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Moms-Single and dating

Heres's how one single mother describes her recent return to the world of dating: "exciting, scary, nerve-wracking, confusing, challenging and definitely different than when I was younger and childless!," says Lynn, 39, from Phoenix, Arizona.

Twenty-first century dating is challenging for everyone, but for single mothers arranging a simple dinner-and-a-movie can be a Herculean task. Here are some strategies for finding love while bringing up baby.

Finding the time

The first problem, of course, is getting a date. "As a single mom, it's hard to find the time and the opportunity to meet someone," says Anne, 28, from Huntington Beach, California.

Sheila Ellison, author of the The Courage to Love Again: Creating Healthy, Happy Relationships After Divorce and creator of CompleteMom.com, says this is a huge hurdle for single moms. "You have to find a babysitter, be able to afford one and summon up the energy to look nice," says Ellison. All that and of course there's no guarantee that the cocktail party or night club will actually yield a viable candidate. "That's why I like Internet dating. You don't have to go anywhere. You can get to know someone while you're at home. It's more time-effective," she says.

Adjusting to the brave, new world

Ellison says that many newly single mothers are overwhelmed by the idea of going out in the dating world. "They watch Sex in the City and say 'I don't know if I'm ready for this.'"

Janine, 28, from New York City, says her recent dive into the dating pool was quite a shock. "After being married for years, suddenly you're thrown into this dating culture that has changed dramatically. Additionally, since I was married at 24, I felt very overwhelmed and still feel like a 22-year-old, since that was the last time I was unattached," says Janine.

To get your sea legs, Ellison suggests looking at dating as an experiment. "Let dating be a chance to see who you are, and who you are not. Don't think of it as auditioning, don't worry if the other person likes you," she says. Instead, use it as a way of figuring out what you want in a relationship.

Dealing with the kids

Lynn meet a single dad through a speed-dating service. She liked him, but they quickly ran into trouble. "We had a nice time, but could never get intimate too easily — kids at his house, my daughter at my house. I felt like a high-school girl sometimes — making out in the car — eek!," says Lynn.

Finding a support group of single moms can be very helpful when dealing with these delicate issues. "Then one person can watch the kids while the other is out," says Ellison, who stresses that you should never introduce your boyfriend to your child until you are certain that the relationship is serious. "There's just no reason to," says Ellison.

Summoning the courage

The ending of a relationship that produced a child is a traumatic event. Many single mothers still feel scarred from the blow. "Their last relationship didn't work. The sex didn't work. So now they think, 'Who will want me with all this baggage I have?'" says Ellison.

That's why it's important to build your confidence in lots of ways — by connecting with women friends, joining a church group, pursuing new interests. In fact, just keeping life and limb together as a single mom is a huge accomplishment. "There's nothing more scary for a man than a woman who emits the energy of 'I need a man to take care of my kids,'" says Ellison. "That's why its important to take responsibility for your life. The relationship should be just for you. You're independent and together — not looking for someone to step in and be a father or a disciplinarian. If you come in with that attitude, you can afford to be a lot more picky, and you'll be more confident."

Sara Kinnarney is a freelance writer based in New York.

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