There is nothing more stressful than worrying about your children when trying to get to know someone on a date. It goes without saying but making sure you have competent childcare you trust and easy access to checking in, and a huge weight will be lifted. For some, this means organising childcare that is not their co-parent (if things are less than settled and it’s a source of stress), or a brand new babysitter. You want to know that this is totally taken care of so you are not in two places at once mentally.
My dad once told me that having my two kids was actually a great ‘arsehole filter’, and though this is overly simplistic he has a point. If you are looking for something serious, or you have been on a few dates and want to spend more time with someone, it’s important you know how they feel about you having kids. You need to know how they will react and give them the option of ducking out early if children are really not in their future. You don’t want to feel stressed about how and when to tell someone, so if it’s love you are after then I would drop it in casually early on.
The caveat to this is if you are after something much more casual right now. If they are only a hook-up then you really don’t have to bring your parental status up at all – it can derail the conversation and make it more serious than it needs to be. If this is just for one night, then it’s fine to not have the chat at all, don’t feel pressure to bring more of your personal life into the situation than you want to.
Early dates are simply opportunities to see if you want another drink, coffee or goodnight kiss with someone – they are not where we assess how good a life partner or step-parent someone is. If long-term is what you are looking for, great, have that in the back of your mind and note anything hugely at odds with that (we should never ignore those red flags), but it is way too early to be halfway up the aisle in your mind. Do I feel comfortable? Am I enjoying myself? Am I attracted to this person? These are the early date questions you should be asking yourself, not whether or not they will be an amazing co-parent.
Rushing ahead and thinking of the ‘end goal’ will stop you from giving great people a chance, prevent you from being present on the date and in touch with how you are feeling in this person’s company, and can even make you overlook really important deal-breakers, especially if you have a history of attraction to abusive partners.
Flirting, great conversation, seduction and even chemistry are all buildable skills you can learn. If you don’t feel they come naturally to you, then same for lots of us! Do not worry, you can learn and develop these skills with practice. Remember a date is just two people seeing if they want to see more of each other, so even if one goes wrong it’s not a big deal. As with anything, the more we do it the easier it becomes.
There is power in knowing anyone can become great at the art of dating regardless of age, stage of life, weight, appearance, job etc etc etc. Charisma is something we can build and learn and we are not beholden to how ‘naturally talented’ we are in the romantic world. Give yourself time and grace to make mistakes and learn from them, especially if it’s been a while.
As parents, we are hard judged for any romantic choices we make. If we have casual sex we are setting a bad example, if we date seriously we are risking our children’s future if they aren’t perfect, if we don’t date we are denying them a family blah, blah, blah. There is so much freedom and fun to be had in realising that you cannot please anyone else and so you get to define your own rules. One of my favourite sayings is ‘F*ck the Fairytale’. Basically, life has already made the fairytale of a traditional family unrealistic for us.
Have fun making new rules for your love and sex life on your own terms. Want to go celibate for a year and get to know yourself and your body much better? Go for it. Want to seek a new spouse to have more kids with? Great. Want to spend all your child-free nights engaging in the delicious, decadent orgies of your wildest fantasies? Super! Want to try dating different genders, numbers of partners, ‘types’ than before? Fantastic! As with all elements of being a solo parent, you make the rules and that’s something to celebrate.
We all, and I mean all, get rejected from time to time. I went on close to 100 first dates between the end of my marriage and the start of my new one. Some of these I wasn’t interested in pursuing, and on some of them they weren’t. Some were a single, dreadfully awkward meeting never to be repeated, and others delightful affairs with great sex but no long term potential. Others still were serious attempts at love that just couldn’t work out.
Relationships involving other people are only ever partially in our control, and though we can and should take full responsibility for the part we play in them, at the end of the day we are not going to be what everyone is looking for all of the time. That is fine, and once you become fine with people just not being right for us, and us not being right for them, it becomes a whole lot easier. Rejection is not a reflection of your worth or value as a person, it can be as simple as you smell like an ex they would rather forget, or that kids really are not on their path, or they are honestly not looking for anything serious right now. When you manage to separate your self-worth from what people think of you the whole dating thing becomes much more light-hearted and fun.
As parents, we have so much pressure put on us to “get it right”. When you take that stress away your love and sex lives can go through an incredible revolution. When we start learning what works for us, we can build really beautiful dynamics that are much more fulfilling for us, and in turn for our families as well.
Frolo Dating, a dating app just for single parents, will be launching soon. Sign up to the waitlist for Founding Member perks.