Dating can be a confusing combination of frustration and fun for single people. Dating as a single mother poses its own unique set of challenges. With more than 11 million single mothers in the United States, it’s likely that a significant number of them are looking for love. The ones who are will have personal rules about dating that are quite a bit different from their dating rules before they became a parent!
Dating as a single mom involves a whole host of tricky new ins and outs ranging from figuring out how to talk to her kids about dating, to knowing how soon it’s okay for her to date after a divorce, and from sleepovers and body shaming to meeting her kids.
Here are some of the more common rules that single mothers set when it comes to dating:
Anyone who wants a relationship with a single mother needs to understand that she will always have two or three higher, priorities. Her kids will always come first. Her job ranks right up there, too, since she needs it to support her family. She may want to be in a romantic relationship, but not if that relationship would affect the level of importance she places on her kids.
A single mother does not want her kids to see or hear anything inappropriate. So, it won’t matter how romantic you thought the date was. She will probably not invite you to go home with her afterward. She likely isn’t willing to be intimate with somebody she isn’t engaged or married to in her kids’ home. No exceptions.
- Too Soon
Her kids mean the world to her, so you won’t get the privilege of meeting them until she knows you’ll be around long-term. If you ask her to meet them and she answers “no,” she’s not entirely certain about you yet. Give her some more time.
- The Ex Factor
If you get jealous when your partner remains on friendly terms with her ex, then trying to get involved with a single mom will be a waste of your time. Her ex is her children’s father and there’s no changing that, so they’ll need to remain in contact. You have to be able to deal with that gracefully and maturely.
- Spur of the Moment
It may be tempting to wish that she could be more spontaneous. Well, here’s some breaking news: She. Has. Kids. She isn’t going to be available to run off on long weekend trips at a moment’s notice. That’s one more thing you’ll just simply have to learn how to deal with.
- No Drama Mama
A significant factor for a single mom who dates is that before she became a parent, she had far more bandwidth to handle game-playing and other drama. She used to have the luxury of spending months wondering if her partner was “the one” for her and to play all the games that go along with that. But now she just won’t have enough energy or time to mess around with trivialities like that. Things are either working out, or they’re not. If they’re not, she’ll be far quicker t now to call it “quits” than she ever was before.
- Father Figure
Whether you believe this or you don’t, she’s only looking for a partner. She is not trying to find a dad for her kids—they have one. If or when things work out between you, you can start talking to her about how you’ll figure into her kids’ lives. Don’t assume she’s looking for a father figure. Her kids already have a father, and it’s not you.
- Baby Figure
She’s given birth, possibly more than once, so she probably has the softer tummy and the stretch marks to show for it. If you expect her to have a perfect body, or to be sorry for the imperfect body she has, then don’t date her. A person came out of her. She can live with her body parts that aren’t as jaunty as they used to be. She certainly doesn’t need you reminding her that they’re not.
- Wait for It
If you want to date a single mom, you need to adjust your expectations. Don’t expect her to always answer every single one of your calls and texts. She’s juggling family responsibilities with trying to date. You need to trust that she’ll do her best to get back to you as soon as she can.
- Actually Be Single
Before you call her, be sure your own divorce is final, or you’re completely free from your last relationship. This is especially true if you have kids, too. She doesn’t need any more complications! Dating with kids involved is difficult enough without introducing additional romantic and relationship issues.
- Don’t Flake Out
Scheduling a babysitter isn’t always easy, and it costs a lot to pay them. Consider yourself lucky if she allows for two strikes when it comes to last-second cancellations. She doesn’t need guys that are going to flake out at this stage of her life. She already has enough going on.
- Kids, Obviously
If you aren’t fond of children, don’t try to date a single mother. This should go without saying. If the relationship goes well, you’ll be involved in her kids’ lives for the long haul. So, even if you really like her, don’t start things with her if you can’t accept the possibility you may share your life with her kids. Because she already does.