Dating can be tough at the best of times but throw a baby or toddler into the mix and there’s a lot more to consider! We spoke to psychotherapist and relationship expert, Melissa Ferrari, for her tips on dating when you’re a single mum with young kids.
According to Melissa, it’s important to be careful when you’re a woman in the dating world, but even more so if you have children.
“Single mums are incredibly vulnerable when it comes to dating. They’re often not getting enough sleep, might have financial pressures and some are very lonely, so could be more inclined to date the wrong people in the hopes of finding a new partner,” says Melissa.
“Be mindful about who you expose your children to, but also protect yourself emotionally, financially and physically. Be smart, don’t give out too much personal information in the early stages (particularly if dating online), do your background research, go slow with any new potential partners and trust your instincts. Remember that if someone seems too good to be true, they probably are.”
Be open about your kids
Some women may not fess up initially about having little ones, but Melissa believes this is the wrong approach.
“Any new person you’re dating will eventually find out about your kids so it’s best to be honest and open about this from the start. Children are such a big part of your life and you’ll want any future partner to be involved with them, so it’s a good idea to know where they stand regarding kids, early on. If they dislike children for example, then perhaps it’s not going to work out,” says Melissa.
“Having young ones is also very demanding and your number one priority, so making sure anyone you’re dating realises this is important too. After all, you may need to cancel dates at the last minute due to a sick child or not be available at certain times. And in some cases you may also have additional problems regarding your ex-partner who you share your children with, so explaining any issues around them might be required as well,” she adds.
Plan dates carefully
You don’t want your dating life to negatively impact your children, especially when they’re at such a young age and need you a lot. Therefore some careful thought needs to go into how you go about meeting and dating people.
“Online is a great way to meet new people without physically leaving the house, however just be mindful of catfishing – when people pretend to be someone they’re not. Ideally spend a while chatting to someone online and on the phone first, before meeting up in person, to make sure it feels right,” says Melissa.
“When going out physically to go on dates or meet people, always ensure you have a good babysitter on hand (such as a family member or friend). If you co-parent, make your dates when it’s not your turn to have the kids, or meet people for coffee during your work lunch break.”
It’s important not to be overly preoccupied with romance, so remember you’re a mother first and dating comes after that.
Melissa also suggests assessing whether the timing is right for you. For example, if you’ve not long had a baby and are up a lot in the night breastfeeding, or are in the middle of a messy divorce battle, then perhaps this isn’t actually the best time to be dating. The right person will wait for you to be ready.
Introduce new partners slowly
Young children are very impressionable and become attached easily, so be careful about introducing your kids to new partners too early.
“The last thing you want to have to deal with is explaining to your child why another person is not in their life anymore, on top of your own personal heartbreak,” Melissa warns.
“Of course there’s no way to know for sure if a relationship is going to last, however not letting your child meet any potential partners until you’ve been seeing each other for a while is a good way to help avoid disappointment and confusion. It also helps determine whether your new partner is a safe figure for your children to be around,” she says.
“So don’t bring your kids into the picture or have your date sleep over when the children are under your care until you’re sure this relationship is going somewhere.”
Don’t get carried away
Melissa also advises single mums to have their eyes wide open while dating.
“Those first encounters and dates can cause the rush of curiosity and excitement to the love hormones going through the brain, so technically the brain is not functioning like normal,” says Melissa.
“Be careful of wearing rose-coloured glasses and instead look for signs that say he is good for you. And when things are getting serious, get the help of friends and family who have your back to meet this potential partner and give you their thoughts on how they behave with you, to also help clarify whether or not they’re a good relationship fit.”