Being a single parent is one of the hardest jobs ever. Juggling childcare, work, a social life plus everything else that comes with being an adult and taking care of everyone and everything, it's a 24-hour a day job.
It can leave you with barely any time for yourself, even if you might feel ready to meet that special someone and start dating again.
If you feel like the time is right for you to get out there and meet people, we've put together some useful tips and information to help you navigate the world of dating as a single parent.
In this article
How do I know the time is right to start dating again?
Meeting a new partner can be a minefield for anyone, let alone when you’re already a mum. But before you even tackle the world of single parent dating, how do you even know you’re ready to get back out there? According to relationship expert Claire Brummell, there are some important questions you need to ask – and answer yes to.
Have you let go? Finding a new partner (and possibly even a potential new step-parent for your kids) can feel daunting when you're out of practice. Before you start uploading your favourite selfie onto that dating site, make sure you really have let go of your previous relationship – romantically, emotionally and without any sense of guilt. Because you need to be able to date and start new relationships with a clean slate. ‘Bring lessons forward, but leave the emotional baggage behind,’ Claire says.
Have you reconnected with YOU? However strong your personality is, being in a long-term relationship can change you to some extent, especially when you add in the fact that you’re a parent too. 'It's important to get back in touch with who you are, and recognize your self-worth, before you’re ready to meet someone new,' says Claire. The first step is expunging any thoughts of guilt and failure that you may feel after a break up. It’s important to indulge the parts of yourself that aren’t about motherhood, too. Make time to spend time with friends, have fun and do things you love, even if it’s just catching up on your favourite box set.
**Are you happy on your own?** Before you even think about dating, you need to be happy by yourself. If you’re looking for a new partner to ‘complete’ you, then you’re dating for the wrong reasons. ‘Being able to be happy on your own is fantastic for your self-confidence, and this shines through when you meet new people,’ Claire says.
Are you open to finding love? Emotional barriers shoot up when you’ve been hurt or disappointed, especially when you’re not only protecting yourself, but your little ones too. 'You need to be totally emotionally open to love to move forward and take the plunge,' says Claire.
Are you open to new relationships succeeding (or failing)? If your perfect match is standing in front of you, declaring their love, will you feel happy, or stressed? ‘Recognising the feelings this conjures up can tell you whether you’re ready for a relationship or something more casual,’ says Claire. You also need to be able to cope with relationships not working out, which is all part of knowing your self-worth and that you’ll be happy again on your own.
Do you know what you want? This is possibly the most important question you need to ask, says Claire. Clarity in what you want to get from dating will be a big factor in how you go about doing it. For example, if you’re after a serious relationship, casual dating sites like Tinder could be too flirty. Plus, being focused on the qualities you’re looking for in a partner is more important than ever now, as it’s not just your own interests you’re looking out for.
Things to think about when dating as a single parent
Make time for it
Sure, you haven’t been to see any films above a PG rating for a year – but like everything, it helps to carve out some time for dating. So, if this means asking someone to babysit, raid your speed dial. Alternatively, you could arrange yourself a virtual date. These virtual date ideas have become very much the norm because of the coronavirus pandemic.
‘Don’t tie yourself in knots, though,’ says Claire. ‘This has to be sustainable for you and your child, so work out a balance.’
Dropping the C word
So, you’ve met someone who doesn’t know you have a child. There’s no need for a bombshell “I have something to tell you”.
‘Your little one is a part of your life, so bring him into conversation as you would anything else that you’re sharing,’ says Claire. ‘What did you do this weekend – you went to the park with your son. And so on.’
The big introduction
Deciding you’re ready for your partner to meet your child is about using your intuition.
If it feels right, start with a no-pressure setting or activity such as a walk in the woods, trip to the park or a petting farm.
‘This gives a new conversation topic and gets everyone used to being in each other’s space,’ says Claire.
Be sleepover smart
Again, think about taking things gradually when it comes to someone staying over, especially as kids are used to routine.
‘Start with meet-ups outside the house a few times, then lunch at home, followed by an evening and eventually a night’s stay,’ says Claire. ‘It just lets everyone get comfortable.’
Keep things open
Talk to your child at whatever level you feel is appropriate for his age. ‘Gauge how he’s reacting to meeting someone new,’ says Claire.
Also get him involved – whether it’s asking what he’d like to do next time you both see your new friend, or making dinner all together at home.
What are your dating tips as a single parent? Let us know on the comments board below.
The best websites and dating apps for single parents
Meeting someone new when your social life revolves around playdates? Three cheers for the digital age.
‘Internet dating is great because it lays out your set-up from the start and gives you the control,’ says Claire.
‘Websites or apps are the place for introductions and making connections, but face-to-face is how you really see if there’s potential with someone.’
While most of these dating sites are free to join at first, expect to pay further down the line for these online dating services for single parents.
With a specific section for single parents, this site is full of other single parents looking for a serious relationship. Matches are based on compatibility so you won't have to send hours swiping left or right to find the perfect date for you.
Designed with single parents and single mothers in mind, it's free to join, so if you don't like the look of anyone once you're on there, there's no requirement to take it any further and pay. Members can also go on single parent holidays. This is not only a great opportunity to meet a new partner, but it will also boost your chances of meeting single mum friends too.
Less bothered about meeting someone with a child? Match.com has a brilliant record, with 1.6 million users who have already met their partner on there. Each profile is detailed to help you find someone you really have something in common with.
Looking for someone highly educated that you can be on an intellectual level with? Elite singles is a dating site for single professionals, designed to match you up with someone who has their career path sorted. The site also has its own single parent dating section.
Keen to find someone quick? If you're looking to date different people for the time being, and dip your toes in the dating waters, Plenty of Fish is a great and affordable option.
10 steps to creating the best dating profile possible
1. Avoid obsessing over your tot
By all means mention your child but keep in mind that your profile is meant to advertise you and your attributes – not your little one’s.
2. Run your profile by a friend
Once you’re happy with your page, show it to your BFF for approval (and to proof read). Ask her to be totally honest – she may notice positive qualities about you that you haven’t picked up on yourself. She’ll also let you know if there’s too much baby talk in there!
3. Use a recent (and real) pic…
…not one that’s been Photoshopped beyond recognition. ‘Always remember to smile,’ says Jemima Wade, spokesperson for eHarmony. ‘There’s nothing more attractive than seeing a happy face.’
Plus, you’ll appear far more confident and approachable. ‘We’d recommend you add at least three or four photos, showing you at your best,’ says Jemima. ‘For example, a nice photo of you at a BBQ, enjoying a day out with your child and with friends.’ Just make sure it’s clear which person in the photo is you!
4. Don’t over accessorize
Steer clear of using photos where you’re wearing a hat or sunglasses – you’ll come across as far more open and approachable if you aren’t hiding your face.
5. Use a child-free main photo
Yes, that snap of you and your toddler may be your favourite, but remember you’re the one hoping for a date, not your little one.
6. Don’t be afraid to sell yourself
Think about everything you’ve learnt and experienced since becoming a mum – that alone should give you a whole page of skills to list. But remember this isn’t a CV – highlight your good points and think about what you would like a potential date to be like.
7. Keep it snappy
Be honest, can you be bothered to read an essay-like description? Neither can anyone else. Try to avoid going on by figuring out exactly how you want to describe yourself and who you’re hoping to attract before writing your profile. And never write straight into the dating site – create your profile first.
8. Be truthful
Try to avoid the temptation of exaggerating your life – you’re great the way you are. ‘Speak accurately and from the heart about your passions, hobbies, interests and career,’ says Jemima. ‘When discussing the things you’re most passionate about, try to find something you could imagine yourself talking excitedly about on your first date – whether that’s bettering yourself in your career, taking care of your family or learning new things.’
9. Don’t take it too seriously
Resist the urge to be very serious in your description. ‘Find a way to inject some fun into your profile – be it a joke that a fellow parent would understand or a few funny lines to give your readers something to reference in their messages to you,’ says Jemima.
And regardless of whether you’ve had a long day dealing with your toddler’s tantrums, don’t take it out on your profile.
‘Negativity in a profile is one of the biggest turn offs; always try and write your profile with a smile on your face and not when you’re rushed or stressed as this will show,’ says Jemima. So instead of including a whole load of ‘don’t wants’, write about what you do want from a potential partner.
10. Aim for originality
When describing what you’re interested in and how you like to spend your spare time, try to be original and specific rather than talking in generic terms.
‘For example, instead of “I like reading”, how about saying what kind of books you like to read (when you get a chance) and who your favourite author is,’ says Jemima. ‘This will not only give matches something to mention in their messages to you, but will make your profile stand out from everyone else who just wrote “I like reading”.’