Single Parent's Guide to Dating

How To Raise A Child and Have a Life
"So, when are you going to start dating?" In the single parent community, there is an expectation that everyone is or wants to be dating. There's endless chatter about "this guy" or that "hot babe" that I met online. How do you know when you're ready to step up your social life to include dating?

No one would doubt that your life is full - perhaps even overly full. But is it fun? Is it going somewhere? Are you becoming increasingly more balanced and more interesting?

Dating as a mom or a dad has a whole different set of rules from dating unattached. Let's answers some questions that will help you know if dating is right for you.

Why Date?
Dating as a single parent is a high risk activity. Before you consider dating, you'll want to self-assess why you think you want or need to date. You'll want to examine your values: think about what's important. At the end of the day, are you lonely? Are you looking for approval? Are you looking for connection? Are you looking for love? Do you want to be married? Are you looking for someone to help you parent?

Depending on your answers to these questions, you may be able to determine if what you're really after is just a couple nights out with some girlfriends/guy-friends. You may need to invest more in existing relationships - such as time with your parents or siblings. You may need to develop a hobby such as photography or running that brings you into a ready-made community.

Some advisors would say to begin dating only when your life is complete without dating. That way, you're able to enter into a relationship ready to give.

By contrast, your life may be going fairly well, but you recognize that you're becoming very one-dimensional. You know you'd be a better parent and better co-worker if you could reintroduce laughter into your world. Since, despite the risks, dating can be ultra fun, you know you're ready to get out and laugh the evening away.

How to Date?
You'll need confidence. Breakups and single parenting can drain your confidence. You may have to dig deep and look back to what you were like before you became who you are now. Work on any confidence-drainers such as your appearance or your relationship with your past.

You'll need boundaries. To protect yourself, you'll need boundaries that keep you and your kids safe both physically and physically. Experts agree that dating is an adult activity that children should be protected from until there is a firm commitment to a lasting relationship. Sleepovers? Have a good answer to "Why would I sleep with this guy/girl?" before you'd consider it.

You'll need authenticity. That doesn't mean you have to tell all on the first date. There are plenty of comfortable topics to cover before you work your way to the kids and the divorce. You will want to be genuine and not try so hard to impress that you stop being you.

You'll need street smarts. Read up on dating rules and etiquette. Get someone who's already into the dating scene to help you decipher the nuances of the coded language.

Given your responsibility as a mom or dad, you have likely figured out that finding a date in the party scene is not a healthy decision. As a responsible adult, you'd like to meet other responsible adults - not a runaway who's looking to score at the bar.

So where do you meet responsible, fun-loving adults?

Online dating services help tremendously with the meeting and "pre-screening" process. Some of the popular sites include Single Parent Match, Single Parent Meet, and Single Parent Love.

Depending on the level of membership, you can browse profiles, chat, video chat, and more before meeting in person. With some experience, users become savvy at detecting who they want to meet and who they want to avoid.

Other options for meeting potential dates include social gatherings where adults hang out. You could meet someone in the stands of a Little League game, or it may be at church or volunteering in a community action group.

Who to Date?
You'll want to date someone who understands your life as a single, working parent. Your commitment to parenting and providing for yourself and your children comes first. Anyone whom you would consider dating, needs to respect and support your commitments.

You may love the idea of dating another single parent and creating a blended family. You may know you aren't ready to parent additional children. A couple things are certain. You want to avoid dates that make you feel "uncomfortable," and you want to date someone who already has a variety of healthy, interesting relationships.

When to Date?
Complex question - it covers everything from "How soon after my divorce do I start dating?" to "How do I find the time?"

Successful dating is a colossal amount of selfless work. It take time and energy to build new relationships. When your needs are met, your kids' needs are met, and you're able to focus on his/her needs and the needs of his/her children, you're ready. It takes a lot of "you" to make it happen.

Generally speaking, men enter the dating scene sooner after a separation than women do. If your self-assessment shows you it's time, how long you've been separated isn't of primary importance as long as you're going to take things slow. You're an adult. You have a child. No one needs to be in a hurry.

And as far as the schedule...some single parents take advantage of nights or weekends when the children are with their other parent. Others fit dating into little snippets of time such as lunch hour or a few hours after work when your children are with a caregiver.

Dating as a single parent can bring such fun to your responsibility-filled days. With your life experience, you know what you want and what you deserve. Enjoy your journey and the people you meet along the way.