As a single parent, it’s safe to say you’ve got a lot on your plate. Not only do you have to keep up with your own daily responsibilities, but you also have to make sure your kids are fed, their homework is done, and they have everything they need to live a happy and healthy life. And you’re doing all of that without the help and support of a partner! So, naturally, the thought of adding dating to the mix might seem downright daunting to you. Fortunately, I have a wealth of dating tips for single parents that will hopefully eliminate some stress from the process — because that’s the last thing you need more of.
I totally get it, because I, myself, was a single mom at one point raising my daughter. It can feel next to impossible to find the time and muster up the energy to put yourself out there, and you may also feel hesitant about introducing someone new into your kids’ lives. I’m here to tell you that A) you deserve to find love and B) you totally can, without compromising your family and household, or your kids’ happiness.
Maybe you’re a little afraid of rejection or failure after how your last relationship ended. Or maybe you’re worried about how your kids will react to you dating someone new. Maybe you’re unsure how to go about introducing them, or you’re not even sure where to meet people. The good news is — you can totally nail this. After all, single parents are basically superheroes. So, as long as you keep the following things in mind, your journey back into dating should be smooth sailing.
1. Put out your feelers.
First thing’s first. You can’t exactly sit around and wait for your dream guy or girl to fall into your lap. But being proactive about dating may look different for everyone. If you’ve got three kids and a hectic job, and you’re completely overwhelmed as it is, then downloading an app and scrolling through some potential matches while you’re relaxing with a glass of wine late at night might be the most realistic option. Or, if you feel a little apprehensive about online dating — which is totally understandable — you may want to loop your friends and family in by letting them know you’re interested in meeting anyone they think might be a good match. You could also sign up for a local class or workshop, where you might meet other like-minded singles.
Since weeding through people who aren’t necessarily compatible with you can be super draining, working with a professional matchmaker can definitely be an excellent way to connect with other people who are serious about dating. Not only do I vet all of my clients thoroughly (so you won’t have to worry about catfishers, flakes, and weirdos), but I can also link you up with people who are specifically ready to help raise kids and have a family.
Now, if you do decide to try dating apps, keep in mind that as a general rule, the dating sites you have to pay for tend to have users who are more serious about finding a deep and lasting connection. Also, it’s a good idea to note that you’re a single parent in your profile. You don’t need to include your kids in your pics, but just a quick mention of your status will help to eliminate anyone who’s not interested in dating someone with children right from the get-go.
2. Clarify what you’re after.
You probably want to avoid repeating past mistakes or accidentally ending up with someone just like your ex — which is why it’s important to think long and hard about what you actually need from your next relationship. So, before you start getting any dates in the books, make a list of your must-haves and deal-breakers. These may include personality traits, lifestyle choices, values, or beliefs. Once you’ve established what your priorities are, you’ll have a much easier time identifying “The One” when you meet them.
3. Always start with a phone call.
Whether you met someone through your dating app of choice and you’ve been messaging back and forth, or your cousin wants to set you up with someone at their company, I highly suggest hopping on a phone call before meeting up IRL. Obviously, your time is precious — and you don’t want to waste money on a babysitter for a date that turns out to be a total dud. Talking on the phone is a great screening tool that allows you to feel out whether or not there’s the potential for a spark.
4. Be open and honest with dates.
You may feel reluctant to reveal that you’re a single parent because you’re afraid it’ll drive your date away. But guess what? If finding out that you have kids causes someone to cut and run, you don’t want them around anyway. And if you conceal the fact that you’re a single mom or dad until date number three or four, your date might feel like you were lying to them or being intentionally shady, which is not a good look. So, just rip off the band-aid on the first date. You don’t need to force it, just let it come up naturally as you’re talking about your life.
And while it’s a good idea to be transparent with them about having children, you probably don’t want to go on and on about them — no matter how proud you are. After all, this moment is about getting to know the person in front of you, and the only way you can figure out if they fit into your life is to focus on asking them the right questions.
5. Keep an open line of communication with your kids.
When and how you tell your kids that you’re seeing new people really depends on their ages. If they’re super young, there’s no reason to announce that you’re dating again because they probably won’t understand what that means or how it affects them, and it may cause more harm than good. It’s better to just wait until there’s someone special you want them to meet. However, if you have a teenager in the house, then you’ll probably want to be upfront with them — because if they find out some other way, they’ll likely resent you for it.
Reassure your children that their other parent isn’t being replaced, and be sure to give them space to express their feelings about this new development. They may have certain fears or worries about what this means for your family, and it’s important that they feel heard. Most importantly, they need to know that your door is open, and they can talk to you about those concerns at any time.
6. Don’t make introductions until it’s serious.
At the risk of stating the obvious, it can be incredibly detrimental to your children to have a parade of different men or women coming in and out of their lives — which is why I advise being super discerning about who you introduce them to. Start by peppering in mentions of your love interest now and again — such as funny anecdotes about them — to gauge your kids’ reactions. The idea is to plant the seed that there’s someone new in your life so you don’t blindside them when you invite them over. Only once you’ve defined the relationship and discussed a possible future with your new partner should you think about planning an introduction.
7. Don’t rush things.
If there’s one thing I want you to remember, it’s this: good things come to those who wait. The key to success when you’re dating as a single parent is to take baby steps — not only in terms of inviting a new partner into your home and kids’ lives but also in terms of allowing your children time to adjust to these new circumstances.
There’s no reason to rush love, and the only way to determine whether or not someone is right for you is to give it time. Let them prove to you that they’re reliable and consistent — that they can offer the steady love and support you so deserve as a single parent.
Susan Trombetti, Matchmaker and the CEO of Exclusive Matchmaking.