5 Things Men Should Know About Dating a Single Mom

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single-mom-looking-for-love Image via Shutterstock

My boyfriend and I have been fighting a lot lately. I can’t even tell you what the fights are about exactly. The thing is, he’s awesome and I’m awesome. And my kid is definitely awesome. But if you take away who we are as people, what remains is our differing positions in life; I’m a single mother and he’s a childless dude. It’s a huge disparity that can create a lot of discord without the right level of understanding.

If love is about putting in the effort to understand one another, then it’s my duty to express who I am and what I feel. Through this exercise, I put together a few guidelines for dating a single mom. (Disclaimer: This will either make you run for the hills or step up your game.)

1. Being a single mother can be the loneliest job in the world. Sure, I am never really alone. I have my child with me most of the time, and the joy that comes from that is a true blessing. At the same time, I’m taking on the responsibility, that naturally, two people should share. I put in everything I’ve got- physically and emotionally- so he never has to feel like he’s missing a parent. Sometimes I feel pangs of jealousy when I see conventional families with a mother and a father. It must be nice to share these experiences with the one other person who contributed in making your child. But there is no sharing as a single mother. Even if I have a village of wonderful people to help me, I am the only person that can be the parent.

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I invest everything in my child and, at the end of the day, I’ve run out of gas. Vroom! Vroom! That’s where you come in. If I am going to be with you, I want you to fuel me in some way. I want to share stuff with you. It’s not that I can’t be strong on my own, but everyone deserves fulfilling companionship. I want to be with someone who makes me feel alive and makes my time worthwhile. That being said…

2. My time with you is golden. Time with you = Time away from my kid which means you better make sure it is worth it. That doesn’t mean we have to have candlelit dinners or climb a mountain every time we’re together. It means that we have to make our time together a priority. That means planning in advance. I do not have the luxury of dropping what I’m doing and heading out. I have to get a babysitter and schedule how long I can be out and when I need to return. The clock is always ticking for me.

But do you know how happy I am when I get that alone time with you? Very. To me, it’s like a romantic getaway, a mini-vacation. Put in the effort into making it special every time. Effort = Planning in advance, which means I feel like you respect my time. Also remember, however….

3. Our relationship will not flow like other peoples’ relationships. Sharing hobbies and traveling together are important aspects in evolving relationships. They help us grow together, experience things, and even help determine our compatibility. When you’re dating me, those experiences are few and far between. While our coupled friends are planning to run a marathon together, I’m still trying to find a babysitter for our date next week. We don’t even have the freedom to make love, cuddle, and sleep next to each other whenever we so desire. Our benchmarks as a couple are totally different, the obvious being your relationship with my child. Just like shared hobbies and travel experiences can help bond two people, your relationship with my son helps bond me with you. My child is my everything, and that is why….

4. Everything counts as double. Everyone has a guard up to protect oneself. But I have a guard up to protect not one, but two people. If I get hurt, I don’t function well, and that affects my parenting, which in turn affects my child, and all I want to do is protect my child. Whew! I’ve acquired a lot of strength and resilience in life, but it doesn’t mean that my vulnerability to love has waned. If anything, I am more vulnerable because I am more serious about my time and my relationships. When you treat me well, you’re treating my kid well. When I’m upset with you, my kid can feel it in my energy. I understand this is a difficult concept to remember, but it’s the truth. I believe a man that accepts his girlfriend as a mother will learn to adjust himself to that lifestyle. Our dates will sometimes have to include my child.

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But please don’t run away yet because…

5. I forget to understand your position. This is the one that ties a neat bow around the whole thing. I have to constantly remind myself that you do not share my responsibilities nor my past experiences. When I’m so consumed in my own responsibilities, I get frustrated when you don’t understand my anguish. Sometimes when you say, “I am tired.” I want to scream- “YOU’RE TIRED? YOU’RE TIRED?! I’m still catching up on two years worth of lost sleep!” But that’s not fair, is it? You should be allowed to have bad days, and as a girlfriend, I should hold them to the same regard as my bad days. I have to remind myself not to use double standards.

Overall, it is a thrilling position to date a single mother. Be prepared to have a woman who is upfront, passionate, and nurturing. Whether or not you planned to be a father, there may also be a kid who falls in love with you, too. The reward is in the risk.

Related post: An Open Apology To My Kids On The Subject Of My Divorce

An Open Apology To My Kids On The Subject Of My Divorce

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divorce

I am sorry we failed. I will forever feel guilty that we broke your home and world apart. I know it’s ultimately for the best, but I know, and you have explicitly told me, that you would rather us all live together with some tension than separately tension-free. You don’t know that I was no longer living and now you have a mother, when before I could barely breathe. I know at 7 and 10 you want your mom and dad together and for that I am so sorry.

I am sorry you have to move back and forth between two homes. Going away for a weekend causes stress when I pack. I plan what I need: clothing, jewelry, shoes, jackets, electronics and toiletries. You are forced to move several times a week and you don’t complain. If something is needed from the other house you make due without or mention it without reprimand or annoyance. You are always in one car going to another house. It’s exhausting for me and I am sure it is for you. I created this and I am sorry.

I’m sorry you will have to deal with the uncomfortable and embarrassing reality of your dad and I dating, loving, kissing and hugging someone other than your mom or dad. It will be great for you to see what a stable and healthy relationship is. But, I get that lesson is not top of mind for you. Affection between parents is nauseating enough for kids and teenagers. To bear witness to your mom or dad with their girlfriend or boyfriend must be even more skin crawling.

I’m sorry that even though your dad and I are really good at not putting you in the middle, your reality inherently makes you smack dab in the thick of it. If we were married and you went out for a day with dad and had fun, great! Now sentences start with “no offense mom but I had the best time…with daddy and my cousins.” No offense taken, my heart is filled whenever you have good quality time with your dad and extended family, on either side. My heart breaks a little that somewhere inside, you feel a twinge of guilt for it.

I am sorry that you miss me at bedtime, are lonely sometimes in your new home, miss your dad when we go on vacation and have to always think about whose house you are sleeping in tonight. I’m sorry you have to tell your friends you have two homes, grasp for words to describe our significant others and have to spend every holiday split. I’m sorry that even though we try to handle it all behind the scenes, you still wind up being the western union, relaying messages back and forth. You are people, not robots, and I’m sorry that just because today is Tuesday and that is “my day”, doesn’t mean you don’t want to hang with Dad. And maybe on a Thursday, “dad day”, you want some time with me. You don’t have the luxury of having complete access to your parents. As you go to bed on your 10th birthday with tears in your eyes and tell me that now you have a to wait 365 days until you can get one dinner with just your dad, sister and me and how it really sucks that you only get that once a year, I am more sorry than you will ever know.

I’m mostly sorry that I am not a child of divorce. I know what it’s like to be left out from a group of friends, not be picked first for a team, feel insecure, lonely or do poorly on a test. I know what it feels like to be teased, want the skirt your friend has or wish you were allowed to watch a movie that I keep saying no to. I know what it’s like to want chocolate and not carrots, be annoyed with your sister, or brother, have a great day and want to run home and tell both parents. I know how it feels to yearn to be older, do more, make more decisions. I can relate and offer advice on all of this. I do not know what it’s like to be a kid of divorce. I do the best I can to empathize and put myself in your shoes. I will walk down your path next to you. But I can’t know your pain, the pain I have caused, and sorry is too small a word for what I feel.

I am hopeful that this will be your sucky lot in life and that your other roads will run smoother. We all have shit to deal with and within the pain there are innumerable lessons you will learn. You won’t realize these lessons, they won’t stand out. They will be part of the fabric of your soul. You will be compassionate, flexible and have a world-view that is one more expansive than I had growing up. From a young age you see your dad and I, as people, not just parents and this will serve you well.

My love for you is greater than my guilt. While I am so very sorry for all the sucky things that divorce means for you, I have the knowledge of what our collective alternative was and am unwavering in my decision that this was the best path for all of us.

But I’m still sorry.

Happy Father’s Day, Single Moms

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solo-mom Mother and child via Shutterstock

The other day as I was picking up my son from preschool, a little girl from his class tugged on my sweater and asked, in front of my son Eddie, “Where is Eddie’s daddy?” Without missing a beat, I smiled and matter-of-factly gave what has become my standard reply, “He doesn’t have a daddy.” The little girl stood, processing this impossible factoid, and before I could snag Eddie’s lunchbox from his cubby and dash away from the impending stream of potentially awkward questions, the young Barbara Walters asked, “Did his daddy DIE?”

“No,” I responded. “Eddie just doesn’t have a daddy. Some families have mommies and daddies, and some have just mommies, or just daddies, or maybe just grandparents. Eddie has a mommy and a sister, and that’s his family.”

This statement rendered me a total oddity of nature in the eyes of this 5-year-old girl, who had, as I was discovering much to my chagrin, been fully educated on all things bee and bird related. She smooshed up her face in confusion and began to ask, “But…”

And then my son interrupted.

“I twied a new food today, Mom! C’we go to Tahget?” he asked, totally unaffected. Yes. Yes, we can go to Target and get you a prize for trying diced pears today, little dude. Nice work. High five.

See, my son gets it. At least for now, he gets it. He doesn’t question his slightly unorthodox family unit, or the fact that though I bear little to no resemblance to the Virgin Mary, he was apparently borne of immaculate conception. I’ve told him simply and lovingly since he was old enough to inquire, that he just doesn’t have a dad, and he’s ok with that explanation. In fact, he’s better than ok. My son is happy. He’s delightfully happy, funny, smart as a whip, gentle, adorable, sweet, quick to laugh, empathetic. He loves monster trucks and cars of all kinds, video games, kicking a soccer ball, playing with friends. He’s a hugger, a kisser, and an all-around wonderful little person. He’s five years old. And he’s never met his ‘dad.’

The ‘why’ is not important now. It’s part of my history. It’s not something I dwell upon, fret about, wish were different, or feel victimized about. In fact, I am truly happy being a solo parent and genuinely believe that my decision to raise him alone was the best one I could have made for my son and for myself, given the circumstances. I’m not a fan of the term ‘blessed,’ but I consider myself so. Yes, working fulltime and raising children alone is at times exhausting – and yes, sometimes financially stressful – but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Except that maybe I’d not be turning prematurely gray, but hey. They make great boxed hair color these days. In non-drip foam!

As Father’s Day quickly approaches, I’m gearing up for the time of year when, in my family, we celebrate my dad, my beloved late grandfather (for whom my son is named, in part), my brother-in-law, and myself. Yes, I’m a mom but I’m also Eddie’s ‘dad’ in many ways, though he doesn’t likely look at me that way, and I have no current plans to purchase myself a jockstrap or grow a goatee. In spirit, however, and in an effort to raise a well-rounded kid who lacks a strong male role model in his everyday life, I’m both mother and father. I’m nurturer and I’m teacher. I’m “let’s bake a cake together” mom and “let’s go to the Monster Truck jamboree” dad. I taught my son to use his manners, and I taught him to pee standing up. I take him to the doctor, hold and hug him as he gets his yearly shots… and encourage him to be brave and shake it off when he falls off his bike. Yes, it’s a bit like having a split personality, but much more gratifying (and much less creepy).

That said, every year as we close in on this national holiday, I have ‘the talk’ with Eddie’s teacher, as they change from year to year. There will be class projects, see. The kids will make something special to take home to dad. Dads are invited to join the kids at school for a morning breakfast. I’ll explain to his teacher that I’ll be attending that breakfast, thank-you-very-much, and that perhaps my son can make his craft projects for his grandpa or his uncle or for me. Then, if I’m lucky, I’ll be the proud new recipient of a macramé tie that I’ll display at home on the bookshelf. It’ll go right next to the adorably painted-shut purple wooden jewelry box he made me for Mother’s Day.

So, this is dedicated to my fellow fabulous single moms. And plenty of not-exactly-solo-but-very-hardworking moms who oftentimes do their fair share of ‘fathering.’ For that matter, there are plenty of solo dads raising kids alone who deserve to be presented with a Mother’s Day jewelry box and half a Costco muffin while sitting in a too-small chair in their kid’s classroom, too. Maybe it’s time to do away with Mother’s and Father’s Days entirely, and just morph them into Parent’s Day, but hold it twice a year so we don’t lose out on a perfectly good Eggs Benedict brunch.

How To Survive as a Newly Single Parent

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How To Survive as a Newly Single Parent

When you get divorced, a lot changes. I admit, that’s an understatement. A whole lot changes. If you have children, forget the new chapter bullshit; you’re in a new book altogether. Wait. Scratch that. You’re in a different library, in a foreign country. The people here don’t speak the same language, the books aren’t organized like they were in your old house of literature and you can’t seem to find the damn directory anywhere.

Shit. This single parent thing is legit. Survival requires a skill set you most likely have either: a) lost, b) never used, or c) didn’t have in the first place. From things like clogged sinks and lawns needing mowed, to instantly being placed in the dual role of good cop and bad cop, the tasks a single parent handles on a day to day basis put an air traffic controller’s job to shame.

Success, however, can be accomplished, I promise. Should a person equip themselves adequately, single parenting can actually be somewhat appealing. Swear to God.

Here are some things you’ll need to come out on the other side of solo childrearing with (most of) your mental faculties intact, a smile on your face and only an average amount of therapy bills…

1. A babysitter. Preferably one with no social life, so when you call her from your closet floor at 6 p.m. in tears, desperate for some “you time,” she’ll be right there.

2. A back-up babysitter. And at least one more back-up for the back-up. This is serious stuff. Criteria for a quality babysitter ranges widely depending on age and skills of your children. The older they get, the less important things like “speaks English” and “is over 16 ” are.

3. Membership to a wine club. Or a discount liquor store. Or both! You think I’m kidding. I’m not.

4. A single friend of the same gender and near your age range. When you finally get a minute to yourself, have managed to find clothing that is not for work, “exercise” attire, or covered with last night’s dinner and this morning’s breakfast, and still have the energy left over to hit the town, you’re going to want a wingman/woman. Choose wisely. Different friends, different crowds. ‘Nuff said.

5. A friend with benefits. There are going to be times when you, uh, would like some um, needs met. Unless you’re down with random hook-ups or have (equally unwisely) jumped back into a committed relationship, you might want to have a person on call with whom to handle this business. Just be careful. Don’t go falling in love and shit. Keep it together. Business is business, people.

6. A great group of supportive friends. Don’t blow it by being the party pooper all the time there, Debbie Downer. They have problems too. Listen and be supportive for them just as often (if not more frequently) than you bring your latest crisis to their attention.

7. Good neighbors. Ones you can look in the face the morning after a night out and who will either politely claim they did not hear you yelling at your children last night around 8 p.m., or, heard it, and were over in within five minutes to play backup.

8. Single parent friends and networks. Don’t know any? Try MeetUp. Seriously. These people will be absolutely essential to your feeling like anything other than a reject of the Members Only Club to which all your married peeps belong.

9. A virtual, cloud-based calendar shared with your ex spouse. Put everything possibly related to the kids and their whereabouts here. You can’t lose it, it’s highly accessible and it’s free. If you set reminders, you can’t forget about appointments (easily) and you can “communicate” with your ex sans contention. Well maybe, so long as you leave the sarcasm out of the comments section. Try hard. It’s possible, so I hear.

10. A sense of humor. Don’t have one? GET ONE. NOW. The only way to make this drama into less of a horror flick and more of an action parody is to be able to laugh, often, at yourself and your situation.

So quit whining already. The credits will be rolling before you know it, take off those pouty pants, get yourself together and hit the road, running. You can do it.

The Online Dating Profile of a Single Mother

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mother-on-computer Image via Shutterstock

Back in my carefree days, you know before motherhood, I had a profile on a dating website. I spent some time ricocheting around my city on dates with a random and quirky selection of individuals, but I never found lasting love.

Well… fast forward to present day.

Finding myself single again, but this time with a toddler in tow, I recently logged back into my old OK Cupid profile. I barely recognized the girl I saw there, but I liked her immediately. She was witty, sparky and cheekily confident. I felt a pang of loss for the personality and promise that I saw peeking through the lines of her profile and wondered how different it would look today. I tried to tweak the profile to my current situation, but realized it was hopeless – every aspect of it needed changing. Portraying myself as a party animal would be false advertising, and, unable to shake the image of a disgruntled would-be suitor calling the Better Business Bureau on my defective product, I decided to scrap the old profile and start again.

Except, how the hell does a single mom market her brand? I didn’t even know what I was looking for, but I had even less of an idea of what I was offering. Then I had a thought – what if I was just 100% honest? Given that a completely honest dating profile is as rare as hen’s teeth at the best of times, I couldn’t help but wonder how my real life would compare to the “Facebook” life that so many of us show to the world.  Instead of putting my best foot forward, what if I stuck it in my mouth (as I so often do) and told the undignified, unadorned truth?

So here it is:

My self-summary:
I’m a breastfeeding, toy fixing, story reading mom of… Oh wait.  You mean, you want to hear about me?  Just me?  Not how I relate to a miniature dictator?  Wow. Where do I start?

I’m not as old as I feel at 6 o’clock on a Sunday morning, but my youthful endeavors are, if not behind me, then certainly losing ground.  I’m up for anything and love spontaneity, as long as it fits around nap time.

I have overinflated body confidence.  I watched first hand as it performed the types of miracles you see in bad sex shows, except I used a small human in lieu of ping-pong balls.  No matter what size my jeans are, it’s impossible not to respect the hell out of it after that.  I’ll expect you to do the same.

What am I doing with my life?
Which life?  I have two.  In the first, I’m a professional woman who wears ambitious clothes and takes no crap.  In the second, I not only take a lot of crap, but frequently wear it too.  Occasionally, I’m rewarded with a glimpse into a third life, where I can drink cocktails and pretend that I’m not ridiculously excited about being allowed out of the house after 6 pm.

What am I really good at?
Making a house look tidy in 15 minutes.  Just don’t open that cupboard.  Or use the bathroom.
Reasoning with the chronically absurd.
Counting backwards.  Specifically, from 8 pm.  Right now, it’s 5 hours and 13 minutes until bedtime.
Hiding the fact that I’m eating chocolate.
Multitasking.  I said multiTASKING, not multiCOMPLETING, OK?
Disguising carrots as other food.

The first things people usually notice about me?
My back, as I chase after a toddler.
Small person, big voice. Applies to me AND the toddler. Well, where do you think he got it from?!

On a typical Friday night I am…
Fighting and losing an internal battle about whether to have another glass of wine.
Laughing bitterly at the idea that weekends mean time off, while debating whether to scale Kilimanjaro or just tackle its replica that resides in my laundry room.
Not being one bit jealous of all the people on Facebook having mini-breaks and crazy nights out.
Looking forward to quality time with the toddler.
Conveniently forgetting how much toddlers love to sabotage quality time, usually via the use of their ridiculously sharp teeth or their own bodily excretions.

You should message me if…
You don’t mind never being a priority. EVER.
You prefer your coitus infrequent and interrupted.
You’re bored with having a social life anyway.

The most private thing I’m willing to admit?
I’d prefer to eat popcorn watching drama unfold on Facebook than watching drama unfold in a movie.
Oh, you wanted something sexily private?  Sorry, I lost my coyness during the gassy explosion of hormones that was pregnancy.

The profile has been up for 3 weeks.  Strangely, I’ve had no takers, though I live in hope.

Related post: An Open Apology To My Kids On The Subject Of My Divorce