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.
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.
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.
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