Are My Kids Keeping Me From Finding Love?

kids keeping mom from finding new love

I fall into the majority of divorced women with a degree who are looking on line, but with children. Dating with children changes the rules of the game entirely. For both men and women. As a single person without children you are open to possibilities, open to long distance relationships even, but when the kids are around then we have to change our mindset to realizing that we are Teflon until the kids are out of the house, that the Brady Bunch was just a fantasy TV sitcom, and that living a life of dating without the kids makes us live two lives, one with kids and one without. Soon enough you’re going to resent one of them, if not both, and the idea of bringing your children along for dates is not really something acceptable.

So you can talk about what your dating life as a single man was like –you wanted a woman who you could have children with, so you probably didn’t date women with children and if you did you soon found out that they needed to be thrown back. That’s how I feel, that every man I meet will never really date me for a serious relationship because I have children, and especially if he has his too, then it’s like he can understand but he also doesn’t want to pick up someone else’s slack. Perhaps you can recommend a different resource…or you can explain how your comments apply when it comes to dating with children.

Try it with your wife…pretend the kids were not yours, and you were dating her…how would that change everything? —Joy


Thanks for your email, as it reveals both some truths and blind spots.

Truth: it’s a lot easier to date if you don’t have kids.

People without children don’t have much of a concept of what it’s like to be tethered to home for feeding, napping, school, and extracurricular activities. Your life isn’t entirely your own.

The thing is: this isn’t news to anybody.

If you are confident, self-aware, have a high emotional IQ, a low tolerance for being mistreated and understand the opposite sex, you’re going to do well in relationships.

This just reveals your blind spot — you keep on choosing men without kids. And because you keep choosing men without kids, you’ve come to the conclusion that the Brady Bunch life is a fantasy. Hate to tell you, sweetie, but the reason that the Brady Bunch is NOT a fantasy is because both Mike and Carol HAD kids.

To be fair, you almost figure this out by the end of your email: “If he has (kids) too, then it’s like he can understand but he doesn’t want to pick up someone else’s slack.”

Pick up someone else’s slack?

He has his kids to raise. You have your kids to raise. He doesn’t have to pick up your slack. He has to understand that, as a parent, you need a little slack, because you don’t control your own schedule.

The tone of your email suggests that because I am a single guy who found love with a childless woman that my advice is invalid to you. That’s not remotely true.

Everyone likes to think her situation is particularly unique. It’s not.

Once people hit their mid-40s, tons of guys become available because that’s when the married-with-kids guys who got married in their 20s are divorcing, so suddenly you can date your peers again.

Advice for women over 50 is almost identical to advice for women under 50.

Advice for women who want kids is almost identical to advice for women who don’t.

If you are confident, self-aware, have a high emotional IQ, a low tolerance for being mistreated and understand the opposite sex, you’re going to do well in relationships.

That has nothing to do with kids or age or anything. If you understand 40-year-old men, you pretty much understand 60-year-old men. Men don’t change. But circumstances do. Which brings me to something that I’ve been sitting on for a few months and wanted to share here with you. It’s an update from my friend, Lori Gottlieb, author of “Marry Him,” my favorite relationship book. Writes Lori:

I’ve been dating someone for about six months. I guess I should change my Facebook “status” to “in a relationship” at some point, so I can stop being considered a “toxic maximizer” every time some guy asks me out. You should write a column about how once people hit their mid-40s, tons of guys become available because that’s when the married-with-kids guys who got married in their 20s are divorcing, so suddenly you can date your peers again. In my late 30s, I didn’t want divorced with kids, but once I had a kid and reached my mid-40s, divorced with kids was exactly what I wanted. So he’s 47 with 14-year-old twin girls. And then, of course, in the past year, all of these opportunities came about due to the demographic shift of an influx of 40-something men with kids getting divorced and not wanting to date women in their 30s who don’t have — but want — kids. They don’t want to go back to diapers at that age. And then there’s the financial investment of starting a second family. For all those reasons (not to mention, of course, my “charm”… ahem), I’m what these divorced-with-kids 40-something guys seem to be looking for. Fodder for your blog, perhaps?

Yes, Lori, it is fodder for my blog.

And it’s also my answer to your question, Joy.

Choose men with kids who “get” what you’re going through and you’ll be that much closer to developing a Brady Bunch family of your own.

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  1. 41

    Karmic Equation #36:
    It is a challenge dating, and being in my upper 40’s (and since guys typically age down when looking), I find alot of men reaching out me are in their 50’s and empty nesters… who have more disposable time and higher expectations of availability.   I will not go out on a date and leave my kids at home when I have custody.   Thus, I generally seek out men who still have kids at home since they “get it” and are more understanding of the hecticness of single parenting.   
    I also generally offer to pay my way (but usually get turned down), and just told to pitch in for the tip.   I do not ever want to come across as “needing to be taken care of”.   I have a decent job, bought my own house, just looking for monogamous companionship at this stage and see where it leads.   
    I have my children (13 & 15) every other weekend and two fixed weekdays a month.    When you add up the job, the commute, endless school sports/activities…it is a very strained and tight schedule, as is for any single parent.   I do try to date on one of my free weeknights (I need the other weekday night off to decompress from a chaotic schedule.)   I always try to plan free weekends in advance as much as possible.   
    What throws a wrench into it   as a single parent is meeting someone whose custody arrangement the same/similar to mine.   I have a 50% chance of a potential date having opposing weekends free, that has happened to me before, and only doing weeknight dating kind of stinks…
    PS… This hot mama does own & wear thongs!   And skirts! And bikini’s at the pool and beach…    Had to throw that in 🙂

  2. 42
    Sparkling Emerald

    John 29  

    You said   . . .
    Goldie @22
    @ John #9: WTH is big boring underwear and why would a single mom have to wear it? I’ve only been on my own for 3 years and must’ve missed that memo
    You misread. The single Moms SHOULD NOT be wearing the boring stuff. You are commenting as if I said they should. I dated a single Mom and after a few dates when we were sleeping together, I asked her if she would wear some sexy underwear instead of the big boring ones (don’t play dumb you know exactly what those are Goldie). Her reply to me was “Moms don’t wear thongs”. Major turn off to me.  
    So you dated one single mom in granny panties, and you assume all single moms wear them ? Perhaps she wasn’t planning on sleeping with you so soon (you said a few dates) but got carried away by your charms, and wasn’t dressed for sex, at least lingerie-wise.
    Technically, I’m a single mom, but of a college kid who lives away, so it’s a moot point.   And for the first month or two of dating,   granny-panties or teeny-weeny-bikini’s, will also be a moot point, because until he’s my boyfriend, he’ll never know.
    Also, instead of criticizing her “big boring panties”, how about just telling her how fun it would be if she wrapped her cute little caboose in something lacy (or whatever)   from Victoria’s Secret ? You could show her what you like in a catalogue,   even a Target sale flyer has some cute lingerie you could show and tell her in a fun flirty way.
    Much of the focus of this blog (& EMK’s advise)   is advising women to NOT make men wrong, but find a nice way to tell him what you would like.   Since you are a man who seems to enjoy this blog, perhaps you could consider that women really don’t like being told they are wrong either.   There are lost of fun, flirty, playful ways to let a woman know what you like, without making her feel like a frump in big boring panties.

  3. 43

    When I was dating I went out with some divorced guys with kids. I don’t have kids and have always been ambivalent about having my own (still am). The kids themselves weren’t a dealbreaker for me at all, but have to say that the divorced dads often couldn’t manage the ongoing dramas with their exes. More than once I found myself and the kids pulled into some nasty shenanigans between the two of them. I will always leave a situation like that. Also, if a divorced guy revealed that he was a deadbeat dad (not seeing his kids too often, not paying for them, etc.) I questioned his character. Conversely, if a guy could only talk about his kids and/or his ex,  I would imagine that I would only ever be an outsider–someone to help the guy get through life after his “real” relationship ended. So it’s tough and complicated, and most likely each situation is different. I’ve seen all sorts of situations work out. Good people find good people.

  4. 44

    As a Single Mom who is looking for a relationship, dating is fairly difficult.
    Time: The Ex wants only 2 nights a month with our kids (11 & 12) so the structure itself is pretty difficult to sustain a relationship, let alone the dating stage when I am meeting different potential partners.   Besides which with my job and continuing education, I am committed several evenings a month anyway.  
    Finance: I do not need a man to finance my kids.   But this is not exactly a conversation for the first few dates where we are only just getting to know each other.   Dating is not a business meeting.   I don’t ask my date what his finances are and he doesn’t ask me.   But it seems from reading on comments here from guys and gals, if someone is dating a single mom, one of the assumptions is that she is looking for someone to aid her financially. How to address this in such a way that it’s understood but not take all the romance out of the date?
    Once I find that the man I am seeing is compatible with me, i.e., we enjoy spending time together, his actions shows genuine interest, similar values, then I would consider him to be a serious contender for my continued time and affections.
    Paying for dates: As a girl, not just a single mom, if a gentleman offers to pay for the first couple of dates (which I offer to split anyway), it shows me he considers us on a ‘date’ as opposed to ‘just a friend’ hangout.   I will then offer suggestions of dating options that costs nothing or next to nothing.   Or suggest to treat him to an event of my own choosing if I wish to continue to see him.
    Kids:   I am finding that when I meet guys in real life, when I casually mention that I have kids, I don’t get a callback.   On my online dating profile, it states very clearly that I am divorced with kids so the people that contact me know that already.   That’s why for the past year, I have been meeting people who are aware of my situation.   So I find that online dating gets me more ‘dates’ than in real life.   These are never-married guys and divorced dads.   Unfortunately where I live, the divorced dads don’t spend a whole lot of time with their kids and after a few dates, it invariably comes out that they are not looking to jump into another family situation – especially one that’s not their own.   For those dads, a single girl who is not looking to have kids would be better suited to them.   The never-married guys I’ve met are a bit more open to starting a family but not necessary inherit my ‘family’ so I find that I am put into a category of not being in a ‘serious relationship’ material for these guys.   And since I am not looking for booty-calls or shallow relationships, these fizzle out pretty quickly.
    This is in addition to all the behavior that other single women face: men disappearing, not receiving follow-ups after dates; indifferent attitudes; incompatible values; not enough simple chemistry; differences in personality and temperament etc.
    After 15 months of online meets and greets and dating, I have yet to meet a man who is serious about me and my kids as a package.   As an eternal optimist, I know that I will find someone but this journey is a learning process and everybody is unique.   It takes constantly having myself grounded in reality to see what my dates’ intentions lie, who they are and to check my feelings about them (do they make me feel good, secure, safe or do I feel they are not to be trusted); it takes persistence and a positive attitude to keep going (telling myself there is someone for everyone, to keep meeting people and not to give up).

  5. 45

    @Morris 33
    Thumbs up!!   Very well put.   Doesn’t seem like it’s a problem here…every single mom who has commented seems thoughtful, well intentioned and reasonable but I know some who have that “entitled” quality.   While John’s tone and general phrasing often rub me the wrong way (MUAH John :D), I can’t fault his expectations from #9 at a high level:
    Respect for his time and wallet from the WOMAN (not mother) that he’s dating.
    In other words, he has roughly the same expectations from a single mom as he would from a woman without offspring and in return he will offer more flexibility in recognition of the fact that she has to work around her children’s schedules.   I imagine this would be the same for any single man without children of his own unless of course, as Morris said, the single mom in question offers something “more” so that the total package is irresistible.   In that context, Evan’s advice makes a lot of sense: look for a man who also has children and “gets it” in a way that the childless cannot.

  6. 46

    How funny re sweat pants. I wear clothes for the occasion so if meeting for a date at the gym, or walking, may wear sweat pants and if anything get more attention on the occasions if I am dressed down and have made little or no effort, feeling a bit of   mess, or bedraggled.  The only thing I am generally told is I am just too sexy, whatever that means.
    Big Bridget Jones panties , silky thongs, boy boxers, cotton or silky panties, see through ones whatever. Got them all.It is the woman inside I believe that makes them sexy or hot.

  7. 47

    @ Anita #43: “Also, if a divorced guy revealed that he was a deadbeat dad (not seeing his kids too often, not paying for them, etc.) I questioned his character.”
    Thank you! I’ve been the lone voice in the desert saying this for three years on this blog, that I’d rather date a guy who invests time and money into his kids, than one who doesn’t. IMO, if he can’t be bothered to care about his closest blood relatives, i.e. his children, he will sure enough not care about me if we’re ever in a relationship. The ex of course is a different story.
    Also, to single moms on here, stores like Marshalls and TJ Maxx have very nice-looking thongs and lacy panties on sale all the time for just a couple bucks a pair. Much cheaper than VS, for sure. That’s where I get mine.

  8. 48

    Anita (#43) and Goldie (#47).

    I also quit seeing a guy if he shows he doesn’t care for his own kids. That is a big indication of character.
    I have also heard (more women than men) say that if they get married again, their kids will always come first. I really have to question this attitude. There will always be times when the kids have something going on that makes them a priority. And I would certainly never put my kids behind a guy i’m just seeing. But if/when I get married again; I won’t be putting my spouses feelings and wants behind my kids in all things, I won’t take automatically take their side against him etc. There might be circumstances where this won’t be possible but in the reasonable stuff – i think it works.

  9. 49

    Again running some average numbers and I know there are MANY variables to these.
    The average single mom has custody which gives her “every other weekend” and 2 “weeknights” a month to be “kidless” and date. = 6 date days a month for HER
    Her ex husband  by this  math gets 24 kidless nights a month to date.
    Who’s more likely to have and maintain a successful relationship? Who’d more likely to “find love?”

  10. 50

    “Who’s more likely to have and maintain a successful relationship? Who’d more likely to “find love”
    Depends what they are doing in that free time. If they always do what they did, they will always get what they got. The person who is more likely to find love and be in a successful relationship is the one who wakes up and realizes that love is inside them not out there. And wants to share that love with the right person for them who has also reached that place of understanding. Otherwise they will just repeat same old mistakes and same old story with next man or woman reliving it over and over again. This sadly is whathappens to most as they do not ever get to that point of understanding. Higher rates of divorce for second marriages and higher still for third. Unless you do the work. Doesn’t matter how much time one has if you don’t use that time to question and discover and learn from past mistakes.

  11. 51

    Rose, I get what you’re saying and it’s true.   Nevertheless,not having enough free nights certainly does affect single mom’s ability to find someone compatible and then to grow the relationship.

  12. 52

    GreatGal, I believe that Evan hit the nail on the head there with that one. That when you get to that place the right man for you, who just is into you as a person and starts to care about the real you will naturally move things forward and want to also spend time, get to meet your kids, introduce you to them and things will naturally progress. And not just into how many nights you are available and not available to go on ‘dates’ with him where you go dutch treating you like a buddy although I would question that as a date or just wanting you to have casual sex with him was really him sending you the message that he was looking and wanting to be in a romantic realtionship with anyone. Seems crystal clear to me what a man is interested in by what he is inviting you to do. If he is gingivitis you to come and hang out like his buddy? Romantic get to know the real you on the inside date? Booty call   casual surface level physical sex focusing on what you are wearing and your looks?
    So like Evan says   it boils down to making better choices on who you date.
    What do you want? What sort of date do you want to accept?
    If you are out with your kids at local pool, park etc or having fun doing what you like and someone chats with you is also now single with kids, he may just ask you for a date, who knows. Authentic in the moment real you he is attracted to then.

  13. 53

    I’m a single mom of two girls, 7 and 4. I’ve always been upfront and apologetic about my situation. I live in a different town than my ex so I have my girls 100% of the time. That means I need a week notice to find a babysitter. I’ve never dated a man who had a problem with me being a single mom. If they did, it never got past the first conversation. The men I’ve dated have said they admire me for being a good mother. I am currently in a relationship with a man who doesn’t have kids. We live together so it’s been a huge adjustment for him, but he knows that they are part of the deal and he has fun with them. They don’t think of him as a dad, but they love him and think he’s silly and they like that he makes me happy. I have to work hard to have alone time with my man, but he’s worth it so I find the time.  

  14. 54

    As a middle aged single parent, I also have sometimes felt discouraged by circumstances.   It is interesting to read the few male opinions on this subject.   Overall, it seems that they only hold negative as opposed to positive stereotypes of single moms.   This somewhat mirrors my experience of dating as a single mother.   While I definitely do not expect to be wined and dined, I also expect to be treated like I’m valued by the other person.   This can take many forms, not just paying for the first date.   For the record, I have *never* viewed a man as a potential source of income for my kids.
    Even though I felt that the granny panties comment was uncool, I also understand how it is also very hard to “compete” with childless women.   They have extra time and money to spend on hair, nails, etc. and I feel lucky to be able to get in a workout.   Nonetheless, I’m happy, healthy and open to new experiences.   I also have a relatively high sex drive, but not that many men know about or expect that because I only have sex with someone when I am in a committed relationship — and I’m only getting pickier about that aspect as time progresses.   
    In terms of single dads, my experience has been that there are a lot more of them than there are single mothers and I get the impression that single women are more open to dating them than single men are to single mothers.   There is also the matching schedules issue which can be a nightmare, but smart people can usually work around that.   Overall, if you can make it work with all of the variables, single dads are great dating options.   As Goldie mentioned, you get a sneak peek at someone’s character by seeing how much time and energy they put into their own children.   
    For single parents who haven’t had luck dating online, I recommend joining Parents Without Partners or other groups or meetups for single parents.   They are good sources of support and are also a way to meet potential dates in a more natural setting.
    @ Scaramouche – #45
    Can you do the fandango?   😉  

  15. 55

    Ladies, do you penalize a dad if he doesn’t see his kids because of because of the custody arrangement or because his ex won’t let him?

  16. 56

    Well Joe-lots of guys lie about their ex’s not letting them see their kids but if a guy makes it clear he doesn’t feel he needs to pay support or that he really doesn’t care to see his kid I would not go out with this man.
    Believe it or not, there are deadbeat dads out there. I have family members and friends who had to  continuously  sue the fathers of their children to get them to pay their support agreement. If a man has a custody agreement and his ex isn’t honoring it, they likewise can take it up legally.

  17. 57

    You didn’t really answer Joe’s question.   Instead, you twisted it around with a response that fits the typical man=bad / woman=good worldview of some of the female posters on this blog.

  18. 58

    @ Joe #55
    I would feel bad for him if a father doesn’t get to see his own children because the ex wouldn’t let him. (I’m assuming that the father does love his own offspring here though.)

  19. 59

    I know of women who do not let their ex’s see their children unsupervised if the ex has a drug/alcohol problem or other safety issues.
    Only taking it slow and time would tell what was really going on. It takes time for the real character to show.

  20. 60

    @Chance there is some truth to what I said. I am 31 so this question is largely moot, the single fathers I have dated are not divorcees or married when they were very young because of pregnancy, they have all had equal custody of their children. Even the men who have their kids on the weekend seemed very OK with it. If I met a a man who said his ex-wife was keeping his children away from him I would be skeptical or at the very least it might set off an alarm with me.
    Divorces and other people’s relationships can be messy but I think if a man said his ex was keeping him from his children I would probably pass up on dating the man. If that seems unfair to you, sorry, I have the right to reject a man for whatever reason I want. Just like John has the right to reject women who wear big underwear.

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