If you thought dating as a single parent would be the same as dating without kids, think again.
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Out of my 19 years as a mother, I?ve spent 16 of them as a single mom. While I?ve had some long periods of not dating, that?s also a lot of years of dating as a single mom.
Dating as a single parent doesn?t seem all that different from dating as a single person with no kids. But children do put an interesting twist on things.
Lots of single parents won?t date other single parents
You might think that single parents would be eager to date another single parent. After all, they face the same difficulties, so they understand your situation. But many single parents don?t want to date another single parent for exactly that reason. They know how difficult it can be, and they don?t want to double the trouble.
Many single parents feel it?s easier to date someone without kids because their schedule is more open, allowing them to be more flexible with the single parent?s often inflexible schedule. While this can be a good strategy, it can also lead to problems because the person without kids doesn?t understand where the single parent is coming from when it comes to their lack of time.
Adults can get ridiculously jealous of kids
Whether it?s because you turn down a date so you can hang out with your kids, or that your little one is holding your hand, some people get jealous of the kids. There?s no reason for it because it?s not a competition, yet it happens quite often. This jealousy might not be much of an issue at first. They?re able to hide it or keep it under control. But that usually doesn?t last forever.
This jealousy ends up causing arguments between you and your date, and sometimes a clear dismissal of your kids. I?ve even heard extreme stories about a date who insisted that a single dad never see his children again if he was going to date her.
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Kids are out of sight, out of mind
It?s amazing how many people will just forget you have a kid. They?ll call you mid-evening on a Friday and want you to meet them in an hour or so to go out. Or they?ll invite themselves over to spend the night or want you to come over and spend the night. They?ll want you to spontaneously pack up and head out of town for the weekend or even longer.
People with no kids often seem to simply forget you have a kid. This can lead to a lot of frustration, but it also typically leads to the end of the relationship.
You waste less time on potential partners
When I was a single woman with no kids, I?d often still go on a second date even if the first date was awful. I?d even go on a third or fourth date ? and get into full-fledged relationships with guys that were just totally incompatible with me. I had tons of free time, so why not? I wasn?t ready to get married yet, I had no real responsibilities beyond myself, so it didn?t really seem to matter if I was wasting time with this loser or that one.
But after I had kids, that changed drastically. I?ve still made some bad choices about who I?ve gotten involved with. But if a first date doesn?t go well, I don?t give them a second one.
Single parents don?t have nearly as much free time as someone without kids. Many times, the time we spend on a date is time that might otherwise be spent with our kids. So we tend to be a lot more deliberate about our choices.
People want to discipline your kids ? or tell you how to do it
It?s astonishing how many people want to discipline your kids for you. Or they?ll tell you how to do it if you mention a problem. In fairness, it is possible these people are well-meaning, and maybe they?re even simply trying to show that they?re open to taking on a parenting role. Whether the intention is good or bad, it?s still incredible (and not in a good way!) to be on a first or second date and have someone start telling you what you should do differently with your kids.
It often goes beyond discipline, too. Whether it?s trying to tell you what to do about your ex or telling you what they think about homework in kindergarten, the information and/or advice is almost always entirely unsolicited and usually unwelcome.
Hypocrisy around you being a parent
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When you date someone who doesn?t have kids, there can be an interesting hypocrisy around your parenting. They think it?s wonderful that you?re a parent, praise you for being such a wonderful mom/dad, tell you how much they admire that you?re doing it on your own. That is, until your parenting interferes with dating them. You?re wonderful and praised and admired, until you can?t do something with them or have to leave a date early. Then it changes.
Suddenly, you?re too unavailable for them. You act like a helicopter parent. Or the classic ?you do this all the time? even though this is the first time you?ve ever done it. When someone doesn?t have kids, and doesn?t understand your life, they can easily flip a switch from thinking you?re amazing to thinking you?re a flake.
Kids know more than you think
I?ll never forget the time I was getting ready for a breakfast date when my oldest was eight. I was going to drop him at school and then meet my date. I hadn?t told him I had a date. In fact, as far as he knew (or so I thought), I was dropping him off and heading back home. But he walked into my room as I pulled on a pair of jeans and told me I was going on a date.
I denied it, but he insisted, and I realized continued denial would just damage our relationship, so I came clean.
We might think we?re hiding our dating life from our kids, but they know much more than we think. That?s why it?s much better to just tell them the truth in age-appropriate terms.
Dating alongside your teen can get interesting
The dating rules for a teenager and the ones for an adult are vastly different. This can create some interesting discussions when you are dating and your teen is also dating.
Why is it okay for you to stay at your date?s place all night, but not your kid? Why does your kid?s date have to pick them up at the door but you drive to meet yours? Why do you get to ignore your phone during a date but your teen is expected to check in mid-date?
The good thing about this is that it does open the door to explain the reasons behind your rules, which can help your teen better understand and respect those rules, even if they still think it?s not fair that you get a lot more freedom than they do.
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Dating the parents of your kid?s friends can be amazing or awful
At first glance, dating the single parent of one of your kid?s friends can seem like a great idea. Your kids get along and you already know each other a little. And you?ll see them often in between dates.
But what if it doesn?t work out? If you break up (or even have just one truly awful date), things can get incredibly awkward for your kids. In fact, your kids can even lose friends as a result of this.
If you?re going to date the parent of one of your kid?s friends, go very slowly and use extreme caution.
If you?re just stepping into the world of single parent dating for the first time, keep your eyes open for the surprises. They?ll be there ? whether it?s these or your own unique discoveries. If you?ve been dating for a while as a single parent, what surprises have you found?
Wendy Miller is a freelance relationship writer & meditation teacher. After years of settling for abusive and otherwise toxic relationships, she got fed up. Using meditation and other tools, she got to work on healing herself, setting boundaries, and only engaging in relationships (romantic and otherwise) that bring her joy. She wants to help other single parents find the love they seek, including and going beyond romantic love. She lives in Florida with her two sons, where she homeschools while solo parenting, while surrounded by what feels like a zooful of animals.
You can follow her on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest. You can also sign up for her newsletter for exclusive tips and goodies.
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