The other evening, I was getting ready for a date. And by that, I mean I was pulling Nerf Gun darts out of my high heel while helping my daughter comb her hair after her shower. I had exactly 20 minutes to make them a quick dinner. I actually spent more time thinking about what I could make that wouldn’t leave me smelling like a diner as soon as I greeted my date than I did picking out my outfit.
If I made them some sandwiches, I would have time to slap on an extra coat of mascara and could swipe on some lip gloss once I got in the car. No fumes to marinate in my hair. They love eating chips and sandwiches for dinner in front of the television. Done and done.
As I was swiping jelly across the bread, I decided I would make their favorite enchilada dish for the following night, because guilt. I jotted it down on my to-do list which is on the back the electric bill and felt a bit better about my evening out.
Getting ready for dates these days looks a little different than it used to when I was in my 20s and had the luxury of spending an entire Saturday getting ready for a night out. I would get my nails done, make sure every area was hair-free and spend an hour or two trying on outfits. Then it was time to overanalyze every conversation I’d ever had with my pending date with my bestie while I applied way too much makeup and hairspray. It was deliciously fun and exciting.
Not that it isn’t fun now. Yes, single mothers still get excited to go out on dates — when we have time to stop and think about it. And we aren’t spending hours primping for every outing because we don’t think we deserve it or because we don’t take care of ourselves. It’s because we have a trillion other things to do. Our world doesn’t stop because we have a date; we are mothers first.
Single mothers don’t need to dine at lavish restaurants either, and that’s not because we are just oh-so-grateful someone is taking us out or we have lowered our standards. Sure, it’s nice to have a fancy dinner, but it’s not a prerequisite. We just know if there is going to be chemistry between us we can find it over cheeseburgers and fries just as easily. After all, some of our best conversations have been with our kids in the car eating Goldfish crackers and fruit snacks.
Our time is precious, and if we are spending time away from our children to be with you, we already like you. It doesn’t matter where we are eating or where we are going. But we are also hyperaware of any signals men are doling out. If a potential partner isn’t on the same page, we gotta cut them loose ASAP. If my heart hurts over a man, it affects my kids. Heartbreak is inevitable, but single moms seem to see it coming fast, and we aren’t afraid to save ourselves; we have no room to settle.
Being a single mom often means sharing custody. And since we are parenting solo when we have the kids, we are paying even closer attention to the way we mother now. Most of us announce we have kids; there is no room or time to hide it. I am always upfront and let men I am seeing know straight away that I am a mother — not to just one amazing child, but three. They are my greatest gifts in life, and they come first. If he seems turned off by that, it saves us both a shit-ton of trouble. Because I’m out.
We can be very nurturing, it’s just the way a mother is. I never realized I would be like this on dates, but I have been told I am. Being a mother changes us in that we are aware if someone seems uncomfortable, hungry, anxious, or tired. We do this because it’s part of who we are, not because we want another child. There is a difference.
Also, if you need anything — wipes, aspirin, a snack — just ask us. I am sure we have everything you could ever need in our purse.
Maybe I am a little biased since I am a single mother who is dating (although there was a time I didn’t think I would be), but we are fun AF. We have very limited free time between parenting, working, cleaning, and being all the things to all our people, and we like to take advantage of it whether it’s an evening swim in the ocean (after a burger) or making out like a teenager at the movies. We make each moment count.
Single moms know their worth. We have to bring our best to our kids when we are with them; there is no partner to lean on. It’s just us against the world. And maybe we smell like grilled cheese sandwiches on the first date, but we are still freaking awesome. And we have no time for bullshit because we are concerned with more important things. Like how to get our kids to stop having Nerf gun fights in our damn closet.