This is the most recent installment of my weekly advice column.
Dear Emma: WTF?!
After being divorced two years, I’ve started thinking about dating again. My friends urge me to try online dating. Even though some single moms I know have met some really great guys on Match.com and OKCupid, I have a major concern: if I indicate I have kids, won’t that make me a target for pedophiles?
Sleepless in Schaumburg, Ill.
Child abuse – and perhaps especially sexual abuse – is not to be taken lightly.
But let’s get real.
Don’t get me wrong. There are a lot of “duh” points here: If a guy is creepy or weird or shows too much interest in your tween daughter, put on the brakes. Your gut says “run for the hills!” (and not just because of his horrible rug or poetic musings about Shania Twain’s latest single), politely decline his next invite to the Olive Garden.
But if fear of child abuse is keeping you from online dating, check yourself. Like it or not, dating sites are the best way to meet men -especially for moms with little time on their hands, and lots of definite ideas about what we’re looking for. When I encounter people (single moms and otherwise) who say, “Gosh, I’m so lonely and would love to meet someone, but dating sites are just not for me. I prefer I meet someone the old-fashioned way,” I say: “You’re not ready to date and you’re using this as an excuse.”
People meet online, and that is just a fact of living in the world today. One recent poll found that 21 percent of Americans are online looking for partners. That’s Americans –not just single Americans, according to a Daily News article which reported that dating sites are the top way the recently divorced troll for dates.
I am not dismissing your concerns. And I’ll be honest. In researching this post and reading about all the horrible things that happen to kids gave me an afternoon dose of paranoia – especially when I got to the stat that kids of single parents are eight times more likely to be abused than those in homes where the parents are married. But I cannot afford to live out of fear of the worst-case-scenarios. And I cannot afford to live based on exaggerated notions of risk. Neither can you.
If you dig into the numbers, you may find yourself assured: Experts estimate that just 1 percent to 5 percent of men molest children. Kids with involved parents are less vulnerable to being victims. And while there are many exceptions, there are tell-tale characteristics that pedophiles display.
Of course, you can opt not to mention your kids in your online profile, but as I wrote about in my most recent post, this is akin to lying and will get you nowhere close to a serious relationship. Online dating is just like other ways of meeting men – only virtually, and you can hook them with the most flattering, pre-kid pics of yourself. If you meet a guy at a bar, you still have to decide whether you think he’s a pedophile before text him your number. Same if you meet him at mass or if he’s your kid’s Boy Scout leader.
I’ll offer some commonsense advice here:
- Ask lots of questions. That’s what dating is for. Does this dude have a weird history? Lots of short-term relationships with single moms? Suspicious kid-only activity? An overly enthusiastic interest in your kids? You have this incredible instinct as a woman and as a mother. Listen to it. Every time.
- If you have a penchant for abusive men, or a history of sexual abuse, talk your concerns through with a therapist specializing in this issue. There is a good reason why you may not be in touch with your instincts. But you can learn.
- Just get out there and see what you find. The biggest part of living a full life as a single mom is letting go of past notions of who you are and how bad the world can be. Have faith there are wonderful men out there. Because there are! I’ve dabbled in online dating over the past couple years, found one great long-term relationship and a bunch of really great, nice, smart and interesting men – none of whom threw up a single creepy red flag.
- Dating and the professional single-mom (momplusone.com)
- How to Get a Girlfriend Fast With These New Online Dating Advice For Men Tips (prweb.com)
- BadOnlineDates.com Celebrates Five Years of Bad-Date Compassion, Evolution of Internet Dating, and Jennifer’s Countless Runner’s Miles (prweb.com)
- Online Dating (violetkim.com)
- Double Dates Are Standard On New Dating Website (mashable.com)
- Dating and the single mom: When do you come clean about having kids? (WealthySingleMommy.com)
- Dating is better as a single mom (WealthySingleMommy.com)
- Can single moms afford to join the hookup culture that made us single in the first place? (wealthysinglemommy.com)
- $#!T you should never say to a single mom (wealthysinglemommy.com)