He said: “Your kids need a man in the house full-time.” Discuss.

how date single mom


Hahaha … I happened upon this old post, written early on in both my blogging career and single-mom dating career. Needless to say, this guy really pissed me off. I still think he is a chauvinistic moron.

But reading it now, a four years later, I have a new appreciation for the nuances and difficulties of dating, especially in a time of such unclear gender roles, in particular when children are involved. On one hand, I can really handle my business. Kids, work, taking care of the house and general practicalities of life? Got it covered. But I am a human woman, and crave romantic companionship. But how does a guy fit into that if I don't need him, and my kids are cared for and have a father already? Take a step back for a broader view, of women and men and family in an era when women really can do it all without a dude: Earn her own money, raise children, run businesses and nations. Add to it an economy in which male-dominated industries are disappearing, while the pay gap closes and women increasingly take on leadership roles in business, the public sphere and at home (40 percent of breadwinners are women, hey!).

This is not just a concern because you and I are raising boys, who we want to grow up to be men in a world where they are valued and thrive. This is an issue because women's rights are gender rights are human rights. If you and I want equality in our paychecks, we need equality at home. This requires equality in who cares for kids, how much time everyone has with said kids when marriages end, and who makes decisions for those children both in Washington and in families. And this requires everyone have value, men and women.

Lots of questions, and right now I don't have a whole lot of answers for you. But I do think this guy is a schmuck. Well meaning, confused and maybe desperate. But made for a funny story, for which, dude, I say thanks:


9 reasons dating as a single mom is so much better

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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.



About Emma Johnson

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.A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.


  1. Jennifer Fink on December 23, 2012 at 4:39 pm

    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 on December 23, 2012 at 10:04 pm

      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 on December 24, 2012 at 11:50 am

    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 on December 24, 2012 at 9:03 pm

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

  3. Peter on February 8, 2013 at 11:56 am

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

  4. Emma on February 8, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    Hiiiii Peter. How’s Barcelona?

  5. Erica on March 5, 2013 at 4:18 pm

    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 on July 24, 2013 at 6:20 pm

    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 on July 24, 2013 at 6:28 pm

      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 on July 25, 2013 at 8:03 am

    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 on July 28, 2013 at 3:31 pm

      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.

  8. K on May 26, 2014 at 2:03 pm

    you are such a dumb slut…this is how the family in america was destroyed by whores like you with this opinion. ” 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.”

    so therefore you wish to jump from dick to dick while pretending to be a “strong independent woman” instead of working on a solid family unit. all you single mothers are the fucking same. and its disgusting. get some honor, get some loyalty. and be REAL women.

    • V on November 3, 2017 at 6:00 am

      You, friend, clearly don’t yet know exactly how very very much you don’t know. Namaste anyway.

  9. Fred on January 17, 2017 at 4:15 pm

    If you want to know what children need just ask them. The great majority will tell you that’s mommy and daddy living in the same house unless there’s abuse going on or some other abberation. Argue against it all day if you like but on a gut level children know what they need.

    Also, I’m surprised that well into the second decade of the 21st century anyone, male or female, is still kidding themselves with this 1970s notion that they can do it all and have it all on their own. It is not a sign of weakness to admit that no one can do it all. It really does take a village to raise a child and that starts with two parents in the home.

    • Emma on January 18, 2017 at 6:19 am

      If you ask my kids what they need, they’d say to stay up all night and eat junk food. Welcome to the future where two-parent nuclear families are the minority.

      • Fred on January 18, 2017 at 7:59 pm

        There’s a difference between saying that most children are being raised by single parents (usually mothers) and that two parent nuclear households are the minority. Two parent nuclear families still make up 2/3 of familes with children. For upper middle class whites and Asians the percent of nuclear families among all households with children is virtually unchanged since the 1950s. Look up the stats on children of never married parents- lower educational attainment, greater likelihood of living in poverty, greater likelihood of depression- none of it is pretty. Basically, the playbook for people who are win at life- finish , get married, have children- hasn’t changed just because few people feel empowered to be single parents by choice. Of course I realize that I’m wasting my time typing this because the kind of people who are single parents by choice are more interested in rationalizing their life choices than entertaining facts that don’t support those decisions.

        • Fred on January 18, 2017 at 8:26 pm

          That should be “winning at life” and “finish your education.” Mea culpa.

          • JJ on January 28, 2017 at 3:02 am

            It’s kind of hilarious that you think that so many women “choose” to be single parents.. Yes, there are women who get to a certain age, and not having found a partner, decide to embark on parenthood on their own. That is their choice, although I would doubt their first choice. But the vast majority of people who end up as single parents never, ever planned for that to be their reality. And I don’t know any who chose to leave a marriage or long term relationship on a whim. Most did it with a completely broken heart and an admission that that environment was NOT what was best for their child/ren. Literally nobody I know didn’t wish they could keep it together for the kids.

            I think you should perhaps expand your own thinking on what constitutes abuse in a relationship, because I wonder if it includes anything beyond physical abuse.. It can take many forms and often people who should leave don’t because people like you think they should stay together because “at least he’s not hitting me”.. Meanwhile their children grow up witnessing at best a flawed relationship model, and at worst, abusive behaviour that doesn’t fall under “physical” but which has consequences just as, if not more, grave. Bottom line is that you never know what the inside of a marriage or family home looks like, so probably best to keep your judgement to yourself, or I guess one day reap the rewards of that judgement, whatever they may be.

            • Emma on January 29, 2017 at 7:24 pm

              Oh jeeze … ignore him!

            • V on November 3, 2017 at 6:14 am

              JJ you are spot on.

              And Fred; let me assure you that at no point did it seem appealing to me to experience what led to my being a single mom. Having the same man who held my hand at every Chemo treatment while silently making arrangements to abandon-literally abandon- his son and me just days after celebrating our anniversary and just months after beating said stage four cancer – let me assure you – this was not my choice.
              Oh, and did I mention that he announced he wanted the divorce while I was giving him a back massage?

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