Courtesy of Steph Montgomery

The One Thing I Ignored That Could've Made Dating As A Single Mom Easier

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After I became a single mom I started to worry I would be alone for the rest of my life. It's not just that dating as a single mom was hard, because at times it was pretty damn impossible to find the time, energy, and emotional where-with-all to date, but I made things harder than they needed to be. I wish I could go back in time and help make dating as a single mom easier for myself, because there was one very big piece of the puzzle I just couldn't seem to grasp. And that piece ended up being a paramount lesson that I have carried with me, even now that I'm no longer a single mom.

So, what was that necessary, important lesson? That I didn't need to apologize for being a single parent. And neither do you.

Sadly, as a newly-single mom I apologized all the damn time. I apologized to my dates for having kids, like my decision to procreate was some kind of character flaw and my children were a downside to dating me or a part of my life I should ignore. I apologized to my kids for leaving them with a sitter so I could enjoy a date or a night out on the town, and even when I knew it was actually a good thing for all of us that I had that time to myself and/or with other adults. Mostly, I apologized to anyone who criticized me for dating as a single mom... and believe me, there were a lot of critical people that came out of the woodwork.

Courtesy of Steph Montgomery

At times it felt as though people expected me to be single and celibate for the rest of my life; a punishment for procreating with a person I didn't end up staying married to. Before I knew it I felt like I had been transported back to the Victorian era and expected to go through some unknown period of mourning before I could start allowing suitors to court me. My family, friends, co-workers, and even people I hardly knew said things like, "you need to focus on your kids now" and "you don't need to go out," as if I should feel ashamed that I wanted to have some fun or sex or enjoy things other grown-ass human beings enjoy. To so many people in my life, doing something for myself and being a good mom weren't compatible.

I reclaimed my identity and learned to love parts of myself that had been buried by my tumultuous marriage.

As a single mom adjusting to her new life, the last thing I needed was to feel like my very existence was somehow an inconvenience, or wrong, or something worthy my endless apologies. Still, I said sorry more often than not, because I was made to feel as if who I was and where I was in my life was fundamentally wrong.

I remember one evening when my car broke down in the middle of a rain storm. When I called the guy I was dating to vent, he told me I should suck it up because I had "chosen" to become a single mom. For his benefit, I needed to stop being "such a downer." The details of my life, from the minuscule to the monumental, all hinged on my relationship status.

Sadly, I ended up apologizing to him.

Courtesy of Steph Montgomery

I had left my marriage of over a decade with my self-esteem in shambles, and with literally no clue how to date or what I was looking for in someone to date. In other words, I needed to figure some serious sh*t out, and for myself. So I did. I reclaimed my identity and learned to love parts of myself that had been buried by my tumultuous marriage. I also figured out what I was looking for in a partner and told people right out of the gate. The idea that I had to keep apologizing for doing something very healthy, and beneficial, and productive seemed increasingly... wrong.

I didn't owe dates an apology for my past, my kids, or my inability to change plans on a moment's notice.

When I first started dating, I was shocked at how different it was. Thanks to the advent of online dating, I was able to take a small looking into someone's life and see what they were like before investing too much time and energy on them... so that's exactly what I did. As a single mom it wasn't easy to find time to eat, or sleep, let alone go on blind dates that had a very high chance of being complete bust. I didn't want to use my precious alone time to invest in someone that was going to end up wasting my time or, worse, make me feel bad for being a mom.

So while it took me a while to feel more unapologetic about my relationship status and dating life, eventually I realized that this whole "apology tour" thing wasn't necessary. In fact, it was detrimental to my self-esteem and sense of self-worth.

Courtesy of Steph Montgomery

I didn't owe dates an apology for my past, my kids, or my inability to change plans on a moment's notice. I definitely didn't deserve to feel guilty about being a single mom. Having children isn't a flaw, and realizing that a relationship is no longer healthy, or beneficial, or sustainable is a strength, not a weakness. I wasn't going to continue to apologize for having the courage to be who I wanted to be, and who my kids needed me to be. I just wish I would have realized that sooner.

Being a single mom was part of who I was, and definitely not something I needed to feel ashamed about. In fact, I think being a single mom made me a better partner, a better parent, and an all-around better person. I learned what I wanted in a romantic partner and a relationship, and how to prioritize myself in that equation so that I didn't lose myself in a long-term romance. I became self-sufficient, I learned how to budget my money and time, and I became infinitely more patient.

Courtesy of Steph Montgomery

So after a year of dating the wrong people for the wrong reasons, having some much-needed and much-deserved fun, and apologizing way too much for simply existing as a single mom, I am happy to report that I found someone who didn't expect me to apologize for anything. He accepted me for who I was and because I was single mom, not in spite of it. And though it took a while to get there and realize my value, the relationship I now share with my husband is the relationship I deserved.

No apologies necessary.