Your detour to Mr. Right.
By Paul Carrick Brunson
Dating isn't easy. Period. As a matchmaker, I know firsthand that the dating scene can be even tougher on single moms. Right now, there are more single mothers in the United States than there have ever been in history. Six out of 10 of women giving birth in their early 20s are single. Many older women are divorced or they also find themselves looking for love as they juggle the responsibilities of being the primary caretaker of a child. Here are some of the pitfalls I recommend single moms avoid on their quest to find Mr. Right/Mr. Perfect Stepdad.
1. Stop worrying about your ex's love life.
As long as he's not introducing your child to the people he is dating without talking to you first, his love life is (thankfully!) no longer any of your business. Your child is all that matters. His new woman? Not so much.
2. Be flexible.
Your situation isn't always perfect; but no one's life ever is. Sometimes you have to cancel plans because your child comes first – that's real – so be understanding when the men you date also have to make adjustments to their schedules.
3. Don't expect him to overcompensate for your ex's shortcomings.
Your ex may have been inattentive, distracted or perpetually broke, but that doesn't mean the new man in your life will immediately put on a Superman cape and save you from all of those frustrations. (Let him be his own man.) That said, you shouldn't put on that cape either. Keep being the good mother you are and don't worry about overdoing it or expecting him to. Just go with the flow.
4. Don't assess his parenting abilities on the first date.
Remember fun? It was this great thing you used to have when you went out on dates and things were still fresh and new. It's still OK to have some, even though you're a mother now. As long as your child is taken care of and you're careful of who is and isn't in their life, there's no reason to turn a first date into an interrogation. Just go with the flow.
5. Don't force it with the little ones.
You just can't control how they will or won't feel when you're dating again and you finally introduce them. You can't take it personal if your child is disinterested in the new guy. Give your little one the space he or she needs to figure things out. Don't force it.
6. Accept that your kids will still like dad more.
Sure, we get it. He hasn't done what you think he should be doing. But, he's still your child's father. It's only natural that your child still loves him. After all, dad has been there since the beginning (ideally) and new guy is, well, "new". Give the kid his or her space.
7. Don't feel guilty about getting back out there.
You're a mom, but you're still a human being. You still want love and that's totally okay. You still need attention and affection, and that's expected. As long as you're taking care of business at home, don't feel bad for wanting to get a babysitter and have a nice night out with someone special or someone new. You deserve it!
8. Don't try to do it all on your own.
Being a single parent is overwhelming. When you start dating again, reach out to your larger social network – family, friends, people you trust – to help you navigate the waters between single mom and single mom who dates.
You'll need these individuals for both emotional and physical support. (Not to mention the occasional babysitters.) Don't feel bad that you need people to get the job done right. That comes with the territory.
9. Don't bad mouth your ex (especially while on a date).
This rule applies whether you're talking to your child or a date. Nothing good comes from badmouthing your ex. When you have a child together, you have to co-parent. This means you'll need to interact and try to have everyone get along.
Plus, bashing the old guy to the new guy makes it seem like you're still not over that relationship. No one wants to date the woman still hung up on the last guy.
10. Don't introduce him to your kids too soon.
This is the biggest, most important thing to always remember when dating as a single mom: You can date someone, but they don't need to go to your house or get to know your kids, unless things are really serious – like marriage serious.
Children grow attached quickly to people and are emotionally shattered when those people suddenly disappear because a relationship didn't work out. Don't make the mistake of letting your new boyfriend watch your children. He may not be fully capable of caring for a child – let alone one that's not his. Get to know your partner first and get to know them well.
This article was originally published at Essence. Reprinted with permission from the author.