What seems like a lifetime ago, I was getting divorced and ready to dip my toe back into the dating pool slowly. After three years of being in a relationship, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was excited to meet new people. The excitement would simmer when I remembered this time, I’d be dating as a single mom. I thought about all the ways men would reject me because ‘they didn’t want to raise a child that wasn’t there’s,’ even though that wasn’t what I was looking for.
I would feel somewhat encouraged when I realized I wasn’t alone–millions of single mothers are in similar shoes as me. As of 2022, the U.S. Census Bureau says there were 11 million single-parent families with kids under 18; single moms constituted 80 percent of those households.
To clarify, when I talk about dating as a ‘single mom’ within this article, I’m referring to women who are raising kids solo, with little or no help from the other parent. On that note, I’ve learned a few lessons about dating as a single mom over the years, and these lessons have helped me manage my expectations and make informed dating choices.
Decide On Boundaries Around Meeting Kids
The debate about whether you should introduce people you’re dating to your kids does not have a cookie-cutter answer. Initially, I didn’t want to introduce anyone to my son until after a few years of dating. However, a therapist once said something that gave me more perspective.
When I mentioned not wanting to date seriously because I was afraid of putting my child in a situation where he’d experience more heartbreak, she reminded me that heartbreak is a part of life that we can’t always shield our children from. It can also be an opportunity to teach them the art of letting go and how to deal with loss and grief—necessary life skills. I don’t think every person you date needs to meet your kids, but every parent has to do what’s best for them. Also, some single parents don’t have the luxury of paying a babysitter whenever they want to see someone they’re dating. They also may not want to put their love lives on hold as a result, and I get it. I do. Whatever the case, prioritize your kid’s safety, whether doing background checks, limiting interactions between your child and the person you’re dating, or taking things extremely slow.
Many single moms I meet hope to settle down or want a partner to help raise their children. If this is your intention, be honest about that to avoid wasting time you probably don’t have. I quickly realized dating can be both expensive and time-consuming. The weekends were my only free time, and I would have to pay a babysitter to go on dates. Going on dates also meant some weekends; I’d spend less time with my son. To avoid wasting your resources on people who aren’t going to get you closer to your goal, date intentionally.
When I started dating, I intended to have fun and rediscover what I wanted in a future partner. I was honest about that upfront because I didn’t want a relationship, marriage, or kids. That way, I was respectful of their time and mine too.
Avoid People Who Dislike Single Moms
I remember reading through a comment section under an Instagram post about whether a man should pay for a babysitter if he wants to take a single mom out on a date. The comments were in shambles. Men referred to single moms as ‘damaged goods’ who weren’t worth the expense. Some said single moms are every man’s last choice, so men who chose to pay for sitters are ‘simps’. They also said women need to take more accountability for basically being promiscuous and having children outside of marriage. In other words, single moms aren’t worth the hassle.
Reading comments like these and hearing such conversations can make single moms feel the likelihood of getting a good partner is slim. I’ve learned that you must avoid people who think they’re doing single moms a favor by dating them or who hold sentiments like the ones above. And yes, some people who secretly don’t like single moms will still pursue you because they think you’re good enough for sex but not good enough to be loved.
You may also be encouraged to know a survey on romantic and dating behaviors among single parents in the United States found 56.6% of respondents were willing to date a single parent who lives with their children.
Gravitate towards potential partners who respect single moms and admire the work that goes into raising kids single-handedly. I once had a Kevin Samuels disciple I met on Hinge tell me about a group chat discussion he had with his boys about single moms. I’m sure Kevin Samuels and ‘boys group chat’ gives you a hunch about how that conversation went.
Be Careful Not To Project
It’s easy to feel insecure as a single mom and succumb to the narrative that nobody will want to date you because you have kids. As hard as it is, resist the urge to adopt this stereotype as your truth.
Sometimes I had a chip on my shoulder and thought I had to prove a point to the men I dated. I wanted them to know I wasn’t a ‘struggling single mom’ and could hold my own. Since people often talk about single moms in such a negative light, I wanted to be the ‘other’. That was me projecting. Projecting when you’re dating can lead to you being overly defensive about innocent comments. It can also lead to self-sabotaging behavior like not accepting help. For instance, maybe a prospective person you’re dating wants to help reduce your burden, but you miss out on that help because you’re trying to prove a point. Projecting your insecurities about being a single mom on someone you’re dating can also lead to missing out on opportunities to be your true and vulnerable self.
Accept Yourself Fully
As a divorced mother of one, I had to work through many insecurities before and during dating. I struggled with the idea that I’d never have a nuclear family again and couldn’t fully accept the blended family structure. I knew that I couldn’t have a healthy relationship if I didn’t fully accept my new reality, forgive my past mistakes, and accept this new version of my life. Even though I talk about it in the past tense, it’s still a journey I’m on, but I’m further along than I was a year ago. I will say that dating as a confident and self-accepting single mom helped me attract better-quality men. At the end of the day, people usually see you as you see yourself, and you attract what you project.
I have also accepted that I am not for everyone. Men choosing not to date me because I have a kid isn’t a reflection of me–it’s a preference they’re entitled to have. It doesn’t mean I’m spoiled goods, unworthy of love, or a lesser quality woman. And for the record, I will never feel ashamed or apologize for being a single mom.