The single mom’s guide to dating

In our shoes

There comes a point when every single mom realizes that she would like to have a conversation with an adult who is not her child’s teacher or soccer coach. She would like to have a conversation that does not include the words Popsicles or Pokemon. And, she would like it very much if that conversation involved dinner and drinks with an attractive counterpart. That conversation is commonly referred to as a “date.”

However you landed in your current situation as a single parent, when the time comes to date again, you know it. While your life with your children may be extremely fulfilling, it can also be unbelievably stressful. “It can rob you of a personal identity if you do not continue to do the things that you used to enjoy before you had kids,” says licensed clinical social worker Mark Melton. One of these used to be dating.

So off you go into the world of “Why hasn’t he called?” again. These days, however, dating is different. Society has changed, technology has changed, you have changed. For starters, you have to hire a sitter now and you have your children to think about. You can’t just hang out on the couch with a date and watch movies, without G-rated company. It’s time to get more strategic about this dating thing.

Who are you going to date? For a single mom, your best bet is a single dad. You don’t have to worry about becoming the Brady Bunch just yet. Remember, it’s just a date. But a single dad gets it. A single dad will be more likely to sympathize when you have to cancel your date because your kid has pink eye. There are rumors of men with no children who are understanding, but I think they are urban legends.

Where are you going to find potential dates? Many insist that you can meet your mate on a random set-up, at a church function or in the produce aisle at the grocery store, but these situations also fall into the urban legend category. You have to be proactive. This used to mean regular forays into the social scene, but, as a single mom, this is not possible. Without endless resources for child care, you’ll be taking your offspring with you to the clubs and it’s kind of hard to get to know someone well enough to execute a cellphone-number-swap when you are trying to keep your brood away from the Red Bull, glow sticks and fog machine. So, now what?

Enter: online dating. The stigma associated with online dating seems to be fading. Regardless of what others might think of this option, it might be the best one you have. Because you are a single mom, most of your free time is probably spent at home with your children. You can’t exactly go searching for dates with your kids in tow. If you can work from home, then why not date from home? If you can meet people and learn more about them from the comfort of your own kitchen, how can that be such a bad thing?

What’s next? This is the part that is easier now than ever. Starbucks has provided a safe, public meeting place in virtually every corner of the universe. Crest White Strips have made it simple to produce a winning smile, and self-tanning spray is bound to make you appear more relaxed and refreshed than you really are.

Pick a date, debrief him about your status as a single parent and show up. But don’t put all of your hopes and dreams into this one date. Remember, it’s just a date. Also remember that, just because you have kids, this does not make you desperate or less attractive to a man. There is always the possibility that you will not like HIM. Just be prepared for anything. He could be awesome. You could be pleasantly surprised. He could have brought flowers (this doesn’t really happen anymore, I’m sorry), or he could be more handsome in person than the pictures on his online profile (this has been known to happen on occasion.) But if he’s not awesome, or even tolerable, just remember that the biggest dating advantage you have as a single mom is the phone call to check in with the sitter. There could be a “crisis.” You might have to go home immediately.

After the date, you still have to wait for the proverbial phone call. Only now, the message may come in many forms: text, e-mail, IM or voicemail. Your date has more ways than ever to express his continued interest in you, and some of them are so easy that there is no excuse if he doesn’t contact you other than he’s not interested. But, don’t sweat it and don’t take it too personally. Just move on to the next dating adventure and try to remain optimistic.

If you have the good fortune to meet someone you decide to become involved with, then you have to be mindful of the kid-planets that circle your mommy-sun. Make sure they are introduced to the new sphere in your orbit slowly. “Dating is not a natural concept for your children, so be sure to evaluate the level of seriousness of your new relationship before you involve them,” says child psychologist Alissa Levy-Chung. Try to continue to get to know the new love of your life without including your kids in most of the dating scenarios, so that you are ultimately free to make any dating decision you need to without interfering with their little lives.

But on that first date, if you manage to spend a night out with someone you are attracted to, and you didn’t talk about Popsicles or Pokemon once, then that’s the best that can be expected.

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