Dating and the single mom: When do you come clean about having kids?

This is a story about single-mom dating etiquette, but it is also about single moms cruising for men together. It originally ran October, 2012.

Having kids is often a deal-breaker when dating. That is OK.

When it comes to dating, the possession of offspring is right up there with bisexuality (in men), herpes, smoking, being a Republican, and refusal to perform oral sex. Most people have a few things they just aren’t willing to compromise about. No exceptions. As far as I’m concerned, that is perfectly fine.

But that doesn’t mean that dating as a single mom can’t put you in a pickle. Scratch that. Cruising for men can put you in a pickle.

Consider this weekend when I went out with a few SMILFs. And when I say “out,” I mean to a bar where we drank a lot.

We were all having a fine time enjoying our jalapeño margaritas when suddenly a swarm of cute, funny, drunk guys approached. One was celebrating his birthday, most were about our age (mid-30s), and most were firefighters. It was all good fun – lots of laughs and flirts and drinks all around, even if these dudes were not relationship material. After all, what single mom couldn’t use a dose of absurd, slobbering (if innocent) attention from some swaggering members of New York’s bravest?

When one tall blond asked us, “You girls must do really well in a place like this,” my SMILF friends and I shot knowing looks at one another. After all, if these dudes a) took off their Yuengling goggles they might not call us “girls,” and b) were pelted with our full stories of lingering divorce proceedings and preschoolers tucked into bed at their fathers’ apartments for overnight visits, gone would be our free beverages and lingering (albeit out-of-focus) glances. Or so we assumed. So we kept our glossed lips closed.

Now, a certain member of our posse caught the attention of one of these gentlemen, and her evening proceeded on a different path than the rest of us. Suffice it to say that his studio apartment was near the bar. After all, had she taken him home, he may have tripped on the Lightening McQueen collection populating the apartment and noted the California Baby wash in the bathroom. Post-coital he may have been surprised that the only snack she could offer was individually wrapped string cheese and a juice box.

That’s right: She never told him she had kids.

Turns out, the random drunken hookup turned rather sweet and tender, and now she’d like to see him again. But he doesn’t know she’s a mom, and she has no idea how to broach the subject – or when.

“I don’t think that mentioning my divorce or kids right off the bat is my best bet,” she said later while dissecting her conundrum. “It’s pretty much guaranteed to shut the conversation down before it starts. But if I were to bring it up later, I might give him a chance to get to know and like me – and consider what it might be like to date a single mom.”

My first impulse was to smack the shit out of her. What is this – we manipulate men into loving our sexy ways? Fuck them so they fall in love with us, then drop the information bomb about the most important topic in our lives—our dear children? Gimme a break! I say, lay it out. Just slip it into the conversation (“Yeah, just wait till you see my double C-section scar! Yikes!”). Let them make an educated decision as to whether to ask for your number, and go to sleep knowing that you are a decent, honest human being.

On the other hand, I’ve come to realize that I am the ultimate romantic. I believe that the most wonderful things in life are those that we cannot plan for, the things that challenge our ideas about who we are and what we believe. The best experiences in life are those that come with a big dose of magic. And let’s face it – any man willing to sign up for the shitshow that is often single motherhood will have to be rather magical.

I have full faith that there are plenty of guys out there that fit the bill. But to my friend’s point, some of them might not know it until they get friendly with some rather magical single moms (and when I say “moms,” I really mean me). Meeting someone at work, by frequenting the same schwarma cart, on OKCupid, or through friends is an entirely different dynamic than chatting up guys at a bar. At a bar, it’s all silliness and fantasy. Until someone gets laid, of course.

While there lots of men who are open to dating women with children, many – most, probably – are not. Lots of factors at play, and in our case, age is paramount. I asked a 54-year-old divorced friend his opinion on the matter, and he was all for full disclosure. But he pointed out that if he met a woman in a bar who was his age, he’d assume she had kids. Professional 35-year-old women hanging out in a New York City bar? Not so much.

As for my friend (and when I say “my friend,” I really do mean my friend), she’s hoping her love interest Googles her to find the readily available truth about her family status without further effort on her part. So far, he appears to remain clueless. What do you think she should do?


 

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19 thoughts on “Dating and the single mom: When do you come clean about having kids?

  1. Obviously she has to tell him, ommission is synonymous with lying so by not telling him she is lying. Not a good way to start a potential relationship. If he omitted the fact that he was bisexual, engaged or even married she would be outraged…same difference. There is no point I investing time, energy or feelings into something that may be dead in the water. Tell him and find out where you stand.

  2. I agree with you, you should “smack the shit out of her”; but seriously, full disclosure up front is the best option. Now she has to figure out when to tell him and hopefully it will be sooner rather than later.

  3. I’m not so sure that she needs to tell him immediately. When you’re first getting to know someone you spend time sharing your personality, not your intimate personal information. There is always a time in any relationship when you realize that you are ready to share more deeply about yourself, because you’ve decided that the person you are with is worthy of that knowledge. If she gets to that point with this new relationship, then it would be appropriate to share about her children. She should explain that she feels she is ready to trust him with more personal information-then it will be seen more as a gift of trust towards him.
    **Republican as deal breaker is difficult when your ex left you in Kansas**

  4. Interesting article.. And funny comment- what bar was this?

    I’m a soon to be divorced father of four… My wife has already started “dating” so I won’t share this article with her, but I’m curious about this question from the single dad’s point of view.

    Oh and I think your friend should tell the guy – soon. Honesty – which has been in such short supply in my own relationship- is always best especially if she feels anything for the guy.

  5. Considering that your children are part of who you are, and wouldn’t you want the person to be falling for all of you.. not just some illusion or part of you, I would say to tell the person at the first opportunity. It is selfish and unfair to yourself, your potential partner, and your kids to keep something like that a secret.

    1. I agree to and extent. In my own life and with my own children, I do not introduce them to ANYONE unless I know they are going to be in our lives for a long, long time. I feel it would be foolish to introduce every man I ever date to my children right away without know if the relationship will ever take a serious turn. That not only hurts my children, who may become attached to that person, and that person, who may become attached to the children.

  6. Yes, of course you must mention your children. However, if you don’t feel like doing it the minute you meet someone, then that’s OK! No one says you have to carry a sign around your neck that says “Hi, before you talk to me, please note, I’m a single mom” Who cares!

    I’m glad your friend had fun and I’m sure she knows she has to tell him if they are going to start dating.

    P.S. I LOVE your blogs!

  7. Call me old fashioned, but I believe sex occurs once the relationship has been established, not the other way around. When women make the mistake of thinking sex will make a man fall in love with them, and then go out of their way to hide some facts in the hope he will be so smitten that the truth will not phase him, they are destined for disappointment and potential heartache further down the road.

    While it all may seem like a great deal of fun to hook up with men in bars, (drunk men at that) it is not conducive to beginning a long term, committed and loving relationship. If the woman is only looking for some casual sex and no commitment or relationship, that’s fine. But, if the intention is to “get the man to fall in love with her,” she’s going about it the wrong way.

    1. Maeve – welcome to the 21st century where sometimes women have sex at the beginning of a relationship, sometimes they wait. Sometimes they just want to get laid. Good luck navigating this wondrous world of sexual freedom, you may just like it!

    2. Each situation is different and so is people. There aren’t rules at how to meet the right person. My first hook up, lasted 10 yeas and gave me a son. Would be great to be less judgemental and a bit open minded. Not all people are the same, that’s a fact.

  8. She needs to tell him. I met this amazing girl we went on 3 dates text messaged each other everyday and I really like her but then she told me she has kids. I don’t like the idea of dating someone with kids because I can get attached to people easily and if we were ever to break up I couldn’t handle losing not only her but her kids. She told me about a week after the third date but by then I really had strong feelings for her. We haven’t spoken since. I feel like if she would have been up front with it I may have considered continuing to see her. I think it’s a tell on the first date kind of thing.

  9. It’s too sensitive not to disclose motherhood, unless you want a one night stand. Big secrets like that can’t be hidden forever

  10. I think she should tell him, to me it is about honesty and I would want there to be honesty from the start. Since it started as an intended one-night stand, she should probably tell him the next time they see each other. Not telling on the first night is ok as it wasn’t an intended long term relationship. If the intention is long term from the beginning I think both men and women should disclose their parenting status.

    I’ve always been straight up about being a single parent. I had many other single moms tell me I shouldn’t disclose it, especially not at the beginning. Given what I do for work, I am fairly public so easy to Google and figured I should be straight up. All men I dated knew I had two kids, they also knew my past (abusive ex-husband, homeless for a while etc.) because most Googled me, some even right in front of me as we were speaking. I now have an amazing boyfriend who is so supportive of my kids. My friends who told me not to say I’m a parent are still churning through men looking for someone. Every single guy has felt blindsided and lied to when the women finally disclose they have kids.

    Happy for your friend, hope it works out.

  11. I confess that I’m a small town girl. I couldn’t have made it through the night in a bar without someone mentioning my kids ( very small town ). At 25 with 4 children I didn’t ever see myself being in an actual relationship until they were grown because A) who has that kind of time ( surely didn’t want anyone meeting my kids) B) Who would want to be with someone who had that many kids? I was shocked at how many guys truly didn’t mind it. Even if they had minded. . . I wouldn’t want to be serious with a guy who had to have the concept of my children ” grow ” on him. I hope she has either told him or ditched him by now.

  12. The first date. That’s when you “come clean”. Anything else is lying and misleading. Kids are not a minor consideration. Being a single mother also speaks to a woman’s character. The first date or even before is the most appropriate time.

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