When people talk about dating as a single mother, they generally speak in can'ts, won'ts, and don'ts. You can't tell someone you have kids on the first date. You won't find someone who actually likes your kids. You don't have time to date, anyway. It paints a pretty bleak picture of searching for love (or even a casual hookup) as a single parent, and can easily scare someone off of dating altogether.
But, like many stereotypes, the typical image of a single mum's love life isn't totally accurate. Sure, having kids might make dating more complicated, but it's not all doom and gloom.
Shearer became a single mum at 26, when her son was 4 months old. But she didn't always feel that single motherhood was fabulous. At first, she struggled to find resources about dating as a single parent. "Everything I could find was very negative," she says. "They made it feel like if I dated, it would be a bad thing." The books she read gave tips such as a single mum shouldn't bring her kids around her dates, and she should be prepared to put her dating life on hold until her kids are out of the house. So, Shearer started Ms. Single Mama to change the narrative. There, she shared stories of her real dating life — the good, the bad, and the awkward.
Writing the blog and connecting with other single mothers helped Shearer realize that not only is dating as a single mum not horrific, there are actually some advantages. Like, for example, being able to take partners on parenting test drives. "That's a huge advantage because you get to see if your parenting styles line up," she says. Dating before she was a mother was kind of like flying blind in the parenting department, because without kids around she couldn't really know that her partners would parent in the same ways as she does. "People change when the baby comes, and sometimes marriages can't recover," she says. "When you're a mum, it changes every sector of your dating life and who you choose to spend time with."
There are people in this world who do want to love us, because we're lovable.
Kaywanda Lamb, dating coach for single mums
Kaywanda Lamb, a single mum of two boys who coaches other single mums on dating and relationships, had a similar experience. All she heard as a newly single mother was that no one, especially men who didn't have their own kids, would want to date a single parent. But she proved that theory wrong when she met a man on Match who absolutely adored her sons. That relationship lasted for three years, and it didn't end because Lamb was a mum. It ended for the same reason many relationships end: because they didn't mesh. "I had the time of my life and I proved that a single guy with no kids will date a single mum," she says. "So I tell [the mums I coach] that even if it doesn't work out, you know you were loved and it can happen again."
Sometimes, she says, single mums can get stuck on fear, whether it's the fear that no one will want to date them or the fear that they'll always be alone. But, they need to quiet the voice in their head that says that the people they date are only after casual sex or will run as soon as they meet the kids. "There are people in this world who do want to love us, because we're lovable," Lamb says. And buying into the negative stereotypes about dating as a single parent can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. "If you assume that no one's going to want to meet your children, or be a father, or fall in love with you because you're a single mum, then they won't," Shearer says. You have to shift the expectations in your own mind and realise that people will still find you attractive.
Sometimes, Shearer says, those people still won't want to meet your kids or become a permanent fixture in your lives, but that's okay. Knowing that someone doesn't fit into your kids' lives makes it easy to eliminate them and move on, she says. And even having a one-night-stand can be more fun when you're not waking up in an empty apartment. "It's an incredible thing to go out with a guy at night and then he goes home and you wake up with your beautiful little three year old who has no clue where you just were," Shearer says.
After all, a single mum is never really single, she says. "You always have your little people with you and you know you're not alone."
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