He Wants to Date Other Women Because I’m a Busy Single Mom

Hi Evan, I have been reading your blog for a while now, and am appreciative of the insights I’ve learned. I am working towards balancing a dating life while raising two amazing daughters. I have a full time career and a fairly active social life. I recently met a wonderful man online who similar to me has been divorced and has children. He typically has dated women without children as he found it was less complex. We went out four times in one month, and in between there was a strong connection we both verbalized and confirmed experiencing. I was surprised by his uncharacteristic request to date other women as he felt once a week wasn’t enough time to build momentum between us.

I told him I was happy to have met him and that we shared a connection, but wouldn’t be open to the idea of other people and cut things off. Intellectually, I feel I’ve made the right choice. However, I understand my lack of availability may be a big issue for anyone. My heart is having second thoughts and wondering if I should have been open to the consideration of getting to know him better while being open to meeting others? Is that healthy? I’ve dated a good amount of men, and on many levels he seemed wonderful. The “dating other people” bit threw me for a loop and hoping you might share your thoughts.

Thanks Evan. –Single Mom

Thanks for your question, Single Mom, because it’s a great reminder that sometimes a strong connection isn’t always enough to get a relationship off the ground.

There are a few things that I could stand to know about you that would give me more clarity on your situation – namely, your age, his age, and the ages of your respective children. Without that, I’m sort of flying blind here.

If a man is really young, he’s probably used to dating women without children, who are, by definition, a lot more available.

Because there’s a big difference between a 32-year-old man and a 57-year-old man.
And there’s a big difference between a 1-year-old and a 16-year-old child.

If a man is really young, he’s probably used to dating women without children, who are, by definition, a lot more available. Why should he settle down with a woman who can only give him one night a week when he can have a girlfriend who can give him three or four nights? That’s right: he shouldn’t.

And if either of you are raising young ones, they’re a lot more all-consuming than if you’ve got high-schoolers who can largely take care of themselves.

These circumstances will dictate a lot, whether you like it or not.

So the real question isn’t about this guy, per se. He’s just a placeholder for all men that you’re going to encounter as a single mom.

To figure out what to do the next time you meet a wonderful man, let’s backtrack:

Was this guy wrong for wanting a woman who’s more available? No.

Were you wrong for refusing to accept his open-relationship terms? No.

As such, there’s no cause for you to agonize or lament what went down. He did what was right for him. You did what was right for you.

Ultimately, he’ll find the childless girlfriend who can give him more time.

And you’ll find the single dad who understands your predicament and embraces it.

Doesn’t that feel a lot better than worrying that you let some guy get away?

I sure hope so.

P.S. If EVERY guy feels that you don’t have enough time for him between work, kids, hobbies, friends, family and your “active” social life, then yes, maybe you need to make a few cutbacks. But that’s another conversation for another day.

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  1. 31

    I am recently divorced, with a 19yo and a 16yo. The 19yo is off in college and the 16yo will be graduating HS in two years. My parents live nearby, so I can call on them for emergencies. Both kids visit their Dad for 24 hrs every other weekend (I offered every other weekend, for some reason he decided to just go with the 24 hours). Compared to most single moms on this thread, I’d say I have it very easy, but it is still hard. I’m in a relationship right now, and we’ve worked out a schedule where we meet for a few hours on a weeknight once a week, and for 24 hrs every weekend I go over to his place. (He has two grown children, both out of the house.) I’ve pretty much eliminated all my other social life and the 16yo still complains that I’m never home. He still hasn’t met my BF and has emphatically stated that he doesn’t want to, so going to my place when the kids are there is not an option. I don’t want to be out of my house for longer periods of time anyway, because 16-year-olds, while perfectly capable of taking care of themselves, have a way of getting into all sorts of trouble when left home alone for long. I’m pretty tired and/or worried most of the time, I have to confess. I have no idea how other single moms do it. Luckily, most men I’ve dated have, at some point in their lives, been single dads, and have dealt with teenage kids, so everyone has been totally understanding. I have to say that with one or two exceptions, I’ve never dated guys with no children. They don’t contact me, I don’t contact them, we just never encounter each other on dating sites or IRL.
    To the OP, I’d advise what has already been said upthread – next time you start seeing someone, cut down on social life, or incorporate the man into it. There are only 24 hours in a day, and you’ve got to eliminate something to make room for a man in your life. Since it can’t be work or kids, social life is the only candidate.
    Oh another thing, to the commenter that mentioned a man’s three grown kids living at home — that might be the side effects of the economy. I have already told my oldest son that he’s welcome to move back in with me after college until he’s comfortable enough to move out. Many of my friends’ children cannot find work after college, or are only being offered temp jobs or unpaid internships that are not enough for them to live on their own. It’s pretty horrible out there for a college graduate these days. So, I’d give the man and his grown kids at least the benefit of a doubt.
    @ Heather, I wouldn’t take it personally. While people rarely ask me if I want more kids (I guess it’s pretty self-explanatory that I don’t), they do ask if I want to get married again (I don’t). I see where they’re coming from and appreciate them asking, and stating their intentions, up front. This way we can get this subject out of the way and move on.

  2. 32

    Goldie 31: If you are fine with the setup between you and your ex, that’s great. But you mention how tired and worried you are. Could you not suggest to your ex that he take the kids more often? As it stands, right now from a pure time-perspective, he has 1/14th of the childcare and you have 13/14ths. That just doesn’t seem fair. 
    Sandy 4 had it right. In the vast majority of divorce cases, the woman winds up with the lion’s share of childcare, which means much less time to devote to a new LTR (and the possibility of never finding one while the kids are at home). Now, if she wanted that arrangement, and so did he, that’s great. But are women aware what taking on single parenthood means when it comes to seeking new relationships? The tradeoff may be larger than they anticipated.

  3. 33

    @Rosy- so your friend who only introduces her kids to her fiances- how many times has she been engaged ? I found this a bit odd. Does she keep getting engaged and then breaking it off ?

  4. 34
    Senior Lady Vibe

    Single Mom: “My heart is having second thoughts and wondering if I should have been open to the consideration of getting to know him better while being open to meeting others? Is that healthy?”

    Yes, it’s healthy.  She met a stranger online and went out with him only four times; it’s just dating. She doesn’t have much invested here.  He didn’t offer dating exclusivity and there’s no reason for him “to request” to date other women.  There’s no reason for her to ask him either.  Perhaps both of them are too eager to discard each other because they haven’t felt THE BIG SPARK. 

    Since she describes him as “wonderful”, perhaps it would have been better to do as she is now having second thoughts… continue to get to know him better while being open to meeting others.  She should also consider that his “request” was an excuse for his lack of interest in going forward.

    For the commenter who asked:  I’m a divorcee with a now grown-up son;  I was a “single mother” for a long time.

  5. 35

    @ Helen, thank you. Truth be told, I hadn’t expected that, but it is probably better this way (long story.)
    I did use the 13/14th as an argument with my 16yo once, when he got overly protective of his dad at my and my BF’s expense.

  6. 36

    As a woman in her 40s without children, I have found that dating men with children doesn’t seem to work. Even if they have less of a time commitment to their kids than single moms do, one of the things that is a real issue for me is the RIGIDITY of the time commitment that they do have. Somehow its automatically assumed that you will slot into the times that THEY have free  – and this “no boyfriend every other weekend” thing gets really irritating. How about SWAPPING the weekends you have the kids some of the time? Do you ALWAYS have to see them on a thursday evening – what’s wrong with a wednesday once in a while?  For a relationship to work for both people, both schedules have to be taken into consideration. How a parent does this is really up to them – I relly don’t want a longwinded explanation every time I want to see my guy about his kids piano lessons/soccer practice/etc..etc… At the end of the day, as a childless  person, your partner is going to be the most important person in your life – you therefore don’t  want to be constantly reminded that you are NOT the most important person to him. Not saying this to in any way disrespect those who have children, but I do think the parent/nonparent divide is a really difficult one to bridge.

  7. 37

    @ Helene, true, it does sound like a huge divide from your post. Personally I’d be very suspicious of any man who’d put me before his own children. They depend on him, I do not. He’s the only father they have, while I have my own parents. To me, it only stands to reason that he’d make them his first priority. Otherwise, the way I see it, if he can throw them under the bus for me, he’ll throw me under the bus for someone else just as easily. Not that I’ve ever met a guy like that (whew).
    With that said, I’ve tried dating a few single dads who have their kids 100% of the time, and, while I have enormous respect and admiration for what they’re doing, dating these guys just does not work. You, your partner, his kids and your kids would have to be cool with the idea of a full-time blended family in order for that to work. And my children and I just aren’t there yet.

  8. 38

    As I said previously, I’m a single mom of 2 kids, a 15 year old and a 5 year old.  My ex is completely out of the picture – no visitation and no child support since 2009.  Though I sometimes wish I had those things, under the circumstances, I believe I came out on the good side of this. Fortunately, I have family that helps me, so I am usually able to break away one day a week for a date and know my kids are cared for.  After a few weeks of dating, I tried to make extra time to spend with him, but it’s tough.  Now that we’ve been together for a while, I invite him to join us for dinner once a week to spend extra time.  It can be done, but you have to have the right man to do it with.

  9. 39

    I have a young son, but luckily or because we actively work on our relationship with date nights, visiting the place of our first etc. I’ve not been single.

    That being said I agree  with Evan on all accounts. Sometimes its just not meant to be, you each have very different wants and needs, perhaps if you had met at another time and another place then maybe…

  10. 40

    @ Goldie:

    Oh I see what you’re saying, and it’s not really WHAT the guy says, it’s HOW he says it.  I’ve had guys say, “So I’m guessing you’re jonesing for kids, right?  You’re 35.”  THAT sets me off.  If a guy’s going to get cranky if I make assumptions, well it works both ways.

    @ Helene:

    Thank you for saying what I thought.  Most single Dads I met were really just drama kings in the making.  Exes were flaky, one had an ex who just had gone through breast cancer, etc etc etc.  I just got tired of it.  I’m not trying to be a selfish brat, but come on already.  I just learned that guys with kids is a deal-breaker for me, in 99 percent of cases, unless the kids are almost out of the house.

    It was funny, I got “yelled at” by guys online because I’d turn them down if they had kids, and I would just say, look.  The choice to have kids was yours.  The choice to not have kids is mine.  I do not need nor want the inherent drama that kids will bring into this.  Have a nice life.

  11. 41

    As a parent, I think there is a fine balance between a SO and children.  I know when I was married, I considered my spouse my most important relationship.  We were supposed to be the team that stood by each other and supported one another or offered advice, gave perspective, and was a sounding board.  There are times when your children will need to be your 1st priority, especially when they are young.  I don’t want the guy who doesn’t make his kids a priority.  I would understand the soccer practice and things.  However, if I am getting a prestigious award and he can’t make it because of soccer practice, then there is an issue.  I am a full time student, I have a full time job and I have kids.  If he expected me to miss class all the time to spend time with him,  I would see that as selfish.  I didn’t want to use the kids as an example, but something else that is really important to me.  When it’s important to the other person, it is important to you. 

  12. 42
    Happy Person

    Helene, Goldie, Heather: Agree that the divide is great, and it’s usually the childfree person who loses if she/he chooses to date a divorced parent.

    Most people when they have kids seem to develop a kind of tunnel vision where everybody 1) wants kids and 2) is as thrilled with their kid as they are. There’s also a big assumption out there (and not just in dating) that we will all bend to the demands of our coworkers, friends, and family who are caring for a child, and god forbid we should have any negative feelings about it. Some (former) friends have even suggested that I should be grateful to help them with their childcare duties because I don’t have any kids of my own. If you express any offense at this kind of condescension you just might be accused of being jealous. Too funny! Ya can’t win for losin’ with this one.

    FYI, my boyfriend of many years is a public school teacher who works with more than 300 kids a week. He has no desire to deal with them after work, does not want any of his own, and is a very happy, incredibly decent, loyal, and dedicated person. I love hearing his stories about the kids each day. And I still don’t want to raise any! 🙂

    Before the BF, I did date a few divorced dads and it was usually the same thing: all they could talk about was their kids, there was all kinds of drama with the ex (which I was always dragged into, most often cast as the hot new chick the ex had to hate on and as the interloper who was going to damage and pervert her precious babies), and my schedule suddenly needed sign-off from his ex, his kids, and perhaps some therapist.

    Never again.

  13. 43

    @ Happy Person #42, the way I see it, it’s not “tunnel vision” as much as the fact that we have a 24×7 job that will blow up in our faces if we don’t do it right, and that no one will do for us. It’s a fun and highly rewarding job, but it’s a 24×7 commitment nonetheless. Of course this would place some limitations on our time, money, and energy. FWIW, I’ve never placed any demands on my friends or family, childfree or not, to help with my kids, and don’t know anyone who does this.
    The way I see it with divorced dads is, like I said before: if he puts consistent time and effort into his kids, to me this says that he’s a loyal and responsible person. I’d be a lot more worried if he had kids, but lived as if they don’t exist. Even though that would leave more of his time and resources for me, I wouldn’t feel safe around a man like that.
    I did have a guy contact me on Match once who complained about his bad experiences with “single moms who have no time for dating”. So I suggested that I may not be the right person for him then. For whatever reason, he took offense at that. Hey, I was just being helpful. Divorced parents are, in fact, under a lot of pressure, and I totally see how that may not work for those of us that aren’t parents themselves and don’t plan on being. I’m cool with that 🙂

  14. 44

    Gosh…I didn’t know having a child was such a horrendous condition that those of us that are single parents are pre-judged as not worthy of dating because of our affliction. And if you think I’m over-reacting to your comments, at least TRY to read them from the perspective as someone who is a single parent. 

    This letter was written by a single mom looking for advice on her situation. She certainly doesn’t need to read how horrible it is to date a single parent and how those without kids are offended by such a notion. 

    I’m glad those of you without kids are able to find someone worthy of dating–but let’s not trash the single parents.

  15. 45

    I don’t think anyone is trashing single parents…. The point is the OP seemed surprised and caught off-guard by the reaction of her date to the situation, so by talking about our experiences of dating single parents it may simply help to shed some light on how it feels to be the childfree person in this sort of set up and the frustrations that arise. The bottom line is that while I can totally see how difficult it is to date if you are a single parent, it is equally difficult to DATE a single parent. It takes a special sort of couple to be able to mesh together in a situation where each person is coming at the situation from a very different perspective. Its important to be aware that single people who don’t have children often spend a great deal of time ALONE. Part of what many of us are looking for is someone to BE with – just hang out with, without having to schedule and book and arrange times like we have to do a lot of the time in order to  have a social life. Just being with someone in a low key way for a whole weekend, relaxing at home, no rush , no time limit on our time together is one of the things i miss most since my marriage ended. Feeling the other person is “fitting you in” and has half their mind on other things, always has their phone switched on (and yes, feels like some sort of hero for having carved out time for you at ALL)  is not the same situation at all. I do think it simply comes down to very different aspirations as to what we are all looking for out of a budding relationship, what our needs are. 


  16. 46

    @ #45: “The point is the OP seemed surprised and caught off-guard by the reaction of her date to the situation, so by talking about our experiences of dating single parents it may simply help to shed some light on how it feels to be the childfree person in this sort of set up and the frustrations that arise.”
    Um, the OP’s date was not a childfree person. She said:
    I recently met a wonderful man online who similar to me has been divorced and has children”

    In light of that information, I understood that, he was OK with her having kids, understanding about it, but that she really needed to figure out how to manage her time better, because one date a week is indeed not enough. If her having children was a deal-breaker to that guy, they wouldn’t have had any dates at all.

  17. 47

    The man the OP was dating said, “He typically has dated women without children as he found it was less complex,” I find this a bit of a double standard coming from a divorced father. Then she says,I was surprised by his uncharacteristic request to date other women as he felt once a week wasn’t enough time to build momentum between us.” Breaking up with her effectively severs the momentum completely.
    Personally, I don’t think there’s anything wrong or strange about seeing someone once a week in the first month of dating. I can’t help but think wonder if the guy simply didn’t want to deal with a woman with kids. He already has his own children and doesn’t want to deal with the potential for more.  I think he went out with her 4 times because he was genuinely interested and liked her. Maybe he initially thought he could deal with her children, and the responsibilities and time constraints involved, but then realized that it wasn’t for him after all.

  18. 48

    I find it curious they met on a dating site and he mentions 4 weeks later wanting to date other people. If you meet on a dating site, isn’t the assumption both of you already are dating other people? 
    Maybe it was her time constraints, dating a woman with custody and all that involves, but I think it’s possible he didn’t want to give HER a solid once a week a date for other reasons as well.

  19. 49

    Selena #48
    <<I find it curious they met on a dating site and he mentions 4 weeks later wanting to date other people. If you meet on a dating site, isn’t the assumption both of you already are dating other people? >>
    Good point. I also wondered if he was just making excuses and wasn’t all that interested in her as well. I do think if he was genuinely interested, he would have been more tolerant of her schedule.

  20. 50

    I do think he liked her initially, but changed his mind for whatever reason.

  21. 51

    @Dee – #18
    Thank you so very much for your words of wisdom!  I am a single mother of two and I take a lot of pride in being a good mother to my kids.  However, I can see how I cultivate dependence on the part of my children by always being there for them and not setting aside time for myself.  I appreciate your perspective.
    I, too, felt a little taken aback by the attitudes of some of the childless people on this thread: essentially annoyed by the demands that kids put on a parent and a couple.  Nonetheless, it was helpful to me to be reminded of the way other people feel about single parents and the implications for dating.

  22. 52

    It’s so funny how a man can give a woman an answer and she and her friends will come up with a 100 ways to decide that what he said wasn’t what he meant.

    I think the guy here told her what he felt, and now the ladies are doing that rationalization thing that they do for each other that doesn’t help anything and that is why you need a man to step in and tell you to stop creating all of these alternate universes.

    I think the advice to try to give someone more time is good.  If she dates a childless man, once he wants to get serious he won’t want to see her LESS than this man, and I think that this guy was probably interested but since her kids aren’t small, why stick around for a situation that isn’t going to change for 12 years.  If the tables were turned, she might be upset by it, and all of the ladies would be calling him a cad, a liar, a time waster, etc.

    The next time she has a promising lead, she needs to show him that she will carve out time for him b/c there are too many ladies out there who will give him more than one day a week for him to drag this out for months.  

    Contrary to popular belief, I think men have hearts too (I’m not a man but I’m pretty sure this is true), and he could drag it out, get attached, and then struggle to leave.

    But it sounds like he listened to what she told him and decided to move on.  

  23. 53

    When a person brings up “dating other people” very often they already have someone in mind for themselves. It’s possible the fellow in question found someone else on the site he wanted to focus on instead of Single Mom.

  24. 54

    @ Erin,

    I think you’re taking things a “bit” too personally here.  Nobody is trashing single parents.  I simply stated that it doesn’t work for me because I’ve just had negative experiences with single Dads who either could not manage their time, did not WANT to manage their time, or had exes that were too flaky.  If you had read my earlier post, I even said that while it is good for parents to spend lots of time with their kids, that is fine, but it doesn’t work FOR ME.  Simple as that.

    What I take issue with are the single parents who give ME grief for MY choice to not have children.  Or who assume I’m one of those crazy women who will attach after a second date, desperate for kids and marriage just because I’m 36.

    Easy, Trigger, easy…..

  25. 55
    Happy Person

    [email protected]: We all have 24/7 lives that can blow up if we don’t do it right. The way you phrase your comment makes my point. My time is no less valuable than yours because it is not spent raising a child, and my commitments are no less important to me than your childraising commitments are to you.

  26. 56

    @ Happy Person #55, if your commitments are as important as mine, then you should be totally understanding of the, as you call it, “drama” that parents have to live with, no? You would not be saying things like “my schedule suddenly needed sign-off from his ex, his kids, and perhaps some therapist”? This statement strikes me as pretty odd, you know? Like, your schedule is so rigid that it cannot be built around the man’s life, but he has to drop everything and have his schedule revolve around you? What happened to meeting each other halfway? I hope it’s okay with you if your man holds a full-time job. Heaven forbid your schedule needs sign-off from his manager.

  27. 57

    @ Happy Person, you raise a good point.

    Everybody’s time is valuable.  People with or without kids have lives.  I know many people who are very busy doing wonderful stuff, who don’t have kids.  I know folks who are busy raising their kids.  It’s all good, it’s a matter of figuring out what works for EACH PERSON.

    I am choosing not to date a single father because I want to spend free time with a guy, not just when he doesn’t have custody of his kids.  That doesn’t make me a bad person, and it doesn’t make the single dad a bad person either.  It is what it is, and our lives go in certain ways because of choices we make.  Single parents, mostly, chose to have kids. I chose not to have kids.  Neither is better than the other.  And nobody here is trashing either choice.

  28. 58
    Happy Person

    [email protected]: Right. Not trashing anybody’s choices. It’s about what fits and what doesn’t. If I don’t have kids or I’m single, I’ve made that choice for a reason. Mainly, that I’m doing something else that is valuable and meaningful to me. When I meet people who aren’t interested in finding out what is valuable and meaningful to me, when I meet people who assume that what they are doing is more important than what I am doing (for whatever reason), I am simply not interested in maintaining a relationship with the person. And I like to keep things simple, so really not into anyone with crazy exes or complicated family lives. I do realize that people get caught in bad situations, but there isn’t much I can do to help. Especially not inclined to if the message is “your problem is your problem and my problem is also your problem.”

    In my experience the divorced dads want someone to understand and take care of them and fill in the blanks, and they’re kinda counting on the blind kindness of a new woman to provide that. They just don’t have as much to offer that woman as they did when they gave it all to the ex and it didn’t work out. And the sanctimonium of parental responsibilities doesn’t fly with me. They can all go find someone else who wants to take that on.

    Not feeling like I have to justify my take on this anymore.

  29. 59

    Ultimately, does it matter whether the guy sat down and discussed seeing other people with the LW?  I’m sure he could see the writing on the wall regarding the amount of time he’d be able to see her.

    @ helene (#36):
    Maybe it’s hard enough for some divorced dads to get what time he has with the kids and he can’t swap because the ex won’t let him.

    @ the LW:
    If all you can spare for dating is 4 evenings a month, can you really be surprised if guys don’t find that to be enough, and don’t want to continue dating you?

    @ Heather:
    Don’t you just say in your profile that you don’t have kids and don’t want any (either in the checkbox options or in your prose)?  I would think that would weed out most guys who might question your biological clock.

    @ everyone saying the dad in the letter is a hypocrite:
    We don’t have any details regarding this guy and how much effort he puts into being a father.  Maybe the kids are grown.  Maybe he only has them a few days a month.  That would still give him plenty of time to date childless women.

    Nicole (#52) makes a good point.  If the LW feels 4 evenings a month is all she can give a guy, and he’s OK with that, what happens if she ever decides that she wants more time, but he’s decided his life is now fine with 4 evenings a month.  Is she justified in demanding more?

  30. 60

    Joe #59
    <<Maybe he only has them a few days a month.  That would still give him plenty of time to date childless women.>>
    Then someone else is taking care of his kids the majority of the time. And who might that be? His ex. If the LW is in the same position as the mother of his children, shouldn’t he be a bit more tolerant of this single mother (if that is actually the case)?

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