Dating as a single mother: can you be bothered?

Are you dating? As a single mother it's a question you get asked a lot. Here's my answer | single mum dating, single mom dating, dating tips, single mother by choice, choice mum, choice mom, single parent dating, dating after divorce, dating adviceAre you dating? As a single mother, it’s a question you get asked a lot. By family, by friends, by random strangers even. My answer? My dating days are over. I’m done.

Not just because as a single mum there’s very little time or opportunity to be ‘out there’.  But because frankly, I can’t be arsed.

Is that lazy? Is it self-defeating? A form of self-punishment? Perhaps. But it’s also just weariness.

20 years. That’s how much of my life I’ve spent either dating or actively looking for a relationship. Preening, searching, flirting, putting myself out there in the hope of meeting Mr Right.

I’ve only spent 8 years of my life in relationships. The rest of my 45 years I’ve been a single girl about town. Until I became a single mother who’s definitely NOT ‘about-town’.

I gave the best years of my life up to the pursuit of love.

From the age of 16 to 38, my life was devoted to being out there. Going to bars, clubs, parties, and even choosing holidays based on the potential of meeting someone.

Drink in hand, eyes darting around the room, waiting to lock gazes with ‘the one’. But for whatever reason – I probably need a psychiatrist to help me figure that one out – I never won the prize.

I tried it all. Internet dating, speed dating (once!), being set up by friends. Rekindling romances with exes (never a good idea!).

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been in love. Wild, passionate, divine, life-affirming love. But every time I’ve either fallen out of love or had my heart stamped on. Wrung up and squeezed out.

Do I sound bitter? I think so. I probably am. But more than anything I got bored. Tired of that ‘quest’ dominating my life.

All that looking at the door in countless bars waiting for my latest paramour to walk in. All that energy I put into getting dressed up in the perfect outfit, the perfect shoes, the perfect earrings to render the object of my desire unable to resist.

Or so I imagined. As if it hinged on such details.

All that agonising over whether he would call, whether I should call him, did he like me? When should I sleep with him? When was it OK to call him my boyfriend?

It all seems so trivial and ridiculous now.

I want no more part of it. Every now and then friends will say: “We need to find you a man.” And I nod and say ‘Uh-huh’” because that’s what they want to hear. But inwardly I’m thinking, “Ugh, why? I’m fine as I am. I’ve played that game. I’m done.”

Sending my dating heels into early retirement

After a particularly punishing heartbreak, and with the deafening ticking of my biological clock drowning out all else, I decided to retire my dating heels and take matters into my own hands.

I was tired of dating and relationships being the focus of my life. I was bored senseless by the endless rounds of bars, restaurants, nightclubs. The constant wondering if finally, I’d met ‘the one’.

I’d stare around the room, drink in hand, the prospect of a hangover looming, wishing I had an excuse NOT to have to be out there anymore. Wishing my life had more purpose.

And having a child has given me just that – purpose. A reason to want to be at home. A whole new centre to revolve around. A centre that’s not just about me, me, me.

Having a child by myself means I’m no longer dependent on approval from anyone else to get what I want. My life is my own and having my daughter has given me someone else to live for beyond myself.

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Now I’m a single mother, I have dated occasionally. I’ve fallen in ‘lust’, but not love, and fooled myself that I could be happy with someone. But I’ve made the same mistake of falling for men who will never be who I need them to be.

As a single mother dating isn’t the be all and end all

So yes, admittedly disappointment has rendered me reluctant to expose myself again. I’ve lost faith in my own judgement.

But I’ve also just moved on, moved past the point of caring. Moved to a stage of my life where being with someone isn’t the be all and end all anymore.

I don’t need to be in bars or pubs to meet someone, I know that. I feel like a fish out of water in places that like now. But it’s not the venue so much as the mindset I’ve had enough of.

The being on constant watch, the looking over your shoulder at the man who’s locked eyes with you across the room. The being on the hunt, your instincts on alert for a potential mate.

I’ve switched those instincts off. I’ve stored them away. I don’t want to be in dating ‘mode’ anymore.

I’m not denying my needs or desires. I’m simply letting other needs and desires get their time in the sun. Needs and desires that for most of my life were dominated by the need to attract the right man.

I’ve never had trouble attracting men. But I attracted the wrong men, mostly. Or failed to recognise the good ones, until it was much too late.

Now I want my life to be about more profound achievements

Dating as a single mother: can you be bothered?Until the last five years I’ve never been short of male attention. When I wanted it, it was there. And now it’s not. But I see it for what it was. Empty. Baseless. And not really about me at all.

I had ALOT of fun. I’ve lived, I’ve partied, I’ve been wined, dined and romanced. But now I want my life to be about other things. The primal urge to find a mate and breed is no longer the driving force in my life.

Now it’s about more profound achievements. Being a good mother. Reaching my potential as a human being, as a woman and as a member of the society I live in.

There’s a greater purpose. Showing my daughter what’s possible. And yes maybe, being part of a successful relationship – whatever that looks like – will be part of that one day. But not until I’ve learned to trust myself again.

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I was a foolish, arrogant young girl who’s head was swayed for all the wrong reasons. And what’s worse is I failed to learn the lessons. I made the same mistakes over and over.

I see now that many of men I dated didn’t see me, they didn’t want me for me, they wanted an illusion. And I was easily flattered.

The goofy Convent girl who never got a look in was flattered beyond belief when suddenly in her late teens and early twenties male attention came her way.

It was the wrong kind of attention but I lapped it up. What a waste. I was a smart girl, but not smart enough to see the truth.

Mostly they’re attention only went skin deep. They never looked deep inside me to connect with who I really was.  Not all of them, but most.

The thing is I was guilty of the same shallowness. The handsome alpha-male. I thought it made me look good to be with a man like that. It just made me look stupid.

Now I don’t trust my judgement. I don’t trust my ability to spot the men who don’t really see me, for whom it’s all about them.

So yes, it’s safer to stay hidden away in my safe place.

Besides, I’ve got too much going on in my life to have any time to put into online dating. And how else do you meet anyone new these days? It’s a commitment I don’t have space for.

So the safe place is where I choose to be right now. Curled up on my sofa watching Netflix or writing this blog, my daughter asleep upstairs. That has far more appeal than being ‘out there’.

I like my sofa. I like being at home in my slippers. I’m not afraid to be alone anymore.

Hang on, I’m not alone, I have E. And I have my mum – and frankly she’s far more reliable than any man ever has been.

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Maybe one day the right energy will return. The right frame of mind.

I have glimmers of it every now and then. Not long ago I had a flash of longing while remembering the happiest days of my best relationship. What it felt like to have his eyes on me, to be in the company of a man I love and who had no doubt loved me too. Yes, one day I’d like to experience that again.

Maybe as I go about my life I’ll cross paths with someone who adds a spring to my step, someone who makes love easy. But I’m not actively seeking that. Not anymore.

I don’t have the energy. I honestly don’t have the need. And I don’t have the capacity to handle disappointment, complications, the weight of someone else’s baggage. My own is heavy enough.

If ever that person does arrive in my life one thing I’m clear about. They need to add more than they take away.

They need to bring a positivity I immediately recognise will be valuable in both our lives. And to give more than they take. Because they want to. Not because I ask for it.

And those warning bells, those red flags I’ve ignored in the past. Ploughing on optimistically. They’ll never go unheeded again. I’ve learned that lesson the hardest way.

There’ll be no chasing. No striving. No searching. My long retired party heels have been replaced by a sensible pair of slippers. So much better for my feet.

No more flashy Jimmy Choos. Only warm, comfortable ugg boots I can wear forever, please.

I see women my age out there in the dating world – watching ‘First Dates’ on Channel 4 is as close to dating as I want to get – and wonder how they can be bothered?

Maybe their kids are older? Maybe they’ve got a more positive attitude? Maybe they’ve got more energy?

It all looks exhausting. Getting dressed up. Doing your hair and make-up. Spending hours preparing yourself. Battling nerves and downing too much prosecco.

For what? A kiss and a fumble with someone who’s a million miles away from being someone you’d want to spend your life with?

I don’t need the complication in my life. Or the mess to clear up afterwards.

My child provides enough drama in my life I don’t need to invite any more.I’ve moved on. I’m content where I am. Maybe not deliriously happy. But definitely content.

And when I’m not, when something shifts, when space opens up, I’ll do something about it then. But not now. Now, I’m content to be right where I am.

How do you feel about dating? Are you putting yourself out there? Or like me, are you content at home in your slippers?

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    1. Thanks lovely! Glad you enjoyed it!

  1. What an inspiring post. Such an important message for your daughter too, that there is more to life than finding a partner, it’s about loving yourself and being comfortable with who YOU are, not who you are with. Love this #brillblogposts

    1. Thank you Susie! And yes, that’s exactly the message I want my daughter to have – self-worth comes from inside not from who you’re with. Thank you so much for stopping by!

  2. Great post Emma! My daughter has just started her journey as a single mum of two five months ago – toddler and baby. It’s not easy, and I can certainly see how it would be partly the reason to remain single. Women and men buy into the message of partnership but it doesn’t have to be that way. We (and I’m specifically talking about women here) can live life as resilient, strong, loving and interesting single people. Jeanette x

    1. Thank you Jeanette. I hope your daughter’s doing OK – it’s not easy but single motherhood can also be empowering. I’ve certainly discovered capabilities and inner strength I never knew I had before. And you’re right we don’t all have to live in partnerships – that’s the ideal we are sold, but it’s not nencessarily for us all, all the time. x

    1. Thank you Vicki – and that you for taking the time to read it xx

  3. What a great post. I have been a single mom to my 2 girls for 13 years now. At the beginning, like you did, I tried dating – dating websites, being set up by friends…and it was exciting at first- that spark of electricity you feel – but reality would quickly set in and it became more of a hassle. I loved your line “They need to add more than they take away.” That is exactly how I felt, how I still feel. And at this point, I guess I’ve gotten pretty set in my ways. I would find it difficult to fold someone back in – I like the freedom of doing what I want, when I want without checking in with anyone. Maybe one day..when the girls are on their own..maybe.

    1. Yes, it’s harder than you realise to bring someone into your life, and your children’s lives – plus taking the complexities of their life too. And I’m the same as you. I hear friends saying their husband wouldn’t like them doing something or other and I think ‘thank god I don’t have to ask anyone else’s permission’!’ My thinking is that the right person would make all of that easy…you never know, it could be other for both of us – one day!

  4. EJ McKinley says:

    I’m in the same boat! After divorcing a narcissist 6 years ago (who then skipped town and all responsibilities for our two young kids) I’ve dated a handful of men… only one of whom I loved. But even the one whom I loved and dated for 2.5 years demanded more time and attention from me that took my energy away from being the mom and individual I wanted to be. i don’t have the mental bandwidth to take care of the needs of a man on top of my kids, my career, and myself… and let’s face it – men are needy. I’m comforted to hear another woman shout out her happiness in the choice not to date. Thanks for posting!

    1. I totally agree with you! I seem to become less me when I’m in a relationship – the not so great ones anyway – so until someone who makes it easy to be me (and doesn’t expect to be taken care of like another child!) comes along then I’m steering well clear! (ps. apologies for the slow response!)

  5. This resonated do deeply! I’n just turned 38 with a two year old and honestly so exhausted each day with work and mothering I’m not sure I have capacity to date. I do miss companionship but like you I had many failed attempts and it was very draining. This: I don’t have the energy. I honestly don’t have the need. And I don’t have the capacity to handle disappointment, complications, the weight of someone else’s baggage. My own is heavy enough.

    1. Hi Danielle – so glad my words meant something to you. As a single mum of a two year old I used to often wonder wonder how on earth people had time for a relationship! To be honest, it’s often been other people’s discomfort with me being single that has persuaded me to ‘date’ – the annoying ‘you’re too great to be single’ type comments – but now I don’t let it get to me. I’m happy as I am and they can just accept that! If someone great comes into my life, all well and good, but I’m not going looking for it. I’ve got enough to do without that too!

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