Dating the childless

Categories: Hoping for Love, Tentative Steps


Several months ago, when I was settling into the still-uncomfortable role of Sole Head of Household, my brother told me to stop being such an antisocial old lady and get the hell out of the house, meet someone of the opposite sex who didn’t enjoy peeing in his own bath water.

I remember the moment clearly: my 29-year-old sibling and my two-year-old son were sitting on bar stools in the kitchen of my half-decorated new home, eating toasted sandwiches, one of them with breadcrumbs surrounding his lips and trailing up into his cowlicked blond locks.

“I know,”I sighed,”I miss people my age. I miss flirting. But what? I’m not going to meet a hot prospect in the canned fruit aisle. I’m too haggard for the club scene, and I am totally not asking anyone to set me up.”

“Online dating,”my brother replied, and I looked at him suspiciously. “I did it,”he continued,”I had no time for the bars and I met some cool chicks that way.”

My brother is a good looking man; he’s athletic, fun, and well-employed and he’s never had a problem with the ladies. In fact, it’s kind of the opposite, he’s mostly had to fend them off.

“You dated Internet girls?”I asked incredulously.

“Yeah,”he said nonchalantly,”It’s not weird anymore. Seriously. There are a lot of single Moms on there. You have nothing to lose.”

So, furtive and with my ears burning a little, I signed up on a free dating site. And tentatively posted my picture and a few paragraphs. I emphasized that my son is my number one sidekick and waited for the deafening silence.

I was kind of bowled over when the emails started pouring in. Dozens of men, many wildly inappropriate with bare chests and astonishingly blue humor. But some were cool. A few inspired a little stomach-flipping. While my son was with his Nanny, I met a few for coffee. And one, a man with curly black hair and uncommonly kind eyes, has been hanging out a little bit. A coffee here, a martini there, a walk on the beach, and, OK, a weekend away. This man (I’ll call him John) is 35, never been married, no kids. And I wonder if that is a distinct disadvantage.

John’s brother has two little girls, but they live far away and he rarely gets to see them. I wonder if the fact that he doesn’t have kids dooms our potential relationship, a little. He, after all, knows nothing but off-the-cuff getaways, Saturday sleep-ins till close to noon, leisurely brunch with the weekend paper. My world is foreign to him; though he knows my son is everything to me, I don’t think he can possibly understand what that means. He doesn’t know about 5:00 AM wakeups, bathtime that ends up with water covering every inch of the house, what it feels like to have a little piece of your soul holding your hand in complete trust. I couldn’t have understood it, before becoming a parent myself.

Since starting to write this column, I’ve discovered a lot of fabulous blogs I hadn’t read before. Many of them talk about dating and single parenthood and I’ve been inhaling their words with abandon. It’s helping, but still don’t know what the hell I’m doing.

Single parents, I’d love to know your stories. Would you date someone who has never had kids? Would you rather date someone who has children? An inquiring, inexperienced dating Mama wants to know.

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17 comments so far...

  • That is a great question! I have dated twice (both internet guys) since the divorce. Here is why I picked them. Both were in education and both were fathers. My rational was 1. If they are teacher or principals they both have gone through (hopefully) background checks. 2. They will understand the demands of a single mother. They both were really great guys but….

    I was wrong on the 2nd reason. They don’t get what it is like to be a single mother. You can’t get it unless you are a single mother. They were single fathers and were empathetic but it is different for them. For instance one night I had to cut a date short to tend to sick children since their father who was watching them doesn’t get how to take care of them when they are sick. My date was sweet and said he understood and wouldn’t be with a mom if she didn’t put her children first. However, he still called during the sacred bedtime routine to complain about his day. So when I decide to go back out to the dating scene ( I am on sabbatical from men right now.) I will be more inclined to date a father since it is nice if they understand what it is like being a parent but it won’t be a deal breaker.

    Terri  |  June 23rd, 2008 at 12:37 pm

  • I was younger as a single mom so I didn’t always have a choice of dating men who never had kids. I found that after several dates I had a better idea if the the man would be “kid friendly” or not. I married the no kids kind who was 27. I don’t think you can always judge. Some men would be great but just hadn’t found the right woman yet, so no kids. There are plenty of women out there like this. For lack of a better comparison, look at Brad Pitt. Over 40 and jumps right in. I guess all I’m saying is, if someone looks interesting, it’s okay to try them on then put them back. You’re just dating, not getting married. Who knows, they may turn into a friend and introduce you to someone else that works. And if all they do is get you used to dating again and understand what you like in a man, it was still a win. Good Luck!

    Michele  |  June 23rd, 2008 at 1:52 pm

  • That is the question. Yes I would date someone without kids. Yes they may not get it however many men with kids divorced or married do not understand the demands of motherhood period. I was married and am divorced and my x DID NOT GET IT. He actually sounds like the person who commented today. Sick. kid.. you do it.. feeding even.. you do it. My little one is 2.5 and I left on maternity leave. My point.. trust me I have one. It really depends on the person. I have a gal pal ( with no kids who wants them) she is recently divorced. She gets it and does not have kids. I had friends who have kids who do not get motherhood how the heck is a man supposed to? However… if you can see empathy, understanding or someone asking questions or calling at ” bath and bed time and you say.. It is a bad time. You will know what kind of person he is with his response. The guy who keeps talking… BYE! The one who says.. oh geez so sorry. Talk later if you are not to tired.. he is worth a shot. I may be too hopeful.. but I tell ya.. just because you have kids does not make you a man who gets it. In my married life, man, the x and family memebers…wow I tell you I felt for the wives . Then I had my little one and looked at my spouse at the time after she was born with some medical issues and went NO. You are NOT the one that will be with me on this journey. Jenny Mcarthy said the same thing. Anyway.. men by nature are selfish, this is why we are mothers. I will say lastly that it is all about the levels of selfishness and maturity. If they really are the right one for you.. they will bend over backwards.. kids or no kids .. trying to get you.. the single mom .. the toughest and most awsome being. I however say this while I to am not dating, not because for any other reason but I am tired and busy. I am a little concerned about dating a man with kids as much as one without. Since women most often divorce.. if she did not want him.. why would I?

    Helen  |  June 23rd, 2008 at 3:32 pm

  • count me in as an inquiring single mama.

    I like to think that there doesn’t necessarily need to be any ‘rules’ when it comes to matters of the heart, but maybe I’m naive.

    I have been single for almost three years, so I’m sure I’m not one to give advice in this arena.

    I guess a part of me would like a man who is childless, but loves kids. My daughter has gone over two years without a father figure, so in my little fantasy world I will find someone who cannot have children of their own, and who will adopt her.

    I know, you never know what the future holds, but when you’re young and single like me you gotta have your naive little fantasies.

    Miranda  |  June 23rd, 2008 at 5:09 pm

  • Another thing Kristin, I always got the jist that you were alot like me during your pre-baby days. Didn’t particularly care for kids, didn’t get the whole ‘maternal’ thing…I know with me, even now having a child I assume everyone who is childless feels like i did before my daughter…the more I get out there and force myself to socialize, the more I realize this is not the case. I think you should give ‘john’ a chance, it may not be as much about w/ or w/o children…who knows he may be great with ur little man.

    Miranda  |  June 23rd, 2008 at 5:27 pm

  • Ha, I haven’t even been invited out since I decided to adopt.

    Based on guys I’ve dated before that, I feel guys with kids are more in tune with what matters to me, but they tend to be afraid of getting involved with more kids because they hate the way it ended the first time. (OK, I’m basing that on the one divorced guy that I dated, but it sounds logical, doesn’t it?)

    Single, childless guys want you to be ready to pick up and follow them wherever, whenever. Can’t do that with two babies. At least, I can’t.

    SKL  |  June 23rd, 2008 at 7:54 pm

  • I should take back the beginning of my previous comment. I have been invited out, but only by people I didn’t trust enough. To be honest, I have built up a pretty high wall now that I have such important things to think about.

    SKL  |  June 23rd, 2008 at 7:56 pm

  • It is hard to date being a single mom. I have dated men with kids and no kids. I prefer men with children because I would like to how they are with their children.

    Kim  |  June 23rd, 2008 at 9:06 pm

  • [...] Dating the childless - Single Mom at Work - Work It, Mom He, after all, knows nothing but off-the-cuff getaways, Saturday sleep-ins till close to noon, leisurely brunch with the weekend paper. My world is foreign to him; though he knows my son is everything to me, I don’t think he can possibly understand what that means. He doesn’t know about 5:00 AM wakeups, bathtime that ends up with water covering every inch of the house, what it feels like to have a little piece of your soul holding your hand in complete trust. I couldn’t have understood it, before becoming a parent myself. [...]

    roblef dot com » Dating the childless - Single Mom at Work - Work It, Mom  |  June 24th, 2008 at 3:59 pm

  • I’m remarried (and a stepmom) now, but when I was finally ready to start dating after my divorce, I expected to date guys with kids, and that was actually my preference. That was partly because I didn’t intend to have any more kids, so I needed someone who was also “done” with that. Also, at my age (40+) I would be leery of someone without the relationship history, including parenting.

    But as other comments have mentioned, it really depends on the individual - and kids are a factor in who that individual is.

    Florinda  |  June 25th, 2008 at 3:10 pm

  • Miranda: it’s funny you get that vibe from me. You’re totally right, by the way. :-)

    Thanks all, for your thoughtful input!

    Kristin D  |  June 25th, 2008 at 8:00 pm

  • i’m in a relationship with a man who has a 6 year old daughter. we’re both 30. he’s perfect. i was single for a few years. then this yahoo came along. i knew that he had a daughter when we first started dating. he and i hit it off so well, we are so perfect for each other, that the fact that he had a daughter didn’t matter. she’s part of him. and that’s just how it is. at our age, people in the “dating scene” know that people have been married and might even have kids.

    i don’t let him call her baggage, though. she’s not baggage. she’s part of him.

    and that’s just how it is.

    you’ll find the right person, and he’ll be perfect.

    Yolanda  |  June 25th, 2008 at 10:53 pm

  • As one of the single parent bloggers you professed to inhaling (hope I smell fine, btw), I can say that dating as a single parent is different, but definitely doable.

    My first post-divorce girlfriend had no kids. She and I did the martinis, dinner, hiking, etc. dates, plus sleepovers. I have my kids halftime, so dating is a little easier for me, but still - there would be times I was not available and she was understanding, but bummed.

    We dated two months before I introduced her to my kids. Once the intro was done, dating got a LOT easier and more fun. She could come hang out with me and the kids for dinners (I cook), movies, hikes, picnics, road trips, etc. We stayed together more than a year.

    So, yes, it’s totally possible for a single parent to date someone who doesn’t have kids. Sometimes it’s easier doing that than dating a fellow single parent, especially if custody schedules don’t line up.

    dadshouse  |  June 29th, 2008 at 10:14 pm

  • I have actually dated the childless and dated the single parent during my experience following my divorce and both have their pros and cons. I can’t say one is better than the other so much but can say when you date someone who doesn’t have kids - prior to them meeting your children - you feel like you are living 2 different lives. There is the life you have on the weekends the kids are away and you plan your dates or weekend get-a-ways that remind you of your early single days and then you have your day-to-day routine when you have kids and they are a part of every facet of your life. So when I was involved with a guy who didn’t have kids I was relieved when I was able to bring both worlds together - of course that doesn’t happen until I know there is a reason to have him meet the kids. Also there have been those without kids that I have dated for a few months and then turn to me and say “I don’t know if I want to be a step-dad.” And trust me - my kids were never a secret part of my world… so why hadn’t he figured that out before we invested that time?

    On the other hand when you are dating the single parent - he may have 2 or 3 and if you have 2 (like in my case) they add up and family outings end up with two vehicles and a “Brady Bunch” of a good time. :) So you just have to prepare for which set of “cons” you are willing to deal with and make the most of that best relationship opportunity that comes along…. He might be Mr. Right but not be “perfect”.

    Kathy  |  July 2nd, 2008 at 2:39 pm

  • Sometimes I think about what it would take to try dating again, but I don’t know where I would begin. I tried online dating for a year and met a really nice guy who was also a single parent.

    The problem with single fathers and single mothers dating is time. If each person has their own child as their priority finding a day let alone a few nights to be together is tough. Not to mention when is the right time to introduce the kids to each other? Although it seems safer to date people who know what you are going through, the truth of the matter is every single parent’s experience is different.
    Nowadays, I left online dating because it felt to methodical, but without time how does a person happen upon love? or at least a date?

    Natalia  |  July 20th, 2008 at 10:39 pm

  • I have dated an older man with no kids who I find amazing. I also dated a younger man with no kids who did not understand one bit. I think it’s important to see who their friends are and what they admire about their friends who are fathers, to see if they truly are ready for meeting your precious one. Pay attention to their reactions to children and families in public, walking the mall in a restaurant, etc. I have not dated any other fathers with kids, it has just not been in the cards for me yet, things are good right now taking tiny baby steps to protect my heart and my kids hearts of course. I have no preference, that’s just how it’s been for me. I think dating someone who has kids would have a lot of positives. My kids are 7 and 3 so I am very protective, my man has to understand off the bat he is #3 on my list, kids are always first. If he is too young or selfish to understand that then he’s not getting it, Remember though, you always have to “break it down a-b-c style” as my girlfriend would say, for these guys. He likely had no idea what a bath & bedtime is like for a 3 year old.

    Andrea  |  October 4th, 2008 at 8:58 pm

  • Hi Kristin,
    Your posts have been a source of inspiration and great comfort to me. Thank you.
    I have been exclusively dating a childless man for the past 9 months. We are both newly divorced, with my situation being considerably more complicated than his. My ex-husband has mental health issues, has practically bankrupted me, and there has been a horrific custody battle of our 3 year old daughter, which will fortunately soon be resolved.
    I introduced my daughter to him about 2 months into our relationship, and he has been very kind to her, jumps right in with gently verbally disciplining her (I’m okay with this and appreciate the support), and is always willing to do the Chuck E Cheese scene. Despite these wonderful things, he has yet to discuss a future with us, even though I’ve been clear that I cannot continue to expose my child and my own vulnerable self to such ambiguity. He recently purchased a home and continues to refer to everything related to the house as “his”, without ever referencing us. I strongly suspect that he doesn’t want to give up his lifestyle (money, freedom, etc.), even though I have never expected him to be responsible for us financially, and have always encouraged him to spend time with his friends,
    Even though he really doesn’t understand how deep feelings run between a mother and child, I don’t think therein lies the problem. I believe that it comes down to personality….selflessness, the capacity for empathy, and what a man will do for a woman that he loves. Although this man has proclaimed love for me, I doubt he has the emotional depth to take on the complete role of a family.
    All of this has been extremely upsetting to me, especially with the loss of the marriage having been fairly recent. I think you said it best- trust your instincts when something doesn’t seem quite right. Even though others have been impressed with him around my daughter, I have never felt in my heart that he wants the responsibilities that go along with it. A man who is love with a woman and her child will not have ambivalence.
    I wish you much luck in your journey of finding true love!

    Jane  |  January 18th, 2009 at 12:18 pm