dating advice

6 Crucial Things Anyone Interested In Dating A Woman With Kids Should Know

Go at her pace and keep an open mind.

Originally Published: 
Dating a woman with kids means accepting that her kids always come first.
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We’ve seen it play out on the big screen 100 times: the single mother portrayed as lonely and love-starved, staying up all night folding laundry while crying into a pint of Häagen-Dazs. It’s an offensive pop culture cliché that isn’t doing single moms, or those interested in dating them, any favors. And it’s about time we smash that image and lay out a few ground rules for dating a woman with kids, because when you actually take the time to understand their needs, you might just open the doors to a relationship with a strong, independent, and loving person — attractive qualities in a partner.

Of course, the standard dating guidelines apply: Go slow, keep an open mind. But dating a woman with kids comes with its own unique parameters. The emotional wellbeing of the child or children involved takes precedence over the feelings between the two people entering the relationship. “Dating is hard. Period,” Dr. Berit Brogaard said on Psychology Today, adding of dating as a single parent, “But it’s always a good idea to keep your dating life separate from your family life until there is a clear commitment to the relationship.”

If you’re genuinely serious about making it work with a single mom, there are some musts that you should expect and respect.

Dating a Woman With Kids: The Field Guide

Be OK with not being her first priority.

If you’re not a parent yourself, it might be hard in the beginning to understand that you will not be her first priority. There will be times, probably pretty often, that she’ll cancel plans or be unavailable for a last-minute rendezvous. Don’t take it personally. Chances are she would love nothing more than a romantic evening — if her sitter didn’t cancel, her child wasn’t sick, or any other reason that has her tending to her first priority: her children.

Don’t ask to meet her children or for an invitation to her home.

Bringing a date home at the beginning of any romance is not recommended for anyone. That’s dating 101. And when it comes to mothers, protecting their children is instinctual. The thought that any of their relationship choices could have a negative effect on their children will likely have them on high alert. They’ll let you know when they’re ready to make that oh-so-important introduction.

Victoria Dunckley MD, child psychiatrist and author of Reset Your Child’s Brain, tells Scary Mommy, “Bringing in a healthy relationship can be beneficial for children, but the dating process itself can be fraught with risk. Kids can have complicated feelings about mom dating. Some get jealous; some are desperate for it to work out because they sense mom is lonely or in need of financial support. Others might want mom to find a partner to fit in with peers with two parents. Less than you might think are looking for a parent figure. So I always advise mothers to be extremely cautious when introducing children to their new partner because it could exacerbate any existing emotional trauma or abandonment issues.”

Leave the parenting to her.

It might seem helpful to step in and offer your advice on how to handle her children, or even directly approach her children with your two cents. Remember, though, that these are her children, and with a partner possibly somewhere in the picture, the responsibility of parenting is always best left to the two of them. What you can do is offer your support when you see that she is struggling in her parenting role, but remain neutral and keep the topic separate from your relationship.

Show compassion.

Single mothers are not all divorced women. Some are single moms by choice, while others might be widows or may have left an abusive partnership. Whatever the circumstances, reentering the dating world can be a very overwhelming and intimidating experience for them. Things like complicated ex relationships, past trauma, and body image issues will require your patience and understanding. So, keep in mind that most single mothers are looking for a partner who is sensitive to their needs and feelings and can meet them with compassion. This is a great way to gain her trust, and we all know that lasting relationships are built on a foundation of trust.

This is why it's important to offer emotional support. Being a single parent can be very stressful at times, so be the kind of partner that actively listens. Offering this kind of help and care will allow her to feel closer to you and more willing to confide in you. Practice active listening by asking follow-up and clarification questions and reiterating what she's said.

Be honest about your intentions.

While all of the rules on this list are important (and going against any of them will likely be a relationship red flag to single mothers), this one should always guide how you proceed in the relationship. You might wonder why it isn’t listed first. But now that you’ve read through the others, you can fully understand the frame of mind that single mothers enter into a relationship with. And you can grasp why it’s essential for a single mom to make sure that whomever she chooses to spend her time with adds positivity to her life and that of her children, and isn’t there to cause pain or waste her precious time — something no mother has to spare.

You might hear about the ex... a lot.

Whether the person you're dating has a healthy co-parenting relationship with the father of their children, much like her kids, he may be a regular topic of conversation. It can be small things like mentioning he picked them up from school or complaints that he doesn't do enough. In this type of relationship, her ex may be a regular part of her life because he's a part of the children's lives. And that means you may not always hear about them negatively, but in a part-of-the-schedule kind of way.

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