Finding bae after baby: Dating as a single mom by choice
Dating can be daunting — so much so that in my 20s, back when I was optimistic that I would find “the right guy,” I decided that I would go ahead and have a baby on my own if I was still single at 35. I'm now 37 years old with a baby daughter as a single mom by choice (SMBC). While it turns out that I didn't need "the right guy" to have a baby, the thought of dating now remains intimidating.
In some ways, I feel like being a SMBC might be advantageous when it comes to dating — I’m no longer listening to the tick-tock of my biological clock, which takes some of the pressure off. But my unconventional journey also comes with time restraints and new priorities. In addition, there are more "what ifs" to think through, like wondering, would it be weird to pump in the middle of a date?
I’ve asked other SMBCs to share how they are looking for love — or lust! — as a solo parent.
Michele Fiala, a SMBC and author of the Mom Flies Solo blog and podcast, wanted to have a healthy relationship to model for her son. At first, it didn’t go so well. She shares, “In the beginning, I wasn’t intentional about my dating. When my son was about 1, I ended up involved with a guy I had known for a long time. When that ended, it was very painful for my son. I took a long break from dating. Eventually — and after a lot of therapy — I felt healthy enough to try it again.”
When Fiala tried online dating, however, she didn't feel like some of the sites were geared toward single parents. “When the only options are ‘wants kids’ or ‘doesn’t want kids,’ it’s impossible to tell if a guy doesn’t want to create newly minted kids or if he is closed to the idea of a partner who has a child," she explains. Some offerings, like Stir, a dating app aimed at single parents, do have those additional boxes to clarify what you are looking for. But even Stir doesn’t distinguish between single parents who co-parent and solo parents, like a SMBC, though users can indicate if their child lives with them.
“People who have their kids half-time lead a very different life," says Fiala. "In addition, I’m an older parent — as are many women who have done this on our own by choice — and a lot of guys my age have already raised their kids and want to date an empty nester.”
As a SMBC, it can be more challenging to wait to introduce a significant other to your child. As documented in her blog, Fiala's first time introducing her son to a "well-meaning" guy she'd recently started seeing was also the last.
“There is a dichotomy for sole parents," she notes. "We don’t want our children to meet people we date too early because they get attached. But while people who are co-parenting might be able to go six months before introducing someone to their kids, it would be logistically difficult for a sole parent to go that long before a meeting happens. Childcare is expensive. I’ve been super-lucky that my dad helps a lot, but it’s still a big time and money investment.”
Not every parent is looking to make that investment. Leah Goldstein, a SMBC and the founder of her own PR agency, has 4-year-old twins and shares that dating isn’t a priority for her at the moment.
“While I’ve always been, and continue to be, open to the idea of dating and meeting someone, I’m not desperate for it," Goldstein says. "I imagine this may be difficult for many to believe, but I just don’t feel like there’s anything missing in my life right now. I’m enjoying my kids, have a busy career, we have wonderful friends and a supportive family and a great big life."
Dating may "shift into more of a priority sometime down the road," she offers, adding, "The good news: I will be dating as a WHOLE woman, one who made her own dreams come true and is living the life she always wanted to.”
In addition to being a SMBC, Rachel Russo is also a matchmaker, giving her a unique perspective on dating as a single mom. She is optimistic about how being a solo parent can be a benefit in dating and help someone enjoy the experience more.
“I think having a child can bring out the better sides of many of us and these qualities — unconditional love, patience, living with purpose — will spill over into our romantic relationships," she explains. "We care less about sweating the small stuff that we did before kids. For instance, pre-baby, you may have cared about going to the best restaurant in town, getting the best seat in the house on a date or having your meal come out perfectly. As a SMBC, you may just be thrilled to get through a meal without a baby screaming, be grateful for adult conversation and be appreciative that your food isn't cold!”
That said, Russo advises SMBCs to be extra-selective when considering who to date. And, for anyone seeking a long-term relationship, she suggests not waiting too long to start dating.
“Since a lot of SMBCs are older when they choose to have kids, the guys in their desired age range may have kids that are much older and they may not want to go back to diapers," Russo notes. "For those who do enter the scene, I think they have a definite advantage. It is pretty bold and badass to make this life choice and men — or women — will be turned on by that.”
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