Karen is a 33-year-old single mum to two children, aged four and eight and lives in South East London. She’s currently in her final year of a BA hons degree in Education Studies and eventually hopes to become a primary school teacher.
There comes a point in every single person’s life where they consider dating again, whether male, female, single parent or elusive bachelor. Is it not human nature to want somebody to be intimate with, share your special moments with, create memories with and be a listening ear when you’ve had a bad day?
Yet, if you’re a single parent considering dating, you may be aware of the stigma, the downfalls and the barriers. I’m 33 and a single mum. In fact, I’m a lot closer to 34…so I guess that means I must be desperate, right? WRONG. Oh, I must be looking for a daddy for my two children? NO. Maybe I want to steal your husband because I haven’t managed to find my own? ABSOLUTELY NOT! Anybody can end up being a single parent, it’s certainly not something that I planned, but sometimes relationships don’t work out and sometimes it’s better for everybody, including the children.
The truth is, dating today is a terrifying concept and being a single mum brings a whole new dimension to it.
Regardless of what you’re told, it is not like riding a bike. You cannot just jump back into the world of dating and when you have children, any relationships that you form will ultimately have higher stakes and more potential barriers. This does not mean that your dating life will be fuelled with drama but that you have to think more logically than physically or emotionally.
With the rise in social media since the last time I dated (back in the old days when you would just pick up the phone) apparently the rules have now changed. It’s a minefield and a lot of hassle that could potentially not even be worth it. However, I’ve noticed a trend; social media makes it easier for relationship leap-froggers, men and women that jump from one person to the next…… grass is greener syndrome anybody? Except, is the grass always greener? Probably not!
Then there’s the whole dating website scenario, apparently this is the easiest way to meet somebody in today’s ever changing world. This is fine if you want to be chatting with somebody that is also chatting with twenty other men or women at any given time, or if you want to meet a catfish or somebody that is already married – yes there’s a lot of that too! So after a short stint, I decided to rule that way out!
You see, as a single mum, if I want to date then it needs to be with somebody who is worthy of my time. Did I mention that I am a full-time student? On top of my studies, my two children, my amazing friends and family, time for dates is pretty scarce. This means that rather than being desperate, I am in fact the opposite. I might want to date but I really don’t need to. However, society would have you believe that we single mums are sitting indoors drowning our sorrows in wine and guzzling ice-cream down our throats.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m rather partial to a few glasses of rosé and a tub of Ben and Jerry’s on a Friday night but that is me winding down after a long week.
As a single mum, time is precious and silence is golden, actually, I can switch the sound off if I remove my newly acquired hearing aids but I digress…
Of course, being a single mum that has given dating a go, I am slightly biased and wish to dispel any myths surrounding the tragedies of dating single parents because actually, I view it as a positive. Firstly, we are confident. Being a single mum has changed me for the better. Ever been to an event where you are surrounded by couples and viewed as either the crazy cat lady, with looks of pity (I do have a cat, FYI), or as a terrifying man-eater? I have! The fact here is – I’m confident enough to attend these events alone as I don’t need to seek validation from others. I am happy in my own life and work hard to provide a better future for myself and my children.
Single mums are patient, believe me. I learnt this over the summer – two children with chicken pox and four long weeks almost in quarantine with my little pony on a loop. I had the patience not to gouge my own eyeballs out, so if you need to cancel a date last minute, I don’t care… I’ll go back to my rosé and a chick flick, as I’ll probably need the ‘me’ time!
Our time is valuable and because of this, we learn to multitask. Becoming a parent awakens an unconditional bond of love, which can never be broken. This means that we are able to not only nurture relationships but can also be firm when it’s needed. This means that any significant relationships will be taken slowly, I have yet to meet a single parent who wants to be married to a new suitor within the first six months of meeting them, although I’m sure that some exist.
Perhaps this is where the myth comes from. However, if you look at it from a logical point of view , a single parent already has at least one failed relationship behind them. This means that any further relationships will be considered in a more serious manner. Of course, if I am dating somebody it is likely to go one of two ways, it will end or it will progress. This means that eventually my children could become a factor. Again, this does not mean that single parents are looking for a stand in! In fact, I make a pretty amazing dad too!!
With this in mind, maybe it should be considered that relationships with single parents aren’t all fuelled with drama and horror. We aren’t monsters that should keep our own identity away from our children. As long as our child’s welfare is put first, we are allowed to date, we are allowed to have nights out or boozy brunches and we are allowed to pursue our own goals. After all, a happy parent equals a happy child. We are allowed to want these things, an escape, a time to be ourselves – but we do not need them.
Single parents have to make sacrifices day-in and day-out.
I have missed out on events and dates because of poorly children or lack of childcare, I have skipped meals and given up my bed and have learnt how to be selfless. So if you have a friend or family member who is a single parent and is attempting to date, commend them, be there for them if it doesn’t work out – life isn’t always a fairytale. It is not easy but then nothing that is worth having ever is.
On the flip side, if you are dating a single parent,realise that even if you are not the centre of their universe they have made a sacrifice somewhere along the line because they think that you are worth dating! But ask yourself this, would you really want to date somebody that would be willing to put you before their children anyway? I very much doubt it!
Here is some advice if you are thinking of getting back into the game
My final word is to any single parent that is attempting the minefield which is ‘dating’ or indeed contemplating it: there is nothing wrong with wanting to do this, despite what you might hear, despite others wanting to give you advice and despite the looks of despair which you may receive after another failed date. Unless you step outside of your comfort zone, you may never know what might happen and let’s face it; the day that you became a single parent will probably be the biggest shock to your system that you ever got anyway.
So put your heels on, or flats if you prefer, leave your guilt at home and have some child-free fun.