The title of this says it all. Dating is such a complicated game isn’t it? Playing it cool but not too cool, being open and open-minded but not so much that you are an open-book?! AND how does that look when you have a small person to think about too? What a total minefield. Thank you so much to Jaya Chingen for this balanced account of her experience, full of great advice.

  • Dating can be scary, as I’m sure we can all agree. Making decisions about who to spend the rest of your life with can be even scarier; confusing, unsettling and racked with doubt. But, all of this pales in comparison to trying to make those decisions when you are a single parent. It is unbelievably difficult to make decisions when your not sure how it’s going to affect you long term, so imagine throwing your child’s happiness and security into the mix. Scary doesn’t even cut it.

  • I made the decision to have my daughter as a single mother and embarked on the journey of motherhood alone, now three years in, I still have no clue what I’m doing (please tell me I’m not alone there!?) but I do feel little bit more now like I’ve got my shit together. Sometimes I even feel pretty confident I’ve got something right or have mastered feeding/sleeping/screen time for five seconds a time.

  • The one thing that still completely eludes me is how on earth to go about dating with a dependent child, particularly in my current situation where she lives with me full time which means that whether ideal or not, if I’m going to date she is going to be involved in some capacity.

  • As she gets older it gets harder. Last year I split up with my fiancé whom I met with my daughter was four months old and tried my hardest to make a future with. If I’m being totally honest, I was in love with the idea of not being alone, rather than with him. It was ugly; there were bitter fights and resentment and all round bad vibes. It’s so hard to separate your need for help and support as a single parent from who your dating is as a person, and whether or not you have a genuine connection.

  • He was older, he wanted a family, he was ready to step in and be a dad and I wanted someone to take on that role; I was looking for a ‘father’ rather than a partner. At first it was glorious; to speak to another adult human in the evening, to share the night time wake ups and be able to pop to the shops without a pram, changing bag and inevitably screaming baby in tow. But after a while, as I adjusted to motherhood, it became suffocating and awkward. I didn’t want to share her as much, I didn’t want to share the big decisions and compromise with someone else about what was best for my daughter.

  • And so we ended. My daughter and me had to move house with no money and set up home somewhere else. The breakup was ugly and our home was echoing with tears and insults. It took me a long time to recover from that. The guilt I felt for throwing her life into so much upheaval, for her loss of someone she looked to as a father.

  • Take two and I went the opposite way. I got caught up with a free loving hippie type who took little to no interest in my life as a mother or in my daughter. He lived on his own, liked it that way and had no interest in having children or taking on someone else’s. He had no interaction with Mia, either coming over when she was asleep or having me over when I had the rare luxury of a babysitter. This was beautiful for the moment, it felt like it was all about me and not about her, and sort of reminded me that I was still my own person, with wants and needs and feelings – but it faded out pretty quickly.

  • Having a relationship that only begins after 8pm is pretty limiting, and after a while the differences in our lives and responsibilities became not only apparent, but also irritating. As he would waltz out the door at 2am to sleep until midday I would resentfully watch and dream, knowing I would still be up at 6am watching cartoons and preparing Cheerios.

  • So now I find myself here, a little wiser but still petrified, unsure if I will ever find a long term partner and a situation that suits us both, because in all of this I have become acutely aware that it’s not just me I have to think about, or plan for. I’m seeing someone now who seems so far to be the perfect balance between the two. He has a good relationship with Mia, but as a friend, not a father, we do things as a family but also spend time together as a couple. I feel like my needs are met and so are hers and I’m truly happy for the first time in a long time.

  • Sometimes it’s still frustrating. It’s very challenging to be in a relationship where there is such a monumental imbalance in priorities, responsibilities, financial freedom, home life, and pretty much everything else that’s important. But I’ve found someone that makes me forget all of those differences, more often than not, and although he may not personally experience what I go through as a single mother, I do feel as though he tries to understand, and empathises with the difficulties I face, always offering support but never pushing it upon me.

  • But I still worry, the further things progress working out when and how would be the right way to approach living together, getting married, having other children and how each of these scenarios would impact my daughter does scare the hell out of me. The more time we spend together, the closer their relationship will become and its hard to imagine her losing someone she grows to care for, and someone that in turn cares for her, due to my actions or choices. Am I going to have a string of failed relationships, each one leaving a mark on her precious innocence and perception of me as a role model?

  • Something that comforts me is appreciating that my happiness is important too; in fact it’s in direct correlation with hers. And in order to be happy, sometimes you must take risks and go through periods where you might not be so happy. As long as she is loved and secure and her needs are met, then it doesn’t matter so much who else is around. It wouldn’t be ideal to have her meet/love/live with multiple partners I may have but life isn’t always ideal, and as long as I always try do the best by her, and I can’t imagine a time where I wouldn’t, then I think we’ll be okay.

  • And the second thing is knowing that I can look back on my past two post motherhood relationships and take genuine lessons from them that will ensure I don’t make same mistakes in the future. By ruling out things that I haven’t liked and traits that I know I cannot live with, I am learning more about what I do, and the ones I am looking for. And after each relationship ends, I appreciate single motherhood a little more, feel grateful for my independence and space, and focus on loving myself and my daughter more everyday. I may make a hundred more mistakes in the future but as long as I am committed to this growth and discovering what works for both of us, I can’t really do wrong, and I can be proud of that progress as a woman and a mother.

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