Sunday morning I had brunch with my brother Josh and sister-in-law Susan. They're in their early 30s, don't have kids, stay out late, and sleep in on weekends. In other words: They're normal. Susan grilled me about my date from the night before while my little brother pretended he'd lost his hearing.
“We went for Ethiopian food in the Village and then he drove me home,” I said.
“Why didn't you invite him up?” Susan asked.
“Are you crazy? The kids and the babysitter were there.”
“So what, he got to second base in the car and then you were home by midnight?”
“Oh my God. That is so funny. And that's so early!”
I felt a little defensive about my single mommy lifestyle. Because, really, what can you do? But then I realized that dating as a single parent is kind of horrible and awesome in the same way that being a teenager is horrible and awesome. In fact, while necking in his four-door sedan (car seats in back) my single-dad love interest and I were laughing about all the ways that dating as a parent is the same as dating in high school: It can be tricky to find alone time, everyone's finances are limited, and you often have to answer to the scrutiny of parental figures. After all, had I ushered my date upstairs Saturday, I'd have had to face Karen, our beloved long-time babysitter who serves as a surrogate grandmother to my kids and me. What would she think?
My friend Sarah is a professional single mom whose ex lives out of state — drastically limiting her child-free hours, and forcing her to turn to babysitting from her mother in order to get laid. Tapping her inner teenager, Sarah always lies to her mom about her whereabouts when she goes out with men, lest she get “the third degree about whether he'd make a good father.”
“I don't want to lie, but I also don't want to deal with the judgement,” Sarah told me. And so she obeys her mom's rules–or else she pays the price. “I told one guy I went out with that we'd be skipping dinner and going straight to sex because I had to be home by 11:30,” she said. In my case, I was acutely aware that every minute spent making out in that car also came at a price — the cold, hard hourly rate paid to Karen.
The upside of all this finagling and sneaking and financing is that it collectively mounts the lusty, torturous tension lacking in readily-available sex. Like, for example, in marriage. In other words, sex as a single mom can be unbelievably hot. Which was probably not the case when we were in high school.
But Sarah and I agreed that sex isn't the only part of dating that makes us feel like we're in 10th grade again. I nearly didn't publish this post. I mean, what if my date reads it and feels betrayed or embarrassed and doesn't call me again? I mean, OMG, I would totally DIE, cuz I like totally like him! But like, would it be my fault? I mean, he knows I blog about my life or whatever, so, like, whatever!?
Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour, Oprah.com, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post's ‘Must Read” list.
Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.