Drawing from personal experience, here are five things I believe you should know about dating with a child.
1. Keep the Kids Out of It. The last thing you want to do is introduce Mr. Could-Be to your child. There’s no hard and fast rule here about timing, except this: listen to your instincts. If you had a miserable date, tell your girlfriends all about it — not your child. Have him overnight when your child isn’t at home (I know, easier said than done, right?).
If you decide to introduce him to your child, be a grown up about it. If your kids are young — say, toddler or elementary school — you can explain that he’s “a friend.” Plan the meeting in a kid-friendly setting. The ice cream parlor is one of my favorites. And keep it short, less than an hour.
2. Know– and obey — your red flags. Dating as a single mom means that the stakes are high. So, what are you absolute about? Make a list of your red flags. Return to this list again and again until you get it all down. Ask friends for help. Most importantly, obey the warning signs.
Here are some red flags that are no-brainers for me:
~He doesn’t like kids. (Duh!)
~He’s still married; he might be separated from his wife, but not divorced (yet).
~He smokes. I’ve had men ask me, “Do you just mean tobacco?” No, dude, I mean anything you light up.
~He’s too touchy-feely on the first date.
3. Get creative with childcare. Sitters can be costly and it’s an excuse I’ve heard many single moms give. If you have family nearby, lean on them. This might be the best opportunity for the grandparents to bond one-on-one with their grandchild. Also, set up trades with friends. My closest single-parent friends and I swap childcare every week. For older kids, the YMCA and local gyms often have special kid nights on the weekends that might buy you a few free hours.
4. Date on a budget. You don’t need to ring up your credit card bills to look hot on a date. My own wardrobe life-saver is simple and practical: I bought just one “first-date outfit.” Remember that your first date has never met you. He doesn’t know that you wore the same outfit last Friday (and the Friday before).
5. Quick Coffee Dates. As you know, dating takes time — and most of us, as single mom, don’t have much of it. A first date does not need to drag on through the night. Keep first dates short and sweet — 20 minutes over coffee. This quantity of time is just enough to screen the guy, to know if you’d like Date No. 2 or not. Remember that every time you go on a date, you’re gaining new relationship skills. Go for it!
About the Author: A couple of years into single motherhood, Rachel Sarah stopped picking up toys — and started picking up men. Not really, but it sure has a nice ring to it. Her dating memoir, Single Mom Seeking: Playdates, Blind Dates, and Other Dispatches from the Dating World
Rachel’s writing has appeared in Family Circle, Pregnancy, Parenting, American Baby, Literary Mama, BabyCenter.com, and WashingtonPost.com. She’s 35 and lives with her seven-year-old daughter in the Bay Area. Please visit her at http://www.singlemomseeking.com.