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Dear Dudes: Here’s how to piss off the single mom you’re crushing on

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Background: I met this guy on OKCupid and went on one date a few months ago. He seemed really nice, a good guy. Never married, no kids, 39 and very interested in settling down and starting a family, stat. He’d never dated a single mom. He was interested. I wasn’t. We’ve been Facebook friends and he occasionally invites me to professional events. He is German (English not his first language), and he is an educated professional with advanced degrees.

We had this Facebook chat last week:

Him: Too bad that you couldn’t make it to the event. She was outstanding.

Me: I bet! Good turnout?

Him: Yes!!! What a woman. Two kids actually. How are things with your ex these days? Good communication?

Me: Oh we’re fine – maybe better than normal. Funny question! Why do you ask?

Him: I am just curious how it is if the ex husband lives around the corner.

Me: It is better to have him close by for lots of reasons — it makes visits with the kids easier.

Him: How is dating treating you these days?

Me: I’ve been having fun dating different people. Meeting so many interesting men – a good time for me at the moment!

This blog has kinda taken over my life in a really good way. It is so scary for me to write so personally, but also thrilling. At the same time, I am dating for the first time in 10 years — all while writing about dating. So it is strange and full of surprises.

How about yourself?

Him: Same here!! I am dating a lot of different people as well. Your blog is sort of revolutionary. I follow it a lot and learn. It’s an amazing blog.

Me: I’m curious about your point of view -

Your view as a man.

Someone I’ve gone out with.

Someone who is dating.

Please share!

Him: You’ve found a niche and and you’ll have to continue to work on this blog even if you find a guy who will spend the rest of your life with you.

Me: So you get the impression that I’m searching for some guy for the rest of my life?

Him: No … you don’t give the reader the impression that you are looking for a guy for the rest of your life but I can imagine that you are.

Me: Honestly I’m not sure that is my path. I’m just not sold that lifelong monogamy with one person is right for most people — myself included. Though I do believe most people — myself included — want and need romantic partnership, often monogamous.

Him: But I think Helena and Lucas need a male at your side every day.

Me: Wow. Them’s fighting words! Explain.

Him: It’s just my feeling that they would love to hang out with a male on a permanent basis besides the fact that they see their dad from time to time.  It’s hard to explain for me as someone who wants to have a family so much but I think it makes a difference if a male takes over the “good night story” to a 4 and 2 year-old from time to time.

Me: Yes, and they get that with their dad. And if I have a long-term boyfriend, he may play that role. But I’m not sure I’m ready for a fulltime live-in partner any time soon. And I’m not sure that I my kids are missing out by not having that.

Him: A boyfriend should not only play a role.

Me: Hmm. I’m hearing that you have very finite ideas about how a family should be. And as someone who has had all kinds of different family situations (in my own upbringing, and later as a wife, ex-wife, married mother, single mother, etc.) I can say that there is not one formula that works for every family.

Him: I agree, but a role is not enough, Emma.

Me: OK, so tell me what my children need.

Him: Your kids need a best male friend who is also you your committed lover.

Me: According to whom? (aside form you, obviously)

Him: The best lover to you, emotionally and physically as well as the most available emotional friend and sort of a second dad to Helena and Lucas. He must fall in love with you and both of them.

Me: But you’re suggesting that our lives are incomplete without that. And that any other arrangement will be shortchanging the kids — and me. And I don’t necessarily agree with that.

Him: No, I just think that they need a father in their in their life who is truly available EVERY DAY. And not on a weekend basis.

Me: “Need” is a very strong word.

Him: Yes.

Me: That is ideal. If it is the perfect father. And the perfect mother. And two people who can create a perfect life. But those situations are very, very, VERY few and far between.

And instead, living in reality, we make the best with what we have, and yet can build really incredible lives for ourselves and our kids.

Him: Emma: the fact is that you are outstanding. You are practically doing everything by yourself and you are damn proud of that, but you have a private life as well. Going out, communicating, drinking, having fun, dancing …. you deserve someone who will appreciate you and help you care for Helena and Lucas.

Me: I appreciate the compliments. I do. But I also feel very judged.

Him: That was not my intention.

Me: Also, it seems you are again placing a singular idea of family upon, well, everyone — including my family. And I wonder — yourself?

I’m compelled to defend myself, but honestly, I don’t owe you that.

Him: I don’t have a singular idea how a family works. I am single. I just think that Helena and Lucas would love to explore 4th person in the Johnson’s household. ;) ASAP. haha … I simply love children.

Me: OK … so … are you flirting with me here? Or lecturing me? Or trying to piss me off? Or all of the above?

Him: Perhaps all of the above ;) and that’s good.

Me: [sigh]

Him: The whole package is crucial. You need that again: Love, discussion, compromises, laughing, crying, it’s all part of the “big picture” …

Me: Can I ask you something?

Him: Of course :)

Me: Do you have some kind of fantasy that you’re going to save my kids and me? Somehow make our lives “whole”? Just wondering …Because it kinda sounds like you do …

Him: I think that basically you don’t need someone to make you and your kid’s life whole. You are doing an amazing job in respect to that every single day but I have to admit that I think that a cool and spiritual guy would have a tremendous influence on you and Helena and Lucas.

Me: OK, I won’t make you answer the question. But I may have to post this conversation on my blog. No names or identifying details, of course. You’re gonna piss off a whole lot of people. Just warning you.

Him: Why would I piss off a lot of people?? Because I would love to have such two gorgeous kids like you have in my life including the beautiful and highly intelligent mother?

Me: Oh boy. Well, 1) Thank you, and 2) No thank you and 3) This convo sounds like it’s taking place in 1952. Which is surprising coming from an educated professional man from perhaps the most developed country in the world.

Him:  ?? I am confused … 1952? I think you got me wrong …

Me: Maybe. But all these ideas of how I should be settled down with the right guy are just really antiquated. Granted, most people probably agree with you, but they really offended me, truth be told.

Unless you’re just hitting on me and I just didn’t get it. But then, now that I’m thinking about it, that would be even more wrong …

Him: I have no clue what I said wrong … I admire everything that you are doing every day. You are a very adorable and intelligent woman with two amazing and beautiful kids that every single guy should date right away. I thought that we were friends.

Me: We’re good. We are. But all the lecturing about what my kids need … well … just an unsolicited tip: If you date women with kids, don’t tell them what their kids need. And if you date women, don’t tell them what they need. You’ll thank me later.

Him:  I am so confused …


UPDATE! A few days after this was first posted, this guy and I have this IM exchange: 

Him: I saw the post. It was very well done.

Me: Thank you. I was worried you might be offended so I really appreciate that.

Him: No absolutely not. You are a committed journalist and you had to put it out. I hope we have the chance to meet for coffee soon. I enjoy our dialogue.


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  1. Jennifer Fink
    Jennifer Fink12-23-2012

    As a married, then single mom, I get both sides of this conversation. In many ways, I agree with him — not for you (I wouldn’t presume to tell you what you need), but for me, maybe. I think there’s a lot to be said for a constant, positive male influence in a household, and I don’t mean that in a 1952 way; I mean that in a 2012-going on-2013,men-and-women-ARE-different-and-bring-different-things-to-the-relationship-and-household kind of way. But I also agree with you: that may be an ideal arrangement, for some people and families, but even then, it only works if both man and woman are healthy and have a healthy relationship. Which is pretty rare. So given all of that, the line that resonated the most for me was this: “And instead, living in reality, we make the best with what we have, and yet can build really incredible lives for ourselves and our kids.” — b/c that is my reality now.

    • Emma

      Hi Jennifer – Very well said, and I agree with you 100%. And that didn’t piss me off at all (but then, I’m pretty sure you’re not trying to get in my pants …)

  2. Faiza Akhtar
    Faiza Akhtar12-24-2012

    I always tell men, “Before you think you can fill that space in my black-and white family portrait above the mantle, you have to show me that you can fill all the gray matter called reality.”

    • Emma

      Faiza- Fierce! Aside from this dude, my experience is more like, “Um, hi. So, um, seen any good movies?”

  3. Peter

    Wow, I’m surprised to hear this kind of attitude from a northern European guy!

  4. Emma

    Hiiiii Peter. How’s Barcelona?

  5. Erica

    Can you tell I’m catching up on your posts reading them like a book?

    Anyway, yeah, it definitely bugs me when people just assume I’ll be getting remarried at some point. I think maybe they are just trying to be positive or something? And I know it probably seems like it would be more comfortable or something because married with kids is all they know. But, like you, I also am not sure I believe in life-long monogamous relationships anymore… well at least really happy ones. When I entered into one I bought into it hook, line, and sinker, though. Then he cheated on me and I’m not AT ALL letting him off the hook for that, saying it was “just biology” or that bullshit. He made me a promise, a vow and he should have kept it or divorced. Or brought up an open marriage or something (which would have been a no go for me and then still probably led to divorce but at least I wouldn’t have been as traumatized). That being said, I now realize how unhappy I was in the marriage as well (which I had apparently been in denial about). And I think it’s the moving in together that screws things up (well, and the wrong partner of course). The romance goes with all the day to day crap, people get taken for granted, etc. But maybe I just haven’t been in a healthy relationship yet? Also, while I know you *should* marry young-ish for having kids, I wonder if any of us have the maturity at that age to actually find the right person and do the “work” that good marriages require.

  6. Maddie Cater
    Maddie Cater07-24-2013

    You asked him to share, as a man who he gone out with you and obviously met your kids. Sounds like he was being honest about what he saw… and you kind of threw it back in his face. You can have committed men in your life every day without being married or even particularly romantic. He kind of took it to a non-personal level in some general language and I think you stayed pretty defensive.

    • Emma

      Maddie – I met him once on a chaste date, and he never met my kids. I think he read my blog regularly and created some kind of crush/fantasy he would rescue us all.

  7. Amy

    The dude needs to walk in your (our) shoes. As a single mom, I can’t provide everything a two parent household can. I often wish I could cuddle with my kids while someone else took over the responsibilities of the household (cooking, cleaning, errands, etc.). Or even to help ferry kids to different activities. Biologically speaking, our offspring need an incredible investment of energy until they can make it on their own. Having two parents, or a village, lessens the amount any one person has to impart and increases the chances of your offspring having offspring. Does that make sense? Yes, my life would be different but I would argue not necessarily better. Having a man in my house doesn’t mean diddly. Once upon a time (right after my divorce), I would have leapt at the chance for a man to save me from single-dom. But I have learned the fallacy of believing in only that. While I think your dude is great for recognizing that you are doing an amazing job and you are an amazing person, you are right to correct him about asserting what your family needs. Your kids need a mom (people) in their lives that love them and provide for them. As long as those needs are met, everything else that is positive that comes into their lives is frosting. Your dude needs a perspective switch that may only come from walking in our shoes.

    • Emma

      Thanks for the words of support, Amy – though since he will never walk in my shoes — nor will any other guy, for that matter — I wonder how we can educate the masses about that which you describe.

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