What It's Really Like to Date a Single Parent

06/29/2015 12:51 pm ET | Updated Jun 29, 2016
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I've read several articles lately about why men should date single mothers, and I agree with all of them. Single moms are often resilient, selfless beings who put others' needs before their own -- great qualities to seek out in a partner to be sure. Due to personal experience, I also know that there is some hesitance in the dating world when it comes to dating a single parent, and can I just say -- I get it.

In the spirit of full disclosure, you should know that I've never liked dating. Not when I was a teenager. Not when I was in college. And especially not now that I'm divorced. To be clear, I like the part where you find one person who you enjoy spending time with and talking to on a regular basis. I do not like going on countless first dates, agonizing over what to wear, what to say, how not to spill food on myself and then replaying the date in my head for days afterward analyzing the highlights (or low points).

Dating as a single parent is a whole different game -- one that is played in a foreign language and where the rules are made up as you go along. In addition to the normal dating woes, there are other factors (and people) to consider. If you are contemplating dating a single parent, be prepared to encounter the following:

The stars will need to align for a date to happen: Ok, this is an exaggeration, but dating a single parent requires a little more planning and advanced notice than you might be used to. If I'm not going out on a Wednesday night or every other weekend (and I know this is a luxury not afforded to every single parent), I have to arrange for a sitter. It will also have to be an evening when there are no tee-ball games or VBS or birthday parties. Spontaneity, while thrilling, doesn't really have a place in my life these days (unless it's a Wednesday or every other weekend).

We value our time: This is true for most people, I know, but I've found myself getting more upset over canceled or rescheduled dates as a single parent than I ever did before. Why? My kid-free time is limited and precious. I try to cram as much into this time as possible -- friend dates, grocery trips, cleaning, house projects, work projects -- you get the idea. If I have carved out time for a date, that means that I've probably put several other things on hold. While the occasional cancelation is inevitable, the habitual canceler will likely be dropped from the calendar.

We come with some (pretty cute) baggage: You think this would go without saying, but I'm going to go ahead and say it anyway -- single parents, by definition, have kids. And they're our top priority regardless of who we're dating. While a potential suitor won't be meeting my kids on the first date (or several thereafter), my adorable redheads are going to make their way into my thoughts and my conversations, so if you don't want to hear about my son's obsession with baseball or my genius daughter's recent spelling and counting achievements, then I'm not a match for you. In addition, if we've been dating for awhile and you show no interest in meeting my kids, that, too, will raise red flags.

There might be some not-so-cute baggage: Most of the time breakups mean you don't have to see your ex ever again (except maybe for that unfortunate run-in at Starbucks or the grocery). With single parents, though, that is often not the case. Although I am my children's primary caregiver, they also have a father who is present in their lives. He sees them weekly and attends extra-curricular activities. There's no way around the fact that he is and will continue to be a part of my life. While my relationship with my ex is civil, others are not so lucky. Regardless, dating a single parent might mean that you will have to encounter the ex, a task that, understandably, not everyone is up for.

So to the men and women who know they are not ready to tackle dating a single parent, I say, "thank you." You are saving yourself, another human, and (possibly) some little ones from wasted time and hurt feelings. If you're up to the challenge, though, dating a single parent can be extremely rewarding (I'm not biased or anything). Some of the best people I know are single parents. In any case, this blog isn't meant to scare you but instead to prepare you for, and perhaps enlighten you to, the uncharted territory that is dating a single parent.