Do you remember the heady days of dating before you had kids? When the biggest worry was what perfume to wear and how much cleavage to show? Well, scratch all that. If you are dating with kids, it’s a whole new game.
Most likely, you never thought you’d be in this position. Dating is all part of the preamble to settling down and having kids, not something you do after the kid bit. You’d be forgiven for feeling a bit out of sync. Like someone dropped the pieces of your life and put them back in the wrong order.
You are not alone. So many women are breaking free of unhappy relationships, embracing single mum life and tentatively hitting the dating scene on the hunt for Mr Right-This-Time.
Here’s what nobody tells you about dating with kids.
Further reading: 6 Tips to find reliable babysitters for your children.
WHAT NOBODY TELLS YOU ABOUT DATING WITH KIDS
Dating first time round was all about looks and lust. Do I fancy him? I wonder if he shaves his chest? Wow he’s got a cute smile. Now it’s about so much more than that. The questions you might ask yourself are: Does his work schedule work around mine? When does he have his kids? Does he have a criminal record? Will he be happy only having sex once every two weeks when we get a night together? There is a lot more to consider when dating with kids, but try to let it flow and worry about the practicalities later.
THE CRITERIA IS MORE COMPLEX
Whereas once your dream date criteria might have included thing like broad shoulders, dark eyes and a jaw line to die for, it will now be quite different. You might now be more interested in a man who can fix things round the house, is good with kids and is cool with you running late as your toddler puked in your hair. Add this to what you are attracted to physically in a man, and you’ve considerably narrowed down your search.
YOU HAVE KIDS, DON’T FORGET
Putting your kids first may seem obvious now as you prepare for your debut to the dating world. Yet, if you meet a man and hit it off, it is all consuming. Kids? What kids? Of course, you want to be a good mum but sending cheeky text messages when you should be helping with homework, is much more fun. If you meet a man who doesn’t get this, that’s a big red flag right there.
TIMING IS EVERYTHING WHEN DATING WITH KIDS
You need to be absolutely sure you are ready to start dating again. This means you have time available in your busy schedule around work and home life. Plus, your kids are in a good place in their lives and it’s ok if mum takes her eye of the ball every now and then. Trying to date when you don’t have time will be stressful for you, upsetting for your children and frustrating for all those men that fall for you!
HOW TO DATE WITH KIDS
YOU ARE NOT THE ONLY ONE DATING WITH KIDS
Even if dating with kids still feels weird to you, heaps of people dating have children. In fact, some women won’t date a man unless he has children. Having children is a common interest that can bond you to a potential date. You both ‘get’ single parenting and are able to navigate it together. Don’t feel that having kids will hold you back, they may even make you a more attractive package.
YOU HAVE TO HANDLE THE LETDOWNS
You need to feel strong, confident and happy to date with kids. Online dating will expose you to some hideous human behaviour that many already accept as the norm. For example, you may be ghosted. This means you meet a guy, things go well, you find yourself envisaging a future together, then BAM … he disappears. No explanation, nothing. Stuff like this can make you want to take to your bed for a week, but as a mum, you can’t. You have to carry on as normal. If you’re not strong enough for this, you are not ready to start dating with kids.
YOU ARE BEING WATCHED
As parents, we are role models for our children every day, and this doesn’t stop when you start dating. Be that mum who is confident and happy when she goes on a date, rather than nervous and insecure. Be that mum who knows what she wants from a date, and won’t settle for anything less. Don’t let your children see you being treated badly by anyone. You are role modelling to your children what dating should look like, make sure you set a good example.
IT’S OK TO DATE WITH KIDS
There is stigma around single mums dating. Ignore it. If you’re ready to date again, go for it. Not that you should jump from the marital bed straight onto Match.com, but everyone is allowed another go at love. Your children might find it odd to start, but in time they will get used to it and want to see mum with someone who makes her happy, especially if they get on with him. Don’t feel bad about dating. You have a life to live, enjoy it.
FORGET THE SPONTANEITY
You can forget the spontaneity of dating pre kids. Lazy mornings, impromptu sex and last-minute romantic breaks just cos you could. Dating with kids requires planning and communication … and not just with you and your man. The logistics of organising a night out together may involve your kids, his kids, babysitters and even your exes to free-up time. Romance and spontaneity can get lost, but it’s the way it is now and if you’re really into each other, you’ll manage.
Further reading: My kids can't stand my new man, now what?
What nobody tells you about dating with kids (cont.)
YOU WILL NEED ONLINE DATING
You may have scoffed at online dating in the past, but as a single mother dating with kids, it’s a godsend. Viewing, texting, chatting can all be done from the comfort of your couch. In fact, you can find out so much about a guy before you leave your house, that it’s almost reversed the whole dating process. For us crazy-busy single mums, this is marvellous. Do the ground work from home and only spend your precious time meeting him if you think he’s a keeper. Note: The dating app, eharmony, even has a video date facility where you can video chat before meeting without sharing your Zoom, Skype or Facebook details.
WHAT ABOUT SLEEPOVERS?
Everyone has their own views as to when it’s ok to sleep with a guy but the decision is taken out of your hands when you are dating with kids. Imagine its date No.3 and you’re desperate to rip his clothes off and dive into bed .. but wait .. the kids are asleep upstairs. It’s not cool for kids to see mum sleeping with lots of men or with a man they have never met. But look on the bright side: Keeping the suspense going longer is fun, and it will be all the more enjoyable then you wangle yourselves a kid-free night.
IT’S HARD TO TAKE OFF YOUR MUM HAT
Being a single mum is all-consuming. We are in mum-mode 24/7 and it can be hard to switch out of it. If you find yourselves discussing the merits of reusable nappies on a first date, you’ve gone off course and need to change tact. Turn off your ‘mum thoughts’ and focus on the man in front of you.
RESPECT PRIVACY FOR YOURSELF AND YOUR KIDS
You should never let a guy know where you live until you are 100% sure about him, but this is even more important with kids. Be careful not to share any private information early on, such as where your kids go to school or any routines that you have. Don’t discuss money or go into detail about your ex. You just never know how this information could be used in a way that is detrimental to your family. There are some lovely guys out there, but there are also some head-cases. Stay safe, be careful and have fun. Here are some tips to guide you safely on your way: 12 Tried and tested tactics to date safely online.