Single Mum Dating: 4 Years On

When I came to the dating scene four years ago after being in a long-term relationship, I was blindly optimistic. The number of dates I’d been on in my life had amounted to approximately six, with number six being with my ex-husband (and after we were ‘a couple’, so did it really count?); having spent my late teens being wooed over warm snakebite in the SU bar I was excited to live some kind of perceived single-woman Carrie Bradshaw dream.

Except Carrie Bradshaw didn’t live in Milton Keynes with two young children.

Stepping into the dating world as a newly-single 27 year old was like a baptism of fire. There were no Mr Bigs, there were no Trey MacDougalls, there were no barman-Steves. There were, however, a load of freaks, geeks and weirdos, and they all seemed to want to go on a date with me…

4 Years of Dating

Ironically, in dating predominantly online I’ve experienced eye-opening things I’d only ever before read about on the internet. It didn’t matter if I found matches on Tinder, on Plenty of Fish, or perhaps on the slightly more high-brow Guardian Soulmates… either way, 90% of men I’ve met this way will bring a certain je nais se quoi to your dating experience, and not necessarily in a good way.

We’re talking all sorts here: from eccentric, quirky blokes with a penchant for dressing up in clothes from the Victorian era, to the uncomfortable silence that came from someone telling me they loved me on the third date, all the way through to the guy who refused to eat if there was more than three ingredients on his plate at any one time. You name it, I’ve felt uncomfortable observing it on a date.

I used to envy the women I saw around me who seemed to meet perfect matches online within weeks of becoming single. I thought I would suit the situation of quick coupledom too, wasn’t sure I’d be adept at changing lightbulbs, putting out bins or rescuing spiders from the bath. Getting coupled up again seemed like the easy option, the familiar one, only I soon realised there wasn’t room in my house for the kind of men I was going on dates with.

I thought I’d feel the absence of a man more keenly than I have done, when in actual fact it’s been – therapist speak alert – the most wonderful journey of self-discovery.

True, it’s been a long learning curve, one with peaks and troughs and many a bad date, but I’ve reached this four year milestone feeling way more content to be on my own than I have ever been before. Don’t get me wrong: I might have got over the guilt of eating a meal for two all to myself and grown way too happy with the monopoly I have over the remote control, but being alone is not something I aspire to do forever. I just know that, should I spend more time in my own company, it won’t be the absolute worst thing to happen (though I do draw the line at getting a cat).

In short, it’s better to be alone than with with a bloke I’m not entirely ecstatic to be in the company of. Don’t expect much, do I?

4 years of dating

My biggest attitude shift in this time of dating has been my own prejudice on how I see myself as a single mum. It used to be something I’d be ashamed of, and in a dating situation I’d genuinely lose sleep over how to breach the fact of my children with a man. I’d awkwardly blurt it out over text message, not wanting to lure a guy to a date under false pretences, and then anxiously wait for the ‘thanks, no thanks’ message to follow.

Of course, that message barely ever came – the chip on the shoulder I had about being a mother was much bigger than anyone else’s prejudice – and I feel sad now that I let it hold me back as much as I did. Now I realise the men who aren’t open-minded enough to be accepting of my brilliant children are not the ones I want to be dating.

It’s not particularly easy to begin romantic relationships when you’re the primary solo caregiver to your kids. From a purely logistical point of view, if like me you have an every-other-weekend arrangement with your ex that gives you a grand total of two nights away from them a fortnight. Which leaves the early parts of a relationship that are so vital – long nights chatting in candle-lit bars, sleepovers at each other houses – difficult to experience. It can be done, and any man worth your time will be understanding and flexible, but still it can feel like you’re scheduling your sex life around your childcare: not the most romantic of situations, I think you’ll agree.

There has been a part of me that has felt sad to wave goodbye to the impulsiveness and spontaneity of dating as a young person, but in the long-run it’s something I don’t miss at all. Dating at 31 with two kids is more considered, more thoughtful, more meaningful; when you’re so short on time without your kids you don’t want to waste it in generic bars with people you’re not sure you even like. Back then it was all about the selfish fun, the experience… now it’s about connection, which is why I can count the number of men I’ve been on more than a couple of dates with in the last two years on one hand.

That’s not to say dating has to be boring at 31, no way. Sometimes the most unexpected situations can turn out to be the most exciting and fulfilling. Different is what it is. More grown-up, I hesitate to say.

If you’d have told me four years ago that I’d be spending those years on my own I wouldn’t have known what to think. I would have been sad, horrified, scared. But I’m pleased to report that long-term singledom really isn’t the worst thing in the world that can happen to you, not by a long shot. Embrace it: go travelling, decorate your house, focus on your career. I promise you’ll emerge four years later a happy and confident person, with even more to offer the next lucky person to get in a relationship with you.

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  1. You don’t need a man now remember – you have the PINK SOFA!! There is nothing else is live – you have won :-)

    Posted 3.15.17 Reply
    • alice wrote:

      ahh yes, the Pink Sofa of dreams!!!

      Posted 3.15.17 Reply
  2. Suzi wrote:

    You also have ‘the rug’…..!!!! A man is complimentary…. does he go with the rug?? He needs to blend!! New ish to your blog and loving it very much!

    Posted 3.15.17 Reply
    • alice wrote:

      Good to have you here Suzi! The ability to blend with ‘the rug’ and ‘the pink sofa’ is literally the first thing I look for in a man ;) xx

      Posted 3.18.17 Reply
  3. lori wrote:

    This is so good and TRUE! Love that you’re embracing you and not settling for anything less than amazing! x

    Posted 3.16.17 Reply
    • alice wrote:

      ahh thanks Lori xx

      Posted 3.19.17 Reply
  4. Alison wrote:

    Love this, Alice. You are such a sensible lady and a great role model for your kids – they see a strong, independent lady. WITH A GORGEOUS SOFA.

    Posted 3.16.17 Reply
  5. Clare wrote:

    Ah, this resonates. Relationship status anxiety: meh, not so much. x

    Posted 3.16.17 Reply
  6. lauranne wrote:

    I’m reading this nodding along, not only to the online dating (I had a guy who took me to a restaurant and refused to order and food, and why do all men appear to lie about their height online?!) but to the learning how to be single. I finally got it, after a few years by myself. I learnt how to be selfish and I love it. Of course, just as I had embraced singledom and realised that ending up alone wouldn’t be the worse thing that happened to me I met S. But I am determined not to lose what I learnt during that time alone and so I still treat myself to me date nights. I can remember when I wouldn’t go to the cinema alone, as I was worried what people would think, meaning I missed out on so much and I am refusing to get that hung up on being with someone that I am in a similar position if S ever leaves

    Posted 3.16.17 Reply
    • alice wrote:

      refusing to order food at a restaurant??! What a weirdo.

      I’m a fan of eating alone – nothing like a lovely quiet solo dinner :) LOVE the idea of me date nights x

      Posted 3.16.17 Reply
  7. Anne wrote:

    I’m sat here with a fabulous friend and wondering how to put you both in touch. Great guy, single, decent, absolute gentleman.

    Posted 3.17.17 Reply
    • alice wrote:

      You should be a matchmaker, Anne!

      Posted 3.18.17 Reply
  8. Craig wrote:

    I have enjoyed reading some of these blogs, particularly this one about online dating from the perspective of a single mother.

    Being a male in the relatively earlier stage of this process I thought I’d try out online dating as there is considerably less stigma surrounding it now than there was when I was last single 7 years ago. When I started I was very reluctant to contact anyone unless I was absolutely certain they would be right for me as I didn’t want to break too many hearts, obviously. This should be like shooting fish in a barrel!

    A few months down the line and I’m being rejected by people I’d quite frankly be too embarrassed to introduce to my friends. So I have to try and work out where its going wrong for me and I suspect its because I’m open in my profile about having two young children. They live with their mum and whilst I see them regularly I now have a lot to give to someone else. I consider myself to be normal, I have a good job, etc so in theory I should be attractive so at least a small percentage of the female online dating community. But most women appear to either have children already so don’t want to meet someone with children or they don’t have children and in the words of one person I spoke to they “want to start a family of [their] own”. I’m considering removing all reference to being a dad to see what difference it makes but like you say above this will only mean that I have to drop that bombshell later down the line. Its certainly more complicated than I first expected.

    Posted 3.19.17 Reply
    • WAAFE wrote:


      I’ve recently started reading some of Alice’s posts too and was beginning to wonder if I was the only guy reading them!! I’m a widower and only parent and have similar experiences of online dating as yourself. Except that I’ve also put in my profile that I’m a widower in addition to looking after my kids full time. When I haven’t put it in my profile but have brought it up early in messaging, well when you talk about ghosting, I’ve lived it as those 2 things together have in the main been a conversation stopper to say the least!! To compound things, I’ve become friends with a number of widows through various groups. They have pretty much all had men throwing themselves at them, I kid you not. My female friends and family keep telling me that I ‘should’ be a catch but my experience to date has suggested otherwise. That’s not including the bunny boilers and women that have pretty much wanted to settle down within 2 weeks of dating!!! Oops

      I have seen some profiles of women with children preferring to date someone with kids but those do seem to be far and in between. Keep it in your profile that you’re a dad, as it will save the heart ache of having pointless conversations with women who would have never been interested. From speaking to a number of female friends and reading blogs like this one, all in all I think mens and womens online dating experiences are very similar. The good, the bad and the damn right weird. Hopefully that appropriate match is somewhere out there for all us and as they say you have to be in it to win it.

      Posted 3.29.17 Reply
      • alice wrote:

        It makes me very happy that there are so many people identifying with what I’m writing, men and women!
        Sorry you’ve been having a bit of a crap time of it. I think it’s important to be upfront as early as possible, the right woman will be able to handle a bit of personal history – we all have it! As you say, we have to be in it to win it… I hope your experience improves.

        Posted 3.29.17 Reply
        • Kate wrote:

          As a woman with kids, when I’ve dipped my toe into the world of online dating I’ve found that being upfront about having kids in my profile seems to be a massive turn off for 99.9% of the men I would consider dating. And from experience, I think I would now only date men who also have children, as men who don’t just don’t “get it”. It’s not an insult, it’s just life. I didn’t get it before I had children either, as much as I thought I did! So for the time being I’m just learning that being on my own really isn’t such a bad thing, and maybe at some point the right man will come along, maybe not. I think that dating after you have kids is HARD and not something which you can just expect to work without quite a lot of effort and compromise. Good luck in your quest for the right ladies, gentlemen :o)

          Posted 4.7.17 Reply
          • alice wrote:

            That’s interesting Kate – I find it definitely weeds out some men, but others are still keen! I agree, men without children often don’t get it (though I’ve found the odd gem who does!). I put it down to them living their lives having never really had to consider other people constantly when you’re a parent. x

            Posted 4.10.17
      • Craig wrote:

        I stand by my liberal approach to dating women with children, but yesterday I saw (and promptly swiped left) a profile where the first picture was a 12 week scan dated November 2016!!!!!! You’d think she had more important things to focus on.

        Posted 4.14.17 Reply
    • alice wrote:

      Great to have you here, Craig!
      Similar to the comment below, I think it’s good to be upfront about having kids in a dating profile. For some reason I have never had them on my Tinder profile, but then I always felt that Tinder was a different kettle of fish.
      You’ll find the right women, I’m sure you will (you have spelling and grammar on your side for a start), I think it just takes time.

      Posted 3.29.17 Reply
  9. Pen wrote:

    Hi Alice,

    I have had so many dates where I have been sitting there wondering why I bothered and wishing I had stayed home and drunk a very nice bottle of wine on my own. I have reached a stage, 2 years on, when I am actually perfectly happy, happier than I’ve been in a long time, and I don’t think I want to meet someone. Spinster-hood is very appealing. I can decorate my flat exactly how I want it. My sofa is red, my balcony covered in daffodils, I have pictures of pineapples on the wall and some very unconventional picture-hanging arrangements. No man could fit in here.

    Thanks, as always, for the good read. Pen x

    Posted 3.19.17 Reply
    • alice wrote:

      I like the sound of the red and the pineapples :)

      Posted 3.29.17 Reply
  10. WAAFE wrote:

    Do women have the same issue as men do with people lying about their age or height etc? I had a date last night with someone whose online profile said they were 37 but during our date she said she was 42 and blamed it somehow on Tinder/Facebook. This has happened enough times in the past couple of years for it to be a pattern!!

    I’ve been on a few different online dating apps/sites and never once have I managed to input my incorrect DOB or somehow not managed to ensure that my correct DOB is in my Facebook profile. I’m 44 and once went on a date with someone whose profile said she was 42 when in fact she was actually 49 and another who said she was 5’8″ when in fact she was 5′ 4″. Or if there are 6 pictures in their profile, picture 1 is them looking fabulous and by the time you get to picture 6 they look like a completely different person, about 10 years older and 2 stone heavier!! : – )

    I would never lie about anything as I would rather not have any matches or dates for that matter rather than have to explain why I couldn’t do such a basic thing as correctly type information into my dating or social media profile.


    Posted 4.11.17 Reply
    • alice wrote:

      Height – YES! I’ve had a couple of very awkward dates towering over the man I’m standing next to, and I’m only 5’5″.
      Age hasn’t been too much of a problem but then I think it’s something women are much more sensitive to. I’ve heard nightmare stories about people using photos that are 10 years out of date, but again I think this tends to be something women do more than men.
      I agree that if you are having technical issues with the date on your Facebook/Tinder profile then what hope is there for a relationship? I’d like to be with someone who can at least programme the oven/cope when the Wifi router has a melt-down.
      I have had a couple of men lie about their marital status, though. That’s quite a corker…

      Posted 4.12.17 Reply