“You know I have a kid, right?”
This is the first thing I say when someone asks me out, my romantic Pavlovian response.
Even though it is all over my dating profile (yes, it’s finally happened, your parents are on dating apps now), I still make it a point to clarify this before accepting a date. You may think this is overkill or just my millennial neurosis poking its head up to declare three more months of dating darkness, but it has happened more times than I care to count. I am sitting across from a person at a mid-priced contemporary eatery equidistant from both of our places when I casually mention my daughter, and they make “the face.” The face that shows me they didn’t realize I was a mom and they aren’t too thrilled about it. This is also when they shake their head and say more to themselves than to me, “I don’t remember your profile saying you had a kid.” I make a dumb joke where I clarify she’s a child, not a goat, and we laugh awkwardly. The rest of the evening passes pleasantly, and we both tell each other what a great time we had, and then I never hear from them again.
Some of these dead-end dates are simply due to a lack of chemistry, but for the others, it comes back to the moment when they made “the face.” When they realized I’m a mom and started doing the cost-benefit analysis of dating a person who is responsible for another, smaller person. Suddenly their fantasies of wine-soaked dinner dates and sexy weekends on the beach are replaced with images of changing diapers and dropping angsty pre-teens off at the mall. It’s when they decide they can’t deal with my “baggage.”
While I certainly do not want to be with someone who does not want kids because obviously, that’s off the table, I am sick of the perception that my child is some kind of anchor around my neck, dragging me to the depths of dating oblivion. I am especially sick of the idea that single mothers are running around, combing the singles scene in a desperate hunt to find surrogate fathers for our children. We are not.
The truth is, being a parent has made me a better dater and a better human being. I am much less of a dating red flag now than I was before having kids. I am more thoughtful with my actions and my time. Dating as a parent has taught me to think about what I want and to be upfront about my needs. Whether I am looking for something casual or ready for a real commitment-believe me, I will let you know.
And this next part, I cannot stress enough: I am not trying to rope you into child support over drinks. I don’t even know your opinion on whether or not Die Hard is a Christmas movie yet. Slow down. I’m dating for me because I am an actual human woman and not just a caricature of a single mom you remember from daytime TV. I have the ability to be a fully realized woman complete with wants and needs, outside of being a mom.
I get it. Dating a single parent can be complicated, but all relationships are, whether there are kids in the picture or not. There will always be issues with packed schedules, work conflicts, and differing opinions on social issues, and this all happens regardless of parental status. The events in our lives that have moulded our characters, the amalgamation of people and places, and things that have brought us to this moment, aren’t baggage. They’re us. Single parents are people, and our kids are amazing parts of our lives. I am not waving a banner in front of your face urging you to “DATE A SINGLE MOM TODAY!” But maybe just remember that we all have “baggage” it just so happens mine is just way cuter than yours and will be paying for my retirement community one day.