Dating & the Single Mom: All Guts & No Glory
Contrary to what you might be thinking, this is not a story about being a newly single mom. I’m amicably divorced, enjoy a great co-parenting relationship, and have been flying with my super sweet co-pilot, my tween daughter, for almost a decade. Sounds pretty fab, right? There’s only one little thing missing, and that’s a soul mate. I’m ready for love again. But are there any great guys out there who want to settle down with a 30-something who has a kid? You’re about to find out.
I’ve been in three committed relationships since my divorce, with two of them lasting for around three years. Each time, the same thing happens. After about 12 months, I hear something like this: “You are amazing and everything I want in a partner. You’re beautiful, sexy, fun, creative, easygoing, independent, and financially and emotionally stable. You’re my best friend and I‘ve never been in such a great relationship, but I’m just not ready to commit.” That’s followed by my favorite line, “I think I might be making a horrible mistake by letting you go.” Many even come back, but in the end they can’t commit. Thanks a bunch, fellas.
Heart in hand, I’ve gone to the experts, my friends Bela Ghandi of the Smart Dating Academy and Amy Dickinson of Ask Amy, to seek their advice. They both told me the same thing. Either I’m picking guys who are unavailable or I should be patient and eventually the right guy will come along.
I also listen as my friends share their nuggets of wisdom about how to find a soul mate. Be more vulnerable, don’t let him know when you are hurt, be busy, don’t always be available, be open, let him chase you, and just be you. Add to that today’s digital smorgasbord of ways to communicate with men – dating sites, Facebook, g-chat, texts, emails – and it feels like you need a PhD in at least three different subjects just to get to a first date.
So here I am, single once again, and I’m reporting from the front lines. I’ve joined a dating website or two, letting anyone who’s interested know that here’s a single, fun-loving, and vivacious woman in her mid-thirties who’s ready for love. She’s got two advanced degrees, a great career, a tween, and owns her own home in the city. Her passport is current, full of stamps, and ready for more. She can kick just about anyone’s butt at Indie Rock Name That Tune, always has tickets to something fun in hand, and can grab a drink in her Converses at the city’s best dive bar or in heels at the Coq D’or at the Drake Hotel. Sounds like a real catch to me.
With all of that in mind, who do you think is asking me out? A bookish, never-been-married cutie-pie 30-something who is finally coming up for air after years in the research lab? Nope. A dashing 40-year-old ready to live the life fantastic? No again. Instead, I’ve attracted the interest of what seems like every 50+ year-old in the Chicagoland area. That’s right. I have an inbox full of emails from men in their 50s, mostly childless. Since I’m not ageist, I decided to go on a few dates with some of these men. And I have to tell you: I don’t have much in common with them, even with the more sprightly among them. After 15 minutes, I’m barely able to stifle a yawn.
To get back into my own age range, I decided I had no choice but to take my assorted dating coaches’ advice and make the first move. So on a couple of websites, I’ve reached out to men who are around 36 to 44. Some have kids and some don’t. After the initial email, we begin to share information, and I let them know a few things about me, gently dropping in reminders that I have a 12-year-old. Inevitably, this is their blanket response: “If you didn’t have an older kid, you’d be awesome. I’m just getting started on the path of responsibility.” Toddlers are cute playmates. Responsibility and tweens, on the other hand, are intimidating.
After seeing yet another sorry-but-no-thanks email, I decided to check out what guys my age say they’re looking for in their online dating profiles. As it turns out, the 36-year-old men I found want childless women between the ages of 26 and 36. Men between the ages of 42 and 46 with children want women who are in their early 30s and childless. These guys all want to find a woman who has no kids for them to worry about. And that’s exactly what they get.
I know this because I’ve seen it for myself. I’m still good friends with a man in his early 40s whom I dated for a year. He has two kids. Not so long ago, he dated a 32-year-old woman who didn’t have kids. And he loved it. Until she wanted a commitment two months in because her biological clock was ticking. Sayanara, sweetheart. His inbox – lucky him – was full the very next day with interest from more childless women.
To see if I was right about men going online to date only women without kids, I conducted a little love experiment. I put up my exact same profile, which highlights my passport, my work in Kenya, as well as my love of sailing, food, beer, and Chicago’s indie music scene. I omitted only one fact: that I have a fabulous roommate who won’t be moving out for the next seven years. Within a day, I received 63 emails expressing interest. I didn’t respond to any. It was only an experiment after all, not to mention a reminder that checked boxes online don’t define who a person really is.
And it doesn’t only happen online. I dated a guy recently whom I’d met at a party. He was mature, smart, worldly, successful, and had never been married. We clicked. Then I told him about my kid. He said it was OK. OK? I’m a great mom who has raised my daughter pretty much on my own and all you can do is weakly affirm that this is acceptable for you? But I digress. Later on, he admitted he wouldn’t have asked me out had he known I was a mother. Several months later, he acknowledged that he wasn’t cut out for the responsibility of being a step dad but that he wants to have children of his own one day. He was 36 too. When was “one day” going to start? Probably as I semi-retire from parenting at age 42, when my daughter will be entering college.
So there you have it, the down and dirty on dating as a single mom. Yes, it may seem like the deck is stacked against those of us with kids who are still looking for love. But I’m not giving up. One of these days, I know my soul mate and I are going to find each other. I also know that he will agree that my +1 is a big part of what has made me the amazing catch I am.
~By A Totally Awesome Single Mom in Chicago
[Photo Credit: Ambro/FreeDigitalPhotos.net]