Dating as a single mom often looks like a potential minefield. Maybe you’re still smarting from a breakup, or you’re wary of letting another person into your children’s lives after a messy divorce. Well, there’s no rush, and it’s a good idea to take your time and be kind to yourself.
But, as and when you are ready to get back in the dating game, you’ll likely have a lot of questions and apprehension. How do you meet someone when you’re a single parent? Or just, how do you get back into dating as a single mom? Well, we at Bonobology want our single mamas to be happy and fulfilled, so we’ve got some tips for you on dating as a single mom. We even talked to some amazing single mums, who shared their own tips and stories.
9 Tips When Dating As A Single Mom
Getting into dating again as a single mom can be tough. After all, you’re probably juggling work, childcare and, if it’s been a while, wondering if it’s even worth it to shave your legs and struggle into a dress and heels to ask some strange guy all your first date questions.
We get it – dating as a single mom is hard. But if you have decided to dip your toes back into the dating pool, we’ve put together a friendly guide you can keep handy. Dating as a single mom? We’re with you all the way.
1. Give yourself time
How to start dating as a single mom, you wonder? We advise you to take your time. Especially if you’re dating as a single mom after divorce or a bad breakup, it’s okay not to rush into dating right away.
A 2019 survey shows that many women were already thinking about dating fairly early into their divorce or separation, with 65% saying they started dating within the first year itself. While getting back in the dating pool is exciting, make sure you’re ready for it. Remember, there’s no rush.
Get to a good place in your head, do at least some of your post-breakup healing, and then consider getting back to dating. Even if you haven’t just come out of a breakup, but are struggling with the realities of raising a child on your own, it’s perfectly all right to figure out the other aspects of your life, before you jump back to dating.
“Process your own feelings first,” says blogger and content consultant Pooja Sharma Rao, single mother of a 12-year-old. adding, “A relationship in rebound mode will fall into the same pattern – whether it was co-dependent, abusive etc. Unless you break free of the pattern, you’ll fall for it again. Give yourself that buffer to recover and remember, getting over an old relationship is like grieving, it needs time.”
Related Reading: 8 Dating Tips For Single Moms To Bounce Back
Lawyer and single mom Laila Zafar agrees, saying, “We must be sufficiently healed from the traumas of our own past so we don’t repeat patterns and are able to attract better companionship. I do feel that staying single for a while after a divorce or breakup is not a bad idea – it gives one time to quieten the doubt in our own minds.
“I know a single mom, who began dating even before her divorce came through and she was clearly not healed from the end of her marriage. Not surprisingly, all her entanglements were reflections of the unhealed bits of her broken past. I don’t understand why she would keep doing this to herself but I always advise mums to stay clear of self-damaging behavior that could turn into a toxic relationship,” Laila adds.
2. When dating as a single mom, no guilt, please
Dating again as a single mom might tip you into a cartonful of guilt. You’re a primary caregiver for your kids, what if dating as a single mom by choice takes you away from them? What long-lasting effects could it have? Forget it! So much easier to stay in your PJs and watch cartoons with the kids while eating peanut butter straight out of the jar.
Listen, these are valid fears and questions. But, you need to ditch the guilt. You have every right to date, to be a mom and a woman who wants to date, maybe fall in love and build a whole new life for herself. None of this makes you a bad mom, in fact, it gives your kids a healthier perspective on what parenthood can be. Dating as a single mom by choice could actually be a pretty good decision.
Laila waxed eloquent on this point, saying, “My advice to single mums looking to date or attach to a new partner again, is to understand and accept that dating as a single person and dating as a single parent are two entirely different matters.
“As single moms, we must abandon all dating illusions and learn new relationship boundaries around the people we meet or date, because we now have children involved. Once we accept this and are able to compartmentalize our lives, things get a lot easier.”
3. Think about your dealbreakers
How to start dating as a single mom? Don’t waste your time on things and people you know don’t work for you. If your date is adamant that they’re not comfortable with kids, don’t spend your time trying to convince them otherwise. If you’re truly passionate about waking up early so you can make your kids breakfast, seek out someone who might at least want to join you a few days a week.
You’re a single mama and you’re busy as it is. Even if it’s something as small as you need the thermostat at a certain number, stand by it, and don’t waste your time on someone you need to explain it to!
For Pooja, it’s all about honesty. “If I feel I can’t be honest about my divorce or my kids or even my health issues, if I don’t feel safe sharing my truest self, I know I’m not with the right person. And at their other end, too, if they can’t share their most authentic selves with me, why are we even bothering to do this? Also, I’m a deeply conversational person – I need open and frequent communication. So, talking and sharing would definitely be deal breakers,” she says.
4. Dating as a single mom? Make sure they know about your kids
This might sound like a really obvious tip, but honestly, dating as a single mom is hard. And it’s easy to be a little skittish about bringing up your kids on a date. You don’t have to scream it in their face as soon as you meet, but it’s a good idea to bring it up on the first date itself (or the first few messages, if you’re online dating).
When you’re getting back into dating as a single mom, don’t forget that your kids are a major part of your life, your schedule, your love life and a lot of things will be majorly determined by them. Don’t hide that away. If your date thinks a single mom isn’t exactly sexy, that’s their loss!
5. Consider online dating
How do you meet someone when you’re a single parent? So, you probably have your mommy groups and school groups and hopefully plenty of single mom support groups. But have you thought about online dating
A survey shows that 44% of women dating online are single moms. Also, 76% of single moms do indeed mention their children and/or post photos of them in their profiles.
So, that could be a neat way of putting yourself out there, while also letting potential dates know that you have children. And hopefully, there are some cute men out there raising their own kids, and you could be dating a single dad as a single mom. You could be swapping babysitter details and talking about the perils of single parenthood with the man of your dreams on your first date!
Online dating has been a mixed bag for Laila. Recounting some truly hilarious incidents, she says, “Unfortunately, my foray into online dating coincided with the pandemic, so I haven’t been able to go on physical dates. I’m quite shocked by my own new and renewed dating behavior. After my divorce and as a single parent, I find that I now expect more from my relationships and even if the slightest red flag appears, I tap out.”
“There was this guy, he seemed nice enough, but suddenly became too keen. He said ‘I love you’ on the second day of speaking! And after I told him no, he kept saying it and so I had to cut him loose! Another guy wanted to book tickets and come to my city a week after matching! I am very clear about my discomfort around over-familiarity and stalker behavior,” she adds emphatically.
“There was another guy, from my early Bumble days,” Laila remembers. “He asked to marry him right after matching and when I rejected, he cussed a lot. Later he sent me photos of his wedding, saying, “You missed out!”
“My favorite was this guy who had such a beautifully worded bio, but when we started chatting, I could clearly tell that he did not have the language to have written it. And when I asked him, he confessed that he copied it off someone else’s bio! So, seeing as I have learned some boundaries and self-respect, the experience has not been all bad, save for the lack of pursuable options,” Laila laughs.
6. Have a conversation with the kids
Now this depends on how old your kids are, but we’re assuming you probably wouldn’t be dating again till they’re a little older. Teens and pre-teens especially can have plenty of questions and fears about their mom dating again.
If you’re dating as a single mom after divorce, or if you’re widowed, this might not be the easiest conversation to have, especially if your kids are old enough to remember their father, or if you’re co-parenting with an ex.
Don’t try and hide the fact that you’re dating again. Talk to your kids, be honest and reassure them that you’ll always be their mom. At the same time, be firm about the fact that you are entitled to be happy and have different kinds of love in your life. This doesn’t mean you love your kids any less, just that, when you’re dating as a single mom by choice, you get to expand your heart a little bit.
“It really depends on what kind of openness you already have with your kids, and their exposure and how much diversity is already present in their lives,” explains Pooja. “Do they already read about and know of single-parent households etc? If they understand only man-woman-child families, they have no context to understand your new relationship.”
“Recently, my 12-year-old asked me about a certain gentleman. I was very transparent with her and I would not be with anyone who is not utterly honest with their kids too,” Pooja adds.
Related Reading: 21 Things To Know When Dating A Man With Kids
7. Have fun with sex
It’s time for the talk! You’re a single mom, you’re living with a child, or two or three. Bringing a man home is probably daunting enough and the prospect of sex is a little worrying. Will the kids hear you? Will they ask questions? Should you try and get an overnight babysitter and just go to his house? Also, it’s been a while and do you even remember how to do anything anymore? What about sexual compatibility?
Again, we agree that these are valid questions. But if you’ve got your childcare sorted and managed to have some sort of a conversation with your kids, relax and let things flow. If you’re worrying about what your body looks like after having kids or if you’re too tired to do much in bed, don’t. Let things unfold, make sure you like and trust the person you’re with, and have fun.
“Look, when you’re a single mom, your home is a sacred space,” Pooja says. “Whenever an unknown party comes in, be it a friend, a partner or whatever, they must not violate this space, especially if your kids are young and easily intimidated by the idea of another person.”
“I’m a very confident person and have no doubts about myself. But when we’re in a particular age group you have to be clear about things,” Pooja adds.
Related Reading: Sex Is About Awkward/Funny Moments
When asked what things, she exclaims, “Everything! Contraception, whether or not you want to have more kids, health issues, limitations. We need to be realistic about expectations and maintain transparency. And that comes from knowing your own sexual rights and boundaries, even more so when you’re older. Hell, maybe you have limitations with time or stamina. Maybe you’re too busy all week to make for sex. All of this needs to be defined, else it’ll lead to conflict.”
8. When dating as a single mom, have realistic expectations
How to start dating as a single mom? Understand that it’s always going to be different to dating as a child-free person. Things might not fall into place as easily, you now have kids and responsibilities that will come first, which means you also have to be more responsible about who you date and how you conduct your love life.
Even if you’re dating a single dad as a single mom, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be completely in sync. So, keep your expectations as realistic as you can, expect that things might not always work out the way you imagined. It’ll save you (at least partially) from those little heartbreaks and disappointments you don’t need.
“I had zero expectations because I was initially unsure of what I was looking for, but the more I explored myself and my needs, I was able to clearly see my own intentions with my relationships,” Laila says.
“Once that clarity set in, my fears around being single forever dissipated. Now, I am okay with being single or not single, but settling for a relationship out of fear of growing old alone is something I won’t do. And I’m far more vociferous about what I like. I like men who are polite and ask consent before taking numbers or getting into more intimate behavior like sexting, for example, and I’m not afraid to voice these things out loud,” she adds.
9. No drama with the ex
If your ex is still in the picture, or if you’re co-parenting, avoid any showdowns over your dating life. Maintain firm boundaries, and ensure they have no say in who you date or how often.
Even if you’ve broken up with a live-in partner, and are unsure about your status, we recommend a clean break before you start dating again. Don’t get into the grey areas of dating as a single mom – it rarely works out.
It’s nice if you’re cordial with your ex, but for the love of god, do not get into any messy ex-with-benefits sort of situation with them. It’s confusing for you, it’s bad for the kids, and it stalls your chances of moving on to a newer, healthier life and relationship.
Dating as a single mom is no piece of cake (but keep some cake handy at all times). It’s important to take a little time for yourself, give a nod to your own needs outside of your role as a mom.
Your kids are your world, and that’s amazing. But don’t forget, there’s always room for a world to grow. It’s ok to let new people in, it’s great to engage in some healthy flirting and dress up and go on a date.
“Honestly, with age, we should get better at everything – relationships, sex, parenting,communication, all of it!” Pooja concludes.
We say ‘amen’ to that.
Yes, it is. You might want to wait till your kids are a little older and can be left with a babysitter. But it’s important to date as a single mom since you’re not just a mom, but also a person with needs and desires. Be responsible, tell them about your kids and have fun. You’ve got this.
Guys can sometimes be apprehensive about dating a single mom since she’s not exactly footloose and fancy-free. Make sure they know where you stand, that your kids are your focus and that anyone who thinks differently is not the date for you. If you’re dating a single dad as a single mom, it’s possible they’ll be more empathetic to your situation.
It depends on how the relationship is going. If he seems eager to meet them, interested in them, you could introduce them after a month or two. If he seems unsure, or you’re unsure about him, wait it out. As a single mom getting back into dating, there’s no point letting your kids get attached to someone who may or may not stick around, or who’s not genuinely invested in them.