Not Your MILF: A Guide to Dating Single Moms

Crystal Jackson

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A friend of mine and I were recently doing what we do: comparing our lists of garbage dating trends. There are just so many that this conversation could go on forever, but that day’s focus zeroed in on an enormous pet peeve for both of us: the perception of single moms in the dating world.

If you’re a single mom, you can probably guess most of these without even looking down the list. You’ve been there. Some single dads may have experienced a few of these, too. It’s all ridiculous, and I hope this little PSA helps someone out there get a clue that maybe they didn’t have before about the challenges of dating a single mom.

First of all, don’t call us MILFs.

For the unenlightened, this nasty little acronym stands for Moms I'd Like to Fuck. While most people might have the good sense to think it but not say it, I’ve had this said to me directly a number of times, as if I were being paid an amazing compliment. It’s not complimentary; it’s disrespectful. When you open with this statement, you’ve already clarified that we aren’t even people to you; just a notch on your bedpost.

Cougar is another term that needs to go. If you’re willing to date someone older, be mature enough to date them for themselves without invoking this ugly term. If you feel like you need to use it, maybe you’re not mature enough to be dating someone older than you.

We haven’t lowered the bar.

There’s this assumption that we’re desperate and have lowered the bar to accommodate any men who will have us. I’m not sure where this entirely demented idea originated from, but most of us have weathered divorces, shitty relationships, and single parenting. We have in no way lowered our standards. Most of us have jacked them up pretty high to make sure that we don’t end up in toxic relationships that might spill over to our children.

This means that when you send us your dick pic, we’re not going to rush out to see it in person. It actually may get you sent directly to a block list because we want a quality partner and not someone firing off pictures of their equipment to total strangers. If someone asks for them, fine. But it’s bad form to just send them out. Learn about consent.

We‘re not Daddy shopping.

I can honestly say that I went on a date where the guy practically interviewed me to be the stepmom for his kid. It was the first (and, in this case, last) date. Maybe people like this are why there’s a misconception that single parents are hunting for a prospective step-parent for the kids.

The single people I know aren’t out interviewing mommies or daddies. We’re looking for a connection and a healthy relationship. If we find that, we certainly want one capable of filling that role for our kids, but we’re not out shopping for a step-parent where just anyone could fit the bill.

So, don’t bother trying to cozy up to our kids or push hard on forming a relationship with them. We’re not going to let you near the kids unless we think this has a future, and it may take a while to get to that stage. We’re looking for actual partners we can love and not just someone who meets some parenting checklist.

Even if you pay, dates cost us, too.

I’m not talking about some kind of sick quid pro quo situation. I’m talking babysitters. I once paid $70 to a sitter to go out on a date that cost less than that for dinner. Stop pushing single parents to get a sitter when they aren’t available or can’t afford it. If they say no, respect that.

There is little more embarrassing than having to explain to a potential date that our budget may extend to supporting ourselves and our kids but might not cover the cost of a sitter for a night out. Be considerate, and understand that sometimes dates might also get derailed by family emergencies.

No glove, no love.

Louder for the people in the back! Safety is always important, but it’s even more so for a single parent who is already shouldering enormous responsibility. If you don’t have contraceptives on hand, don’t expect to have sex. STIs and unplanned pregnancies impact our lives in ways you can’t even imagine, and being careless about sex shows that you’re immature and irresponsible.

We’re not looking to raise another kid.

I’m not talking about potential step-children either. If you are not living on your own and supporting yourself, it’s a red flag. If you’re not holding a job and paying your own bills, it’s a red flag. If you’re up to your eyeballs in debt that’s not for an education, it’s a red flag.

We already have kids to take care of, and we don’t want a partner who we’re going to have to teach to balance a checkbook, create a budget, or wash a load of laundry. We’re looking for adults who are capable of supporting themselves and don’t expect someone else to do it for them.

Get over your hang-ups about co-parenting.

Hey, I don’t want to see my ex either, but when you’re a good parent, you actually try really hard to do what’s best for the kids. This means co-parenting with someone you broke up with or divorced. It’s not fun for us either, but if you’re going to be with a single parent, expect there to be some interaction from the ex.

Our kids come first, but we don’t come last.

This one is big for me. My kids will always come first in the decisions that I make as far as their health and well-being and overall happiness. But I’m not last either.

I had an ex say that he and my kids should come before me. I think I was somewhat lower on the list than housecleaning and making dinner. But that’s not how this works. I don’t come last.

If I’m in a relationship, I’m not going to put my wants, needs, and general self-care last because I have a partner, and I wouldn’t be with a partner who expected me to do so. I matter, too, and it’s unrealistic to expect a single parent to put you before their kids OR themselves. Single parents need all the self-care they can get to do this job.

We have so much less time to waste.

We’re incredibly busy, and we’re not going to waste a lot of time. If you seem to be jerking us around, we’re going to put on the brakes. If you lie to us, don’t expect us to keep you around. If you wave a red flag in the air in front of us, we’re not going to excuse it as a little quirk. We’ve got busy lives and children to raise up to be healthy, happy adults, and we don’t have the time for our time to be wasted.

  • If you know you couldn’t treat another person’s kids like your own, don’t date a single parent.
  • If you’re going to get twisted about an ex coming around for co-parenting purposes, don’t date a single parent.
  • If you can’t be considerate, respectful, and honest, don’t date a single parent.

It’s easy. We want connection and to fall in love, like anyone else, but we are not here for any of your bullshit if you just want to play games. We’ll play Chutes and Ladders with our kids, but we’re not going to play dating games with you.

Be real, or go home.

There are so many challenges for single moms to date at all. My primary sitter will almost never babysit in order for me to date, and I can’t always afford the prices of other sitters in my area. I often have to work around their visitations with their dad or even their school schedule. It’s not easy. We already have enough stress and responsibility without dating adding more.

There’s this horrible misconception out there about single moms. I hope this little tutorial has clarified a few of these areas that might have been confusing before. We want to date, but we’re not here for anyone’s bullshit. We’re not easy or desperate, and we’re not shopping for daddies. If you don’t have a glove, you don’t get the love, and just generally be considerate of our time.

Thank you for coming to my TED Talk.

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Crystal Jackson is a former therapist turned writer. She is the author of the Heart of Madison series and a volume of poetry entitled My Words Are Whiskey. Her work has been featured on Medium, Elite Daily, Thought Catalog, The Good Men Project, and Elephant Journal. When she's not writing, you can find her traveling, paddle boarding, cycling, throwing axes badly but with terrifying enthusiasm, hiking, or curled up with her nose in a book in Madison, Georgia, where she lives with one puppy and two wild and wonderful children. Crystal writes about relationships, mental health, parenting, social justice, and more. Never miss an update. Subscribe to emails: https://crystaljacksonwriter.substack.com/

Madison, GA
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