How to pick up cute single dads on the playground


Are you hanging out at the playground? Maybe the local pool, or on the sidelines of soccer practice and choir concerts? In other words – you’re spending time being a parent. And where there are parents, there are other parents. And where there are parents, there are single parents. And where there are single parents, there are single dads. And some of them are hot.

I’ve noticed a steep spike in the number of good-looking, interesting-seeming fathers without wedding rings at all of the above locations in my neighborhood. Sure, part of the equation is that my hood is experiencing a gentrification boom, which means an influx of my peeps. But the other part of this scene is that the older kids get, the older marriage are. And statistically, that means more divorce.

Sad? Yes.

A delicious constant supply of fresh meat to your single-mom dating pool? You betcha!

As for me, not gonna lie: I’ve found myself flirting with dads from time to time. The next time you decide — in an effort to stay awake during your son’s flute recital — to peruse the auditorium and spot a cute dude, by himself, with a naked left-ring finger, here’s what to do:

1. Hang out nearby. I mean, don’t be weird. But find a reason to get up in that. Say, encourage your kid to ride the same merry-go-round, or belly up to the same doughnut-and-coffee table after the play. Remember: If you feel awkward as a single parent in a married-parent world, he does, too. You’re doing him a favor.

2. Be friendly. But normal. Don’t be aggressive – dudes hate that. Try smiling. Seriously, that is huge. Just smile at him.

3. Say something about the kids. After all, that is the only thing you definitely have in common at this point. It’s OK if it’s boring. Face it, most talk about kids is mind-numbing. Try: “Where’s your kid go to daycare?” or “Do you rent or own your flute?”

4. Let him know you’re single. After all, at this point you’re not 100% sure he is, too. The most natural way is to talk to your kids about daddy’s house. Kids with married parents don’t have a daddy’s house. “Daddy’s house” is golden code for: “I’m divorced, and I really, really, really hope you are, too.”

Try: “Nope, no ice cream. You’re going to eat dinner soon at daddy’s house,” or “When you’re at daddy’s house I am going to be spending long days in bed with — sorry, what was your name again? — right, with this nice man, Duke.”

5. Embrace the moment. Ok, you’ve established you’re both single parents. AWESOME! Seize on this moment. Within a single second you have confirmed you’re both members of the same secret club with its own language, horrors and, well, more horrors. It’s like you are instantaneous war buddies. Except better, because you didn’t kill anyone and it’s perfectly legal for you to have sex with each other during wartime.

6. Keep smiling.  So now you’re having a really fantastic conversation about retainer fees and visitation schedules that no one else by the swingset could possibly understand. That’s nice. But smiling means flirting. Do that.

7. Stop smiling. The part where he starts to tear up talking about how much he misses his kids? Act sad at those parts.

8. Time to go! You leave first. Old-fashioned, throw-back to The Rules of the 90s. Trust me on this one.

9. Be cool, but direct. “We should hang out sometime.” Smile. But not weird. Exchange phone numbers.

10. Collect your kids. Get out of there before they act like assholes and undo all your handiwork.




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,, 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.

18 thoughts on “How to pick up cute single dads on the playground

  1. I love these tips and yes they do work. The key is finding the “park” or the special place that single dads hang out. All single moms should have a handbook of the conversations they’ve had over the years when they were dating single dads. From my experience single dads love swimming pools. Where I live there is a small park where you can watch the planes land at DFW airport. It’s small and not crowded where you can have intimate conversations (in between large 747’s landing at the airport). That is like a single dad mecca since very smart dads want to teach their kids about aviation etc. Be smart when you pick a locale. Think – where would single dads go? Think Like a Man! The basketball court (that’s where my ex husband goes with our daughter). Happy Hunting!

    1. Very cute editorial Emma and I laughed as you intended. Still, my transformation into a soul-less being as the result of being treated like prey for so many years is near complete…

      P.S. I just submitted a vote for to win a People’s Choice award after following the link you provided…good luck!

        1. If Rob isn’t the “victim” when a single mommy hits on him, if he ever enters into a committed relationship with her, lives with her (and her kids), or – GULP – stupidly marries her, he will get to truly be a victim as his wallet gets endlessly raided, his own children get pushed aside as single mommy seethes with jealousy that she’s not “Priority #1” (along with her kids), and then ends up poverty stricken when she divorces him, too (because he simply didn’t treat her and her kids as that “Priority #1”).

          Yes, yes. That “victim status” he felt getting picked up in the park will seem like the proverbial “walk in the park” after single moms clean him out financially and emotionally.

          Now, if he gets some anonymous sex out of it, and that’s it. CHEERS. Good job, mate!

  2. Yes! I throw around “daddy’s house” comments all the time! Within earshot of cute, ring-less dads. Parks, pool, birthday parties….and now, school. Looking forward to casing the single dad situation at school events this year. :)

  3. LMAO at “Get out of there before your kids act like ass holes and undo everything”. That is my kids to a Tee!! They embarrass the hell out of me when we are in public places. It’s like they’re saying “Yaaayyy we are around other people and can embarrass mommy now… How can I embarrass thee? Let me count the ways.”… and the probably thinking it too. LOL.

  4. Emma,

    You’re a powerful, laser sharp, engaging, irreverent, hilarious, ‘go-girlfriend’ voice. Get the whole single mom dating thing. This one…..hmmm, don’t know? “A delicious constant supply of fresh meat?” Even though all true and humorous, just thinkin’ you’re better than the fairly regular ‘mom on the prowl, be bold, great sex, I am woman hear me roar’ zinger blogs that have been posted lately. Can we ‘mix it up a bit’ soon to be People’s Choice Award Winner?

    1. Daphne, I write regularly here about dating and sex and all its nuanced complications. I realize that most people in our society are put off by mothers and their sexuality. I hope you continue here with an open mind.

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