forward to spending time with the new person in your life. But if it’s Friday night, your child is with their other parent, and Netflix is calling your name, you can say no to a date night. Dating as a single parent doesn’t mean all of your kid-free time (if there is any) has to be spent with someone. Having alone time to recharge is essential to being a good mother and a good partner.
7. Find a Great Babysitter
You don’t want to go on a date and worry about your baby the whole time. Finding a good babysitter is key to enjoying your time with a new person. If you don’t have one in mind, ask your family and friends for their recommendations. And once you find an awesome babysitter, hold onto them.
8. Be Honest
This is a no-brainer in the dating world, but it’s especially true when you’re a single parent. If your date asks if your child’s father is still involved, be honest. If your date asks if you’re still breastfeeding, be honest. Being upfront and truthful about your life is key to any potential relationships.
9. Introduce Your Child When You’re Ready
A lot of this depends on your child’s age and their feelings on the situation. My daughter was only seven months old when I started dating my boyfriend, so her opinions on mommy dating were non-existent. Just remember, that there isn’t a timeline you have to follow. If it’s been a few weeks and you’re ready for your kids to meet your special someone, go for it. If your partner asks to meet your kids but you’re unsure, then tell them it’s not time.
10. Try Not to Put Pressure On Them
Maybe your new SO loves helping you give your kid a bath. Maybe they’ve taken them to the doctor when you had to work. But that still doesn’t warrant putting pressure on your partner to be a parent. It’s wonderful when your SO is involved in your child’s life, but that doesn’t give you the right to accuse them of sleeping in on a Saturday while you’re making your kid pancakes. Be grateful for the growing bond they have with your child and leave it at that.
11. Don’t Feel Guilty
Guilt is not welcome in your dating world. Whether you’re feeling guilty about being away from your child or bringing someone new into your child’s life, it doesn’t matter. You are a strong, capable, incredible person. You already know that being a single parent isn’t for the faint of heart, but you’re doing it anyway, raising a great kid. You deserve the chance to let someone else see your awesomeness in action.