Who knew I would need to start dating as a single parent? Way back in the dark ages, before child, marriage and divorce, I had a handle on the dating scene. I had the usual assortment of first dates that went nowhere and others that were rather more successful. I didn’t feel like a total dating klutz.
Fifteen years later, ten pounds heavier and with a teenage son to consider I seem to have become a candidate for The Undateables.
The advice I’ve had from friends and family hasn’t been exactly inspiring either. It’s ranged from ‘You’ve more chance of getting struck by lightning than of meeting someone new at your age’ to ‘You’ll have to lower your expectations’. With few to turn to for sane dating advice, I’ve had to learn to navigate the brave new world of dating as a single mother the hard way. It’s been a process of trial and error and it’s meant getting to grips with online dating. What an education it has been!
Here’s what I’ve learned about online dating as a single parent
Lesson #1: People lie on their online dating profiles
Men lie about their height and women about their weight/size/age. One of my dates was a good 6 inches shorter than the 6 foot his profile suggested. I’m 5 foot 5 on a good day and he was shorter than me, with a severe case of ‘Napoleon syndrome’. Not a promising start. Another was at least 20 years older than in his profile picture. Either that or he’d had a very bad week at the office. Did they think I would not notice? When you lie about the things I will notice, why should I believe anything else you say?
Some lie about other things too…particularly about their relationship status. Beware the ‘recently separated’!
Note to self – don’t believe everything you read and ask more questions before agreeing to meet.
Lesson #2: Kids complicate dating
Dating when you have kids takes lots of planning and organisation. It’s expensive too, unless you have family or friends willing to step in to provide free childcare. Then there’s the fact that single parents are generally less ‘available’ than those without kids. It all adds up to all a real turnoff for some.
Lesson #3: Single parent dating sites are full of married people looking for ‘a bit on the side’
A bit of a shocker, but it seems that single parent dating sites (others too) are jam-packed with saddos looking to add some spice to a marriage they’ve given up on, but don’t want to leave. I’ve learned to be wary of profiles without a photo, especially where the person is very secretive. The other dead giveaway is someone whose phone always goes to voicemail.
You’re much more likely to find married folk hoping for a casual fling on free dating sites. I’ve definitely had a better experience with dating as a single parent since quitting the free site I was using and moving to a paid site.
Lesson #4: Admitting that you’re a practising Christian is an invitation for abuse and/or ridicule
Yes, I’m a practising Christian. I’m not ‘holier than thou’ but my faith is important to me. It’s part of who I am and I would like to meet someone with a similar set of values. I’m not expecting to meet someone of the same faith but someone who gets my life and won’t verbally abuse me about my choices would be good. So far the odds of meeting that person through online dating seem lower than a snake’s belly button.
Lesson #5: There are many MAMILs (Middle Aged Men In Lycra) out there, holding out for a Barbie doll
I’m fit and active and have been told I look younger than my years. Sadly, the murky pool that is online dating, is full of 50 year old MAMILs looking for a 30 year old ‘tits on a stick’ girlfriend. Good luck boys! I don’t know many 30 year old women who want a 50+ boyfriend…unless he’s George Clooney and I believe he’s taken.
I’ve also had many messages from men old enough to be my father wanting to get to know me better. While they may be completely lovely, I struggle to imagine what I’m supposed to have in common with an octogenarian?
Lesson #6: Manners are rarer than hen’s teeth
Be prepared for the fact that some people have absolutely no social graces and that some take rejection very badly.
Lesson #7: Beware the daters who assume single parents are desperate for sex
Sadly, there are people who say one thing in their profile and then behave quite differently once you meet them. The rudest I met was a chap who asked the ‘your place or mine’ question before we’d even finished our pre-dinner drinks. He was quite sure that I must be ‘gagging’ for it, as I’m a single parent. I didn’t stay for dinner…
Lesson #8: Be prepared for weird photos
Some of the photos I’ve seen in profiles are eye-boggling, as are some of the ones I’ve received. Seriously boys, I don’t know any girls who want unsolicited pictures of your giblets appearing in their inboxes. As for the chap who sent me a photo of himself in a gimp mask, I have no words…
Lesson #9: When to meet the introduce the kids
This is one of the biggest challenges of dating as a single parent. I don’t want to introduce my son to a succession of men who won’t stick around in our lives, but it’s important for anyone I date to understand my life. When I meet someone I want to see on a regular basis, that will be the time to think about introducing them to my son.
Lesson #10: A rubber skin and sense of humour is essential
Despite all of the above, I’ve also met some really decent men while I’ve been dating as a single parent. Some I’ve liked more than they liked me, some wanted to see me again but there was no chemistry. I’m not ready to give up and head for the convent quite yet, but I’m still not ready to ‘settle’ either. I’m living in hope that Mr Right for Me is out there – he just hasn’t met me yet.