With more single mothers than ever before, bachelors are bound to meet a woman who comes with the full package on the dating scene. Unfortunately for most men, nothing makes a man cringe faster than dating a single mom. (Remember when Kalon called Emily’s daughter “baggage” on The Bachelorette? Ugh). But dating a single mom is more than having an instant family. A single mama is independent, strong, attentive, patient, and incredibly nurturing—all assets that make for an awesome partner.
But, here’s the thing about dating a single mom: you’ve gotta change up your game. Wooing and dating a woman with a brood will be a totally different experience than dating one without. You’re going to have to wipe the slate clean if a yummy mummy has captured your heart. Here’s what you need to know.
Her Top Priority Will Always Be Her Kids
She may like you—heck, she may even love you—but her first priority in life is and always will be her kids. “No matter what, the kids always come first,” says Arlene March-Suadi, 40, an entrepreneur and former single mom. “Sounds cliché, yes, and it’s not that you don’t matter or that you aren’t important, but these kids carry a piece of her heart with them and vice versa. They are the essence of who she is.”
Basically, if she’s including you in her life, then she wants you in her life. She might not be as available as you would like her to be, but she’s got a pretty damn good excuse. So respect her for that.
You Will Immediately Figure Out Your Stance on Fatherhood
The idea of dating a single mom is daunting for some guys because it’s the “surrogate daddy” part that wigs them out. Dating a woman with kids will either exacerbates those fears, or, on the flip side, put them to rest.
“It’s really heavy to get your head around an ‘instant family,” says Cory Grimes, 31, a sales executive, who dated a single mother for three months. “But the more I hung out with her, the easier it was coming. Our relationship fast-tracked a lot of conversations regarding kids, and it made me realise that I do really want kids one day.”
The Ex Factor
One of the most troubling hurdles for men to overcome when dating a single mother is wrapping the around the fact that her baby daddy might still be in the picture. No doubt it’s going to be awkward at first when you’re dating someone whose ex is hanging around, but your lady will be conscious of it and trust me—she doesn’t want a crowded house, either. So relax, and trust her and your relationship.
Also, if there’s any tension with her ex, don’t get involved. Let her handle it (she’s been handling a lot of shit alone anyway). In some cases, the father might not even be present in his kid’s life. “In my case their biological father was non-existent and my kids loved my boyfriend and he became a father figure to them very early in the relationship,” says March-Suadi.
Your relationship is going to unfold slowly compared to most. She’s not only selecting an ideal partner for herself, but she’s also dating a potential father figure for her kids. Also, because time is of the essence in her life, scheduling dates will be a big factor in determining how often she is able to see you. “Be patient. Kids are unpredictable and sometimes you may have a hot sexy date planned but it gets cancelled at the last minute because the child is sick. It sucks,” says March-Suadi. “But you will respect her more for cancelling and tending to them rather than ignoring them to go out with you.”
Take it slow and steady until you both reach a level of trust and understanding before you take your relationship to the next level. But also don’t be surprised if she wants to have “the talk” with you sooner than later. She’s got lunches to make and after-school swimming lessons and carpooling—she doesn’t want to be wasting her time.
Expect To Be Involved With Her Kids
If you’ve made it past this point, you’re ready to meet her adorable rug rats (don’t call them that, FYI). But don’t try to do too much too soon with them; let the relationship unfold naturally. Let her take the lead when it comes to introducing you to her child.
“For me, it was an intuition thing. You know who is right for your kids and when that should happen,” says March-Suadi. “The way it happened with me was that I had invited him over for dinner and I thought my kids were asleep. All of a sudden I heard little feet coming down the stairs, and that was their first meeting. As a mom, you have to know the possibility of something like that happening. In this case, the man that I was dating (now my boyfriend) is a dad, so kids were not a foreign concept to him.”
But if kids are a foreign concept to you, treat the situation delicately. Be honoured that she is involving you with their lives, and take an interest in them. However, take note that your presence might not always be a good thing in the end. “I reminded her son too much of his dad,” says Grimes. “He was getting confused, so she ended it.”
Brianne Hogan is a freelance writer based in Toronto, something of a humorist, and considers herself more Bridget Jones than Samantha Jones. Though she won’t reveal which parts, she will admit to liking emotionally unavailable men and drinking lots of wine. You can follow her on Twitter @briannehogan.