It’s 7:30 p.m. and she’s wearing her favorite green dress. Her hair is perfectly blown out, and her makeup looks natural and flawless.
She sits across from a very patient, kind and handsome man who has been waiting for weeks to take her out. Her fingers wind themselves around the base of her wine glass and she gracefully clinks hers with his. They smile and cheers, eager to begin their night out.
This is her first date in two years, and her first dinner without her little one.
The man across from her knows she has a child, but still cannot totally fathom her life (although he’s open to it).
Only thirty minutes ago she was running around her house half-dressed, with her hair thrown messily into a ponytail and her makeup undone.
Before leaving her house, she was chasing her toddler around, trying desperately to put him to bed by 7:00 p.m. so she wouldn’t feel guilty about leaving for a night out.
She gave him a quick bath, still taking time to sit on the bathroom floor and laugh and play with him. Afterwards, she dressed him in his favorite train pajamas, scooped him into her arms and lay in bed with him, reading the words of his favorite night night book until his eyes could no longer stay awake. Once he was sleeping soundly she ran around like a wild woman trying to throw herself together with only 15 minutes to spare.
She is busy. She spends her entire day ensuring her child is healthy, happy and loved. She gives baths on demand, prepares meals everyday, reads goodnight books, works full-time and has dedicated herself to her role as a mother. She is beautiful, she is busier than most people can imagine and she is a super woman in her own right.
She is a single mom, and so am I.
Above all, we are women with wants, needs and desires. We still enjoy dating, and feeling wanted and beautiful. We like dining out and dancing. We also love being home with our little one(s) in “mom mode” (sweats, messy hair and no makeup) while watching Thomas the train for the hundredth time in a row.
We balance two identities: that of a mother and that of a single woman. Our lives as mothers are fulfilling, incredible and challenging. Our lives as a single women can be difficult and often times frustrating. We are not in a rush to find a significant other, however, we do hope to one day be swept off of our feet Cinderella style by someone who will embrace our motherhood and womanhood.
Gone are the days of feeling ashamed and unworthy at our status as single parents (there are more than 9.9 million of us worldwide!). We are special and amazing, with our own unique stories to share and it’s time for us to proudly rejoin the dating game.
Single Parenthood: My Story
I became a single mom in 2014, when my son’s father was denied re-entry into America (he is an Australian citizen) and after much contemplation and heartfelt talk- we decided to continue to raise our son as friends and co-parents rather than partners and lovers.
Fast-forward to today– our son is a vivacious and loving 2-year-old, who likes building Lego trains, chasing birds and laughing. We love him with all of our hearts, and we will always do what is best for him.
We are also both on our own paths now, and for me this means balancing school, parenthood, work and myself while navigating the perils of how to date as single mom. For him, it means starting over in Australia and learning how to be a parent from a distance (thank goodness for Skype).
Dating Disasters Pre-Parenthood
I remember being on a date before I became pregnant with my son, and my date was a real bummer. He was going on and on about himself, barely stopping to breathe or eat. When he did eat, he inhaled his food, I suppose the oxygen deprivation was getting to his brain and this was an automated response.
For two hours I sat across from him, counting the minutes until he would finish his dinner so we could get the check. In my mind I had already deleted him from Facebook and my phone.
He told me matter-of-factly about his family’s history starting from his ancestor’s European immigration to America in the 1800s to present time. I felt like I was sitting in a college lecture about history (I was only missing my laptop and a ranging hangover from $2 shots). Gulping my Chardonnay, and begging the waiter for more with my desperate eyes, I remember thinking, “Why is dating so hard?”
Now, I look back at those “difficult dates” fondly, as they represent a freedom I did not even know I had.
“Another drink?” Sure, hangovers are no big deal because I can spend all day tomorrow sleeping in.
“A movie after dinner?” No problem, I have no other plans or responsibilities.
“Dessert?” Of course! I have tons of time to spare!
My First Few Dating Disasters As a Single Mom
When I first started dating postpartum, it was awkward. I remember debating when I should tell my dates about my son. Sometimes I would do it before meeting up, and sometimes during dinner. The conversations either went sour or the men acted like it was no big deal (but guess what? It IS a big deal).
The following excerpts are real interactions that I had with potential suitors (the first one via text, the second during dinner):
Dating Disaster #1
Me: “So I want to be open with you, and tell you honestly from day one that I am a single mama. I have a baby boy at home.”
Him: “Oh. Wow. Okay. I’m not really big on kids, but I would still like to see you. Maybe as friends who drink and see what happens?”
Yes, this conversation actually happened. Yes, I was mortified. But, I was happy to know so I didn’t waste anymore of my time on this man.
Dating Disaster #2
Me (while taking a big gulp of wine): “So, I am a single mom. I have a little boy at home.”
My date pauses for a moment, contemplating what he should say, or I suppose if it’s something he is open to.
Him (deep in thought): “I see. Well, I’m okay with that. I still want to continue this date and see you again. Does your son live with you like all of the time?”
Me (baffled and chugging my wine): “Yes. He is with me everyday, all day.”
He pauses again.
Him (smirking): “Okay, so if we kept dating and eventually hooked up, we would go to my place right?”
I kid you not–this was his concern, where we would “hook up.” In my head I crossed his name off of my “potential suitors” list knowing he had years of maturation in front of him before I would ever consider whispering his name again. #ByeFelipe
How These Experiences Shaped My Expectations
After these experiences, I sat down and thought about what I want in a date and potential partner. Childcare is expensive, and without the help of family, dating became a task not worth pursuing because to me it was a waste of time AND money– unless I made it worth it.
I made a list of requirements necessary in order for me to date a man.
• Be okay with dating a single mom. This means most of the time I can’t do spur of the moment things, I won’t spend the beginning of our courtship bar hopping or going out several times a week (single moms don’t have time to sleep in and nurse hangovers).
• Be kind and loving. If we become serious, he must treat my son as he would his nieces and nephews and/or children. This means I expect him to act respectfully, enthusiastically and lovingly towards my child (otherwise the door is that way).
• Be patient and understand it might take several weeks for me to agree to dinner and/or drinks. It is important for me to know there is a mutual attraction; otherwise there is no point—I would rather be at home with my son.
• Be flexible, and okay with plans changing last minute. Life as a parent is often unpredictable, and things happen—babysitters’ cancel, children get sick etc.
• Be confident and un-intimidated by my son’s father being a constant in my son’s life and mine.
• Be willing to come to me most of the time. I am most comfortable going out near my apartment as I have easy access to my son in case there is an emergency or I need to run home quickly.
I have gone into every date since making this list completely open and honest, showing all of my cards before agreeing to dinner or drinks. I make plans tentatively and allow room for change.
Successful Dating Now
I have gone on several exceptional dates since compiling my list from above. My dates have been fun, patient, understanding and wonderful, and have led to me finding a really fantastic guy who accepts my son and me.
Dating as a single mama is not easy, but we are strong women who are used to navigating challenges so it’s certainly nothing we can’t handle. In many ways we are blessed because our children work as filters that usually weed out the irresponsible and immature men we wouldn’t want to be out with anyways.
If you don’t know where to start and are overwhelmed at the prospect of dating again, just take small steps and begin by making your own list of requirements.
Doing this will serve as a guide to show you exactly what you are and are not willing to compromise on, and it will bring suitors into your life who meet your criteria.
Once you decide to begin dating it’s important to be open and honest with yourself and potential date(s) about your expectations and desires: Are you looking for friendship, fun or a significant other?
Successful dating will begin to happen when you are ready, open and accepting in your role as a mother and single woman. Find your value, purpose and happiness FIRST and then focus on finding dates; when you do this, you will attract people who are positive, happy and totally accepting of you AND your child(ren).