Dating someone with kids: New relationship tips post-divorce

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 the single mother life, and tentatively hitting the dating scene on the hunt for Mr. Right-This-Time.

If you're ready to meet someone new, or you already have, here are things you should know about dating as a single mum.

Further reading: 6 Tips to find reliable babysitters for your children. 

What you need to know before dating with kids (and dating someone with kids)

It’s complicated

Dating the first time around 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 it comes to dating with children. But try to let it flow and worry about the practicalities later.

The criteria are more complex

Whereas once your dream date criteria might have included things like broad shoulders, dark eyes and a jawline to die for, it will now be quite different. You might now be more interested in a man who can fix things around 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 in 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 cooking dinner, is a big no-no. 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 can juggle work and home life around your busy schedule and still have spare time to date. Plus, your kids are in a good place in their lives and it’s okay if Mum takes her eye off the ball every now and then. Trying to date when you don’t have time will be stressful, upsetting for your children, and frustrating for all those men who fall for you!

How to be in a relationship with someone who has 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. Kids may be a common interest that can bond you to a potential date. You both ‘get’ single parenting and can even share notes. Don’t feel that having kids will hold you back, they may even make you a more attractive package.

Dating with kids

You have to handle the letdowns

Dating these days 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 envisioning a future together, and 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 have a new person in your life.

You are being watched

As parents, we are role models for our children every day. 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. Show your children what dating should look like, and make sure you set a good example.

It’s okay to date with kids

There is a stigma around single mummas dating. I mean, what is up with that?! But no matter how pissed you are, the wisest thing to do is ignore it. If you’re ready to date again, don't mind other people and just go for it. 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 'cause you could. Dating with kids requires planning and communication … and not just with you and your man. Organising a night out together means getting the kids involved (both his and yours); plus the babysitters and even your exes. Accept that 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?

Tips for dating as a single mum (cont.)

Don't forget to look for red flags

Like any other relationship, you won't always meet ideal potential partners. Before having this new partner meet the kids, it's crucial to know them well first. You don't want to date someone shady. Don't be mesmerised by sweet, flowery words. Do some background checks as well. We want to be sure that our children are safe around this new person. 

You will need online dating

You may have scoffed at online dating in the past, but as a single parent dating with kids, it’s a godsend. Viewing, texting, and 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 mamas, this is marvellous. Check his dating profile 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 feature 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 okay to sleep with a guy. But the decision is taken out of your hands when you are dating with kids. Imagine it's 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 than you wangle yourselves a kid-free night.

Dating with kids

It’s hard to take off your Mum hat

Being a single parent 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

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 headcases. Stay safe, be careful and have fun. Here are some helpful tips to guide you safely on your way: 12 Tried and tested tactics to date safely online.

Cons of dating someone with kids

Dating someone with kids can also be disappointing at times. Your plans often revolve around their schedules, so your time together is limited. Alone time is rare and it's difficult to get lovey-dovey with your partner's kids around. I once planned a romantic weekend at his place, but only found myself knee-deep in Legos!

The co-parent (also known as "the ex") is another complicated factor to consider. Most of all, winning the kids' approval can be tough, and you'll never know when they'll finally accept you.

Summary: What single mothers need to know before dating someone with kids

I have learned first-hand that dating as a woman with kids requires patience and flexibility. Experiencing new love may be rewarding, but it demands a lot of understanding and compromise. Before putting yourself out there, let your kids know so they know what to expect. Never rush things, no matter how much you adore your new love interest. It's also important to wait a while before acting as a couple in front of the kids. If you really want to revive your dating life, use my tips above as a your guide and you're good to go! Finally, follow your heart and be happy! You deserve it more than anyone!

Dating with kids | Beanstalk Single Mums Pinterest

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Sally Love

About the author

Sally Love is a pseudo single mum author who has been writing about single motherhood, separation and divorce for 8+ years. She has been a single mother for 10+ years and has two daughters, one of whom she co-parents and the other she solo parents. Sally has experienced all aspects of single motherhood from legal, financial, parenting, dating, travel as a single parent, re-partnering and re-building a career. She is an integral part of the Beanstalk community chatting and helping single mothers across the globe, as well as sharing her expertise, experiences and genuine reviews with major national newspapers and appearing on nation-wide television shows.

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