Lydia Davis is an experienced dating coach and matchmaker. She joined us to answer questions from the Frolo Community and share her insights on dating as a single parent.
Some people are very private about their children and some people aren’t. No matter what, if you’re online dating, your profile really needs to reflect you as a person – and I know that your children are a big part of your life – but it needs to encapsulate who you are and what you’re looking for. Your profile should reflect your personality and showcase the values that you’re looking for – for example, if you’re a sporty person, get some sports pictures up there. You also want your profile to be open and inviting to lots of people – you wouldn’t put that you only wanted to date someone with a specific hair colour or job, for example.
You can put a picture of your children up there, but you don’t have to. It doesn’t have to be mentioned on your profile, but I think you do need to mention it on the first date. Some people might not be open to the idea of meeting someone with a child, but then if they have chemistry with a parent in real life they might change their mind. I think it’s worth seeing what the situation is between you and that person first.
It really depends what you want to get out of an app. Take Tinder for example – some people say it’s just for hookups but I know friends who have met people on Tinder and married them. It really depends on what you’re looking for and what you’re putting out there. They all have a niche.
Most people are on three apps – as single parents, you probably don’t have much time, so maybe you’re only on one or two. It’s a bit like a part-time job! You’ve got to set time aside to meet someone, be happy, confident and open with whoever you’re talking to.
However, I think messaging for too long on an app is a huge mistake. You’ve got to meet someone in person to see if there’s chemistry and, if you chat for ages before you meet, you run the risk of building each other up and then being disappointed.
Try and schedule time for dating into your diary – you might decide that you’re going to go on a date with someone every two or three weeks. You can talk to lots of people online but you’ve got to meet them to see if that connection is there.
Apps are very gamified; it’s so easy to swipe and swipe and swipe. So you’ve got to set some rules: Is this person getting back to me promptly? Am I getting a good feeling about them? Your gut instinct is usually right. If someone comes across a bit creepy, they probably are. If you feel excited about them, you should feel confident about suggesting a date somewhere mutually convenient and seeing what’s there.
Firstly, no matter what, when you’re going on a date you need to feel good about yourself, who you are, and what you have to offer. You need to know that this is an opportunity for you both to get a feel for each other – it’s not just you trying to impress them.
Put some music on that removes you from the day that you’ve had. Make an effort – whether that’s brushing your hair and spritzing some perfume or getting a full blow dry.
If you’re really nervous, think about doing an activity. You’ve got a start and a finish, you’ve got an end point, it’s not as intense as just looking at each other across a table. Then, if you get on well you can go for drinks or dinner afterwards, but you have an out if the chemistry isn’t there. Sometimes short dates are better as they leave you wanting to see each other again.
Low self-esteem is very common – especially as we get older and we’ve had some slightly rough experiences. I would really advise that you work on your self-esteem before you start dating because there will be some rejection along the way. Things will fizzle out not because of you, but because things aren’t working out between you and that other person – and that’s actually a good thing to know early on. You do need to have a relatively thick skin for dating!
You also need to feel good about yourself because that’s when you’re going to attract someone. If you’re sat opposite someone who is happy and confident then you come away thinking you’d like to be around them again. Whereas if you can see that a person is very nervous and has low self-esteem you’re not so likely to feel that way.
A really good way to feel more confident is by doing a little bit of research into dating – which actually hardly anyone does. Reading books about dating will help you navigate your future dating path and settle your nerves. You can read about how to gain confidence and what to expect if you’ve not dated for a while. You need to think about what values you’re looking for in someone – what are you not prepared to put up with? How am I going to get to know someone, open myself up, and be vulnerable again? It could also be worth speaking to a professional about those trust issues because trust is so important when you want to meet someone new – especially as that person might not have been through the same experiences as you.
I’d also recommend just being honest with the person that you’re dating. If they’re the right person for you then they will be understanding. After a few dates, you can explain to them that you’ve been through a difficult separation or divorce, you’re very much ready to move on, but sometimes it comes up emotionally – just give them a heads up. This will help them to understand what makes you tick a bit better.
I think it’s very obvious if someone isn’t dating seriously. If all someone wants is to have some fun and sleep with you, you’re going to be getting messages late at night, they won’t try to make proper plans with you, and they won’t ask about other areas of your life.
If they’re not organising to meet you and you’re not interested in something casual, just be up front and say thanks but no thanks. You’re not going to change them and continuing the conversation will just waste your time and your emotional energy.
I think so many people need to be more open in all areas of their life! You might think that you’re open to meeting someone, but you’re actually giving off a very closed impression. Be open and make small talk with people when you’re out and about. You can also try going to talks on a topic that interests you or joining clubs – running clubs, art courses, for example – places where you’ll meet like-minded people. Of course, it’s harder to know who’s single in these contexts but it will take the pressure off and allow you to see who you get along with first. Concentrate on coming across as a friendly and confident person – the rest will follow.
It’s also a good idea to find someone else who is single – a wingwoman or wingman – who can look at your profile, see how you’re coming across, and who’s also willing to come to events and to try new things with you.
You’ve got to take the plunge and really commit to dating – and just being on a dating app is not the same as being committed to dating in my opinion.
Start now! Seriously, you can start chatting to people now. Lockdown rules are relaxing, so you can meet up for a socially-distanced walk around the park or even a drink soon.
I’d also like to make it clear that, if you get a little burnt out by the apps, it’s fine to take a complete break for a while. It can be exhausting putting in the effort to chat to multiple people so it’s definitely ok to take breaks.
It can be really difficult if you don’t have a lot of child-free time. If you have limited options or need to book childcare well in advance, opt for something with a fixed timetable – like a block of dance classes. Then you don’t run the risk of organising childcare for a drink that gets cancelled or rearranged.
It’s also worth considering where you can you meet like-minded people with children. Are there local meetups, classes, or activities where you might meet a fellow single parent?
Could you swap childcare with a friend in a way that would allow both of you to date?
You could even suggest that you do a Zoom first date! We’ve all got used to chatting this way during lockdown and it will help you see if there’s a bit of chemistry there and whether it’s worth setting up a face-to-face date.
This is a very personal matter and hopefully, with the right person, you would know when the time was right. If in doubt, waiting a little longer is probably better than making the introduction too soon. I would advise you to be wary of the big displays, fireworks, and someone who’s really keen to move things along quickly. In my matchmaking experience, things that accelerate really rapidly can also collapse pretty quickly and if someone is really interested they’ll be happy to stick around.
I think unfortunately this is part and parcel of dating – especially online dating. People can be so flaky and just ghost you. Maybe that’s when you think about dating someone who is also a single parent and understands what it means for you to put that time aside.
Remember that this is something that happens to everyone in dating and don’t let it knock your confidence too much. If I’d been chatting to someone and they had to rearrange last minute, I’d give them the benefit of the doubt and reschedule once – but if they cancelled again I’d drop it.
What are your interests? Can you chat to them about that? Unfortunately, especially when you’re chatting to multiple people, it can become a bit of a fact-finding mission, but I’d recommend that you include some information about your hobbies and interests on your profile and, if they do the same, you can ask them about their interests and that’s a great way to strike up a conversation. If they conversation still isn’t flowing – that might be a sign!
I think people definitely do read them. Creating the best possible profile goes back to openness – you don’t want to start putting your requirements and what you’re looking for very specifically as that’s going to narrow your appeal and put people off.
Have at least three photos – one with some other people (so not all bathroom selfies!) – and write about your interests. You can specify that you’re looking for something serious and it’s really up to you whether you write a detailed introduction or just write a line or two. Ask a good friend who really knows you to read over it and give their opinions on the photos you’ve chosen too.
You need to ask yourself why you’re repeating these patterns – and that’s why reading up about love and dating is so helpful. look at your attachment style and see if that helps to shed some light on your patterns. Also, look at the values that you want in a partner – you might need someone spontaneous, or a planner, you might really value kindness and thoughtfulness – and look at the amount of effort they’re putting in too. It’s not all about looks. If someone seems to have those core values, then it could be worth meeting them even if they’re not your usual “type.” When you meet them in person they might look completely different to their pictures or there might be chemistry there that surprises you.
I’ve seen so many different approaches to this situation. Some people are ready to commit and throw themselves into a new relationship quite quickly after a relationship ends, and some people take longer to heal and move on. You need to be very honest with yourself and how you feel about it – there’s no right answer and you will just know when you’re ready.
If it’s taking you a long time to move on, it could be worth talking to someone about it. It can be very scary putting yourself out there and dating again so don’t feel embarrassed to get some help with that.
I’d just like to say, you could meet someone next week, next month, next year who turns out to be the love of your life. You’ve got to remind yourself that it could happen at any point and stay excited about it.
Frolo.com contains some affiliate links. If you purchase something via a link on the Frolo website we may receive a small revenue share.