What to Consider When Dating a Single Mom

Boy doing mischief on laptop while standing behind mother at home
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If you're in the dating game, single moms will likely be in the mix. In fact, according to a Pew Research Center study, the U.S. has the world's highest rate of children living in single-parent households, specifically those run by single moms.

Single parents bring unique perspectives, priorities, and life experiences to the table—and that can make them great partners. They're often capable, smart, flexible, and know what they're looking for in a relationship. Here's what to do when dating a single mom—and how to take your relationship to the next level without getting overly involved too soon.

Recognize That It's Different

When dating a single mom, it's important that you adjust your expectations. In other relationships, you may have been able to gauge a person's feelings for you by how much time and energy they put into your relationship.

When you’re dating a single parent, this isn’t necessarily the case. They may not have the time to see you as often as you'd both like. Single parents' time is limited, and much of their energy goes toward taking care of their kids. You'll need to look for other expressions of their feelings for you.

Another difference is that many single moms are much more clear about what they want in life. That can eliminate a lot of mystery and become an attractive quality in a relationship.

Accept That Her Children Are Her First Priority

For single parents, their kids likely come first. It's important to understand and accept this fact. A parent's devotion to their children is admirable, and embracing it can help enrich the relationship and prevent you from becoming jealous.

Depending on the child's age, they may be involved in a mother's decision on whether or not to date. Children and single mothers often see their relationship with each other as highly intense and exclusive, and kids may experience some insecurity at the thought of their parent dating.

It's important to respect that close relationship and allow your partner to navigate things in a way that makes them and their children feel comfortable.

Take It Slow When Dating a Single Mom

Don’t try to be too much too soon to either your potential partner or their children. If you’re not sure about how involved you want to be with the kids, be open and honest about that. At the same time, it’s important that you don’t begin to take on a role that you can’t maintain for the long haul. Follow the parent's lead when it comes to your relationship with the kids.

It’s important to give your relationship time to develop. Don’t rush into becoming a parental figure, moving in together, or getting engaged. Instead, take it slow and focus on developing trust before you take your relationship to the next level.

Be Honest and Upfront

Are you looking to hook up or interested in a long-term partner? Is marriage a possibility? Do you see yourself co-raising kids? Most single parents want to know what type of commitment you're looking for from them, and how much you're willing to commit in return. Whatever the case, it's best to be honest and communicative as you start dating.

Embracing honest communication right from the start can have another benefit for your relationship: It encourages vulnerability, which can bring the two of you closer together.

Offer Emotional Support

Single moms are under a tremendous amount of pressure to provide for their children financially and emotionally. Be the kind of partner who can listen without trying to solve every problem. They will work it out in time. Offering support and encouragement will help you build a stronger bond.

Practicing active listening can go a long way toward being an emotionally supportive partner. Active listening involves being fully present in a conversation. Active listeners are neutral and patient, and may ask questions for more clarification or summarize what was said to show that they understand. This can make your partner want to share more and speak longer, and it may strengthen your relationship as a result.

Be Trustworthy

As a single mother, your girlfriend may have experienced situations previously where they depended on someone who was not trustworthy. Set yourself apart by being someone who is trustworthy. Be responsible to them without being responsible for them.

Trust is an important foundation for any relationship. You can build it by being a reliable partner and keeping your word, which will reinforce your partner's feelings of trust toward you.

When Dating a Single Mom, Stay Flexible

Single moms have a lot of responsibilities. Between working and caring for their children, they have limited availability, which can sometimes make it hard to schedule (and keep) dates. If a sitter cancels at the last minute or a child gets sick, they may run late or need to cancel. Being a single parent also makes it hard to go on a spontaneous date, since childcare is always a top priority.

If you decide to date a single mom, you will need to be willing to be flexible and temper your disappointment when plans change.

Don't Discipline the Children

If your new girlfriend has introduced you to their kids, it likely means that they're serious about your relationship. Still, unless they specifically ask for your support, disciplining the kids will likely remain off-limits to you.

When you’re dating a single mom, let them handle 100% of the discipline. If you have concerns about the kids’ behavior, talk with your girlfriend about it privately. Never attempt to handle the issue yourself without discussing it with them first.

If you have significant concerns about your mate's approach to discipline, autonomy, or family dynamics, the relationship might not be the best fit for you, especially if you hope to one day have children of your own.

Don't Pass Judgment

It's easy to come in from the outside and judge another person's parenting choices, and single mothers often face scrutiny for having children outside of a traditional married couple.

This behavior will not be welcomed or healthy for your relationship. Instead of passing judgment, do your best to acknowledge that being a single parent is very difficult, and try to view their choices and lifestyle from a place of helpfulness, compassion, restraint, and curiosity.

A Word From Verywell

You’re the only one who can know whether dating a single mom is right for you. Don’t get caught up in listening to family members or friends who will try to discourage you or suggest that they're just looking for a stepparent figure. This is rarely the case.

Single parents are so much more than just parents. They are adults with personal needs of their own. Pay attention to the person and the relationship you’re building together.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How do single mothers have sex while dating?

    Single parents may arrange a sitter beforehand or wait until their child is away at a co-parent’s. Or, like any married couple, they may simply put the kids to bed and lock the door. If you’re worried about maintaining a healthy sex life with a single parent, communicate your concerns and be willing to stay flexible, as you may have to work around their schedule.

  • What will other people think about me dating a single mom?

    You may face criticism from others about dating a single mother. Some of these critiques may be based on stereotypes, while other feedback could offer helpful insights into your relationship. Rather than only focusing on negative feedback from others, consider your own reasons for dating your partner, and look at whether or not your current relationship fits your lifestyle.

  • What should you expect when dating a single mom?

    A single parent will likely prioritize their children over being available for dates. Staying flexible and understanding your partner's needs can go a long way in this type of relationship. 

  • Is it hard dating a single mother?

    You may face certain challenges when dating a single mother, such as if she has limited childcare options when you want time alone. However, this doesn't necessarily mean that dating a single mother is hard as every relationship has challenges in some shape or form.

5 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Kramer S. U.S. has world's highest rate of children living in single-parent households. Pew Research Center. December 12, 2019.

  2. Nixon E, Greene S, Hogan DM. Negotiating relationships in single-mother households: Perspectives of children and mothers. Fam Relat. 2012;61(1):142-156. doi:10.1111/j.1741-3729.2011.00678.x

  3. Simon C. The functions of active listening responsesBehav Process. 2018;157:47-53. doi:10.1016/j.beproc.2018.08.013

  4. Peetz J, Kammrath L. Only because I love you: Why people make and why they break promises in romantic relationshipsJ Pers Soc Psychol. 2011;100(5):887-904. doi:10.1037/a0021857

  5. DeJean SL, McGeorge CR, Carlson TS. Attitudes toward never-married single mothers and fathers: Does gender matter?J Fem Fam Ther. 2012;24(2):121-138. doi:10.1080/08952833.2012.648121

By Jennifer Wolf
Jennifer Wolf is a PCI Certified Parent Coach and a strong advocate for single moms and dads.