Single Moms' Guide to Dating

Stepping into the singles scene again after years of marriage and a focus on child rearing is many women's idea of a nightmare. Here, survival stories and smart advice from the front lines.
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Dismal Scene?

Before getting back into the dating game, Kris Brown, a 39-year-old recently divorced mother of a 3-year-old, took her time preparing and primping. She lost weight, got in shape, updated her look. And on one of her first ventures out into the singles scene -- at a speed-dating party where women spend a few minutes in rapid succession chatting with dozens of eligible men -- she actually met someone she thought she liked. "I e-mailed him, but he never responded," Brown says. "So I looked up his profile. He said he was only interested in younger, childless women. Apparently, from his point of view, I'm just some old lady with a kid."

As Brown and thousands of other newly single mothers across the country are finding, re-entering the dating scene can be downright depressing. And difficult, too. Factor in the heartbreak of divorce, the responsibility of raising children, the demands of a full-time job, the intricacies of negotiating a relationship with an ex-husband (more of whom have joint custody), and the hunt for a Friday-night babysitter, and it's enough to make any single mother opt to watch SpongeBob SquarePants videos with her kids rather than even entertain the prospect of sharing a martini with Mr. Maybe.

But not all is dark and dismal. In fact, many recently single moms are finding their new status happily liberating. For one thing, divorce doesn't carry quite the stigma it did in previous generations; women no longer feel they have to have a husband to legitimize their role as a mother. Second, because more divorced moms have careers and interests beyond their family, there's no longer a strong imperative to fill what used to be a gaping hole in their lives where their husbands once were.

Some 10 million households are headed by single mothers, up from 3 million 30 years ago. Clearly these households have become a permanent fixture among American families. As a result, the common perception of divorced moms -- desperate women anxious to find a new daddy for their kids -- has also changed. Today's divorcees are much more interested in reconstructing their own lives first. And because the modern divorced mom doesn't need to find a man, when she chooses to do so, she can do it on her own terms.

Single Moms Stats

  • Nearly 75 percent of divorced moms with kids at home are between the ages of 25 and 44.
  • The more children a divorced mother has (1.8 million divorced mothers have one child, 1.1 million have two, and half a million have three or more kids under 18 living at home), the less likely she is to remarry.
  • An estimated 75 percent of remarriages begin with cohabitation, compared with about 60 percent of first marriages.

Continued on page 2:  Getting Out There


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