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Single moms and their dates

Single moms are as gutsy as Julia Roberts in Erin Brockovich, as tenacious as Helen Hunt in Pay It Forward and even as enigmatic as Taylor Schilling playing Beth in The Lucky One. What they’re not is dowdy and dull — and that’s what our panel of single mothers need you to know. Listen in as they reveal their pet peeves, whether they prefer to date single dads and what they enjoy most about being back on the market and looking for love.

The single moms:

Lisa Iannucci-Brinkley, 46, founder of the young widows and widowers blog; Poughkeepsie, NY; widowed in 1999; mom of three
Dorothy Price Hill, 46, managing director, financial services; New York City, NY; divorced; mom of three
Janice Hoffman, 46, relationship expert and author; Boulder, CO; divorced; mom of three
Carole Brody Fleet, 51, co-author of the book, Happily Even After: A Guide to Getting Through (and Beyond) the Grief of Widowhood and Widows Wear Stilettos; Lake Forest, CA; widowed in 2000; mom of one
Delia Lopez, 40, account director; Los Angeles, CA; divorced; mom of one
Kasey Woods, 30, public relations executive, New York City, NY; divorced; mom of one

Q: As a single mom on the dating circuit, what’s your number-one pet peeve?

Delia Lopez: Guys who think that just because I’m a single mom, I don’t require the same level of chivalry that any other woman deserves. Hold the door open for me and call if you say you’re going to. If you don’t plan to call, don’t tell me you will!

Dorothy Price Hill: Men who cancel at the last minute — after I’ve booked a minimum four-hour sitter from an agency. Thankfully, this has only happened once!

Q: What’s the single biggest mistake a guy can make on a first date?

Kasey Woods: Asking way too many questions about my son’s father and our relationship. If I wanted to talk about him, I’d call my therapist.

Lisa Iannucci-Brinkley: As a widow, I find it very difficult when guys come on too fast, too soon. Some of us want to take it a bit slower. Don’t assume that just because someone is a widow, she’s so desperately lonely she’ll do anything with you.

Hill: Not asking me a single question about my children, especially after I’ve been upfront and told him that I have sole legal and physical custody of my kids.

Q: Do you have a timetable when it comes to introducing a date to your kids?

Carole Brody Fleet: I won’t introduce a man to my child until or unless the relationship becomes exclusive. While my daughter is certainly aware of anyone with whom I choose to spend time, I don’t like to play “revolving door” with her emotions by introducing her to everyone I date.

Woods: It depends. If I’m dating a man with kids and he introduces me to them, then it seems inevitable that I’ll introduce my son to him. One relationship I had that I refer to as my “Toxic Time” was with a guy who I would have introduced to my son, but he never introduced me to his. That’s when I began to realize that he didn’t take the relationship as seriously as I did.

Iannucci-Brinkley: I haven’t introduced anyone to my children yet, and I don’t have dates pick me up at the house, either. In a parent-loss situation, you really need to be careful of the kids’ feelings. If it doesn’t work out, grief can actually return in children who then lose another person to whom they’ve become attached. I won’t let that happen to my kids.

Q: Do you prefer to date a man with kids or without? How do your kids feel about it?

Lopez: I find that men with kids are more understanding of the issues that you have as a single mom. They know that it’s not that easy for you to just get up and go at any given time. Single guys can sometimes also become possessive and may not understand that your number-one priority is your kids.

Woods: Men with kids are more likely to feel like having a child isn’t a big deal. On the other hand, guys without kids aren’t as open-minded. I remember once opening my phone to take a guy’s number. My son’s photo is my screensaver and, as soon as he saw his photo, he said “Wait, let me take your number instead.” I knew what that meant, so I basically told him to kick rocks!

Janice Hoffman: I prefer to date a man with kids. I also find that my kids like it if a boyfriend of mine has his own children, so long as they aren’t forced to spend time together.

Q: What’s your policy on having a man stay over?

Woods: I would never let a guy I’m casually dating stay over because I have this fear that my son will walk in on a strange guy in my bed. If I’m in a real relationship, I’ll allow a guy to stay over, but he has to leave before my son wakes up.

Hill: Easy. It doesn’t happen. We simply don’t have the space and even if we did, I would not have a man sleep over unless we were engaged. I don’t believe it sets a good example for my children.

Q: How do your kids feel about the fact that you’re dating again?

Lopez: My son can be possessive, and I absolutely understand his feelings. I make sure that if he meets a guy, it’s someone I’m serious about.

Iannucci-Brinkley: My kids understand that I need adult companionship. We talk about it all the time. My youngest still says things like, “I only want you to date daddy.” She was two when he died and I’m sure she’s just saying this to hold onto me, but I tell her that it’s not fair to think that mommy will be alone forever. My older two understand that I need to have some fun and are finally OK with it. They know their father will always be important to me.

Q: What’s the one piece of advice you’d like to offer a man who’s dating a single mom?

Hoffman: Remember she is doing the best she can — working, parenting, taking care of the home and trying to have a social life and date. Be understanding of last-minute schedule changes. She is trying to please everyone.

Iannucci-Brinkley: A widowed mom is different from a divorced or never-married mom. She has different issues to deal with — a child’s grief, a child who is thinking someone is taking daddy’s place and having the kids 24/7. The guy also needs to understand that I didn’t choose this life, so the pictures of my husband aren’t going away because that’s my children’s father. I didn’t hate the man and didn’t divorce him, so don’t ask me to put that part of my life away forever simply because I met you. Instead, embrace the fact that my kids had a great dad and I had a great husband and I really am moving on — otherwise, I wouldn’t be on this date.

Q: Do you think there’s a secret benefit to dating a single mom? If so, what is it?

Iannucci-Brinkley: Single moms are very hard-working, passionate people and if we found room in our very chaotic life for you, then you must be something special.

Hill: Single moms have to juggle a lot so they’re probably going to be organized and reliable. Many have also been through some hard times so they’re hopefully more empathetic to the challenges a man may be facing, like work pressures, aging parents, taking care of kids, etc.

Hoffman: Before I had kids and got divorced, I think I expected more from a man. Now, I’m just happy to be a passenger in a car, to have an adult conversation over a meal and to be hugged by someone my own size. I appreciate the small things more than ever.

Q: What’s the single biggest misconception men have about dating single moms?

Hill: That the ex-husband will show up on the scene and steal her back from the boyfriend. Some men have expressed that concern to me even on our first date.

Lopez: That we’re only after a daddy for our kids.

Fleet: That we’re completely and solely wrapped up in our children’s lives and activities — to the exclusion of our own. We are moms but we’re also women. We have interests, goals and dreams of our own.

Iannucci-Brinkley: That all we want is someone to sleep with. Yeah, it’s nice, but that’s not our only goal in dating. We want someone to take us away from our mom roles and make us feel special.

Q: What’s the one thing that wins you over that you wish all guys you meet would do?

Woods: Ask about my son once in a while. I’m not asking for a status report everyday, but it gives the impression that you care about the biggest, most exciting, wonderful part of my life. And, any guy who wants to go on a date with me and offers to pay for my son’s nanny gets an automatic gold star!

Lambeth Hochwald is a New York-based writer whose work has appeared in Redbook, Marie Claire and Real Simple.

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