Bumble. Tinder. Hinge. The League. Match.
If you’ve been single in the past 5 years, chances are you know these names all too well. If you haven’t personally experienced these dating apps you, 1.) are really lucky, 2.) most definitely heard about them through your friends’ dating experiences.
I imagine it all starts out the same for everyone. When you jump onto the apps for the very first time (and there will be more than one time), there’s a bit of excitement at the many unknown possibilities. You’ll craft your profile, carefully selecting which photos you want to sum up your personality without having to write some cheeseball biography. You’ll adjust your app settings to specify how far a radius makes for acceptable dating (more than 20 miles away is too much work in my opinion). In some apps you can even specify the ethnicity, religion, social status, etc. that suits your preferences.
Of course, as a single mother, I have an added level of complexity when it comes to dating and the narrative that I want to present for myself.
I waiver back and forth constantly on whether or not I add that piece of information into my profile. I sometimes wonder if I should explicitly say that I’m a mother to 2 amazing kids in addition to some clever one-liner about how “they’re probably way cooler than any of you.” Do I just give my Instagram handle and let them see for themselves and decide if they want to swipe right or left? Do I add a picture of all three of us and just let them guess if those are my kids or my niece/nephew?
So far, I’ve yet to do any of these.
I wouldn’t call it lying (though my coworker would disagree), but I just prefer to either tell the guy in person or find an opportune time to drop it into a texting convo. I’d rather have the person get to know me just a little before I drop that sort of bomb on them. And yes, I realize that my preceding statement almost stigmatizes the fact that I have kids. But if I’m being completely honest with myself I know that ‘divorced with 2 kids’ is never someone’s first choice in the dating pool frenzy. Some may refer to me as ‘damaged goods’. I certainly did at the beginning of my divorce.
“Who would want me?“ Yes, those are words I beat into my brain for a long time.
But I’m past all that. Well, mostly past all that. I’ve put those tiny violins away and have taken a different approach from ‘who would want me?’ to more like, ‘I kinda get why I’m not ideal.’ When there’s a bevy of women who have glamorous jobs, unlimited free time to pick up and travel, or grab last minute drinks on a Tuesday, I 100% understand why I don’t make it past a few dates or a month’s time frame.
I come with a lot of baggage. Like…a lot. But once you get into your 30’s doesn’t everyone have some kind of baggage? There’s more of us who have been previously married, previously engaged, and/or has already procreated with someone. But as it turns out, besides being a drug addict or a criminal my baggage holds what seems to be pretty undesirable weight.
It has taken some time to get to this point of acceptance. When I started noticing the pattern of guys disappearing after about 3 weeks I contributed it to the flaky demeanor that is the online dating culture and the fact that I’m just not an easy person to date—in terms of the amount of work it can take, not who I am as a person. I think I’m alright ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
And look, I’m not asking for anyone’s pity. I don’t really pity myself anymore. I’m just saying—dating in your 30’s is hard, and dating in your 30’s with two kids is even harder. To put it simply, it SUCKS. (But it does make for sometimes great, sometimes horrible, and sometimes hilarious stories.)
My expectations have been set so low, that I just assume every dating encounter will expire within about a month (if I can make it past the first date). It’s this constant cycle of excitement and then disappointment. And I’m not really sure what is sadder: that I expect it to be this way or that it actually is this way.
I don’t know any current single moms, and so trying to relate to other people about how dating is gets sort of lost on others. I mean, sure, they throw in the “I can’t even imagine what it’s like” bit and I know they’re sincere when they say it. But I’m kind of on my own with this one. So when I tried to research if there were any other young single mom blogs I could commiserate with, I came across a few (except they were not young and at least 10 years my senior). There was one post on the difficulties of dating that I only mildly related to, however; it was the comments section that really grabbed my attention. First of all, the commenters were almost ALL men [read: boys]. Why they were trolling a single mom blogger is beyond me. Second, they were brutally honest in their comments, and I mean BRUTAL:
“If motherhood is the best part of you and children are so fulfilling then you also don’t really need a man or to be dating at all do you?”
“Deep down inside single men (even ones that have kids) loathe dating single mothers for the simple fact that they are supporting another man’s offspring. Any single man who dates a single mother is secretly regarded as a simp, fool, chump, weak, and dumpster diver by other men…”
“I don’t hate ’em, just won’t date ‘ em. There is never a reason to carry another man’s freight. Better to be alone.”
“There pretty much is no reason for a man who has his stuff together to date or have a relationship with a single mom.”
“No sane man should ever get involved with a single mother, as there is very little and usually nothing to be gained. More to the point, single men who have no children of their own should not get involved as they don’t have the experience to know how to deal with manipulative children.”
OUCH. Also…WHAT THE FUCK.
Look, I already said that I’ve come to realize that I’m not ideal to date, but I came up on that realization on my own. It took soul searching, deep private thoughts, and many trial and errors to get there. But to read it from actual men [boys] put in such a way (whom, by the way, I hope I never ever come across) was a kick to the nuts. It also makes me wonder if there’s some general misconception that single moms need saving. Something about their conclusions regarding single mothers seems highly inaccurate. Honestly, do I strike any of you as someone who needs to be saved?
I get it though, I totally do. I try to put myself in the other person’s shoes and think “would I want to get involved with someone who has kids?” Had I been dating in my mid 20’s the answer would be no. In my 30’s: it would give me pause, but if everything else checks out then I don’t think I would let it hold me back. What I’m about to say is a very general statement, but I don’t think I’m wrong when I say women are geared more to the prospect of a family than men are. Therefore, we’re not as put-off by a man’s kids with a previous partner. According to those fucktards in that comments section, it's nothing but a burden.
As I explored my dating history for this post I decided to go through my text messages to see how many guys I matched and went on dates with in the past year and a half. With the exception of about a handful, and with most of them not making it past one meeting, I went on about 40 unique different dates.
That is a lot of groundwork to have to go through.
Only 3 of those guys made it to at least a few months of dating, which included seeing each other a few times a week, talking every day, and having the exclusive talk (in one way or another). That seems fairly normal for dating right?
Except, I found that I had to make sure that talking about my kids wasn’t a problem. Once it was understood that the kids weren’t an issue, would I be ‘wearing out their welcome’ by filling our conversations with updates about my kids? I explicitly asked each of them, “Does it bother you or make you uncomfortable when I talk about my kids?” All of them said no, but looking back now it’s silly to me that I felt I even had to ask that.
Out of the three guys, only one - the last of the three - mentioned on his own ever meeting them in the future. It was something I hadn’t heard so soon into dating a person, and something I wasn’t sure when I’d be ready for. Things would have to be pretty serious for that to happen. But even the casual mention of the possibility gave me a sliver of hope. But extremely busy schedules led to decreased communications that dwindled to maybe seeing each other once every 2-3 weeks, to finally coming to the realization that it just wasn’t working.
The first of the three was, and still is, a very busy man, which I think had very much to do with why we couldn’t make a relationship work. He was actually my introduction back into the dating world, and I felt absolutely adored by him. I’d say, he was the best possible introduction into dating again. I distinctly remember about two weeks into it facetiming on the phone and I had to tell him something….
Quite scared, I told him that I was divorced. He shrugged it off like it wasn’t a big deal and said, “It’s not like you have 3 kids or something.”
“No….just two.” And then I burrowed my face in a pillow feeling equal parts released (there, I said it), and scared (and now he will go away). But he didn’t. Not in the way I was dreading. But he did go away; on lots of trips. He was (still is) doing great things, but I couldn’t be a part of it. Traveling the world is nearly impossible when working a normal job and being a mom to two young kids. We lived in different worlds and tried to combine them when we could. We came to the conclusion that we’re just in different chapters in our lives. We dissolved peacefully. To this day we communicate here and there, admiring each other’s vastly different lives from afar.
That leaves second guy. And, well, I’d say this one hurt the most, because our disintegration didn’t come from a mutual understanding that ‘this isn’t working.’ When we first met at the beginning of this year, I had just been told after 3 weeks by another guy that he wasn’t ready to deal with the kids’ thing. I had a very ‘fuck it’ attitude at this point and right away just told him (guy #2) I had kids, expecting the conversation to end immediately. Instead, he made a joke that illustrated he wasn’t afraid of it; and also illustrated he was funny and shared the same sense of humor as me. The more we talked, the more we clicked. I felt I had the strongest chemistry with him. I felt at ease, and I felt no pressure. I also felt myself falling for him a lot faster than I anticipated. I tried to fight it, but was powerless against my feelings.
At one point during a guys’ trip he texted me and said, “I just told my friends about you [aka I'm a mom]…”
“Did your friends throw the red flags out about me?”
“No, surprisingly. They were all just happy I like someone.”
Yes. Surprisingly. Because the expected reaction is always a negative one.
After a small relationship hiccup, he thanked me for being patient with his baggage (a messy past with an ex), to which I replied, “I could easily say the same to you.”
Him: "Well I’ve never really felt like you had baggage anyway.”
It was all I ever wanted to hear.
In the end, I was blindsided and heartbroken. There were many reasons that made me think we had potential, and several reasons that made me question his intentions. I don’t think he ever meant any malice, and overall I don’t think he really knew what he wanted. But after three months, he clearly no longer wanted me.
Remember my last blog post about me crying at the dinner table and how Lucy succumbed to tears as well? I have guy number 2 to thank for that meltdown. I’m not angry at him, though. Even when we broke up, I thanked him for reminding me what it was like to feel that way again. After so much rejection in the prior year, I was reacquainted with warm fuzzy feelings that can only be felt by a growing possibility of love.
But boy, did it hurt. And because of it, I have never been so guarded with my heart like I am now. I let him in, and I only did so because he made me feel that we were on the same page the whole way through. Somewhere along the way and unbeknownst to me, we deviated. And all I was left with were unanswered questions and a battered heart.
So this brings us back to the other guys, which I’d say the rejection ratio was about 70% (them)/30% (me), or we equally saw that it wasn’t worth either of our time. Out of that 70%, a third of them made it pretty clear in one way or another that the kids’ situation was more or less a deal breaker. It wasn’t always right away, but eventually they made it known. I’ll let you come to your own conclusions as to what that means.
The root of any frustration or heartache I may have experienced can be understood in a summarized statement I’ve been told over and over again:
“I think you’re great. You’re funny, you’re smart, you’re a cool mom, you’re attractive, you’re easy to talk to and get along with, BUT….”
You get the picture. It almost always boils down to the kids.
Just think about that for a second. I am told all these great things as consolation for the fact that my two children are the reason why I’m not good enough for them. Again, I know that throwing yourself into a situation with someone else’s kids is a lot and not everyone is ready for that. But I’m constantly reminded that my motherhood—something that will NEVER go away, something so apart of me—is the reason why I’m not desirable. Let’s face it: to them, my stock plummets the second they find out I have kids.
But I disagree. My kids have made me a better person. They have enriched my life in ways only a parent will understand. They’re easily the best thing about me. And I think anyone would be lucky to have me, and eventually all three of us in their life.
Interestingly enough, I’ve remained friends with a few of the guys I went on some of these dates with. I use the term 'friend' loosely in that I wouldn’t call them in a crisis but we chat here and there. We may have hung out once or twice again, and it’s friendly; but we know what it is and what it isn’t. And if you’re one of those few reading this: I’m not bitter towards you. Don’t worry, friend ;)
Anyways. The apps have been deleted for a while now with no intention of jumping back on.
With a heavy, relieved sigh I say, “Thanks, Universe. You have made it abundantly clear I will be a single mom for a very long time.” And in the same breath I also say, “That is perfectly fine with me.”