The Single Mom Conundrum

Childrens ToysI’m a single mom and my child is the first thing on my mind at all times. But I don’t want to be defined by my single-mom status.

I am so much more than that and besides, the label has such depressing connotations — desperation, loneliness, sadness. Yet I am none of those things. So when it comes to online dating, when is the ideal time to reveal your single-parent status?

My first ad on lavalife.com was honest. I said that I was a single mom but not looking for anyone to rescue me, thank you very much. I got a few hits from really strange guys. One sexy guy smiled at me, but said he’d only be interested in some fun, as he’d had enough of the single mother type.

I was furious. I’m not a type just because I’ve had a child. So after some depressing experiences, I’ve stopped mentioning my child in my ad.

Is it Wrong to Avoid Mentioning Your Child in Your Ad?

“No,” says Sherrie Schneider, co-author of The Rules for Online Dating. “Nowhere in your ad should you mention your children. Don’t say that you love hugging your three-year-old or taking walks with your teen. And never, ever, post a photograph online that shows you with your kids.”

Its not that Schneider advocates pretending that the kids don’t exist. If there’s a fact box to check that asks whether you have any, you should check yes, but you shouldn’t offer any further info on the topic if you want to attract a man.

Operating on a need-to-know basis is also advocated by Sharon McKenna, author of Sex and the Single Mother. “It seems deceptive not to disclose it, but unless they ask you directly or you’re out on a date and it seems like there’s a real chance of romance, telling them isn’t necessary,” she says, “but, if it feels like something good could develop, you need to tell them straight away.”

One single mom I know, Ally*, admitted to placing two ads, one that mentions her child and one that doesn’t. “My barren ad attracted more men,” she says. “It’s like the Internet mimics the real world. Who knew?”

Do Single Dads Get the Same Reaction as Single Moms?

Strangely enough, being a single dad doesn’t seem to have the same effect on the number of hits you get or mean that you only hear from single moms. James says that his ad, which mentions that his children are the most important thing in his life, brings him lots of dates.

“Honestly, I think that women feel like I’m less likely to be a jerk because I’m a dad,” he says, “which is probably true to some extent, as having children made me become a lot more mature and dependable than my childless friends.”

When looking through personal ads it can be cringe-inducing to see how some guys use their kids to show you how nice they are. Putting pictures of your kids up on a dating site is pretty creepy whether you are male or female. But when browsing through ads, this tends to be something guys do much more readily. “I would never do that,” says James.

My kids aren’t some kind of bargaining chips for me to show what cute babies I can make.

How do You Find the Right Matches?

Another friend, Helen, always mentions her son somewhere in her profile, though she does it discreetly. “As much as I am looking for someone, I am screening people as well,” she explains. “I wouldn’t want to be with someone who dislikes children or doesn’t get the limitations that having a child places on dating. For example, I cannot just go on spontaneous dates or away for a weekend without enough notice to get a sitter.”

I had a few interesting IM chats with a guy who seemed interesting but just didn’t get the single parent thing even though we’d discussed it (briefly). He’d email me in the middle of the day and ask if we could meet for drinks that evening, then get irritated when I’d say no. He just couldn’t understand that it was impossible to get away with an hour’s notice. Needless to say, we never actually met in real life.

Before you do actually drop the bombshell that you are a mom, it’s going to be a whole lot easier if you know a little about your potential paramour’s history. McKenna asks whether her dates have been married, how they feel about children and other subtly probing questions. “It gives you some context and you’re better equipped to tell them your story,” she says.

How they feel about you having a child is a good indicator of whether or not you could continue to date them. Though it’s really good if a guy is interested in hearing about your child, you don’t want it to be the sole topic of conversation. When a guy is overly interested in your child it can be a turn-off. Ally finds it creepy when a date shows too much interest, which has happened: “Open and interested is good. Offering to baby-sit is weird.”

Unfortunately, no matter how cool you think a guy is, he may lose interest once he finds out about your kids. “It just means that he wasn’t the right guy,” says Schneider, “and is not worth worrying about.”

Finding out that there are plenty of men out there who won’t date single parents can be shocking but if you don’t disclose about your children you’re looking for trouble.

“You don’t need to be with people that are so rigid they won’t date someone with a child, how they react to you telling them about your child is a great screening process,” says McKenna.

If they lose interest in you because of your child then screw them, they wouldn’t have been worth dating anyway.

* Names have been changed to ensure privacy

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By Lola Augustine Brown

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