Being a single father is tough. Finding extra time for anything outside of work and kids is next to impossible–especially finding the time to date.
If you’re looking to get back into the dating game as a single dad, start with these tips.
1. Talk to your kids first.
Dating as a single parent isn’t just about finding the time to go out for a fancy meal. It’s also about how your children react to you dating. Some children may feel as if you’re slipping away, while others will quickly welcome a new person into their lives.
Talk to your kids about the idea of you starting to date again. Not only will this ease them in, but it also allows you to explore ways to find extra time without hiding it or upsetting your kids. You don’t have to introduce them to every woman you date, but you should be honest with them if you’re dating.
Use your best judgment, depending on the age of your kids, to decide how many details to share with them. No matter how much you tell, be sure to tell them something — the worst thing you can do is hide the fact that you’re dating. Lying to your children about how you spent your time last Friday night will only cause trust issues down the line; the last thing you want is for your dating life to cause a rift between you and your kids.
2. Look for the right opportunities.
Dating as a single dad isn’t the same as it was when you were younger. Picking up dates at bars and clubs is likely a waste of time if you’re seeking a serious relationship. Think about looking in ordinary places — you might meet someone at your gym or local coffee shop. You could even meet another single parent when you take your kid to music lessons or while you’re waiting to pick them up after school.
The opportunities are all around you; it’s just a matter of recognizing them. Once you start to spot these opportunities, you’ll save time by meeting new people during your regular weekly activities. Chances are, these people will be more receptive to you because you have something in common (like a commitment to exercise, love of coffee, or a child that plays the piano).
Be careful and considerate when choosing to pursue a potential relationship; don’t jump head first into a new fling without weighing the risks and benefits. If you meet someone through your child’s school, and it doesn’t go well, it can be awkward to see each other every time you wait for your children at the bus stop. It’s not just awkward for you; it can be strange for your kids as well, especially if they have a relationship with the other kids. Don’t pass up a good opportunity, but put a lot of consideration into determining if it’s right.
3. Pace your dating life.
As a single parent, you don’t have as much free time on your hands to spend with new love interests, which means things may progress at a slower pace than you’re used to.
Be patient, and pace your dating life. Balance time between bonding with your kids and meeting new people. If you find yourself falling in love, remind you (and your new partner) to consciously take it slow. Spending all your time with your new girlfriend will make your kids feel like they’re losing you, and may give your girlfriend unrealistic expectations about your availability. The reality is that your kids need an equal amount of attention. Talk with your girlfriend about taking things slow so that you can balance your time and attention between her and your kids. When you have this talk, emphasize that the point of pacing the relationship is so that you can give your best efforts and your best self both as a parent and as a boyfriend.
Not only does this make time management easier, but taking things slow allows you to get to know this woman better — so you can get a good idea of whether you trust this new person around your children.
4. Work dates into other activities.
Dating doesn’t always have to be an exclusive one-on-one experience at a sit-down restaurant. Consider other ways you can spend time together. If you both have kids, plan activities where the kids can have fun while you two get to know each other like going to the park or the zoo.
The kids don’t always have to come along. If you have already planned to meet up with some friends, invite your date along with you. Have a work function where you need to make an appearance? Bring your date along. If you can meet up for a quick bite to eat over your lunch break, do it! If your new romantic interest is considerate of your situation as a single parent, she should be understanding and accepting of some “unconventional” dates — and if she’s a single parent as well, she’ll probably be more than happy to join, as she can relate to the time management struggle!
Finding non-traditional dating activities isn’t just about saving time; it’s also a good way to get to know someone in a day-to-day context. If you’re looking for a serious relationship that can fit into your lifestyle as a parent, you’ll learn a lot about the person you’re with by observing how she behaves in everyday activities and settings.
5. Avoid evening dates.
When you think “dating,” it’s easy to picture yourself at a restaurant or in a movie theater late at night, while your kids are home with a babysitter. Don’t forget, the evenings are usually your kids’ time to spend with you — taking away that bonding time may cause your children to have bitter feelings about your dating life. Instead, get creative. Suggest meeting up for breakfast before work rather than dinner after. Anytime your kids are at school or in daycare is a good time to meet up, even if that means a quick meeting over your lunch break.
If you’re planning a longer evening date, consider sending your kids to a friend’s house for a movie night or a sleepover; this gives your kids something to look forward to, as they get to have a fun outing too. You might also suggest a swap with another parent, night, so they can go out.
6. Consider online dating.
Online dating can be a huge time saver. Not only can it quickly match you with like-minded individuals who you’re likely compatible with, but you can also get to know people on-the-go. This gives you a chance to meet new people without taking as much time away from your kids. You can talk with potential dates while waiting for your kids to get out of school, or after you put them to bed at night. And you don’t even have to find a sitter!
Only after you start connecting with someone do you have to take time out of your day to visit them in-person. This can lead to plenty of dates down the line; but initially, it saves you the hassle of going out on first dates with people who you may discover you don’t want to pursue.
Dating as a single father can be difficult. Many dads feel guilt-ridden at the idea of decreasing quality time with their kids, and also not being able to devote all their time and attention to their date. It may take a little more creativity than it does for non-parents, but it is possible to balance your children with your love life. Work your dating life around your other responsibilities, and find ways to save time in the minor aspects of dating so you can still give your all to your kids. If you’re meeting and connecting with the right types of people, they’ll understand that your children are your priority, and they’ll admire you for it.
Are you in the dating scene, or thinking about starting to date, as a single dad? What are your best tips for balancing single parenting and romantic dating?