If you happen to be a single parent, to hear these two things being said in the same sentence may be enough to fill you with dread. The thought of getting yourself out there and trying to meet someone new, whether that be for companionship, fun, or with the intent of looking for a serious lifelong partner, takes a tremendous amount of effort on your part as well as being time-consuming.
Take me for instance. My son is almost seven and my daughter is under one. I was a single mother for four and a half years before reuniting with my partner again. I remember all too well the feeling of dread that shrouded me when we first separated, mainly being how on earth will I face life as a single parent? However, realism and practicalities aside, my ultimate burning question was, who is ever going to want to date me as a single mum? We all know how hard it is to find a decent partner and the dating scene is a risky territory at the best of times. Before the days of motherhood, I can recall how difficult it was to meet a decent bloke in the first place, and then actually getting him to stick around for longer than two months was a whole other challenge in itself, always a case of meeting the ones with commitment issues and who “weren’t looking for a relationship right now, just a bit of fun.”
However, what about when you are faced with a time where you no longer just have yourself to consider? When you factor a child or children into the mix there are so many more things you have to think of before you let someone new into your life. Now the pressure intensifies somewhat as it is not only your feelings and future potentially at stake here. So let’s explore the various factors that have to be taken into consideration as a single parent dating.
Finding the time
Firstly, this is a key element. Gone are the days where you could go out when you wanted to and did what you want, whenever you wanted. You now have responsibilities, so time is something you no longer have so much of. I felt that working full time, running a house, and being a mum left very little time for my own social life, so I had to be especially picky when it came to choosing what invites I accepted and who I spent my free time with. As a single parent, I felt that I didn’t want to waste time going out on lots of different dates in order to find a potential suitor at the risk of sacrificing missing out on spending quality time with my child and having to leave him with family members or babysitters.
This leads to another important issue: childcare. It may not always be possible to get someone to look after your child whilst you go on dates, especially if you have no family living nearby. If you need to hire a babysitter then you run the risk of feeling guilty about leaving your child with a stranger and having to pay them. If you go on even one day a week and have to use a babysitter each time, you could well find that dating is costing you a lot of money.
Finding someone who accepts your situation
Probably the fundamental issue here is finding someone who is happy about dating a person with children. It is true that some people do not want to get involved with someone who already has children. Sadly some do classify someone with children as “having baggage.” You may have the nicest most well-behaved children in the world, but if someone does not feel willing to take on the responsibility of someone else’s children, sadly you have to respect their decision and move on as equally there are many out there who will.
When I eventually felt ready to date after a few years on my own, I met a really nice guy on a night out with friends. As he was the first person who I had been remotely interested in I told him straight away I have a son, and he replied, “doesn’t bother me.” However, after two months of dating, he then told me that he didn’t feel ready for that. If that does happen, try not to be too upset and just tell yourself that they weren’t the right person for you anyway. If they are not willing to accept you as a unit, then you are best off without them.
Are they a suitable person for your children?
To me, this was the most important point. You need to be sure the person who you will date is a suitable person to have in your child’s life. Whilst I’m not suggesting running a DBS check on every new person whom you date, you have to try and make a good judgment. For example, if he was involved in a brawl inside a nightclub the very night you met it’s probably not a good idea to take him up on his offer for a drink. Also, without being judgemental as no one really has a full idea of individual circumstances, but how did they end things with their previous partner? If someone is an “overlapping dater” or seems to instantly be with someone new as soon as a relationship ends then chances are they will hurt you and this time it will impact your children.
How your children may feel
Following on from the previous point, this is equally as important. If you have very young children, it is best not to introduce anyone new until you can at least see it going somewhere. You have to think about how they might feel having someone new into their home and joining in with family outings, activities, and dinners. If they are older this can be especially difficult as teenagers are less adaptable than young children. Another factor to consider is if you introduce someone to your children too early on and then you split up, your child may grow too attached to them and feel devastated when things finish.
Feeling confident within yourself
When my relationship with my son’s dad ended I felt so down and low in confidence and self-esteem, and didn’t ever think I could date with a child and that no one would ever want me again. My advice would be to own your newfound single status as best as you can. It may not be how you pictured your life, but try to be positive and build your own self-esteem. Try to pamper yourself when you can because the saying “when you look good, you feel good,” is true. Some decent make-up and a nice outfit and hairstyle can go a long way.
Don’t rush into anything until you are ready. If you become obsessed with the idea of meeting “the one“, chances are you won’t. Also, don’t date for the sake of it or for fear of being alone. This is more than likely to end up in disaster.
I waited a few years before I could even contemplate dating again. This was for the best because I would not have made the great company as the hurt from the split took a very long time to heal, so during that period I threw myself into motherhood and my career then, eventually I felt in a good place and happier than I had in a long time, and that was when I just knew it was right to consider looking for someone else. So don’t feel too disheartened if it takes a while to get back in the game nor feel forced or pressured into going on a date with someone when your heart isn’t in it, when the time is right things will just click into place.
How will the other parent feel
For me, this caused problems as my son’s dad did not take the news so well, which ultimately caused my new guy to end things. Single parent dating is hard when the other parent is still on the scene and actively involved in their child’s life and many may feel put off by that. So you need to take this into consideration. Likewise, if a new partner bolts at the first hurdle, they are not worth it.
Single parent dating is certainly no mean feat. However, it can be done and will take perseverance if you are determined to find a lifelong partner and have the family unit you always craved. Some may not wish to date a single parent but don’t be disheartened by those as plenty will. However, you must go into it with your eyes wide open and keep your wits about you, be sensible about your dating choices, and always put your children’s feelings and needs first and you should come out relatively unharmed and always remember: nothing worth having ever came easily!