Ah, dating: the thrills and disappointments, the juice boxes and training wheels.
Things are super-different on the dating scene when one or both of you has kids. Scheduling gets tough real fast, and if things actually progress there’s the massively important (and daunting) matter of meeting each other’s kids—who might not be thrilled about Mom or Dad’s new love interest.
The rich tapestry of any human relationship is plenty intricate all on its own—be it parent-child or romantic. Trying to make both hum along in tandem is not for the faint of heart. Then again, neither is putting love on hold until the kids pack up for college.
There’s hope. We promise. Here are a few things to look out for if you’re a single parent on the dating market.
Wait until you feel ready
If you’re up to your eyeballs in kid-taxiing, post-divorce financial issues, and a lingering health challenge, dating probably isn’t going to reduce your stress. It can be a delightful distraction, but it also comes with rejection, shocking transgressions, and a whole lot of disappointment that is better weathered when you’re feeling strong and ready.
Keep your kids’ pics off your dating profile
Absolutely: Letting potential suitors know that you’re a parent is important. If a love interest isn’t so . . . interested in that part of your life, you’re better off knowing it right away. But nobody is dating your kids. And children deserve not to have their own privacy invaded by showing up on dating sites alongside Mom or Dad.
They’re important to you, and you’re proud of them. That’s great. Just don’t let it mean that you compromise their safety by showing them off on Bumble. A mention will do just fine.
Consider the big picture
If your kids are going to be at home for a while, the way a romantic partner might fit into your family is important. This truth makes setting boundaries especially important. Your deal-breakers will doubtless be different from those you set in your pre-parenthood days, but they’re infinitely more important because they cascade through your whole family—right down to your ex.
Set some ground rules
If there’s a co-parent in the picture, make sure you check in about ground rules for dating and kids. Does your parenting agreement require you to give first dibs on kid time to the co-parent before you get a babysitter? How do you both feel about introducing a new partner?
There’s a lot of room to make an already fraught situation more difficult, and a few conversations before you start dating can head off trouble.
Start with a happy end in mind
Dating coach Bela Ghandi recommends “psychotic optimism” when it comes to finding love after a failed relationship. She says that you want to go into dating with the attitude that great things will happen. And, hey, why not? Beats expecting a life of loneliness, and you get to put on an outfit every now and then, maybe make eyes at someone attractive.