Being single in your 20s is fun. It's a time of exploration, casual sex, exciting dates and awkward hookups. It's about not knowing what to text him back, and screenshotting your friends his message so they can weigh in on what to respond back. It's about being insecure, feeling sexy, laughing, doing fun random things and being heartbroken all at the same time.
But, dating as a single mom (I became a mom at 20 and a single one at 24.) comes with a unique set of hurdles. Many people have pre-conceived misconceptions about dating a parent, or they are just too completely freaked out about me having a kid to even try to bang me. Slow down bud, my kid doesn't need a new daddy, and I'm scarred enough from my first marriage to want to do that again.
There are some surprising (and maybe not so surprising) truths and obstacles I've had to struggle with over the past four years of very actively dating a simultaneous single mom, divorcee and Millennial. Let me clear a few things up for you.
1. I need plans.
My ex and I split 50/50 custody. As much as I wish I could be super spontaneous all the time, I just can't. Some of my other Millennial friends are DFW and a last minute hangout sesh is all gravy, but 95 percent of the time, I need to make plans in advance.
My mom days are my mom days, and I usually fill out my non-mom days with social activities, hitting a SoulCycle class and sometimes getting about 30-minutes of downtime. Some of my gentlemen suitors are better than others at figuring out when we are both free ahead of time and going from there.
2. I don't want to get married.
So, yeah, I did that. It was pretty sucky, and I'm not ready to go for round two, perhaps ever. While many of my peers are mucking up my Instagram feed with nauseating pictures of their happy engagements and keys to their starter nest, I'm just not into it at the moment.
When I tell a new mate that my future plans may not necessarily include tying the knot, I see the look of shock drop from his jaw. Many of my man friends immediately assume since I already have a kid, I'm looking to settle down. But, I have a very “been there, done that,” attitude towards marriage. My independence is very valuable to me, and not having to be accountable to anyone —besides my kid — is a freeing feeling.
Marriage is not necessarily out of the question for me, and while I value a strong human connection, pledging our eternal devotion is not the end goal for me when I date. Although, I'm not necessarily looking for my “forever guy,” I'm usually not looking for one-night stand, either.
3. I don't want you to meet my kid.
Some single mamas introduce their kid(s) to their mate relatively quickly, and to each their own, but that's just not my scene. Keeping my kid out of my dating rollercoasters is insanely important to me, for her emotional security and my sanity. I use my “off” time to do adult activities, while my mom time is spent at softball games, school concerts and play dates.
So, potential suitors, don't get freaked out that you'll have to play daddy and now spend your weekends at Sky Zone and Chuck E. Cheese. Feel free to use the days I'm with my kid to go out with your bros, jerk off and hang out with other chicks if we are not exclusive.
4. This isn't a game, I'm actually busy.
When it takes a while to get back to you, I'm not “playing it cool” or waiting for the appropriate moment to respond to your text. I'm not intentionally saying I can't hang out to play hard to get. I work, run a side business, write, have a social and family life and have those daunting parenting responsibilities so I can't always engage in flirty text message banter. It's not you, it's me, I swear!
5. I'm still a millennial.
Sometimes I'm insecure, I can be a little flakey, I talk sh*t to my friends and I'll probably talk about your sexual prowess (or lack thereof). There is a strong possibility I'll screenshot our conversations and send them to my friends to either collectively swoon or mock.
Just because I'm a parent doesn't mean I have my sh*t together or know what I'm doing. Like every other Gen-Y-er, I'm struggling with trying to “find” myself, “define” myself and still manage to fit in basic bitch activities like bottomless brunch and hot yoga.
6. I don't really want to talk about my kid.
As much as I love bragging about my girl, I know it's not all that fascinating to someone who is not emotionally involved in her life. Plus, when I'm with a love interest, showing a video of her latest cheerleading routine isn't exactly sexy.
I write, travel, read, try new stuff and avidly consume media. I have plenty of other interests to discuss rather than my daughter's string of “outstandings” on her latest report card. I think it's cute when a mate asks about my daughter, but honestly, it's a total snooze fest as a main topic of discussion.
7. But, I talk about dating with my kid.
While I've never introduced any guy I've dated to my daughter, I do talk about dating with my child in appropriate 7-year-old terms. The goal is to normalize dating (and eventually sex), so she sees it as an appropriate topic to broach with me when the time comes. I don't want her to think seeing men is wrong or taboo; it's a perfectly normal, natural thing to do.
I also make it clear it's perfectly OK to date women as well if she feels so inclined (as I have done the same).
At the end of the day, my kid isn't my entire life. Yes, she is a big part of what makes Abbey go 'round, but my world does not revolve around her. I don't think that's a bad thing at all.
I show up at every dance recital, go on vacation with her and I enjoy motherhood as much as I can. But curating and cultivating my own identity is a priority. From my career to my social circle, and, of course, my dating life, I actively try not to “sacrifice” anything.
Living a full life and keeping myself romantically and sexually satisfied makes me a happy and whole person, and more able to show up for my daughter in a positive and engaged way. So, perhaps dating me is maybe a little different than dating a non-mother, but it's really not that weird.