Singlehood and motherhood both have their shares of joys and challenges. And when they overlap, look out: things are about to get complicated. We talked to a few single moms about the search for love and companionship before and after kids, where it fits into their lives, and what advice they have for other moms on the dating scene.
Time and Timing are Everything
Non-parents may take for granted that they have the flexibility and spontaneity to date whomever and whenever they please, without having to line up a babysitter first.
“You don’t have to be as serious when you don’t have kids,” says Taylor, 27 and mother of a three-year-old daughter. “You can stay out all night if you want because when you come home, you can sleep until noon and not worry about having to take care of someone else.”
Even when they’re trying to take some time to themselves, moms are never truly off the clock. “Moms have lots to juggle between just a career and children,” says a mom of three who preferred not to give her name. “Other things, especially things that have to do with children, come first.”
“Now that I am divorced, I only have half the time with them,” says Angelia, 39, about her two boys.
“I don’t want to spend my time with them being away on dates. The dates have to wait until the kids are at their dad’s.”
Not everyone who starts dating a mom can handle this – and for the moms we talked to, that’s a deal-breaker.
Don’t Blame Them for Being Picky
Deal-breakers are another thing that moms have to consider differently from non-moms. Even if they have no plans to introduce a new partner to the kids anytime soon, they’re still vetting their prospects based on the long-term potential. They’re in no mood to waste what little time they have to themselves with someone who wouldn’t be a good match for the whole family.
“I am not looking for another child, as they say,” explains Jenn, 44, who already has her hands full with an eight-year-old son. “I look for a gentleman who is stable both financially and emotionally.”
“Before I was a mom, there were a lot more qualities in a person that I was willing to tolerate,” Taylor remembers. “Now that I have a daughter, I don’t have time to make excuses for the man I’m dating. I always think about my daughter first, and if you don’t treat me right, then chances are you won’t treat my daughter right, and you’re out.”
“A dealbreaker would be any guy who feels threatened by my boys,” says Angelia. “If he can’t handle that I have kids, that they are teens, and that they are sometimes difficult, then he isn’t the right guy for us.”
“If you don’t treat me right, then chances are you won’t treat my daughter right, and you’re out.”
– Taylor, 27
Character, then, is key for these moms – not just the character a man displays when he’s on his best dating behavior, but overall in his life. “Another deal-breaker is any guy that brings negative influences into my home: negative behavior, extensive cursing, belligerence, drugs, excessive alcohol, et cetera,” Angelia adds. “I don’t need to find a new ‘dad’ – they have a good dad – but with that said, I am looking for a guy who will be a positive male influence in my boys’ lives.”
Jenn is right there with her. “The person I date can’t be any type of hot head, emotionally immature, or have any bad past issues,” she says. “I now do ‘background’ checks. There are more weirdos out there than you can ever imagine.”
That said, she does encourage other single moms to take the Mom hat off every once in a while. “Have fun when you do date. Don’t think you need to find The One in every date. Sometimes it is ok to let loose without needing to think about commitment to a future.”
All in the Family
One thing all four of these moms agreed on is being cautious about introducing new partners to the kid(s) and trusting your gut in judging the right time to do this.
“I don’t think kids should meet every guy, but I don’t think there is a set time frame to introduce them,” Angelia says. “Certainly not on the first or second date. I think the timing also depends on the ages of the kids. It should be longer if the kids are younger, as they can get attached quickly.”
“I can’t say I have ever brought home anyone to meet [my daughter],” Taylor reflects. “I have to be so comfortable in the relationship where I know it’s going to last a while. There’s no sense in bringing someone around if I don’t think they’re going to be staying for long.”
So with all these competing priorities, you might think moms would gravitate towards other single parents who just get this stuff intuitively and don’t need it explained to them. These moms said they’ve dated both parents and non-parents and have noticed a difference, if not a distinct preference.
“I feel like I can connect better with men that have kids because my daughter is my whole world. People with kids know exactly what I mean when I say that,” says Taylor. “People without kids of their own try to understand, and they may have nieces or nephews that they adore, but until that kid is ‘your kid,’ you’ll never truly understand.”
“I do think there is a feeling or connection you have with a child that is truly ‘your own,’” Jenn agrees. “The feeling is definitely hard to explain, but I would say it is similar to what Jesus must have felt for us. There is absolutely nothing I would not do to protect or help my child, including giving my life. [But] I don’t think someone who has never been a parent, can’t be a good parent.”
How to Date a Single Mom
We asked these moms what advice they would give to someone who is dating or looking to date a single mom, and the No.1 & 2 qualities that came up across the board: RESPECT and PATIENCE.
“There are many times that they kids must come first,” Angelia emphasizes. “This isn’t a reflection on you – it’s a reflection on her ability to put the needs of her children above her own.”
“Make sure to respect her time,” Jenn adds. “She gets SO few minutes for herself; if she is sharing any with you, make it worth it.”
Respecting her time also means knowing when it’s time to return her to her Mom-world. “There’s nothing more frustrating than telling a man I have to leave to relieve the babysitter, and him begging me to have one more drink or to just stay a little while longer, or even questioning why I need leave,” Taylor laments.
And to other moms, she encourages them to let things happen without forcing them. “About a year or so, I did meet a few people from Match.com and eHarmony, but it was so tedious looking through everyone’s profile,” she recalls. “No one could seem to keep my attention. I decided that I was probably forcing it a little too much, and figured it was probably better to take a break. I find that the best things are found when you’re not even looking for them.”
The world at large doesn’t always seem to understand just how demanding the life of a single mom can be, and if these moms want anything from others, it’s a little compassion.
“A single parent can easily slip down wrong paths due to stress, depression, et cetera,” observes Jenn. “So give those who aren’t quite making it a little vote of confidence. They may just be looking for a breath. Give them a break, a bit of help, or even just a nap, and they will never forget it!”
“I put my daughter in daycare some days, just so I can go take pole fitness classes because I need some sort of an outlet,” says Taylor. “Some people have criticized me for that, but I don’t feel bad about it because I have to do something to vent, or I wouldn’t be able to function. It releases stress, and that shouldn’t be looked at as a negative thing.”
“Single moms get pulled in so many directions it often causes the head to spin, but somehow we manage to keep it together,” says Angelia. “Single moms have to be the cool parent and the disciplinarian, the good cop and the bad cop. Single moms are always straddling that line; it’s the most exhausting and the most rewarding job at the same time.”
She leaves us with this gem of advice, which any Strong & Sexy reader can take to heart: “You are not defined by a man. Take the time to find yourself and be secure with who you are as a woman, a friend, and a mom.”
Thank you, ladies, for sharing your perspectives with us!