The world of dating is tough for anyone, but it's especially rough for single moms. Not only do you have to wade through the same poor candidates and bad dates as anyone else, but you've also got to do it while raising a child.
With children involved, the stakes of dating are higher. Your kid's feelings are the top priority, and everyone else comes second. However, navigating the dating world as a single mom isn't impossible - here's everything you need to know.
Tips for Dating as a Single Mom
When it comes to dating as a single mom, we've highlighted a few essential tips for you below.
Know What You're Looking For
Before you even begin the search for a new partner, it's important to know what you're looking for in a potential partner. Are you just looking to have fun? Would you like to have a serious relationship?
Understanding your goals before you begin dating someone can ensure you don't waste your time with someone who's looking for something completely different. And, don't hesitate to tell a new interest what you want out of a relationship, either.
Although you may not necessarily need to say that you're looking to start a family on the first date, it's essential to let them know early on if you're looking for something serious - or not-so-serious. You'll weed out the people who want different things and keep your focus on people whose goals align with yours.
Don't Let Yourself Feel Guilty
For some single moms, guilt may accompany their debut back into the dating world. If you're spending time on dates or going out frequently, you may feel selfish for giving the little free time that you have to another person.
However, there's no reason to feel guilty. Although you may be a single parent, you're still a woman, and it's natural to desire a fulfilling, romantic relationship. Making yourself happy doesn't have to come at the sacrifice of being an inattentive parent.
In fact, being happy and in love may bleed into your parenting style - you could find that by focusing on yourself, you become a more loving, present parent.
Be Direct About Your Situation
For some single moms, the dating world can make you feel as if your kids are "baggage," but this isn't true. While adding children into the equation does make the stakes of dating higher, the right person isn't going to shy away from that.
You'll be saving yourself a lot of time if you're direct about your situation from the start. Let potential partners know about your kids early on, or if you're using a dating app, include that you're a single mom in your bio.
Some single moms may even express that they have kids before they even go on a first date. There's no use sitting through dinner or a movie only to find out that your partner isn't a fan of children.
While being this direct can feel intimidating, it's a necessary step. Some people may not engage with you if they learn you have children, but the right people will. You may be scaring off a few candidates, but they're not the kind of candidates that you'd want anyway. You're weeding out the wrong choices, but it's only going to bring you closer to the right ones.
Keep the "Ex Talk" to a Minimum
As a single mom, your child's father (and your "ex") plays a more prominent role in your life than most people's exes might. You could be on good terms and see them regularly, or it could be a messy situation that you're trying to resolve in a courtroom. Regardless, it's hard for single moms to leave their exes in the past when they're still heavily a part of the present.
And, like any significant part of your life, you probably want to let your new partner know all about the ex. However, spending the entire night recounting stories of your ex or your past relationship may do more harm than good for your current one.
It's okay to mention your ex, but on those first few dates, try to keep the ex talk to a minimum.
Once you've gotten a little more serious with your partner, then you can begin addressing the ex-shaped elephant in the room.
Make Sure the Timing is Right
Speaking of exes, it's crucial to make sure that you're ready to move on before you begin a new relationship. Life for single moms is always busy, but if you're caught up in a lot of ex drama, or you're just still hung up on your child's father, you may want to hold off on dating.
When you start dating again, you want to make sure you can give your new love interest the attention they deserve.
However, while ensuring the timing is right is essential, you also don't want to let it become a crutch for not dating.
Your life is always going to be a little busy, but at some point, you deserve a romantic, fulfilling relationship.
Be Careful About Who You Introduce to Your Kids
Whether you've got a small child or a teenager, introducing someone new to your kids is always an adjustment. Younger kids may not understand who this new person in your life is, and older kids may feel awkward about seeing you with someone that's not their father.
As a general rule, it's usually not a good idea to introduce a partner to your kids unless you're extremely serious about them - and even then, the process needs to be gradual. Springing a new partner on your child can be confusing, and you don't want to do it suddenly.
Tell your kids about the partner first, and express that you'd like to introduce them. Don't be surprised if your child has a lot of questions or even reacts negatively at first. The key is to be patient and keep communication open. Let your child know that they're free to express any fears or ask any questions that they need to.
Typically, a lot of single moms let their children know that they're beginning to date again, which can make conversations about a new partner easier. If your child already knows that you've been dating, they have more time to process and accept that you're looking for someone new.
So, when the time comes for your kid to meet your partner, your child may have already accepted the concept of someone new in your life.
Release the Pressure
If you're a single mom who's looking for something serious, there can be a lot of pressure when it comes to dating. With every person that you meet, you may be wondering how they'd fit into your life long-term or whether they'd make a good step-parent.
While these are all questions you'll need to address at some point, you'll drive yourself (and your date) a little crazy if you try to figure it out on those first few dates.
It's important to be direct about your situation, but you also want to stay present too. Allow yourself to relax and enjoy the company of someone new - if there's a connection, you won't need to force it.
Over time, you'll be able to naturally tell how someone fits into your life, so avoid adding that pressure in the beginning.
Trust Your Gut
Intuition is an integral part of dating for anyone, but it's vital for single moms. Someone may be saying all the right things, but if you've got a bad gut feeling about them, don't be afraid to listen to your instincts. Even if you've been out of the dating game for a few years, those instincts don't go away.
The dating world may be full of suitable candidates, but there are a few that may be looking to take advantage or have ill intentions.
It's a common misconception that single moms are just looking for relationships that will take the "single" out of the title. While many single moms may be looking for something serious, that doesn't mean you want to settle down with the first person you meet.
More than anyone else, you already know how important it is to find that right fit. Stay empowered throughout your dating experience - you may want a new partner, but that doesn't mean you need one.
Keep Your Priorities in Check
Single moms don't need to be told to prioritize their kids’ feelings - you already do that every day! However, there may be some cases where you get serious with a partner and introduce them to your child, only to realize that it's not a good fit.
When your feelings get involved, things can get tricky, but it's important to remember that your kid's relationship with this new partner is just as crucial as your relationship with that person.
Start With a Phone Call
Let's say that you've matched with a cute guy on a dating app. You schedule a date immediately, hire a babysitter, but things don't go well. An hour into dinner, you realize that it's not a good fit at all, and you've wasted a night you could have spent with your child.
Unfortunately, scenarios like that can be common for single moms - which is why it may be a good idea to start with a phone call. Why waste money on a babysitter and a bad date when you could find out within ten minutes if you're interested over the phone?
You'll save yourself a lot of time (and money) by starting with a phone call. Not all new partners may understand why you want to talk on the phone first, but if they're genuinely interested in you, they won't shy away from a call.
Red Flags For Single Moms to Watch Out For
Red flags can be different for single moms than they are for women without kids. If it's been a while since you've dated, here are a couple of indicators that you may want to steer clear of.
The Person is Unaccommodating
Single moms have got a lot going on, and you're going to need a partner who's accommodating. If your love interest isn't willing to rearrange a date or do a favor every once in a while, they're probably not going to be a good long-term fit.
Keep in mind that if a partner isn't willing to accommodate what you need, they're not going to accommodate what your child needs either.
It's not always easy to tell if someone is accommodating right off the bat, but try to pay attention to their behavior. How do they respond to being asked for a favor? Do they get upset or refuse to do something that you ask if it's not what they want? These are all early warning signs that they probably won't be able to accommodate you or your family long-term.
They're Easily Irritable or Impatient
Irritability and impatience aren't qualities that most people are looking for, but they can become red flags if you have children. If your new partner has a short fuse or a hot temper, you may need to cut them off.
These traits don't always pop up immediately, mainly because a new partner may be on their best behavior during those first few months. However, there are a couple of signs that indicate they may have a bad temper. How does this person react to minor inconveniences or not getting their way? Are they a reckless driver with "road rage" behavior?
If your love interest loses their cool every time they get stuck in traffic or the service takes a little longer at a restaurant, this could indicate that they're irritable and impatient. If someone gets irrationally upset at the minor inconveniences, you don't want to stick around long enough to determine how they react to the major ones.
They're Financially Unstable
While you don't need to date someone wealthy, it is essential that you find someone who is financially stable. Single moms are busy enough managing their own finances, and you don't need to worry about handling someone else's.
If your partner is frequently jumping from job to job or recklessly spending money they don't have, you should be wary about starting a future with them. Many people may have financial hardships at some point in their life, but if it's a pattern, that's a bad sign.
They Don't Put in the Effort
When you're managing your own life and your kids, you shouldn't also need to micromanage your relationship. Anyone deserves a partner that puts in the effort, but single moms especially don't have the time to deal with lazy love interests.
Effort can come in many forms, but if you find that you're always the one planning date nights or time together, you might want to move on. You don't need to settle for the bare minimum - the right person will want to make the effort for you, whether that's by planning time together, helping you with errands, or even just finding time to talk to you.
They Demand All of Your Attention
As a single mom, there are a million things that demand your attention, but a new partner shouldn't be one of them. Or, at least they shouldn't be vying for all your attention.
If your date can't accept your busy schedule, it's unlikely to work out long-term. A new partner does deserve some attention, but they shouldn't need all of it. The right person will have their own hobbies, friends, and schedule to maintain. If it seems as if your new partner has nothing better to do than just sit by the phone for your call, it might be time to move on.
They're Not Sympathetic
If there's one thing that's true for single moms, it's that it's not easy. When you're juggling work, kids, and your own social life, there may be days when you're overwhelmed or stressed out. You may not always be able to give your partner the time they want, and it's crucial that they understand that.
If your new lover can't understand that you're busy or they're unable to sympathize with you, that could be a red flag. The right partner will empathize with you and even try to put themselves in your shoes. They'll understand that you may not always be able to attend to them, and they won't be upset about it.
Dating can be challenging for anyone, but single mamas get the short end of the stick. From bad dates that aren't sympathetic to duds that they can't put in the effort, there's a lot of poor candidates to wade through.
However, there are good ones out there - and if you follow the tips above on how to date as a single mom, you'll be a little closer to finding them.