Why “Nothing personal, but I don’t want to date a single mom” is totally personal

Way back at the beginning of my single mom dating shenanigans I fell in love with an older man. My kids were 1 and 3, his were in college. A few months in, I broke it off over a boozy Italian dinner. “Face it,” I said. “You don't want to be running around with little kids again.”

He agreed.

Old story: We kept sleeping with each other, he decided he wanted to try dating a mom for real, and a year later broke it off for reals because he didn't want to date a mom. For a whole bunch of reasons, that breakup was terribly painful for me, and it took me so many months (many of which I admittedly kept sleeping with him. Sue me.) to get over it. “You're so wonderful, it has nothing to do with you,” he'd say over and over. “It's just that life got in the way.”

“I don't want to date a mom”

I clung desperately to those words for a very long time. But it is bullshit (even if it was good of him to employ them). Rejecting me because I have children has every single thing to do with me. I am a mom. My motherhood is not a separate island off the coastline of myself. It is part of me. Arguably the very best part of me. I am a mother, exactly as I said I as when I met you online/the office/Starbucks/swing dancing/trashed at your cousin's wedding.

I've bumped into that same floundering position on dating me, a single mom, several times. “I thought I didn't want to date women with kids, but your OKCupid profile was irresistible,” he'll say. What he doesn't say, but what is implied is: “What the hell. I'll give this a try and if I don't like it, I'm outta here!”

Could I change his mind about dating moms?

I try not to be bitter. We're all human. Can I really fault a guy for liking me so much he goes against his instincts that tell him he's not fit for blended family life? I've got a healthy ego. I'd love to be the one to change his mind! Yet it's pretty silly that we treat the intersect of romance and children as such an exotic unknown, one worthy of tip-toe trepidation. After all, it's not like I'm raising feral unicorns in my attic, or foster-parenting gnomes. I am a human mother raising human children, the most fundamental essence of humanity, familiar to all, including every single man on OKCupid, who, presumably, was once a child himself.

On the flip side, I do think it is possible to change a guy's mind (though I don't suggest banking on it). A few years ago I had a mini-session with dating coach Kavita Patel, who stands out among her peers as a remarkable insight into dating and relationships overall, and has an intuitive power that is slightly freaky. In telling her about my dating, I said: “If a guy isn't into single moms, that's fine with me. I'm not interested in changing anyone's mind!”

Obvious, right? She disagreed: “Sometimes a guy has to see you with your children. Then he can be open to dating a woman with a family.”

Dating a man who appreciates your motherhood

Because she got so much right about me, I could never let that advice go.

Last year for a few months I dated a man who was in his early 40s, divorced but with no kids. We were a mismatch for zillions of reasons, but of anyone I've ever been involved with, he appreciated my motherhood more than any other man. He also admitted to discounting a relationship with a single mom before crossing my path. One day a few months in he told me he'd watched some Facebook videos of my kids in which I was audible in the background. “You're so natural and honest with them. You're an awesome mom,” he said in an uncharacteristically vulnerable moment. “I adore you.”

Which is exactly what every single single mom wants to hear very most of all.

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.

116 Comments

  1. Izzy on August 2, 2018 at 10:20 pm

    I don’t doubt that many men have had terrible experiences dating single mothers, just as many woman have had terrible experiences dating single fathers. But we’re not all terrible, and the men who choose to love us and our children are most definitely not “beta” (gawd, I hate those terms). In fact the ones I have met are men who are so confident and secure that they have the capacity to love their step-children as fiercely as if they were their own.

    I am lucky enough to have met one of those men.

    And what do I bring to the table for him?

    Well, he tells me I’m intelligent, spontaneous and fun, beautiful, uninhibited in bed, positive even when life is hard, and that I challenge him and make him a better person. I have a university degree, work full-time at a well paying job with great benefits, I own a home, have a pension, investments, my vehicle is paid off, and I refused child support from my ex. We split childcare costs 50/50, but that’s it. My boyfriend is equally smart financially, but I would never expect him to pay for my children’s education, or dental work, sports equipment, etc.

    My kids come first, but only because they are still little and need me to survive at this point. I value his opinion on parenting matters and now that we’ve (just recently) moved in together I now consider us a team raising these two boys together. We may have different roles and responsibilities (e.g. I’m the disciplinarian, he rough houses with them in a way I can’t), but we are each a valued member of the family and all of our needs matter.

    Things are definitely not perfect, and we of course have disagreements and miscommunication, but our friends and families both think we have bettered the other’s life.

    So while there are many nightmare stories of dating single parents, there also are happy stories too. Some of us make great partners, I promise.

    • NAWALT on August 28, 2018 at 2:42 am

      “Now that we’ve just moved in together” Get back to us in 2 or 3 years, and let’s see how this plays out long term. Verdict isn’t in yet, on this one, long term.

    • Drakefyre27 on September 2, 2018 at 9:02 am

      You sound very mature, and worthy of respect. You’re a drop of water in the ocean as we can say. Look at all the others who employ shame tactics, insult and, in general, do not respect men at all for not wanting to date single mothers. It’s disheartening at best.

      It’s like playing lottery, with only a chance in a million to win, hence the stance about them.

    • RH on April 19, 2019 at 7:07 am

      Really? Watch this video: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=NcqIPAI2t9A Single moms have poor judgement , don’t care about you and will be a money pit. Facts don’t lie. Never date one, you will severely regret it. Stay away!

  2. NAWALT on August 28, 2018 at 3:01 am

    “Trying to find some one still single and available after 30 is like trying to find a good parking spot at a shopping mall during the holiday season… the only ones left are handicapped.”

  3. The Man on September 9, 2018 at 11:27 pm

    Good god there’s a lot of angry women on here. I’ve noticed most of your comments are just your “feelings” that you’re all using to fight the “facts”, but the facts don’t care about your feelings and they don’t agree with them.
    Here are a few more Facts Smart Men consider when they come across a single mother.
    63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes (US Dept. Of Health/Census) – 5 times the average.
    90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes – 32 times the average.
    85% of all children who show behavior disorders come from fatherless homes – 20 times the average. (Center for Disease Control)
    80% of rapists with anger problems come from fatherless homes –14 times the average. (Justice & Behavior, Vol 14, p. 403-26)
    71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes – 9 times the average. (National Principals Association Report)
    The Truth is that single mothers are Bad at parenting! The FACTS don’t LIE! And of course many of you who read this will use name calling to make yourselves feel better but 3/4 of single mothers raise the majority of the future criminals of America. Statistically your Not good at the one job you claim to put above all else which means you probably wont be a good partner for a childless guy.

    • Ravenne Peterson-Travis on March 22, 2019 at 1:41 pm

      All single mothers…. all fatherless children… always never… wow. Let’s just say everyone doesn’t fit all of these “facts ” and “rules”. Either that… or I’ve been raising feral unicorns (love that line). 2 of my 4 unicorns are adults, the other 2 are finishing high school… dont think they are that special (except to DH and l).

  4. Ron on September 20, 2018 at 2:11 am

    I have nothing against single mothers. However, for me personally, it is too risky to get involved with a woman who has already given birth before. Unless she got pregnant via some sort of IVF treatment, that child would be the verifiable proof that she has already had unprotected sex in the past. Because of the risk of contracting diseases like syphilis and gonorrhea, and also because I totally detest children, I am not willing to sleep with any woman who has already had unprotected sex before, since there is no way I could fully guarantee that she would only have protected sex with me – I might end up with a disease and/or an unwanted child. I am just being honest here; I am not trying to offend anyone.

  5. John on October 12, 2018 at 12:48 pm

    The “kids come first” thing deserves more attention. That kind of attitude is a big red flag whether a woman is single or not. A woman should put her man first. If she does that she most likely won’t ever be a single mom. Most single moms are single because they were far more enthusiastic about being moms than being wives, partners, lovers, etc. They cared more about themselves than their husbands. This should be a huge red flag to any self-respecting man.

    Widows are an obvious exception. For the record I am not single. I have an attractive wife who loves me and submits to me and puts me first. We have 3 beautiful children who will grow up with their real dad which is how it is supposed to be.

    • EveryonesAFraud on December 18, 2018 at 4:27 am

      Yes, because everyone is successful on the internet. Who would lie about that on an anonymous comment section?

  6. Brian Gille on November 15, 2018 at 3:14 pm

    Ladies, it’s quite simple – kids are expensive, and we’d rather allocate those resources into the raising of our own kids, not someone else’s bloodline. You may think it’s petty but we men don’t have many perks to dating anymore. Furthering our DNA is one of the only perks left – don’t rob us of that also

  7. Antoni on December 2, 2018 at 2:51 pm

    I don’t know why a single guy would ever date a single mom. There is literally no advantage to it and I’m talking from experience.

    When I dated a single mom these are the things I learned the hard way…

    1. You will never be a priority, you will be behind the kid (this is fine), the cat, the dog, the garden, the knitting… you might not even make the list.

    2. You’ll be a butler, not a boyfriend. She won’t want you to be a dad to her kid, she’ll want you to be the painter, the DIY’er, the cleaner, the cook, the doormat.

    3. The kid will say “you can’t tell me what to do, you’re not my dad”. And they would be right, you’re not. If you do try to discipline them and the mom don’t like it, you’ll get an earful of that as well.

    4. You’ll be her therapist, not a boyfriend. Most of these single moms have lot’s of unresolved emotional baggage. From her ex who “did her wrong”, to abuse issues, anxiety and depression. While there is nothing wrong with talking about these things if it’s on a daily basis you’ll end up trying to “fix” her which isn’t your job.

    5. The “baby daddy” drama. The kids real dad might still be in the picture and he might not appreciate you being his replacement. This can lead to all sorts of issues in itself.

    6. They will never see you as a man with needs yourself. It will always be about how they can find a “use” for you, how they feel, what they want while ignoring your wants and needs. You’re more of an object than a person.

    7. Double the heartbreak. You might love her and her kid dearly but if it doesn’t work out you’ll have double the heartbreak… not only from losing her but the kid that has probably become attached to you.

    I know that this isn’t all single moms and there are always acceptations to the rule but this seems to be the case most of the time, and it certainly was in mine. There are plenty of single women out there with no kids that you can have a healthy, equal partnership with. Why have added stress and complication when you don’t need it?

    • A sane, XX-chromosomed being on January 2, 2019 at 12:51 pm

      This is so very accurate, and very equally the same issues for single women who have dated single dads. My friend and myself have experienced how it is to be with a single dad, but I got out of that situation early thankfully. She bonded with her stepdaughter, took care of her both emotionally and financially for several years, only to be left with an especially broken shattered heart when she found out he slept with baby mama… Stepdaughter found out and thought that there was a chance Mommie and Daddy would get back together, and started resenting my friend. A very very long complicated story put short… She left, now that she had time for herself in her life she went to college, got a career, and found a great guy with a great career who doesn’t have children either yet. They’re happily married and are waiting to have a child until after they’ve found the right house and are more settled down for it. She’s so thankful now that she found out about her ex-single dads affair when she did, because it scares her to think where she could be if she stayed in that volatile situation. The girl she helped raise who caused her hell eventually found out her ex-mom had $money$ now and tried to clean up her damage she did in the past in order to score a few Benjamins. My friend gave her money twice because she still cared for the girl, but when Xstepdaughter asked a third time, she knew what she was doing and cut her completely out of her life.

      Single parents are NOT worth all the problems and baggage they come pre-packaged with… At all.

  8. Bob on January 16, 2019 at 1:29 am

    I stumbled upon this post by accident, searching for others who have dated single mothers. My perspective: it’s definitely a mixed bag. As a guy who has no kids and has not been married, it is a hassle dealing with single mothers. I’m invited to school presentations and events that I really don’t want to attend, and I’m expected to be cognisant of issues regarding sitters and arranging child care. So yes, single mothers do have the deck stacked against them when they date people without kids. That said, hands down, some of the best sex I’ve EVER had has been with single moms. No idea why. I mean, they will do things that childless women run from. They are also fine meeting for a 30 minute quickie between scheduled items. I’m a busy guy, this is fine by me. All of this said, I’m not looking to rope myself into a serious relationship with a woman who has kids. I know I will always come last, I know schedules will always be constrained, and I know that I’ll be expected to participate in events I have no desire to participate in. Look, if I wanted kids, I would have had them, lord knows I’ve had plenty of chances.

    I suppose some may ask the question, why date women with children? Well, sometimes you find someone attractive and realize later they have kids. Sometimes they truly get it and isolate their dating life from their family. But honestly, the mind blowing sex is ever so hard to turn down. 3somes, ropes, spanking, public sex, making movies, kink you rarely encounter in the wild, these have all been made possible by single moms. On that note, I should rest, as one of the single moms I’m dating is waking me up in a most pleasant way, after she drops her kids off at school. Guys, give single mom’s a try, your knees will thank you.

    • Ahmad williams on March 14, 2019 at 11:31 pm

      Dude…. You are a grade A loser who must have less than 6 sex partners. Cause if you had more experience, you would quickly realize that there are A lot of freaky women who arent single moms, you just have had to get the bottom of the barrell women to experience some really sexual freaky ish. Real men dont date single mothers, just use them for the vagina they provide bro… If that. I avoid single moms at all costs. Nothing but bad decision making

  9. John Kyle on January 16, 2019 at 2:29 pm

    There are many great women out there who are not divorced mothers or never married mothers. I choose to be with them, and wish best of luck to the others.

  10. Amazed at these comments on January 19, 2019 at 3:17 pm

    Wow..such interesting (and some very negative) comments.
    I am on the opposite side of the spectrum…
    I personally am divorced with 4 children and will only date a man who has children because I see the difference in the quality of the person immediately.
    Most people (not all) who have never raised a child are clueless to the joy and love that can exist outside of themselves. Not that it is their fault.
    I was the same before my own children.
    But after children, it is an entirely different realm of existence..
    To each his own (as should be).

    • Alan Vanbureen on February 12, 2019 at 1:23 pm

      No…because your choices are very limited and men with no kids have many choices and are not scared but informed. The status quo of dating single mothers is true. Single mom don’t need them hence, they’re always last in their priority lists. Even their pets, plants and grooming appointments have more priority than their supposed partner. I will never again date single mother no matter how attractive they are.

  11. jake on February 17, 2019 at 10:17 pm

    Sorry, but it’s all evolutionary. There is no incentive for a man to work and waste his resources raising another man’s kid. Single mothers have no sexual value and no man with any value is going to be interested.

    Keep your legs shut or settle with a significantly uglier man.

  12. Russ on March 18, 2019 at 1:55 pm

    Yeah, yeah, women judge men harshly for income, physical fitness, grooming, cars we drive, confidence and also, being a single dad. When I see a single mom, I see a woman who engages in risky behavior.

    The facts are drop outs, alcoholics, drug addicts, rapists and criminals come disproportionately from single mother homes. That’s a lot of drama, non parenting, and host of other issues concentrated you guys. I get it, I am a single father.

    Unlike most of my friends I left her. Women initiate most divorces. That means 80% of single mothers are self created. They pushed dad away unlike the stereo type of dad running off with some young woman.

    Most cited reason in divorce is irreconcilable differences. Not abuse or adultry. That is not putting the kids first. What this tells me, is most single moms are single because they did not or still do not recognize the value a man has. That thier differences, were more important than thier kids, who still need thier dad. Most mothers I have met seem to think a dad is easily hot swapped in and out of place. They arent.

    Most single mothers I have met are willing to introduce thier kids to me far before I am willing to expose my kids to them. Ripping men in and out of kids lives is very bad for them. Emotional scarring at a young age is terrible.

    Ladies, try to look at it from a single mans shoes. He could date someone who can devote a good amount of thier time into building something new. Or he can date you, who has to cancel last minute, has prior baby daddy drama, and a very heavy list of have to dos. If you were him, what would you pick?

    Being a single mother, when you have 36 forms of contraception and abortion is a red flag. If you left your man, you also chose to have a kid with them. You make bad choices. That’s a red flag. Widows are the only exception to that rule.

  13. kenny tan on March 20, 2019 at 7:42 pm

    I personally do not date single moms but I used to have friends who doesn’t mind dating single mothers and this is the most common thing all of them told me. They will never be number 1 and they will never have the rights to discipline the kids in any wrong doings.

    My friend Eric had a single mom abd her then 13 years old moved in with him. One night the kid went to his wallet, took his credit card details and proceeds to make some in-game purchase for an android game. It was 99.90*8 USD if I recalled correctly. When he got the notification he sat the mom and the kid down and asked why did the kid did that. And then the most amazing thing happened

    The mom actually stood up to y friend and told him he has no right to scold HER child, and told him to get out of his house, that he paid for and the woman has no name to. He refuses and she proceeds to make a police report citing domestic violence. The police came and lock him up for the night.

    I knew about the incident because I was the one who brought him back to my place after he was released in the morning. I find it so funny that now I even mock him about this or whenever he wants to get with a single mother

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