When and How to Start Dating as a Single Mother

woman with child blowing kisses

Making the best decisions for you and your child as you enter the dating world.

Having children changes things in ways we can never predict. Since chances are you can’t even pee alone, it’s not surprising that the thought of finding time to date seems overwhelming. And, even apart from finding a sitter, dating is very different as a mom. Everything you do potentially affects the children you love more than anything. Still, dating as a single mother means you have a chance to learn the dating rules again, focus on your true priorities, and avoid making old mistakes. And even though it may seem overwhelming, finding someone who can truly love you and your child will make it all worthwhile.

When is it right to start dating again?

Nobody can answer this question for you completely. Relationships begin and end for many reasons, and some of them carry more weight than others. You may have been in and out of relationships before, but as a single mother, you’re going to have more to work through before you jump back into the dating game. Even if you’re still on good terms with your ex, it can be difficult and painful to accept that you’re no longer together with the father of your child.

This becomes all the more serious if you experienced a lot of pain in your last relationship. For this reason, consider spending some time with a professional therapist before dating again. It’s important for you to be in the best possible place before you seek a relationship with another person. Now is the time to make sure you’ve confronted your past hurts and can communicate well and set clear boundaries. Remember: there is no shame in making the right decision for your emotional and mental well-being. You and your child will be happier if you wait to date until you can enter confidently into a healthy relationship.

How can I find a therapist I can afford?

Therapy can be expensive, but there are many options for women who do not have mental health services covered under their existing health insurance plan. Women leaving abusive relationships can get free counseling at SafeHouse in Ann Arbor. Catholic Social Services, Jewish Family Services, and Women’s Center of Ann Arbor also offer mental health care. Some Medicaid health plans are accepted at Catholic and Jewish family services. All of these organizations offer qualifying, low-income patients who are not on Medicaid a lower price per session based on a sliding fee scale.

When should your significant other be involved with your children?

It’s natural to want to see how your new love-interest interacts with your children, but it’s more important for children’s worlds to be as stable as possible. Remember that young children will often bond quickly, and without the kind of discernment you will exercise as an adult. Try to limit the number boyfriends your children meet, so that they don’t go through the trauma of losing someone they’ve grown to care about.

Even if he is willing to help you out, don’t use a new crush for childcare. Also, consider being discreet about your dating life at home. This doesn’t mean you should lie to your children, but have a reliable babysitter lined up so that you can spend your first dates out of your house. When a relationship becomes serious, then you might think about slowly introducing the person to your children.

Don’t stay in a dating relationship for your kid.

It’s hard to be a single mother. You’ve taken on a huge responsibility, and sometimes, rather than finding support, you face unkind judgment. The pressure to create a more traditional family unit can be overwhelming. Once your children meet your new partner and grow to care for him, moms can feel even more pressure to stay, whether or not the relationship is a good one. But remember, if he doesn’t love and treat you well, he is not the right man to be your child’s role model.

Make sure your relationships build you up.

Once you’re a mom, you spend a lot of time giving. You find enough strength to crawl out of bed at four in the morning because someone had a bad dream, or wet the bed, or needs a drink. You nurse your child until your nipples bleed. You make lunches in the evening and spend Friday night doing laundry. You schedule endless doctors and dentist appointments, drink thousands of cups of imaginary tea, and read Goodnight, Moon every day.

Remember that you aren’t damaged goods. You and your child are a gift. Any relationship you enter should bring you joy, so you can bring more emotional energy home to your family. In the best kinds of relationship, you and your partner will both build each other up and make each other stronger. Don’t settle for less when both your happiness and that of your child is on the line. A relationship that brings joy to you and your child is worth the wait.

Iris Proctor
Iris is the director of ArborWoman.