Single Moms' Guide to Dating
And Boyfriend Makes Three
Moms may be happier daters than non-parents, but that doesn't necessarily mean they're busier at it. After all, a child is not exactly a man magnet. "When I meet men, they may be attracted to me, but 90 percent of the time when they find out I have a kid, I hit a brick wall," says Beth Jann, a 32-year-old apartment-building manager from Dunwoody, Georgia. "There have been occasions when a guy has asked me out, but when I tell him about my child, it becomes a courtesy date," she says. "They've already asked me, so they don't want to back off right away. But I never hear from them again." Other men assume that a young divorced mother is desperate for affection and attention, and take advantage of the assumption that "other guys" may not be as interested in her as they are in younger, never-married women. "So many guys just assume I'm an easy date because I'm desperate for love," Jann laments.
It's true that some guys will see a divorced mom as a simple sexual conquest, cautions Judith Wallerstein, PhD, author of What About the Kids? Raising Your Children Before, During, and After Divorce (Hyperion, 2003). "There are a whole lot of guys out there who think that because you're lonely, you'll be easy to hit on." Wallerstein says divorced moms need to be extra wary that certain kinds of men are not allowed to take advantage. The bottom line, she says, is that "divorced moms need to find out what a man's motives are before becoming involved with him."
Kathy Etz, of Washington, D.C., could have used some warning before she jumped into the singles scene. The 37-year-old separated mom of a 3-year-old son can tick off a list of disaster dates. There was the guy she went out with once who then proceeded to call her at 2 a.m. (Hello?!), and the man who told her at the end of their first outing, "I'm not freaked out that you're a mom. Really, I'm not!" There was also the 38-year-old (now ex) boyfriend who nicknamed her Hottie Mama and said she was like "instant family -- just add water."
There's no doubt that some men, especially those who have never had kids, can be turned off when they come up against the diapers-and-daycare reality of a single mom's daily life. "The kind of man I want to date needs to be comfortable doing boring parental-type things, like taking my son to Chuck E. Cheese's," says Jann. "I can't just drop everything for a spur-of-the-moment Tuesday night date, and guys often don't understand that." For most women, being a mother is their clear priority.
"Being a divorced mom and single woman is like having a split personality," agrees Jill Neal, a 33-year-old paralegal from Perry Hall, Maryland. A good 90 percent of the time she's "the mom" and her priority is her 5-year-old daughter. The other 10 percent, when she's on a date or doing something in the interest of getting one, Neal feels like she did in her 20s. "At first, I felt guilty because I'd be out on a date or at a party, and realize, 'Wow, I'm out here having fun.' It felt weird being a mom and dating at the same time," says Neal. "But I realized I'm a person, not just a mom. And dating gives me back the self-confidence my divorce robbed from me -- big time."