My daughter, Mae, was seven months old when her father walked out the door. His whereabouts are unknown, although last I heard he was in Ireland. At age 28, I was terrified at the thought of reentering the dating scene. But eventually, I got over my heartbreak.
When Mae started preschool, I wondered if it was time to stop picking up toys — and start picking up men.
But, how would I ever balance the challenges of raising a healthy, happy little girl with the chaotic, emotionally charged world of dating?
- Was it fair to be thinking about men again? Sex? A new relationship?
- Was it safe to date as a single mom?
- How could I meet men without bringing a string of them through my daughter’s life?
With great support from my network of friends and family, I decided to make the leap (yikes!) and venture out into the dating world as a single mom, seeking.
Based on my dating experiences over the past seven years — I’m turning 35 this summer — I’ve come up with ten dating rules for single moms.
1. Enjoy Being Single. Who isn’t eager to find her prince and live happily ever after? In the meantime, however, I say: “Have your own ball.” Take lots of bubble baths. Sign up for a poetry class. Take your kids to the beach. Being single can be an opportunity to have fun. Get out there and live the life you want, how you want.
2. Get a Tribe. When you’re a single parent who’s dating, having a clan of close friends is much more than a nice distraction — it’s the key to survival. Not only can you whine to your pals after a lousy date, they will certainly look out for you — and your child. Swap childcare with friends so you can have time to date. My friends have also been the best, honest bogus detectors when it’s time for a potential boyfriend to pass the test.
3. Know Who You Are. How are you doing emotionally and financially right now? If you’re divorced, is it finalized? If you’re still hashing out custody issues, this might not be the ideal time to jump back into dating. Ask yourself honestly if you’re still healing from your past relationship. Once you’ve looked at yourself, ask: “Why do I want to date?” Do you want to get out of the house and have fun? Or, are you ready to meet a potential partner and commit yourself to a serious relationship?
4. Time for some Matchmaking…. Tell all of your friends — as well as the parents at your child’s daycare or school — that you’re single and looking.
My former journalism professor in NYC, Susan Shapiro, has just written a book, Secrets of a Fix-up Fanatic: How to Meet & Marry Your Match in which she asserts that by making steps toward self-improvement, swallowing your pride and asking those in their circle to set you up, you will find prospects far more promising than anyone you might find online or at the bar.
5. Let Your Judgments Go. Remember this: single mothers can — and have the right to — get out there and have fun. If you’re a single mom, your life is not over. Oh, and single mothers can have sex, too!
6. Play it Safe. You’ve heard it before. Be safe. When you’re meeting a blind date, always pick a public place and provide your own transportation to and fro. Tell a friend where you’re going and check in when you get home.
7. It’s a Deal. All relationships come with their own set of challenges. But every woman has her own requirements. For example, I won’t consider being with a man who smokes; or a man who gets too possessive too early (say, by bringing up marriage too soon or calling all the time.) What are you absolute about? Here’s a good question to figure out what your deal breakers are: “What if I was in such a great relationship, but this one thing wasn’t in place? Could this relationship work if this was missing?” Write down your deal breakers — and don’t make any exceptions.
8. Ask questions. You can learn a lot on a first date. This is your first chance to determine whether or not this guy might be a match. If he talks about his ex-wife, is he harsh and unforgiving? Is he a non-stop talker or a good listener? Does he have goals in life? Does he have a quick temper? Also be aware of what’s not said. Is he too touchy-feely
on the first date? Observe if you’re feeling uncomfortable.
9. Keep the Kids Out of It. The last thing you want to do is introduce Mr. Could-Be to your kids. Listen to your instincts. If you had a miserable date, tell your girlfriends all about it — not your kids. Have overnight guests when your kids are not at home. If you are going to introduce him to the kids early on, be a grown up about it. If your kids are young, you can explain that he’s “a friend.” Plan the meeting in a kid-friendly setting that’s geared towards your children, like the playground or ice cream parlor. And keep it short, less than an hour.
10. Quick Coffee Dates. As you know, dating takes time — and most of us, as single parents, 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!
Guest Author Rachel Sarah’s dating memoir, Single Mom Seeking: Playdates, Blind Dates, and Other Dispatches from the Dating World was published in January ’07 (Avalon/Seal Press). Rachel is also the romance columnist for San Francisco’s the Jewish news weekly of Northern California. Her column on single motherhood and dating, “Single Mom Seeking”, appears on Literary Mama. Rachel’s writing has also appeared in Family Circle, Parenting, Tango, Ms., Baby Center and Christian Science Monitor.