When I got separated over a year ago, I thought I would never date again. Or, at the very least, I’d wait like five years. That sounded about right — I needed time to decompress. I was so busy with my kids, thigh-deep into my career, and didn’t want to give up “me” time.
That didn’t happen, of course. Women have wants, needs, and desires. We enjoy adult company, and sometimes that happens while talking to someone we are deeply attracted to over a glass of wine. Plus, I love getting dressed up, wearing heels, and talking to a man. I just needed some time away from them.
I also said I would never try online dating. It didn’t feel it was right for me and I wanted to meet someone organically while out on a run, at the grocery store, or while picking my kids up from school.
But it’s not that easy. And after talking with another single girlfriend who told me I needed to just do it, give it time, and realize I would talk to a lot of men and only connect with a few — I decided I’d think about it.
The following night, when my kids told me I should go on The Bachelor (for old people) because I’d probably go out on more dates that way, I realized I should give it a try. After all, what could go wrong, right?
Since then, I’ve learned a few things about what it’s like being a single mom who is meeting people online. The most important being: You have to know who you are, have self-confidence, and not let the pettiness of it get to you. Which I believe is true for all people who are putting themselves out there — but single moms are living a very different life than someone without kids, and dating takes a lot more out of us.
Here are a few things to think about if you’re a single mom who’s about to start dating guys online.
1. Don’t get attached.
For example, I have a date tonight and he might cancel. Who knows? It’s okay, though. I’ve never met him, and I refuse to get attached or get my hopes up until there have been a few dates and we are on the same page.
2. Some men aren’t interested in women who have kids, but don’t take it personally.
As a single mom, you might feel like your options are limited, but they really aren’t. There are plenty of men out there who want to take you out — who can’t wait to meet you. They might be older, younger, have kids of their own. It doesn’t matter. Just make sure you are looking for someone who matches your energy — not just a man who likes you, but is there to fill the void because you aren’t sure you can find anyone better.
Even if you are very honest and write on your profile that you have kids (which is what I do), you will have men not even read your profile, match with you, and when you say something about your children, they will freeze. Send them off with a smile. Men who aren’t comfortable if you have kids are extremely insecure, or think you are looking for a father for your children. You are dating for you, not for your children. Don’t take the time to explain that though, and don’t let it discourage you. On to the next.
3. You will be ignored.
No matter who you are, what you look like, how successful and happy you are, you will get ghosted, ignored, and have a man ask you out, seem really excited, then disappear. Again, don’t chase or ask them questions. Just move on. They aren’t worth an ounce of your energy.
4. Men want to see naked pictures of you, a lot.
If they ask if you have a Snapchat account, it’s because they want to send you naked pictures, and they want you to do the same — there is no exception to the rule here. If you aren’t into that, tell them you don’t play that way. If they disappear, again, see them to the door. They aren’t interested in seeing pictures of you behind cute filters and messaging about your day.
5. Chemistry is hard to come by online some of the time.
If a man seems a bit boring online, give them chance anyway. It’s impossible to feel chemistry through a computer, and if they don’t respond with a witty comeback to everything you say, it’s a good sign. It means they are truly being themselves and aren’t trying too hard.
6. You will be asked out in many different ways.
You will get invitations to “have drinks and see where the night takes you” — translation, let’s hook up. If you are interested in that, it can be deliciously fun. Same rules apply now that have always applied: If you want a relationship with a man, do not sleep with him on the first date. Otherwise, have fun and be careful.
You will be asked to meet for coffee. These are the men you will have the best conversations with (I have found) — the men who genuinely want to get to know you with no expectations.
You will be asked out to dinner — this is really, really nice. These men are like the coffee guys. There is substance there, and they probably won’t ask you about your Snapchat account … at least not until after a few more dates.
7. Don’t be afraid to ask a man out.
You should do some of the asking. I like taking charge and asking a man out. They like it too. I’ve been thanked many times for being assertive and putting it out there that I’d like to meet. I don’t want a pen pal; I want to genuinely get to know people. Not only that, when you do the asking, if they hesitate, move on. Can you see a common theme here? There is a lot of letting go and moving on happening in the online dating world. But it’s just getting you closer to a true connection, if that’s what you are looking for.
8. Listen to your inner voice.
If you aren’t comfortable with something they say, do, or how they act, take control and remember you are in charge. If you don’t want them walking you to your car, tell them. If you thought there would be unbelievable chemistry, but you aren’t feeling it and think you should be intimate with them anyway, don’t. If they want to see you again, but you aren’t digging them, they are rude, or just not your type, don’t feel like you owe them an explanation — just say you aren’t interested and wish them luck. It will be better for both of you in the long run.
9. Have a good contact.
Make sure you tell someone you trust where you are going and what time you are meeting. Send them a screenshot of the person you are going on a date with, and as much information as you can about the person. Tell them you will text on your way home, or touch base if the date will be an all-nighter.
Online dating as a single mom is hard. There are other people to think about, you need to remember your safety comes first, and your time is valuable. But it is deliciously fun if you don’t take things personally or compromise your integrity.
It can be a great tool to meet people when you are so busy with kids, work, and have a social life.
And remember — you’ve gotten through ending a relationship — you can totally handle this.