Being clear about the kind of relationship you want is essential when trying to date as a single mom.
If you're starting to date as a single mom, try developing hobbies, visiting single-parent support groups, or using apps geared toward long-term relationships.
Be honest about your children, but also share what defines you as a woman outside of them.
Experts recommend gradually introducing your child to a new partner in a neutral place and always inviting the child to voice their opinion.
It often feels daunting when starting to date as a single mom. You have all the complications of regular dating but now you have to be home by nine to relieve the sitter. It’s a whole new world, but also an exciting one.
Eighty percent of single parents are mothers, so you’re not alone. Outdated societal norms say that mothers need to be focused on their children 24/7, 365 days a year, but it’s 2023 and mama deserves to have some fun! Taking care of your emotional well-being, physical, and romantic needs while starting to date as a single mom makes you a healthier, happier person and a better caregiver.
Think of it like the emotional equivalent of putting on your own oxygen mask before helping another person. Dating is not an act of selfishness but of self-love.
Here’s your guide to surviving the challenges of dating as a single mom — and thriving while doing it!
Who Wants To Date Single Moms?
Lots of people want to date single moms!
Dating app research suggests that women with children often receive 13 percent more messages than those without. Those messages involve deeper conversations compared to their peers. That’s good news because you don't have time for that dreaded “You Up?” conversation when you really do have to get up early to take the kids to school.
On top of whatever you bring to the table as a woman, you now have all the benefits that motherhood brings. Being mature, capable of multitasking, unafraid of commitment, and nurturing are all common mothering skills that also make you an attractive partner.
Your kids are an added bonus for anyone looking to expand their own family. Knowing this allows you to weed out players or other undesirable mates.
Also, the term MILF exists for a reason! You’re older, you’re wiser, and your experience speaks for itself. Most women hit their sexual prime in their 30s so, if anything, you’re more attractive now than when you first hit the scene. Check out this guide on owning your confidence and radiating that MILF glow.
What To Do Before You Start Dating
Just like you wouldn’t send a toddler outside with a broken bicycle, you shouldn’t try to reenter the dating scene until you’re in good working order. You don’t need to be flawless or perfectly zen before you start dating, but you do need to be emotionally ready. This might mean just a little bit of internal TLC.
Are You Over Your Last Relationship?
Regardless of how you feel about them now, you have a special connection to the person you share a child with. Ask yourself these questions:
Do you two talk?
Do you still live with them?
Are you dealing with emotional or logistical baggage from that relationship?
Having frank conversations about these issues with your best friend or with a trained therapist allows you to determine how you truly feel about the past and define what you want in the future.
This isn’t about making sure your ex is ok with you dating, it’s about getting a better grip on your own feelings. Single-parent support groups are also perfect for talking to peers about how to navigate any grief, trauma, or general weirdness you might feel.
Most experts agree that it’s usually not a good idea to keep your dating life secret from your ex. Doing this puts your children in a situation where they feel like they have to lie on your behalf — never a good thing! Don't treat this like a deposition where you detail every single encounter, but a casual heads-up is in order.
What Do You Want in a New Relationship?
Just because you’re a mother now doesn’t mean you have to approach dating with an eye for finding a new co-parent or long-term partner.
It’s perfectly acceptable for a single mom to look for a fling or friends-with-benefits type situation. You get to date however you want, just as long as you’re communicating clearly, ethically prioritizing your own desires, and making sure you keep your children’s safety in mind.
Take time to decide which relationship model fits your needs and schedule. Doing some research into your attachment style is a fantastic way to flesh out your boundaries when it comes to relationships.
Elena Murzello, author of The Love List: A Guide to Getting Who You Want, further suggests approaching dating the same way you’d approach a grocery store. Murzello recommends writing a sort of Love List that details the characteristics you most want in a partner.
“Why would you go for something bland like potato soup when you could potentially order a lobster? Something unique, something you really want,” Murzello says, meaning it’s okay to engage in some blue sky thinking here.
She also advises that you include a column detailing your dealbreakers. Keeping this kind of list makes it easier to know what to metaphorically shop for and what to avoid when dating.
How Are Your Kids Feeling?
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Kirsten Jimerson says that you should "[a]sk for your child’s views, but do not ask for your child’s approval of the person you date.” What is important, according to Jimerson, is to “remind your child of their importance in your life, and verbalize how special they are to you every step of the way.” Giving kids age-appropriate information is an essential first step in that process.
Kids feel safer when they know what to expect, so spell out the logistics of your dating by considering questions like:
Does this mean they’re staying with grandma or a babysitter more?
Does it mean you might be away overnight?
Where are you going?
Giving your child an idea of where you are going ensures they feel more secure. Bonus points if you outline some material benefits like a special treat they only get when the babysitter comes.
Asking questions is so important. Sit down with your children and ask how they’d feel if you started dating. If they’re older, ask how much or how little they’d like to know about dates as they happen. Ask how they’re feeling in general and concerning you and their co-parent. They might still be grieving a loss. Supporting you might make them feel disloyal to their other parent. They might just be really confused. All of these responses are valid and taking time to ask the hard questions and listen to the answers shows how much you care.
How To Find Dates as a Single Mom
Depending on the kind of relationship you’re looking for, the bar scene might not cut it.
Taking a class or engaging in a new hobby opens a lot of new doors. Suddenly, you not only define yourself solely by motherhood but it also allows you to meet like-minded people. Challenge yourself to learn a new skill or reinvest yourself in an old pastime — either way you’ll finally get to talk to some fellow adults. Yoga, improv comedy, kickboxing, foreign languages, and even pickleball are great classes to shake the dust off your social scene.
Single-parent meet-up groups are another excellent avenue. Facebook and Nextdoor are useful resources for figuring out meet-up groups near you. If a single-parent mixer doesn’t exist in your area, take it upon yourself to host one!
How To Navigate Dating Apps
Refer back to your love list and determine exactly the kind of relationship you have space for. If you’re looking for something quick and casual, apps like Tinder, Bumble, or Hinge might be your best bet. There are even apps for people looking specifically for MILF encounters with little to no strings attached like Adult FriendFinder, Passion.com, or Seeking.
If you’re interested in more long-term relationships, browse apps that encourage thorough profiles. eHarmony, for example, consistently tops the lists of dating apps where longevity is the goal. Their algorithm considers 29 dimensions of compatibility when suggesting matches meaning these connections have greater potential for depth.
Another way to find apps where people aren’t afraid of commitment is to look for those that charge a membership fee. Folks are more likely to take the search for a partner more seriously when they have to pay to play.
Religious apps — like JDate and Upward — often have a strong emphasis on more traditional relationship structures. If you identify with a religious community or are spiritually curious, those are excellent places to find family-focused paramours.
Try apps that cater to people in older age groups or higher income brackets as those demographics tend to be more willing to settle down. If you want to be super specific, surf apps like SingleParentMeet, SingleParentMatch, and OurTime which cater exclusively to single parents.
How To Create the Perfect Profile
Your single mom status isn’t anything to be ashamed of, so say it loud and proud. Being upfront is the perfect way to avoid awkward interactions with anyone who’s not okay with the idea of children. Make sure your profile mentions that you’re a mother, and don’t be shy to post at least one photo of you having fun with your kids. Feel free to blur out their faces if you don’t feel comfortable posting them online though. Safety first!
That said, it’s very important to establish yourself as a woman with interests that exist outside of your children. Include pictures of you doing the activities you love to attract partners who enjoy the same. Plus, it’ll give you something solid to talk about on your first date.
How To Introduce Your Date to Your Children
You don’t have to think about everyone you date as a potential step-parent to your children. However, carefully consider who you let into your family’s life. Use discretion, and only invite someone to meet your kids when you know you’d like to date them seriously.
Don’t force the timing or spring either party on the other. A little preparation goes a long way. Ask your children if they’d like to meet your new friend. If they say yes, find a low-stakes neutral location for an initial meeting. If they say no, be prepared to have a longer conversation about their concerns. Answer their questions and try soft launching your date by showing their picture to your kids beforehand. If they still have reservations, table the discussion for a bit.
Getting a family therapist involved at this point might also smooth these rough spots and make for a cleaner introduction.
Remember, you can’t make your children like your partner or vice versa. Things must happen organically. Set realistic expectations and don’t be afraid to take it slow.
Check in with your child afterward. What did they like or dislike? What feelings are they having about the process? Where would they like to hang out next? Make sure your child feels listened to and valued during this process. This is not a one-time sign-off either, so continually refer back to your child through the course of your relationship to confirm they still feel safe and heard.
Get Back Out There
There are so many things to consider when reentering the dating scene after you become a mother.
If there’s one thing that's true about single moms, it’s that they are multitasking icons! It's easy to think that once you start dating, your kids are going to miss you and you'll suddenly become a terrible mother. Keep in mind, though, that the best moms are happy moms! Single moms have so much to offer in the dating world.
With all these tools in hand, you’re well on your way to finding a partner that fits your fabulous life.
Happy dating, Mama!