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Dating is so hard at this age, with this much baggage. Most 28 year olds are just getting into their careers, travelling, enjoying time with their friends; not juggling full-time single parenting of two small people with a demanding full-time job and an ex-husband. The online dating profile does not exactly write itself, am I right?
There is a reason you are usually part of a couple when you have kids. There’s someone else to share the pure torture of the lack of sleep, a partner who will bask in the warmth of your children’s teeny tiny accomplishments with you in a way that only a parent can. Plus you know there is someone who will love you for all your motherhood imperfections; your pregnancy stretchmarks, your wobbly belly, your eye bags and hair that hasn’t seen a brush in days. They’re 50% responsible for them so they’re kind of obliged to.
But when you’re on a first date with someone you can’t explain away your greasy mop with a sickly toddler, or your yawning with your baby who isn’t a great sleeper. Your date doesn’t want to be reminded of the fact that you were once in a relationship with someone that was serious enough to produce two children: it’s not exactly sexy.
This is why I always feel that when I’m dating the pressure is on. There’s pressure to not look like a mum – so no turning up with banana on your top and felt tip pen on your jeans. No talking about the magical things your children have done that day or lamenting your current schooling concerns. The fact I’m a mother as well as a woman feels like the elephant in the room.
In the past I’ve felt like maybe I need to compromise what I’m looking for in a date, just because I’m a mum. I’ve met men in bars who, once they found out I have children, have taken off so quickly they left skidmarks. This does not do much for a gal’s confidence, let me tell you. When I sit down and think about it, in my opinion I have quite a lot to offer in a relationship: I (think I) am intelligent, I (think I) am funny, I like to have fun, keep fit and look after myself. I love conversation, trying new things, travelling, music, debating. I’m self-sufficient, hard-working and ambitious. I’m a total catch! But I have two kids, and no matter how much I dress that up there will be men that I’d love to date who won’t look at me twice because of them.
I try to tell myself that I don’t want to go out with a man who isn’t open-minded enough to date a single mother, but that’s like telling yourself that calories don’t count past 9pm. I.e. complete bollocks you make up to feel better.
It must be tough to date me, as much as I feel it’s tough for me to date. I was in a relationship with someone I believed was the love of my life for 9 years and very happy for many of these. I know how it feels to be very much in love with someone who is also your best friend and I still wonder how it was possible that such a great relationship went down the pan. It’s a tough act to follow.
I find my marriage baggage difficult, too. I don’t know if I was lucky to experience such a serious and long-lasting relationship that ended in marriage at such a young age, but because I know how good a relationship can be I’m hesitant to accept anything less. The relationship with my ex was a whirlwind of love at first sight, moving in together after six weeks, getting engaged after 9 months and thinking we’d live happy ever after. Which we kind of did, if ‘happily ever after’ roughly translates to ‘8 or 9 years’.
Aside from boyfriends when I was at school this is the only relationship I’ve ever known. Is this how relationships always happen? Is there always a thunderbolt of recognition that this is the person you’re meant to be with or are some relationships a slow-burner?
This past, my marriage, makes dating a tough business. I don’t want to be with anyone who isn’t perfect and I keep finding myself at a crossroad. I really want to push my career forward but that won’t happen if I’m spending all my child-free evenings on dates. I haven’t ruled out giving up on men and becoming a businesswoman recluse but I think then I’d have to homeschool the kids and that is never going to happen.
I don’t need a man in my life to be happy but boy it is nice to have someone for a bit of banter and the occasional dinner.
What to do?