When people start dating and having romantic relationships in their late teens and early twenties, few are concerned with the possibility of dating a single parent. But as these same daters progress into their twenties and thirties the begin to discover that, a significant portion of their dating pool have children by their previous partners. In fact a recent CNN story suggests that there are nearly 12 million single mothers living in the US alone, assuming there is an equal number of single fathers that is nearly 10% of the adult population!
Clearly if you stay single long enough then chances are good that you will come across a potential partner who is also a parent. This being the case, it makes sense to familiarize yourself with the struggles single parents face so that you can be a empathetic and caring partner. It also makes sense, in the short-term to learn some tips for casually dating a single parent. It is an interesting dynamic and it brings up some challenges, and unfortunately not everyone is able to handle it.
Tip #1 – Assess Your Ability To Be A Good Partner For A Single Parent. For whatever reason, some people don’t have the flexibility, patience, tolerance and other personal characteristics that a single parent needs in a romantic partner. It is important that you understand this before starting a relationship. If you don’t think you can handle it, you should let the person you are dating know as soon as you can to avoid causing them a lot of heartache later on.
Tip #2 – Accept The Fact That You Will Need To Be Flexible About Spending Time Together. The first thing you should know is that a single mom or dad won’t have as much time to go on dates and just hang out as people without children do. In most cases, a single parent will feel that their children should come first, and you need to respect that. You will have to plan dates around their schedule and it might be difficult to get used to.
Tip #3 – You Need To Be Flexible About Spending Time With Their Kids. A lot of single parents will not want you to meet their children for a long time. This obviously depends on the child and the personality of the person you date. Many people worry that meeting too many boyfriends or girlfriends would be hard on their kids, and set a bad example, and frankly I agree with them. Others want the people they date to be a part of their kid’s lives right away (IMHO a big mistake), but it just depends on how they feel about things.
You need to be flexible and roll with the punches. These are the kinds of things that you will surely discuss with somebody you see as a potential candidate for a long term relationship before things get too serious. Don’t assume she or he will do one thing over another. You never know and you don’t want to go into the relationship assuming anything.
Tip #4 – Learn A Bit About Children And Parenting. Single parents have a great number of responsibilities that childless folks can’t even imagine. Take potty training for instance. If you don’t have kids then you likely have know idea what it is like to change 6 or so wet diapers a day (per kid) plus a couple of poopy ones too. Of course if you are dating someone with older children then this kind of thing may be ancient history in your partners mind, and the daily parenting duties may have eased up a bit. But if you are dating somebody with children under 5 years old then believe me they have really got their hands full! It’s not just changing dirty diapers either. Moms and dads of young kids are constantly responding to their children’s demands, getting them juice and snacks, potty training them, and keeping them safe and occupied with educational activities. It’s a lot of work. I’m not saying that you need to become a potty training expert, or learn to make the perfect PB&J sandwich to date a single parent, but having an idea of what they are going through will definitely be helpful.
Tip #5 – Realize It’s Going To Be Complicated, At Least For A While. As much as we may wish that this would be a simple process, you need to understand that if you’re going to take it to the next level, then it’s going to be complicated. Your partner will really need to think about their children when they are trying to decide if you are the right person to commit to. They might need a lot of time to decide and you shouldn’t rush them into making a decision about it.
It can be hard to get back out there after a divorce or a death of a partner. If you are going to be dating a single parent you need to be aware of this and understand what things might be like. Take it slow, ask questions and do your best to be respectful of their feelings. If you can do these things you have a better chance of making the relationship work.