Why young guys want to date single moms? Cougar report

young guys looking for single moms

Quick answers:

  • Moms are busy and confident, and don't demand commitment like younger, single women
  • Young guys feel like a stud if they can sexually satisfy an older woman
  • Mommy issues (sometimes)

The trend has been fast and intense: In the four years I've been dating as a single mom, there has been a steep uptick in young guys looking for older single moms. Take it from me: all of the sudden they've started to approach me online dating sites.  I'm 39 and these guys are in their 20s. Opening lines include:

“I'm a Columbia Law student, so while I might be younger, I'm clearly smart and ambitious.”

“Ur hot.”

“You look like you're fun. Want to teach me something?”

“Open to fun times with a young stud?”

As well as perfectly thoughtful messages that remark about my profile, interests or photos. The gamut. If I respond, does that make me a cougar?

Bit of background: All the men I've been involved with in my life were my age or older (in one case, way, way older but I'll elaborate on that in another post).

[Dating coach says:  Single moms are hot on the successful single man market]

Twice in the past few years I was involved for a few months each with men who were 3 and 5 years my junior, and in both cases they were really, really lovely people, hyper-bright, ambitious and both were about 700% better looking than me. Both were great experiences. Even if I would stare at them across the bar table or at their head on my pillow, rub my eyes and think WTF is going on here?! , my ego, I admit, was like a sow in shit …mmmmm … prrrrrr … meow … oink!

This cougar-seeking phenomenon is another thing all together. What is significant about this trend is that a) younger men historically have not been interested in older women — especially moms. After all, youth in every culture is prized in mating, as biology favors young junk. b) The uptick in this young-dude interest is so swift – and the age gaps significant.

[Best dating apps and sites for single parents]

I'm not the only one to notice. A few weeks ago my friend Perri emailed me:

I have a question for you.  I just joined a dating site, and love it.  But why am I being contacted by so many men who are 21 to 28 years old? I'm 42!  It's crazy. I don't look my age but it's there in my profile, so no guessing is involved. Is this a dare to screw an old chick? That said, I'm meeting a guy tonight to play pool. He's great, makes me laugh, we have similar careers and education and the conversation is very easy and uncomplicated. But still – I'm perplexed! 

9 reasons dating and sex are better as a single mom

I admit, I'm perplexed too. So I did some research. And by “research,” I started quizzing the Benjamin Braddocks who hit me up online.

Listen to my Like a Mother episode on this:

The first one was a super-buff 24 year-old whose profile said he speaks English and Hebrew, works in finance and photos showcased him hanging with a dolphin and jamming at karaoke with his bros. His profile included:

Screen Shot 2016-01-10 at 4.32.54 PM

Here's what this fine young man said:

Screen Shot 2016-01-10 at 4.35.33 PM

Screen Shot 2016-01-10 at 4.36.30 PM

Screen Shot 2016-01-10 at 4.37.06 PM

single mom young guys cougar

Oh boy, that one wasn't too introspective — or maybe he was just really horny and desperate himself? Anyway, the next exchange wasn't terribly valuable for gaining insight (though note his comments about looking for someone independent). A dark, handsome 27-year-old with a scrubby face and almost zero info in his profile engaged me in this exchange:

Screen Shot 2016-01-10 at 4.42.21 PM

Third one? A charm.

This 27-year-old advertising exec was again, super-cute, and his profile funny, smart and thoughtful. You know, the kind of guy I wouldn't think twice about dating. After he ‘liked' me, I jumped right to business:

Screen Shot 2016-01-10 at 4.48.29 PM

Screen Shot 2016-01-10 at 4.49.25 PM

Screen Shot 2016-01-10 at 4.50.24 PM

Screen Shot 2016-01-10 at 4.51.12 PM

Screen Shot 2016-01-10 at 4.51.47 PM

Screen Shot 2016-01-10 at 4.52.17 PM

Screen Shot 2016-01-10 at 4.53.25 PM

Screen Shot 2016-01-10 at 4.56.36 PM

Screen Shot 2016-01-10 at 4.57.17 PM

Screen Shot 2016-01-10 at 4.58.00 PMScreen Shot 2016-01-10 at 4.58.48 PM


Read the comments. The 31-year-old and I are dating.

Takeaway: If you want to go out with a younger guy, go out with a younger guy. Maybe for a fun drink. Maybe for a hot roll in the hay — once or regularly. And who knows, maybe for the long term. The only rules about young guys looking for older single moms are those you make for yourself. Enjoy!

How to start dating again after divorce as a single mom

I'm a huge fan of online dating, which is where I met my boyfriend of 2.5 years.

eHarmony and Match.com are two of the biggest sites — and you can browse for free :) Elite Singles, which is focused on educated, professional members looking for serious, committed relationships, is a favorite. Read my Elite Singles review.

Here is my guide for how to choose the best photos for your online dating profile. 

Matchmaking site It's Just Lunch— a 28-year-old dating service that claims more than 3 million first dates (!). It's Just Lunch packages guarantee a fixed number of dates, which you approve before you meet for lunch, coffee or drinks.

Not quite ready to get out there? Learn more about my video course, Get Back Into Dating Again as a Single Mom.

Not quite there yet? Consider therapy to help work through your confidence hang-ups, and get your power back. Online therapy is a great option for single moms: very affordable, convenient because you communicate with your counselor via text, phone or video, and its anonymous! BetterHelp has thousands of therapists to choose from. Check out my list of the best online therapy sites >>

About Emma Johnson

Emma Johnson is an award-winning business journalist, noted blogger, and bestselling author. 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.  Find out Emma's top Single Mom Resources here.


  1. Colette on September 3, 2019 at 11:51 pm

    Wow many good comments on here. I met my young partner (actually he found me after going through many profiles of older ladies) on the worst dating app where I had met some of the worst older men. Ive been with him almost too years now. I put a different age on one dating app I was on (at one point I was on three). My oldest girl who is actually the same age as him just 10 months older. Yea my partner and oldest kid are born in the same year 1992. I was born in 1968. My girl thought I was nuts going for a younger age. I met a few younger guys before the guy im with now and is thanks to them that im probably with him. I knew one hopeless one who would take me to his parents place when they were away (haha) another one would drop by where I lived(a rented room which I later got kicked out of illegally) and was a sweetheart in bed. When Jon approached me on tagged his opening line was ‘do you want a toyboy??’ could not take him seriously as I had heard it all and seen it all (to many penises). But he never gave up and thank GOD he didnt. I have four older adult kids (three girls and a a boy) my youngest is 17 and stays in the weekend. Its been a hard road to get where we are today. I have horrible Iranian ex who at 56 is still the same arsehole I put up with for so many years. (controlling, sexist, a pervert even with his own girls and my mum and sister UGH) he would only get hard looking at porn and would watch when we did the deed so WRONG. I was told for years that I was crazy and simple and stupid AND COULD NOT COOK(according to current partner im great)that I was obese and ugly. I forgot who I was and became a sad shell of what I was before I was unlucky and stupid enough to meet him at a club years ago. I have become that girl again. I never thought I would meet a younger man who would change my whole life and make me believe in real love and real amazing sex EVER. Sometimes I have to remind myself this is not a dream and is real and I deserve this and I have been through HELL to get it. He had nothing when he met me and quit his job. I lived in a old rundown old house(still do) with my younger too girls with savings which vanished quickly. He could only offer me his love and a few interesting possessions which moved in with him (daughter not happy with this at all). He went on a army course and onto another course and then into employment and supports me fully. My son has been biggest obstacle but after many arguments and tears he knows im determined to stay with Jon and wont cave in. Im learning to love a guy from my part of the world (NewZealand) and never though guys from here were so nice as only knew idiots before I met my ex years ago. He has a amazing smile and always cheers me up he ignores when I get silly and is patient and kind and giving and ive never had this many compliments in my whole life ever. So if your in doubt about if you want to date a younger or much younger guy and he is serious and wants to get to know you like mine then go for it and life is to short and age really is just a number. Ignore the stares and comments (i poke out my tounge or do a rude gesture) defend your right to love and be loved by a guy who you can be proud to be with (their all just jealous cause they havent tried or are to afraid to) not all young guys want kids and except that you cant its ok . In the end is your right to be happy and be in love finally. Mine has helped me through menapause and a hernia operation and I can trust him as I get older and finally feel safe(never did with ex)and know that he will look after me and be their in my final moments when I leave this earth. The only regret i have is leaving him and dying first. I have to make the most of NOW.

  2. Kelly Eden on April 23, 2019 at 9:53 pm

    I love this article Emma! I found the same thing after 40. Being single again, suddenly the only guys asking me out ranged in age from 19 to 33! I dated a few and am now in a longterm serious relationship with my wonderful 28 year old man.

  3. Jenna on July 6, 2018 at 3:51 pm

    The younger man I am seeing now is the one who convinced me to give him a chance. He wanted me to date him or not date him based on compatibility NOT on age.

    I am fifty and he is twenty something?. He won’t tell me and doesn’t want to know my age. He says I look 32-34 and he finds me insanely attractive….

    Which was more important to me? A good chemistry between us, having common interests, a similar sense of humor and outlook on life or a number on a birth certificate? He had a valid point.

    I’m not looking to get married again, just someone to go dancing, hiking, fishing, hunting, horseback riding with a caring, fun and kind companion. So far he fits the bill nicely. I’m glad he talked me into it.

    One funny blip. We were out camping for the holiday weekend and went to the grocery store to pick up some supplies. I was paying for the bill (this time. He got it the day before) and the cashier looked at me and straight faced said “I do need to see HIS ID for the beer”. We both laughed and smiled and he gave her his ID; he squeezed my tush, growled like a dog in my ear and we left with our groceries, laughing on the way out.

    As to the guy that compared older women to mopeds…none of the younger guys I’ve dated have a problem with PDA around friends.

    I guess that is one of the reasons I chose to date these particular younger men over some of the others I had to chose from; they actually have some maturity, intelligence and confidence. They are no longer easily swayed by peer pressure like a grade schooler! Have a good one!

  4. Mindwarper11 on October 20, 2017 at 2:56 pm

    The cougar trend isn’t something new. One of your encounters shows what it really is. With the invention and popularization of things like smart cell phones and the internet, two things a large portion of people who saw invented are still relatively young (or at least im not old yet lol), people now have access to ways to interact that weren’t available for other generations. There is even an old country song called older women (part of the song goes Older women, make wonderful lovers, older women, they UNDERSTAAAND).

    There is a massive chunk of men into older women. The idea is that older women are going to be more intelligent, less chaotic, more steadfast in their beliefs, willing to speak her mind, easier to trust and no games or strings attached, able to hold down their own job (instead of the man supporting someone who cant or wont keep a job, but still wants all the money), and/or of course has more experience in bed.

  5. Kyle on October 23, 2016 at 2:44 pm

    I don’t think the guy named Tom Leykis is the real Tom Leykis because he says he is fit. The real Leykis himself also will readily admit that he is ugly while criticizing women’s looks.

  6. Yic on September 24, 2016 at 7:11 pm

    I really do like how you view things and how you handle conversation so honestly but I have a question please, what happens to a person who is intelligent, ambitious and focus but he lacks some two, three things that blocks him from reaching his goals, because if he gets support for at least two(2) three(3) years in his studies, financially and physically so that he re-builds again though generally when it comes to handling a woman (sex wise, loving, caring ) .. I Promise You Will Never Regret This A Single bit

  7. Lily on February 23, 2016 at 4:49 pm

    I recently started online dating after having been off the market for about five months. I am 56 and it’s clearly stated on my profiles. Almost nine out of ten messages I receive are from the 18- to 38-year-old crowd. Things have really changed in just five months! (I did throw in a bikini photo just for kicks this time around, and I don’t know if that is giving the wrong message.)
    It’s a bewildering world out there!
    I have previously not dated anyone younger than me by more than a year or two, but I am seriously considering it, just to see what it’s all about.

    • Emma on February 24, 2016 at 6:07 am

      What’s a few dates, you know? Go for it, have fun, and report back!

  8. Jo on February 19, 2016 at 9:54 am

    I’m 41 and have a 33 year old trying to “court” me if you will. I asked him this very question and his main response other than (“Jo you’re hot”) was gals around his age or younger no longer know how to have conversations. I’m not sure I agree there but it’s just a tiny bit more insight on the subject.

    • Emma on February 21, 2016 at 10:29 am

      I’ve heard similar, and it just can’t be so …

  9. stpaulbeth on February 1, 2016 at 2:13 pm

    I’ve seen the same thing online. And while I have enjoyed the flattery and witty banter, I haven’t taken any of the youngsters up on their offers to meet. But after reading this, perhaps I will. Might be fun.

    • Emma on February 1, 2016 at 2:15 pm

      You know … why not? Look at is an adventure!

  10. Suzanne Norton on February 1, 2016 at 9:46 am

    I have been experiencing this almost exclusively. I am 47. The last one after me was 22! Yikes. All of my friends said just have fun but I felt too weird. 22 is so young. He turned out to be flaky and kept inviting me out then flaking out and not showing up. He’s deleted now. Haha. Mostly they are all in their early to mid thirties for me. Only a few my age or older. I am youthful with a lot of energy and maybe look mid thirties to early fourties.
    Sat night guy on the dance floor was 32 but looked 22. Sweet hot beautiful fella from Ghana. We’lll see if we get together again. It didn’t move beyond the dance floor. Now the problem is I rarely see anyone close to my age that I find attractive. I have gotten used to the younger guys. So a guy my age has to be super fit and hot or he’s not going to turn my head. Of course intelligence is also very important and a good personality! :)
    Interesting to read that this is a trend. I wondered why all these guys love me! Other than that I am sexy and adorable that is! Haha!

    • Emma on February 1, 2016 at 2:14 pm

      Of course they love you because you’re sexy and lovable! Hhaha :) xxx

    • J on October 7, 2016 at 10:45 am

      I am not yet divorced but on my way (he has a personality disorder and is verbally/mentally abusive.) I have thought about future dating scenarios, and while I don’t want twenty somethings and the immaturity that goes with it, I don’t really find men my age attractive either (47). I DO have to say that after such a long romantic drought, just getting hit on again would be thrilling, lol! I feel invisible.

  11. Insidious_Sid on January 15, 2016 at 6:14 pm

    Let’s face it. Men have been pining after youth and beauty since the dawn of time. Actors date and marry women half their age why? Because they can. And now younger men are dating / having sex with women twice their age why? Because they, as well, can. The mating arena has simply changed due to feminism and technology, and now the playing field and rules are different, so people are responding in kind. Young men are simply developing “new game” so they can better compete in this new game.

    I think a lot of men and women are confused about which way is up in this radically new mating arena we’ve all concocted for ourselves. Some seem to think it’s better and the “bees knees” and others seem to think it’s a step into romantic desolation.

    One thing I’ve come to believe is that commitments are no longer relevant and breakups are only a text away. Everything, including romance and love, is available instantly, and *will* gratify immediately (and on an ongoing basis), or be clicked, swiped, or drag-and-dropped off the screen. I don’t think technology has made humans suck more, but it’s just showed us the amazing human capacity for suck.

    It never ceases to amaze me how disposable humans now are socially. Friends boring you today? No problem. Here’s a map of people within 0.5km who are as cool, funny and interesting as you are! Hey… this one winked at me. Sorry Jane… I have to paint the dog tonight…

    • Emma on January 16, 2016 at 2:19 pm

      Can’t argue with a word you wrote.

  12. Erin on January 15, 2016 at 7:14 am

    I just found your blog today and I subscribed after reading one post. You hit a cord with me. I am a hot, single momma and also a cougar. Lol The single younger men market is great! I’m in my prime and they are in thiers. So it works out great!

    • Emma on January 16, 2016 at 2:20 pm

      Rock on! Love that you are riding this wave !!

  13. Lucy on January 11, 2016 at 10:49 pm

    WOW! I am so happy to see that I’m not the only one bewildered by this strange new trend…I’ve never been hit on by so many (really) young guys in my life! Evidently this has become a “thing”, but personally, I’m not interested in going there. My god, I’m 43, with a 20 year old daughter!! Yuck

    • Emma on January 12, 2016 at 7:40 am

      It is indeed a thing — also your prerogative whether or not you want to go there :)

  14. Dave on January 11, 2016 at 3:33 pm

    Emma, I think know the answer you are looking for. When men are growing up they usually have crushes on older women. As they are developing, they’re attracted to women like their female teachers, mother’s female friends, females neighbors, etc. who are usually in their late 20s to early 40s (this also includes women on TV and in movies). When men get above 18 a lot of them still have this attraction to older women and now they are allowed to date them. Today online dating has made single women in their 40 accessible to younger men so as a result it’s happening. When I was in my 20’s I dated women who were older and found that they were much more mature, caring, gentle, and open. They naturally made you feel you were special and what was happening was special.

  15. Penny on January 10, 2016 at 11:20 pm

    Such a great article. Totally hilarious to read the comments…I mean honestly who knew? You couldn’t have told my 19, 24 or even 30 year old self that 42 was going to be when the magic happened. My looks haven’t changed but everything on the inside has and that is the key it seems. Now I can stop giving all these young guys the side eye and go out and have some fun and let the chips…and if it feels right, the panties fall where they may ;)

    • Emma on January 11, 2016 at 9:21 am

      hahah! So true, every point.

  16. Matt on January 10, 2016 at 9:13 pm

    This is funny that you wrote this piece. I am a 31 year old man who you have worked with in a professional capacity several times over the last couple of years. And I was just saying to a friend of mine last week how I was interested in asking you out, but I felt like you would think it was ridiculous because I’m younger than you (so obviously I did not). I can say that it is not some sort of conquest, fetish, or dare – people are simply attracted to who they are attracted to. Through our professional interactions and your writing, I find you to be smart, witty, opinionated, and unique – all which I find attractive whether you are 19, 29, or 39. Just my two cents!

    • Emma on January 10, 2016 at 9:21 pm

      So now of course I want to know who you are??? :)

      • Emma on January 10, 2016 at 9:22 pm

        PS Funny how your age flexibility tops out at 39 … :)

        • Matt on January 10, 2016 at 9:35 pm

          Ha! Well we all know a woman spoils after that right? Just kidding. I think you get my point though. Sure, some guys will chase whatever they can to get laid. Others just know what they’re attracted to. And you’re it.

          • Emma on January 10, 2016 at 9:41 pm

            Pretty sure I figured it out. MB at FT ?

            • Matt on January 10, 2016 at 9:49 pm

              You are a tremendous private investigator. Although I’m in NY. But you got it.

  17. Rachel on January 10, 2016 at 6:52 pm

    “mess of slack flesh” XD Yaaaaasss for the ending!!

    I recently had a gentleman at an industry convention who was only 23 hit on me quite a bit. At first I thought it was just because I don’t look my age (he had a VERY good pickup line too when we exchanged photos of our pets: “You know, pets are often reflective of their owners! I think there’s a reason why that toad is so amazing!” XD) The way he put it was that yes, a lot of younger women tended to be very marriage-hungry and Five Year Plan (TM) minded while older women were more sure of themselves and also had a lot major decisions already made. While I was definitely not marriage-hungry at 24, and I never believed in five year plans, I was NOT secure/confident at all. Not fulfilled in what I was doing either. I was very miserable in the financial industry and like WAY too analytic about dudes, stupidly holding out for the wrong guy too, and the few who were otherwise interested were just…meh. I practically had dewinterization stickers slapped on my ladybits like a foreclosed house. Summer of 2014 that all changed though!

    Confidence/security definitely has to do with it. I spent all those years (my most insecure ones) being constantly hit on by these inappropriately older men…now I get mostly dudes my age and way, way younger. I also noticed that I get utterly BOMBARDED with the sausage (and usually always under 25!) whenever I’m skating or I just have one of my boards with me. Young dudes do not stop flirting with me. Hehe.

    • Emma on January 10, 2016 at 9:00 pm

      dewinterization – had to google that. hahah BX girl!

  18. Lisa on January 10, 2016 at 5:46 pm

    So it’s not just me? I’m with your friend – thought it was some weird contest. But over the last month I’ve been out with men 12, 14 and 15 years my junior. Yes, this puts them in their late 20’s and early 30s. All of these men are well educated, successful, and quite honestly, hot. We had a great time, enjoyed each other’s company, and in one case had some really fantastic sex. In all cases, they liked the fact that I have my own life, am independent, and am not looking for a life long commitment. I just want someone to go out with from time to time. In their words, that makes me very different from women their own age.

    So given all of our collective experiences, it’s not a joke. We’re all really hot mamas!

    • Emma on January 10, 2016 at 5:48 pm

      you said it!

    • Eira on January 10, 2016 at 6:57 pm

      I agree, I guess an older woman (mom) dating a younger man is not looking for something serious. That must be a plus for them!

      • Emma on January 10, 2016 at 9:01 pm

        Well … or they ARE looking for something serious .. and have a mommy complex.

Leave a Comment