Parenting is extremely hard work. Yes, it is rewarding, but it is incredibly challenging. If you have kids, you understand that strange universe of being so in love with your children while simultaneously feeling like they are sucking every ounce of energy you have. As a parent, you know how it is one of the most beautiful and also arduous journeys you will experience. If you have ever had your significant other leave town for work or a weekend trip with friends, you get a mere glimpse at single parenthood. The first day might start with all the confidence in the world followed by days of managing to tread water until your partner returns. Of course this may sound a little dramatic, but if you have children you understand. If they are young and need a lot of help, it can be exhausting. Even if they are teenagers, taking them from activity to activity is exhausting! With that small hint of what single parents experience, it is safe to say single moms are some of the most incredible and resourceful people. If you are lucky enough to date one of these incredible women, here are 5 things to keep in mind:
1. The kids will come first, especially before things get serious.
Their children will be their first priority, and honestly, they should be. Whether they are sharing custody or not, when their kids are with her, she is all they have. She is the breadwinner, the chef, the tutor, the disciplinarian, and the bedtime storyteller. They need her and she knows she has to care for them first even if that means putting her own needs aside. Especially early on in the relationship, it is important to understand she is first a mom and then your girlfriend.
2. Her schedule will revolve around their kids.
Because they have to prioritize their kids, this means their schedule will revolve around them. Evening dates might come at a premium and weekends might be filled with activities like baseball games, recitals, and trips to the park. Her schedule and availability will follow the schedule of their children. Dates might involve helping her find a sitter or being creative like grabbing a quick bite on her lunch break.
3. She will likely have less flexibility and spontaneity.
Understanding the previous points, this idea makes a lot of sense. If her kids come first and their schedule revolves around them, it is going to be more challenging to potentially find time for each other. It is going to be more difficult for her to make time for you. You can be supportive by being flexible and understanding while also helping her plan time to spend with you.
4. She might be dealing with the potential stress of sharing custody.
Everyone’s situation is different. For some single moms, their ex may not even be in the picture; however, for other single moms, they may have some time of shared custody. Sometimes single moms have positive relationships with their exes. However, that is not always the case. Whether it is a cordial relationship or a contentious one, co-parenting can be incredibly stressful and challenging. It is important to understand that co-parenting and sharing custody can result in stress and even anxiety for them.
5. They may wait a while before they introduce you to their kids.
If you are interested in seriously dating a woman with children, you likely have already processed through the idea that she comes as a package deal. As a single mother, it is going to be critical that her children are able to get along with her partner and vice versa. Because she cares so much about the relationship between her partner and her kids, she may wait to introduce to them. It is also can serve as a way of protecting her children. When she dates someone who has met her children, any break up that happens will not only impact her but it will also impact her kids.
Michelle Overman is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist working as a counselor for students, faculty, and staff at Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas. She works with athletes, bridging the gap between athletics and mental health at ACU. She is becoming a Certified Mental Performance Consultant in sports psychology. Michelle ran her own private practice in Austin, Texas where she worked with a diverse population, including couples and families. Michelle earned a Master’s in Marriage & Family Therapy and has been working in the field for 6 years.