There’s a possibility I may be writing this from a place of bitterness. I think many of us become jaded at some point while bumbling through the dating world (online and off). As I’ve shared before, my first experience back in the land of dating a couple years ago was immediate rejection when my online match learned that I have four kids. I get it. We’re an instant party, and not every man can handle that. But I’m not here to convince you why you should consider dating a single mom versus a bachelorette. If you want to hear more about why dating a single mom is a good thing, check out Derrick Jaxn’s take on why single mothers are for grown men only, or Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s music video homage to sexy mamas (you’re welcome).
In dating a single mom, you can assume that most of the rules of dating any woman apply: be a gentleman, be confident, be kind, be attentive, and freaking call her if you’re interested. Your run-of-the-mill dating considerations are all still relevant, but here are a few more to consider:
1. Know that first and foremost, she’s a woman just like any other.
Mothers are put on a pedestal as these saintly matriarchs always prepared with Band-Aids and baby wipes. And although we’re excellent at carpooling across town to after school activities and still getting homework and dinner done, we’re more than our role of child raisers. We bleed just like everyone else. We may have a little less time for getting ready in the morning, but we still enjoy feeling beautiful and admired. And our hearts are practiced in loving more than just ourselves.
2. Don’t assume that she’s looking for someone to support her and her children.
Maybe it’s just my own assumption, but it seems to me that a number of men tend to write off dating single moms because, well, they’re moms…with kids and all. Now, if someone isn’t interested in me because I have kids, then I don’t want to waste my time or theirs. If you know that you don’t want kids in your life, then it’s better for both parties to stop before you’ve started. But if you know you do want kids one day, don’t write off a single mom for having her own. If anything, you have the opportunity to see in advance how she is with kids before you cross that road. And a woman with kids has learned things about life and herself that many bachelorettes on your docket have never even fathomed.
If a single mom is actively putting herself out there in the dating world, don’t assume that she’s looking for someone to take care of her kids. Bumble isn’t a babysitting service, and any mom who’s got her stuff together and wits about her is going to take a long time before she even thinks about introducing her kids to a romantic partner. As a single mom who’s been through the ringer myself, I’m not looking for anyone to swoop in and make my life even more complicated than it already is without damn good reason. Most of us have worked hard to gain and maintain financial independence, and we’re not looking to sit back and eat bonbons while someone brings home the bacon.
Bio dad may very well still be in the picture, too, taking care of his responsibilities to spend time with the kids and pay child support. Even if your single mom’s baby daddy isn’t in the picture to help, don’t assume she’s looking at you as a potential paycheck.
3. Know that she’s going to scope the heck out of you.
If a single mom is looking at you as a potential life partner, know that she’s going to comb the internet for every piece of information she can on you. Granted, in today’s dating world most women are probably doing this anyway, but as mothers, our investment in our children is at stake if we don’t carefully vet out our dates and potential partners. With that in mind…
4. Don’t ask to meet her kids.
Some couples may handle this differently, preferring to meet the kids in a casual setting sooner rather than later. But if you’re still in the early stages of dating a single mom, don’t even think about bringing up the idea of meeting her kids until you know you have something serious going on. Talking about her kids or when it would be appropriate to meet them isn’t off limits, but introducing our kids to a romantic partner is not something we take lightly. I have yet to introduce my kids to anyone I’ve been in a romantic relationship with. My kids perk up at even a hint of me dating someone and don’t infrequently ask if I’m going to get married again and have more babies. I’m not willing to yo-yo my kids through my dating life.
5. Don’t ask if her kids all have the same dad.
Since I do have a larger number of kids (four), I have actually been asked if they all share the same father. I usually laugh this question off or just answer it simply and directly (my ex-husband adopted my oldest, so, no). It really comes off as insulting when someone asks this. It’s obvious that you’re making a character judgment based on the answer, and it seems audacious to ask outright, especially on a first date. Would you feel comfortable with us responding with the question of how many women you’ve slept with, if a partner has ever had to have an abortion, or if you could possibly have any children you don’t know about? Didn’t think so. Get to know your single mama date for who she is here and now, and we’ll do the same.
6. Appreciate her time.
Not to say that our time is more valuable than yours, but we’re likely to have less leisure time than you if you don’t have kids as well. And if you do have kids, you’re (hopefully) more likely to understand the world of balancing work, extracurricular activities, and child visitation. Hiring a babysitter may be the only way she can go out. Either way, if you make plans with her, stick to them. We certainly know how to go with the flow and be flexible, but we definitely appreciate a man who makes the effort to keep a date and doesn’t make us feel guilty about when we can’t go out.
7. Be upfront about what you want.
In the same vein of appreciating each other’s time, be clear about what you’re looking for in dating. Looking for someone to go out and spend time with, without any commitment? Put that on your dating profile or bring it up early on. Looking to get married and start your own family ASAP? That’s equally as important to know. It’s key for everyone to communicate expectations, and don’t assume what hers are. I know a number of single mothers who would never think of remarrying. Many single mothers have been through the throes of divorce, which can really force you to think hard about what relationships are “supposed” to look like.
It’s also OK to just explore a relationship, but if you’re certain that you want different things, it’s best to cut ties sooner rather than later. I’ve certainly had to learn this the hard way a few times, as everyone does in dating. There can be incredible chemistry that makes it hard to back down, but it’s not a relationship fit to last if you both want different things in life. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that—it just is what it is.
When it comes down to it, single mothers aren’t in it to play games, whether we’re looking for a serious, committed relationship or not. We still have hope for love and human connection, and we are brave enough to put ourselves out there and making our well-being a priority. We know how to love wholeheartedly, lift up those around us, and get stuff done. And although we’re not going to sacrifice ourselves for a man, when we find a good one, we’re sure as heck going to enjoy walking side by side together.