By Dena Landon
I didn’t expect it to be easy to re-enter the dating world as a divorced, single mom. Girlfriends who’d gone before me had warned me about the online dating wasteland, about the difficulties of meeting single men in our age group who didn’t live in their mom’s basements, and the proliferation of men who want to date a woman who hikes, camps, fishes and is easy-going and laid back. (So they want a dog who talks?) But, given that I’m over thirty-five and it’s the rare woman in my age group who doesn’t have kids, I didn’t expect men my age to have a problem with the fact that I have a kid. Boy, was I wrong.
“I can meet Tuesday or Thursday, but the other nights of the week I have my son,” I wrote to one guy on Tinder. He unmatched immediately. “Oh, you have a son? But you look so skinny in your photos!” was an actual message a man thought it was appropriate to send. I learned to put the fact that I have a child at the top of my profiles (as, apparently, many men don’t bother to actually read them). Divorced was okay, divorced and with a kid was not.
The undertone to many of these comments, is that I should be less picky because I have a child
When I vented to some acquaintances about how hard it was to find a thirty-five-year-old man who was okay with my being a mom I heard some interesting responses. “I’m sure you’ll find someone who doesn’t mind that you have a child,” or, “Lots of men don’t have a problem dating a single mom,” happily married, never divorced, friends said soothingly.
The undertone to many of these comments, implied but only sometimes stated, is that I should be less picky because I have a child. Men might be reluctant to date me or view him as a drawback. I should lower my standards for a man who is willing to overlook his presence in my life and still date me.
There is no doubt that my responsibilities as a single mom can interfere in my dating life. I schedule all my dates for weekends that I don’t have my son. I’m already spending less time with my kid as I’d like, so I’m not paying for a babysitter for a coffee date that could go nowhere on a day I do have him. He’s only with his dad one to two nights a week, so if a guy can’t meet up on those nights it’s not going to happen. Until we’re very, very serious, there are no overnights at my house when my son is with me. Some men may view these as drawbacks. Given that all adults have responsibilities and commitments I wonder, sometimes, why this particular set is viewed differently.
But there are advantages to dating a single mom, too.
For one, I’m not going to waste anyone’s time. If a coffee date goes well but there’s no chemistry I’m not going to pursue it just to have someone to do stuff with. I’ve sent more than one, “Look, that was fun, but I have to be honest that I don’t see this going anywhere other than friendship,” text while walking out of Starbucks. If we do start dating I’m going to be upfront with any man because, after all, I’m paying a babysitter twelve bucks an hour for the privilege of listening to him talk about his record collection. My house may be a little messy, and if you get up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night there’s a greater than 75% chance that you’ll step on a Lego, but having a child has made me a lot more accepting of other people’s messes.
I’m not just dating for myself. Any man who comes into my life will also, eventually, come into my son’s.
Best of all, in my opinion, if a guy dates me, he gets my awesome kid, too. Spending time with a toddler will bring more joy and awe to your life than you ever imagined. Seeing the world through his eyes, racing to see who can get dressed first in the morning, having lightsaber battles on the way into the coffee shop, and making instant friends with any woman over sixty who wants to coo over him, these are all bonuses. And he didn’t have to deal with morning sickness and being sent to the grocery store for ice cream at 2 am to get them.
As I swiped left on the five hundredth man (yes, I’ve counted) the other day I did have a moment when I wondered if I was being too picky. But I’m not just dating for myself. Any man who comes into my life will also, eventually, come into my son’s. I was deeply disappointed and heartbroken about how my ex-husband chose to show up in our son’s life. That’s not a mistake I want to make again. My son provides that extra motivation to get it right this time.
When he climbed up on the couch next to me last weekend and caught me swiping, C asked me if I was trying to find him a Daddy. “Kind of, but I’m also just trying to date. I get lonely,” I told him. He leaned his head into my shoulder and said, “Don’t be lonely, Mommy. You have me.” My son is a sweet, kind, headstrong and sometimes silly little boy. As far as I’m concerned any man would be lucky to have both of us in his life.
About the author
Dena Landon is a single mom who eats raw cookie dough, passionately debates intersectional feminism and frequently tangles herself in yarn. Her work has appeared on The Washington Post, Narrative.ly, Salon, bust.com, and in Dance Teacher and Dance Spirit magazines. Her first novel was published by Dutton Children’s Publishing in 2005. She blogs at femmefeminism.com, and can be found on Instagram and Facebook.