Today, single parent dating is easier than it was for me 20 years ago. I’ve just taken a quick glance on-line and realised there are literally hundreds of sites dedicated to single parents.
Let me tell you, 20 years ago life was very different – both socially and practically. As a single parent of two back then, I should know.
The judgemental and negative attitudes of other (inevitably partnered) parents to my desire to actually seek out a life and the company of adults was breathtaking.
Communication was very limited. Mobile phones weren’t available to everyone as they are now. It was either the telephone box or you were left chatting to yourself or to the kids. And there was no Internet.
So, I spent every waking hour listening to ‘Barney the Purple Dinosaur’ or ‘the Teletubbies’ theme tunes. I can still remember the words. Even as I write, I find myself singing, ‘tinky winky, lala and poo….’. It would have been impossible to date anyone seriously. They would have thought I had escaped from the funny farm.
Opportunities to meet potential new partners in my day were very limited also. If you were lucky, you had brothers with single friends you could meet. I tried this approach a few times. It didn’t work out for me. It was different if they wanted to date my friends.
Occasionally, a single father might be up for a chat at the school gates. Remember the Hugh Grant movie – ‘About a Boy’ – where he borrowed a child so he could to look like a single parent and join ‘single parent groups” and go on visits to the park, all in an attempt to meet women. That might have worked for the guys. But it was not that easy for a single parent woman back in my time.
Of course, shared-parenting arrangements help. They do today, and they did back then. For me, the weekends were my own and I could go out with the girls while the children were with their father. OMG, you could actually get out of the funny farm that was your home, interact with adults; listen to some more age-appropriate and fashionable music; and, if you were lucky, you might even meet someone who gave you a phone number – a land-line of course, which had at most 6 digits, making it easy to remember; and that might even have led to a date, and even a kiss!
Let’s fast-forward 20 years to the here-and-now. The world is a whole new place, in every way possible.
Single parents are no-where near as locked down as they were. Social attitudes are far more positive and liberal. It seems there is far less stigma now if you’re a single parent who is out there dating. In fact, you are almost classed as a hero.
And hooking up is a breeze. You can literally swipe your mobile phone left or right, hand over the kids, and be making out within an hour! I’ve even heard of single parents who are single parents thanks to Tinder! Its simply amazing how much more available dating is.
Now, it may be easier today for single parents to date. However, a number of simple and sensible rules still apply, including the need to date safely – both for your sake, and for the sakes of the children.
Here are some pointers I recommend you keep in mind when you’re considering whether, who, when, where, what and how to date as a single parent.
When is the right time to date after becoming a single parent
Remind yourself why you are a single parent – why didn’t the relationship work out with the father/mother in the first place. If you are angry and disrespectful (say, of men in general, or of a man in particular) after the break up, it’s definitely not time to be dating.
However, if you are happy with your decisions and circumstances and you have moved on, then the time is right.
Becoming a single parent does not make you any different from any other single person out there. You’re still human, and it’s natural to want to find sex, friendship, love, or whatever it is you are looking for.
Well, I guess that’s mostly true – sometimes anyway. But it’s not easy having time for you, let alone making time for a date.
My advice is to be confident and get out there; make the time for yourself; and remember you are not just a mother, a housekeeper, a provider, a baby holder/sitter, taxi and body-guard. You are a human being and deserve just the same opportunity as everyone else to find love.
So, if you find you are not resentful, you have the confidence, and you can make the time, then go for it, whether it’s 3 months or 3 years, it’s about when the time is right for you.
How to find a date as a single parent
As I have said, it has never been easier than it is today. Just select the criteria you are looking for – height, shoe size, eye colour, hairstyle, whatever – and you’re going to find a date. No problem. Trust me, in this day and age, you have so much access to on-line sites and events where you can meet people it’s down to you. There is no excuse these days. If you want to date, you can. You can even find one whilst sitting at home in the comfort of your own living room and in your pyjamas! Take a look at my earlier article – ‘Best on-line dating sites’, where I covered all kinds of dating sites that may be helpful.
If it’s casual dating you’re after, then make sure you are mentally prepared to deal with it. Embarking on casual, one-night stands is very different from seeking love. It’s important to know exactly what you’re looking for before you start looking. Maybe try putting a toe in the water first. Just google some dating sites for single parents. Trust me, there are masses to choose from. And you’re guaranteed a result – hey, you might even meet your very own Hugh Grant.
Choosing who you date as a single parent
Always be honest with yourself and with your date.
If you don’t want more children then don’t date someone who says he is looking to settle down and have his own. If you want more kids and he says he doesn’t, then stay well away.
Know what you want and don’t lie about it just because his profile picture looks fab. Trust me, I was a single parent at 23 and knew I did not want any more children. Trying to find a date who did not want kids was difficult 20 years ago; it was easier to find a guy who wanted kids. I suspect it is the reverse today.
If you’re happy to take on other people’s kids say so. If not, say so. If you’re happy to have more, then again, say so.
If they don’t want children but are happy to date someone who already has children that’s great. Just don’t lie about it. It will just come back to haunt you in the end.
How or when to introduce the kids
This is a decision for you, and perhaps also for your date. Here are some thoughts that may be helpful.
At all costs, avoid the ‘revolving door’ syndrome. Children deserve all the love, security, stability and respect you can provide. They are highly impressionable. Never forget your role as a parent takes precedence over anything else you may want to do. So, don’t, repeat don’t, subject your kids to the ‘revolving door’ syndrome where they meet a series of new dates, week after week. It is just not fair on the children. Period.
Don’t introduce them to your children on the first date. God no. That is so wrong in so many ways. Leave it until you know you are both committed to the relationship. Frankly, until you’re sure about your new partner – very sure – I’d be inclined to hold off introducing them until you are.
Never lie to children. If it’s a new love interest, then tell them the truth. Never introduce a new partner to the children by referring to them as uncle (or aunty). Years ago, children were introduced to new partners in this way. It’s dishonest and it’s wrong.
I always suggest bringing a new partner into a conversation with your children in a low-key way so they are aware of the name and there are minimal expectations – no point telling them you’re dating Santa Clause and then introducing them to Eddie the Eagle! We all feel happier when we are able to put a face to a name we have heard, and who we know something about. Children are no different
Where to go for dates with and without the kids
Let me get this straight from the start – you are not the only one building a relationship with your new partner. So are your children. And they are being required to adapt.
So, always keep in mind when you are thinking about going out on dates, that some dates should be just you and your partner; and others may be family dates. These are two separate events, and should be planned and treated accordingly.
When you have an intimate date in mind, go without the kids. Go somewhere that suits you both as a couple. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that (assuming the kids are safe and looked after at home or with family or friends, of course). You deserve it.
On the other hand, if you’re planning to help develop the relationship between the children and your partner, then by all means consider a family date. I’d usually think a Saturday, and try to include some activities that help everyone get to know each other – a day in the park with a picnic; a boat trip on the river, etc…
Maybe not a movie at this stage, as not a lot of “getting to know you” happens in a darkened theatre – at least not of the sort we’re talking about here!
My point is that different dates have different purposes.
Depending on the age of your kids and the sort of relationship you enjoy with them, you might even want to explain the difference between intimacy and unconditional love. I believe this is a fantastic conversation to have with children of any age. Enjoy.
Can I have sex as a single parent
Yes. Yes. And oh yes! I would have gone insane if I had been forced to abstain from sex – whether I was a single parent or single without kids.
Sex is entirely natural. We are born with a desire for sex. You should never feel just because you’re a single parent you are somehow less human and you must abstain “for the sake of the children” or for any reason.
In fact, there is a case worthwhile arguing that single parenthood is a damned fine time to up your sex life – to make the most of your spare time, relieve any pent-up frustration from being a single parent in the first place, and feel as good as you can.
But, and it’s a big one, for obvious reasons, if it’s casual dating that you are into, then keep it as far away from the children as possible. That includes keeping it away from your family home where your children have the right to feel safe and secure. Wait until the weekend or exchange babysitting with a friend; or pay for your own, so you can get out. Trust me, there are plenty of better places than your own bed to have great sex. Hey, if he (or you) can’t afford a nice hotel, you can always try being a teenager again – mercy, there are so many great places out there to experiment in!
What if I get caught by the children having sex
Years ago, children (myself included) were given sex education in a 30 minute class that went something like – you meet the love of your life; get married; have sex; buy a house; and then have children and live happily ever after. This included a 15 minute black and white film that was so grainy that we kids couldn’t see anything anyway.
Thank god that has changed. Today, it is so different. Perhaps most importantly, children are now taught sex is a natural part of life – okay, so they’re probably not taught the whole truth, including the joyful diversity of sexual preference available to us humans; or even the fact that when they grow up sex might be more about recreation (ie. fun) than procreation (ie. having babies); or more about action than love; or even that it’s more exciting as you get older. But sex education is certainly better than it was.
Unfortunately, a number of faults remain.
One of my pet hates about modern sex education is that, for some reason, children are taught about sex separately from their parents. How ironic, bordering on bizarre, is that? Kids are taught about the process by which they were created in the absence of the couple that were responsible for their creation in the first place!
If you get caught by your kids in the act, which I’m sure you will at least once in your life, the children are going to be just as embarrassed as you are. Don’t panic. Just reassure them that no one was getting hurt and you were sharing an intimate experience. And let the kids tell you what they saw. Then try to talk your way out of the most embarrassing situation of your life! Ha!!
And a word of advice – make sure baby monitors are turned on one-way from the kids room, not the other way around!
Oh, and don’t even get me started about the ridiculousness of not teaching about same-sex relationships and so on.
When should my ex introduce a new partner to the children
It will come as no surprise that it takes 2 people to make a child. So, in a perfect world, both parents should be involved in these sorts of decisions.
If you are on friendly terms with your ex, I suggest having a chat about it before new partners are introduced so you both adopt a consistent approach. There is nothing worse than the ex arriving to pick up the children one weekend with a new partner in tow that you know nothing about. It’s not fair on you and it’s not fair on the children. And it’s just plain wrong for the reasons mentioned earlier.
If your ex has a new partner on the scene, I would insist on meeting her or him before agreeing to them being introduced to the children.
Of course, the same guidelines apply if you wish to introduce a new partner.
If you’re on less reasonable terms with your ex, and they won’t agree to this approach, ask them if they would ever leave the kids with a stranger – they wouldn’t. So address the children’s’ safety immediately.
It does not matter how well your ex knows their new partner, you don’t and therefore you need to be sure in order to reassure your children.
I am qualified via the Family Planning Association in the United Kingdom in sex education, teenage pregnancies, sex education for boys, and sex, law and policy.
The FPA offers short courses on how to educate children on sex. You can attend these course alone, or arrange for your school or a group to get together and arrange a day course.
Based on my experiences, it will arm you with all the information you need to help your children develop an understanding of, and healthy approach to, sex, dating and relationships, whether their own or others’. It will also prepare you to answer the many questions your children will raise now and in the future on these topics.
There is plenty of free information available on-line from the FPA at http://www.fpa.org.uk/