After a lot of ‘hemming’ and ‘hawing’ (and three years of deleting profiles after a day or so) I finally embarked on the journey into the world of online dating where every man is a world-traveler, outdoorsman and cute dog owner, and (I’m assuming) every woman is the down-to-earth, no drama kind of girl.
As a widowed parent (OK, fine, go ahead and say ‘single mom’ if it’s easier), but also an old fashioned, hopeless-romantic, head stuck in the clouds creative, the idea of online dating was not the first on my list of ways I’d meet him—the guy who’d come after my late husband, but after prodding from friends and listening to one too many stories of “well so-and-so met so-and-so online and they are so happy!” I finally gave in. I was ready to get out there, feeling myself come back to life after three years of living my own sad, widow-version of “The Walking Dead,” when I finally noticed myself noticing other men notice me.
So, I did it.
I made profiles on several different sites, I took that selfie that I swore I’d never do, I ripped the Band-aid off and then all there was left to do was wait and see. I got a lot of interest and requests to go out when that one tiny detail of me being a full-time-no-breaks-no-weekends-away or shared custody-no circle of friends or grandparents begging to watch my three children under 7 every week for free-single mom swept in. How in the world was I supposed to actually go and meet these people? Not to mention I noticed immediately how these guys had no idea how to even attempt to date a single mom. (I get it, NOT ALL GUYS are clueless and if you met yours online, awesome! But just humor me for a bit, will you?) I figured maybe I’d put out a kind of PSA if you will, for those of you who are actually considering dating a single mom:
1.) Realize the cost of childcare: It may just be a $5 coffee or drink out of your pocket, but for the single mom you’re asking out it’s SO much more. Not only is she having to book a sitter (going rate is $15 an hour), but she needs a week’s or more notice to book said sitter. Or if she’s getting help from a friend to watch the kids, she’s walking on egg-shells not to take advantage of this generous friend and putting out multiple feelers for other people who may be option B, C and D in case nice friend “forgets she made other plans.” This date you’ve asked her out on may be costing her not only actual currency, but her time, energy and efforts to find proper care for her kids. Acknowledge this on all fronts and remember it going forward to these other tips.
2.) Time is precious, don’t waste hers: I was recently asked out to a coffee shop date. Turns out the night we were supposed to meet Colorado decided to have a spring snowstorm and it took me an hour to get to this coffee shop. I was so close to just pulling off at the several exits I saw on my way down, but I had to give myself a pep-talk, “Don’t bail, that’s so rude. Just suck it up and get it over with.” I get it, maybe that’s not the right frame of mind to have when going into a date, “just get it over with,” but just being honest here.
I parked and found my way to the coffee shop all the while thinking “this better be darn good coffee or the most amazing man ever for all this effort.” I met my date and he was polite and bought my coffee and conversation ensued, if you want to call it conversation at all, he really just talked about himself the whole time. During his monologue, he let it be known that he only lived a block from the coffee shop we were chatting in. Red flag #1 of many in that date came up and I thought to myself, hold up, I drove an hour through a snowstorm to have coffee with this guy and he only walked a block to get here? Sorry, call me a princess or entitled or whatever, but I prefer to think of myself as a practical, considerate person who would suggest to meet halfway, or, the fact he knew I had to get a sitter, drive down near me.
Red flag #2 was when the good old “you wanna get out of here” phrase was followed up by “do you want to walk to my house to see how big my porch is” (truth, can’t make this up folks). Seriously dude? I just told you I’m paying for a sitter here and you’re asking me over to “see your porch.” Maybe he had totally well-meaning intentions and did indeed have an awesome porch, but even if he told me that there was a unicorn residing on his amazing porch, this momma wouldn’t have budged. When I explained that I have three kids (again) and I just don’t go to strangers’ homes (even though he bought me a coffee, he was still technically a stranger, remember that ladies!) and I only had a sitter until 9 p.m. He looked at me like I was talking in another language. He just didn’t get it. “Well, do you just want to walk around then?” he asked. “Yeah, sure, a walk in wet, sloppy snow would be great… to my car,” I replied.
3.) Yes, her kids are her priority (and seriously question dating her if they’re not): I’ve witnessed or heard of a lot of different dating scenarios when it comes to single moms. I’ve seen those who will leave their kids with just about anyone to go out with the first guy who gives them attention. I’ve heard stories from friends in the childcare business of the moms who won’t pick their kids up until 3 a.m. if they pick them up at all that night. The ones who will bring home a first date with kids in the house (I’m not judging…OK I kinda am, sorry). And then there’s the gun-shy moms (I’d fall into this category probably) who cancel sitters at the first sign of a sniffle or cry to those who never even consider ever going out on a date again and shut themselves in their rooms with their cats (I love cats!).
But in all seriousness, like it or not, her kids (should!) come first. I totally get that she should still be allowed to be a woman and go out and have fun, but at the end of the day she is a mom and has little people depending on her. I was on a lunch date with someone and I brought up my kids and he said something like, “Well, they’re just kids, after all, how hard can it be?” After that statement, the whole date was just sort of a wash. Kids are hard, kids are really hard when you’re a single parent, but they’re also my everything. They’re also a part of the package. You don’t have interest in her kids? Or kids in general? Don’t even bother asking her out. Seriously.
4.) Be straightforward about your intentions: Women generally don’t have time for games, but pull some round-about shenanigans with a single mom, well that’s just a whole other low. Look, she’s got to not only protect herself, but her children. People are people and they do what they’re going to do, but really, don’t look to single moms for irresponsible hook-ups or think you could maybe sweep her away and rescue her from her kids: newsflash she doesn’t need to be rescued from her kids, from the mess, but someone who is man enough to jump into the “mess” with her. If you can’t stand up to the fact that she’s surveying your every move for any signs of “dad-like” characteristics, or you wouldn’t even consider going to help her if she texts you last minute to cancel a date because her kids are all taking turns throwing up on her, then don’t ask her out. Plain and simple.
5.) Honor the “baggage:” Look, as humans, we’ve all got baggage, but single parents seem to have a couple extra bags. Understand there was someone before, either an ex- and parent of her child, or in a widow’s case, a husband and father will never be forgotten and who will always be loved, always. Not only are you entering into a relationship with the woman, but also the one who came before. If she’s honest with where she’s at, she’ll treat you separately with no comparison, but don’t expect her to erase those who have come before you. It’s a tall order, I get it, but if you can do that or at least try to find out, go for it and kudos to you.
I’m certainly no expert in the field of dating, to be honest, my attempt at dating is really just clumsily feeling my way through the awkwardness, and I really, really dislike the whole process. Dating can be so stressful and overwhelming, but if you look at it with the right perspective, it’s also a huge opportunity to learn about yourself and others. I’ve learned what to look for and what I’m OK with and what I’m definitely NOT OK with. And through the strange encounters I’ve had, I’ve learned the most valuable lesson. I’d rather be alone, than settle for a man who doesn’t honor my situation and all that comes with it just because I’m lonely.