I didn’t start off as a single parent. Or, wait, maybe I did right at the beginning, then wasn’t one in the middle, then was one again…
Anyway, once upon a time, I was in a fairly committed long-term relationship with the father of my children. And then, suddenly, not so much.
After I got over the initial insanity of surrendering to the flow of single parenthood, I decided that it was time to start dating again. Just like that, because how hard could it be, right? Before kids, I was single by choice a lot, but anytime I wanted to date, it didn’t take much effort to find someone.
WOW. Dating as a mom was a big eye-opener. Let me share with you some of the stuff that came up for me.
How do I meet people?
The internet. No, really. I had minimal access to childcare, and most of the people I knew and most of the people they knew were in (more or less) happily monogamous couplings. The internet held the key to the single people. More than that, it gave me the opportunity to get to know people reasonably well before hiring a babysitter and committing to an in-person meeting.
Friends of friends. It’s good in that you have a reasonable reassurance that your date will not be an axe-murderer, but it can be awkward or end very messily. Or not.
Siblings of friends. Um. Yeah. One of those “seemed like a good idea at the time” moments. This may lead to even messier moments than dating friends of friends, but it can also lead to some pretty hilarious ongoing inside jokes. Definitely never boring.
The added complication of dating other single parents
Scheduling nightmares are probably the hardest part of two single parents dating. There are some advantages to dating folks who get it, though. Beware of the pitfalls of picking up at the daycare or school: you may know each other’s other parent (which is NEVER awkward), and if things go poorly, you’re stuck seeing each other on a regular basis.
The New Geography
When I was with my kids’ dad, I didn’t really care about the changes pregnancy and birth had brought to my body. He’d seen me through the process, after all, and my physical comfort level with him was high. But new partners? Seeing me naked? My stretchmarks? My poochy belly? Could I ever reach a point of not being inhibited by my fear of how my body was seen by others? *shrug* Those feelings of insecurity faded as I gave more credit to the partners I was choosing (and started choosing partners who deserved that credit, but that may be fodder for a different post altogether).
The Incredibly Awkward conversation about human lactation.
I could just let the title speak for itself. I never imagined I’d be in a position where I’d have to figure out just how to mention to a potential partner, “Oh, by the way, I have a nursing toddler/preschooler so just as a heads-up, while I’m HIV and Hep B negative, there may be some unanticipated exchange of bodily fluids.” Again, once I started being more selective about my partners, I realized how unfounded this anxiety was. Bodies do what they do. Also, it’s not forever. Eventually, every nursing single mama becomes a non-nursing single mama. It may seem like forever and ever in the moment, but speaking as someone in milk-making retirement, it’s such a short time.
It’s like being a teenager again, except your kids are your parents!
“Who are you going out with? Do we know this person? When will you be back tonight? ARE you coming back tonight? When are we going to meet this person? Is it serious?” In the early years, it wasn’t an issue. I’ve tried to have a “need to know” level of information exchange with the kids, and for a long time, they really didn’t need to know what I was doing in my life when they weren’t with me. Then I realized that they were old enough to know that I actually do have a life outside of parenting them, and that I needed to normalize my need to be romantically social with other adults for them. This has led to no end of hilarity for all involved.
There are other lessons I’ve learned/am learning as a dating single mama, but those will have to wait for another post.