We are in a time when the traditional family structure that was common in the days of our mothers and fathers has changed a lot.
For example, today we have more people marrying at older ages, there is an increase in divorces, and others are choosing to cohabit instead of marrying. We also have those who intentionally choose to be single parents.
In the mix of all this, there is an increase in the number of single mothers through death, divorce, birth before marriage and adoption. This has led to the increase in households headed by single mothers.
Society puts this pressure on women once they are single mothers, to sacrifice everything for their children.
While this may sound noble and even “good”, it is not healthy or even fair because single mothers, just like single women without children, also desire to find love.
However, dating single moms is full of landmines at every turn, as there are many factors to consider. Standby spoke to those who have walked this path to provide helpful advice for single moms looking to date.
Farzana Sumra, 38, co-founder and chief executive of Naveah Capital Insurance Agency, believes single mothers have the right to find love.
Farzana, who has seven-year-old twins and has been divorced for more than two years, believes single mothers should be encouraged to date.
“I was planning on giving myself at least two years after the divorce before I start dating again. I have to be intentional about dating and finding love because I’ve seen a lot of women become mothers single for different reasons, who never put themselves forward to find love again, but men don’t even think about it and easily move on.
“My mother, for example, has been a widow since 2007, and she never went out of her way to find love again, and I respect that, but I also saw her loneliness. So yes, children are a gift and are wonderful, but they can’t be your whole life. A wife is more than a mother,” she says.
Farzana says being a single mother comes with its share of stigma, especially when it’s following a divorce.
“When I got divorced, I was treated badly by society. You meet little things like married women who don’t want to be your friend or don’t allow their husbands to sit near you. You are treated almost like a second-class citizen. Before, I felt bad until I put my foot down,” says Farzana.
“Then there’s pressure or double standards, where society is fine when single men who have children date, but the same cannot be said for women. Society expects women to single mothers find fulfillment and contentment in motherhood, and women who dare to go out to seek love through dating are seen as not good.This is the reason why many single mothers avoid going out together. They fear being ostracized.
Farzana says single mothers also deserve love like everyone else. However, she says that while everything is going well so far, it should be done within healthy boundaries and as a result, she has several dating rules that she abides by.
“First of all, I let my date know that I am a mother. Second, I am clear that the man who will come into my life will not become a father for my boys, but a role model because they still have a father. Third, I don’t invite men to my house.
“Even though I’m dating someone, my kids have never seen a man in my life since I divorced their father, because I don’t want to confuse them. I also don’t want to introduce my kids to someone I’m dating unless I get to a point where I’m sure the person is serious,” she says.
“I like to go out on dates. I’m that woman who pays half the bill and I realize that might intimidate some men, but that’s just me. When you’re dating, it’s great because you get to know what you want and what you don’t want, and you also meet different people and add interesting layers to your life,” she says.
Farzana adds that single mothers should not be ashamed because they desire love beyond the love they share with their children.
Although she loves dating, she is in no rush to settle down.
“Even though I’m returning to the dating scene, I also enjoy being single and the freedom that comes with it. In that season alone, I’ve traveled halfway around the world and been able to fully enjoy of my space and my time. I got married in 2010 and I never really had the chance to live alone and this season is precious for me.
Dianah Kamande, a businesswoman and founder of Come Together Widows & Orphans Organization, who lost her husband in 2013 and remarried earlier this year, says single mothers should open the door to find love again, but that they shouldn’t feel any pressure.
“Society judges women harshly. When you are widowed, society will wonder why you are moving on. It doesn’t matter if it’s the day after your husband’s funeral or 20 years after his death. It’s as if a woman had to find fulfillment in her role as a mother and ignore other facets of her life. If you think it’s time to date again, do it, but within healthy limits, and if you’re not ready to date, don’t put pressure on yourself because that’s fine too” , she says.
The 39-year-old says start dating with boundaries firmly in place.
“Right from the start, let the person know that you have children. Don’t ambush them at the last minute. You may not like it, but your children must come first and the man must be approved by the children.
“That’s why as soon as you are sure that your relationship is serious, you should introduce this man to your children, but you have to be strategic in how you do it. For example, you can invite them as friends home for lunch and watch how they interact with each other. You have to deliberately create situations where your children and the man can interact,” she says.
Mwendwa Mbaabu is a spiritual coach and life author, and believes in not dating someone unless it is clear why they are dating.
“My dating needs and limits have evolved over the years. In my 20s and 30s, I dated but had no intention of getting married; I was looking for something casual and my needs revolved around companionship, but not marriage.
I am now 40 years old and I have a desire to be in a long term relationship. I got specific on my standards and can see red flags a mile away. Some of the people I dated in my youth as a single mom, I wouldn’t date now,” she says.
She, too, admits that once single moms start dating, they need to set boundaries to protect their kids.
“It’s important to let the person you’re dating know that you have a child. The reality is that some men don’t want to date single moms, and that’s okay. Also, I don’t introduce my daughter to anyone unless it’s a serious relationship.
“I don’t bring men to my house either. If they have to come, they only come to get me and even then he’s a ‘friend’,” she says.
Mwendwa says that depending on a child’s age, a parent should know when to tell them they are dating.
“Between 10 and 15, a child is particularly sensitive and believes that if his mother is in a relationship, his date wants to take his mother away from him. My daughter is now 17 and when she was younger, we did not have discussed dating with her, but now she can see and understand that I am dressing up to go out to meet someone, and I am not hiding the truth from her. She is now encouraging me to go out on a date,” she says .
However, she cautions that even in dating, the needs of the child should come first.
“If you are dating and you feel the person is interfering with your role as a mother, then you need to let him go. Some men can be selfish. They might know you have a child but want to take you on a trip outside. out of town for three nights without considering the needs of your child. Any relationship that comes at the expense of your role as a mother is not good,” she says.
Mwendwa says society is not always supportive of dating single mothers, pressures single women to find fulfillment and contentment in being single, and makes their need for love seem can be undone by their love for their child or children.
“If you’re a single mom and feel like you’re ready to date, don’t let other people’s opinions keep you from jumping back into the dating world.
“A lot of times women believe the lie that you don’t have the right to want love because they are single mothers and can end up having an unhealthy dysfunctional relationship with their children,” she says.
“They end up getting too attached to their kids because they pressure them to fill the void or the gap that a relationship is supposed to fill, which is unfair to the kids. It can cause problems later when the children get married,” she says.