Dating as a single parent
Before I share my experiences of dating as a single parent, I need to let you know I am now very happy in a relationship. My experiences in the world of dating were over 5 years ago now, and a lot has changed since then (hopefully!). If you are ready to dive into the world of dating as a single parent make sure you read this article first!
Life after divorce
I met my ex husband when I was 16. We split around 16 years later. This meant I had never experienced dating. Meeting so young, we did everything together, I never moved away to attend university. I did move away for around 18 months after this, and we had a long distance relationship until he joined me. After getting married we moved back closer to home to be near our families, and to start our own.
We split when I was pregnant with our second child, and I moved back in with my Mum. She was an absolute godsend, and I really needed it with a newborn and a 17 month old! My Mum got a puppy just before my second had been born, and so I traded baby sitting duties for puppy sitting duties. Which worked well, but I began to crave more adult company than just my lovely Mum.
One problem with being single in your 30’s is that most of your friends are Mums or married and don’t want to go on nights out anymore. So nights out were few and far between.
The divorce proceedings began, it was a straight forward process, and didn’t take long to complete. I had some girly weekends away, including an adult only music weekend at Butlin’s. Which was hilarious and I enjoyed the attention that I got there. The whole time I was away though, the Mum guilt was immense. I couldn’t wait to get back to my little fellas.
The world of dating as a single parent
Eventually over time, my Mum and friends convinced me to give dating a try. I think my Mum could tell I craved adult conversation and company. Online dating was a real eye opener! If you have never ventured into this world, be warned, there are a lot, and I mean A LOT of odd people on the dating sites.
I didn’t really know which dating apps to sign up to, and initially signed up to a free one I thought may be good. I can’t remember what it was called, because as it turned out it was a huge dating database that throws all these ‘niche’ dating categories together. A guy I started chatting to told me he had signed up to ‘introvert dating’, which was not what I had signed up for and I pieced it all together and swiftly left that site.
Where else to look? I knew I definitely didn’t want to join Tinder, I was not looking for a one night stand. This left me with a few options. There were the paid dating sites, and the free ones. I felt like everyone on a paid dating app would be old and possibly desperate. The free ones seemed like a free for all, where to begin?
Plenty more fish in the sea
Being new to online dating I decided to stick to free dating apps to dip my toe in the water. Someone, I think my sister, said to download plenty of fish. Well I can certainly think of a better name for this app. It should be renamed plenty of d*cks. Not only because this is what you will frequently be sent photos of, but it also describes a lot of the men on there!
I created my profile carefully, realising that it made absolutely no difference what you put on there, the guys didn’t read it anyway. It seemed they sent the same generic message to every woman they came across. ‘Hey’ and ‘What you up to’ seeming to be the most common. Don’t get me wrong, this app provided me and my Mum with a lot of entertainment in the evenings. I would call out ‘I’ve got another one here Mum’ and read her their opening lines. We would be in absolute hysterics, with her helping me compose replies.
Several times I was offered money in exchange for worn tights and socks (I said no by the way). Another time a guy visiting from America (allegedly) asked me to meet him at his hotel in central London, saying he would be my sugar Daddy for the night. Translates to – cheaper than an escort. I politely declined him also.
Then we get to the photos. Top tip for online dating is this. If a guy has a hat on in every photo, he is not attractive without it. You’ve heard of catfish? This is hatfish. Seriously, ask for a photo without a hat, I’m sure you will think twice. Then we lead onto the fishing photos. Just because it’s called plenty of fish, doesn’t mean we need to see endless photos of you holding a fish mate!
Chuck them right back in
There are probably some genuine people on there, but I didn’t meet any. One guy I met for a date seemed lovely, he had a son, a good job, his own teeth and hair. He was already doing better than a lot of the guys I had received messages from. We met for dinner and had a nice evening, or so I thought. My dating technique was rusty. After telling him I couldn’t drink very much as I was a lightweight, he pointed out that I had drunk almost a bottle of wine to myself. Oops. I had spoken about my ex and the break up, and even told him about me and My Mum rating d*ck pics out of 10.
Needless to say I got a polite text giving me the brush off while on my way home. You live and learn. Surprisingly after I had lost more of my baby weight and was feeling fire, I added some updated photos to my dating profile. Well guess who popped back up out the ocean! Turns out, the only thing he had been put off with on our date was my post baby body. I had to break it to him that if he didn’t like me at my paunchy worst he didn’t deserve me at my best. Boy, bye!
Get the flags out
Sometimes the red flags are there to start with. Take note of these ladies, they can be easy to miss at the time! I arrived at a first date with a Dad of 2 I had been speaking to. First thing I noticed was that he had lied about his height. This in itself isn’t a red flag, but it doesn’t get you off to the best start. When we sat down for dinner he proceeded to tell me he had told them it was our first wedding anniversary when booking the table! What the actual f*ck? As I laughed nervously, I asked why he would do that. He thought it would be funny was the provided answer. I soon realised it was because he thought he would be more likely to get a discount! Don’t worry for him, I paid half.
The second red flag on that date was when he couldn’t pronounce prosciutto. That was not the red flag, there are loads of words I struggle to pronounce on a daily basis. The red flag was the way he got annoyed and angry with the waiter who couldn’t understand what he was saying. I wasn’t planning on a second date, however, he invited me to a fireworks display. Firework night is my favourite night of the year. So I met him there, the fireworks were beautiful, although he kept standing behind me trying to sniff my hair. Weird! Then we went into the bar area, and he told me his Mum worked there. She was working that evening and we needed to thank her for the free tickets she had got us for the evening. Cue an awkward conversation with his Mum! She proceeded to tell me that there weren’t many people good enough for her wonderful son. There was no third date!
Birds and the bees
After having no luck with fish, I decided to turn to insects. In came Bumble. This dating app suited me much better. Firstly, you have to match to be able to talk, this means less creepy messages asking about feet. Secondly, the lady takes the lead and has to message first. If you are new to dating, this is definitely the app I would suggest you start with. Unless you are just looking to laugh at over confident men sending you unimpressive 🍆 photos.
This is where I met Mr B, or Mr Oxford as my work colleagues call him. More about that later. After giving up on dating only to be lured back in, I decided enough was enough. I needed to get serious. I didn’t want to be trekking for miles for dates and decided to stick with local guys. So I pulled my radius right in to 6 miles (no-one likes an odd number). I had swiped left so many times I was beginning to think I was developing carpel tunnel. Then suddenly I saw a cheeky photo that caught my eye. He looked like he ticked all of my boxes so he got a right swipe, ding, it was a match. Luckily for me he had wandered into my 6 mile radius, the rest as they say is history!
We met at a pub near where I lived in the lead up to Christmas. He is adamant to this day that time slowed down as I walked in. We had an amazing date, and couldn’t stop talking. Although I think that was more me than him! A few days after that I took my boys to Butlins for a Christmas trip. Both ended up getting a vomiting bug. I ended up having to go out to buy new pyjamas and clothes as they had puked on everything else. Throughout the weekend I was able to laugh about it over the phone with Mr B. He kept me sane that weekend!
When I got back it was really close to Christmas, and we arranged to meet on Christmas Eve eve. I got the boys to sleep, kissed my Mum goodnight and headed out for the date. I didn’t have far to go, across the road in fact. Mr B had pulled up in his campervan Betsy. The inside was decked out in fairy lights, decorations and Christmas scented candles. He even cooked me a spaghetti bolognese. It was a great way to date knowing I was always close to home should my Mum need me to come back. This ended up being something we did often. It reignited his passion for cooking, and eventually we set up our campervan cooking blog.
Our first overnight trip ended up being in Oxford, not in the van though! We visited the castle, had dinner out and played crazy golf. It was such a fab weekend, and I was smitten. By this point my colleagues at work were all living vicariously through my dating expeditions. They nicknamed him Mr Oxford, and that was that.
Introducing someone to your kids
One of the things dating as a single parent throws up, is when to introduce them to your children. There is no right or wrong way with this, or a perfect time to do it. It will depend on the age of your children and how you think they will take it. For me I knew I wanted to be fairly certain about someone before introducing them to my children.
My children were still young when I met Mark (Mr B). This meant I didn’t have to think about whether to introduce him as Mummy’s friend or boyfriend. We met him in a park, the kids were able to run around and have fun. He got to see them at their most energetic too 🤣. They got on like a house on fire, and still do to this day. Don’t get me wrong it hasn’t come without it’s challenges of children misbehaving. Mark has 3 children himself so takes it all in his stride, and is always calmer than me.
Introducing your children to theirs
Mark’s children vary in age with the youngest being the same age as my youngest and the eldest being 6 years older than my youngest. We put no pressure on them meeting each other. We made sure we were doing a fun activity outside with plenty of room to play and run around.
Most of the time ours get on well with each other, but there are times they get on each other’s nerves. When that happens we make sure they get some time apart. We both feel it is important our kids get some time with just us without partners or their children also.
When introducing children try not to force relationships or friendships between them. Sometimes these things take time, that’s fine. Even if they don’t become best of friends they will hopefully be able to tolerate one another.
Mum guilt when dating as a single parent
Mum guilt is talked about online a lot. It seems no matter what us mothers do, we will feel guilty about it at some point. This can definitely present itself when we take some time for ourselves. Remember though, our needs are important too. Dating can allow you some time for yourself. You take the time to choose an outfit and get ready. Then go out and have fun. This can improve your parenting, by you being a happier Mum. Try not to feel Mum guilt about going out and having a good time, as long as you have a good balance with caring for your children. You spending time without your children can also strengthen relationships with their other parent or family members.
Should you compromise when dating as a single parent?
I think in life there are always things you have to compromise with. There are some things though that are good to have as non-negotiable at the start, and be clear about them. For me I came to realise that I definitely did not want any more children. I hadn’t really thought about it until I was given an ultimatum. Once I knew this it made it easier. Bumble had a section on the profile where you could select whether you wanted children. It made it a lot easier when deciding whether to swipe left or right.
Never compromise on your children’s safety. If there is someone displaying some warning signs or red flags, please don’t let them near your children. My children only met one person I was dating before Mr B, and that was because he was a firefighter and they got to go and visit the fire station. They had no idea we were dating though.
Tips for dating as a single parent
Dating as a single parent can be hard. I was in a lucky position to be living with my Mum who was very supportive. This meant I never really had to worry about childcare. Be realistic about what you can offer someone and what you expect. There is no point offering to be a sugar baby at someone’s beck and call if you have nobody to look after your children. If you know you can afford a babysitter once or twice a week, let the other person know that. Then they know how often they will get to see you. Don’t over-promise, even if you really like someone!
After having children our confidence can take a massive hit. The right person will help you rebuild that confidence. Do not feel you have to compromise or change who you are and what you believe in. If someone wants you to do that, they are not the right person for you.
For many single parents childcare can be an issue when dating. Not everyone has a built in babysitter like I did with my Mum. If you struggle for childcare, consider meeting for day dates. While the kids are at school or nursery, meet for a coffee, a nice walk, or even an activity.
Consider finding a babysitter you trust. Ask friends if they know anyone, ask other parents. This may be a treat every now and then to enjoy an evening date. You may have to be inventive about finding the time to date.
Everything happens for a reason
I am a big believer in everything happening for a reason. If something doesn’t work out it’s because something better is coming around the corner. Be patient. You may have to kiss a lot of frogs before you meet your Prince Charming.`
Even if nothing comes of it, dating can be fun. Rather than the conventional meeting for drinks, plan an activity. You get to do something fun and meet someone new. It can also help break any awkwardness if you are focused on an activity. Think about things like ice skating, bowling or axe throwing. Stuck in a cinema might not be the best idea though!
Take a break
Dating can be overwhelming. There seem to be a lot more men than women on the apps. As such women get a LOT of attention. Sometimes it can seem a bit much. Also dating with children can be tough. Firstly, finding the time to go on dates. Most of us are knackered with our jammies on by half 8. It requires effort to get ready and go out. It can be expensive if paying for a babysitter. The Mum guilt can be real! I found this part the most overwhelming. Even though I tended to go out once the boys were in bed, I felt guilty if I wasn’t there when they woke up. I also felt I was imposing on my Mum, although she never, ever made me feel that way.
Sometimes you need to take a break from it all, and that’s fine.
Have you tried dating as a single parent? How did you find it? What are your tips for dating as a single parent?