Single Parents (past or present) -- Does Dating Distract from Parental Duties?

I’m a single mom who has recently entered the online dating world (Catholic Match). After nearly 8 years of being single, I felt drawn to be open to the possibility that God could be calling me to sacramental marriage. I’ve had a decree of nullity for seven years now, but no dating.

So far, it’s been kind of fun…sort of…I think… I’m a bit ambivalent about the whole thing, which has given me a certain freedom to just be myself, not trying to impress or be someone I’m not so as to “catch” a certain man.

But I did meet one man, spent an absolutely lovely afternoon of hiking together in the area, went to mass together, exchanged 150+ emails, and then he just disappeared. Ouch. My emotions over the experience of being infatuated and then ignored blindsided me – I’m the strong one. I’m the down-to-earth one. I’m The Mom! – and suddenly I was teary and uncertain and insecure of my worth.

I tried to carry on as usual with my son, but he definitely noticed that my spirits were lower, my usual cheerleader-level enthusiasm dampened. I haven’t said a thing to him about dating.

So how do single parents date and enter into a courtship? Should they even try? Or is dating while children are still in school just a distraction to one’s first vocation, that of parent?

What are your thoughts and experiences? Do you have any advice?


When my husband died, I had two boys 5 and 8. I didn’t have an interest in dating for about 5 years. Then when I did, I found that my job (3rd shift as an ICU nurse) made it very difficult to meet men that I would want to date.

I did a bit of lunch dating during the week. And since I worked every other weekend it really cut down on the dating time and time with children. The whole thing was difficult for me. Dating and raising children just don’t go hand in hand in my eyes.
Raising children as a single parent is a really difficult job, and when you add into that mix a man and dating, it gets even more complicated.

I don’t know how old your children are, but it is easier as they get older and then when they go off to college or get married it gets even easier.

Good luck, I hope you find someone to love and be loved by. Don’t sweat the guy who just seemed to disappear, that happens sometimes. His loss. :slight_smile:

Setting realistic expectations helps. It sounds like you got emotionally attached too soon.

What you experienced, sudden disappearance, is common and should be expected. He either saw something that was a red flag and “went dark” rather than being honest with you or he has personal issues - still has feelings for a girlfirend, not sure if he wants to date, etc. He clearly wasn’t right for you. Be glad that the relationship didn’t go on longer and become a disaster.

My advice is to go very slow. Don’t fall in love on the first date. If you have feelings for someone before you have met them in person then your feelings are for the man you imagine them to be rather than who they really are.

Patience is key. I have met some incredibly attractive women via online dating and gone on some amazing dates. Many women state that they don’t want a serial dater but I’m looking for a wife and I’m not going to marry the first person who sends me a message. You have to date - how else do you know if they might be the one? You have to get to know someone and so I try to arrange a series of dates in different situations - intimate romantic restaurant, upscale social setting, toss a frisbee at the park, trip to Home Depot and fix the leaky faucet, meet at her office and go for lunch… this way I get to know someone in various situations to see how they deal with life.

My point is to go slow, don’t have feelings too quickly and don’t be afraid to say “No thank you” if someone isn’t right. If they 'go dark" on you then consider it a blessing that you didn’t find out that they were a flake after many months. It is going to be a long process.


Does it distract from parental duties? For me yes. It could be different for others.

Single dad with full custody of the kids. It would be awkward for me since I give my ex (both legally and sacramentally) a lot of access to the kids in their home with me. Every morning prior to school, brings dinner once a week for them, visits some afternoons and on weekends. That may change when the youngest hits 18.

I wonder if it’s that much different than dating while married :wink:


What I mean is, when taking my wife out (or she, me), we still have to “ignore the kids” for a while. We still put each other first at home and extend each other courtesies we’d not normally offer our children.

I think you can balance both. It may be harder for the “strange” new guy in your kids’ lives than it is for my wife, though (my kids like their mom ;))

This post was filled with wonderful advice. I would like to add though, that sometimes trying “not to have feelings” can be challenging. Controlling your feelings is nearly impossible much of the time. How often do we feel anxious or afraid and someone says “Don’t worry” and we actually stop worrying?!?! Feeling excited about a relationship is the same thing, you feel excited and it is hard to NOT feel that way, feelings are difficult to control.

My advice is when or if you have feelings about getting excited in a new relationship, is to ask Jesus to help you with those feelings. Jesus knows you are excited about a new dating relationship, ask Him to help you focus on His will for your life, and to help temper your actions.
To the original poster:** You must be a very loving mom to care so much about your child, if you believe that God is calling you to date I think that is wonderful. The fact that you were disappointed and that your child picked up on your disappointment is perfectly fine. That is an excellent opportunity to tell your child that you are sad about something and perhaps even pray together. Your child will see that ups and downs in life are a normal thing, and that when you are down you should turn to God. I will pray for you.

Lots of wisdom here, thanks.

It’s been a really LONG time since I’ve attempted to date (20+ years), and quite frankly I made a complete mess of it back then, which is partly what landed me in the place I am now. I thank God for my faith that has taught me about the gift of chastity, to guard my heart, and opened to me the grace of God through the sacraments! I don’t know how people without faith survive in the world of relationships!

Yes, I let my emotions get the best of me. I’m just hoping that man walked away because I was being stupid and not because I hurt him through my immaturity.

This has been a tremendous grace – to see so grossly how emotionally immature I’ve been in the area of dating relationships. I was ready to walk away from the whole possibility when that man “went dark,” but then how would I grow in this area? And in what other ways might this huge flaw rear its ugly head and hurt others? No, I’m sticking it out for now.

Again, thanks for your thoughts and advice. I appreciate it.


My son’s dad and I also make sacrifices for our son like this. I call them sacrifices because I know both of us would rather not be in each other’s company sometimes. We have two family meals together each week. We spend every holiday (including each of our birthdays) together, and our son is welcome to call and even visit the other parent as he needs and as our schedules allow.

He’s pretty darn awesome, so this must be helping him grow, and so it’s worth it.

God bless you and your children!


I like the alternative word for sacrifice-- gift. They are gifts we give joyfully to our children.

God bless you and your children as well. Hopefully in your dating you will find someone who is understanding of those gifts to your children and how important they are.

Amen! :smiley:

I was a single mom from day one and made the conscious decision not to date. Looking back, I’m not so sure that was a wise decision. I was obsessed with my daughter having all of the opportunities that her peers did. She’s 30 now, attended Catholic schools through undergrad school and law school (with the help of sports and academic grants/scholarships) and is currently starting a new business with another attorney and two friends who specialize in music supervision for film/TV/radio. I’m blessed that she is such a compassionate and caring young woman and is in love with an awesome man who is, CATHOLIC! She asked me during the holidays why I didn’t date while she was growing up and I had to tell her the sad truth, that I was afraid to bring someone into our perfect little bubble world, not just because of the fear of molestation, but because I did not want to relinquish any decision making to another person. Her dad was an alcoholic who paid no support and chose to have no contact with her. I did not sue for child support because then he would have visitation and that was scary beyond belief. When she went away to college at seventeen, I had to reinvent my life, and still, thirteen years later, I’m still inventing!:wink:

Thank you for your comments regarding dealing with emotions. I know that emotions can’t be controlled, per se, but I firmly believe we can choose how we deal with those feelings. Like I said, I was completely blindsided by my emotions, and for awhile they were most definitely controlling me. Huge glaring flaw revealed there :eek:

Hopefully, with some practice, I can grow through this. Apparently, that is what Our Lord wants as He has led me down this path. I just wish I hadn’t ruined what was starting out as a really nice friendship :frowning: Stupid twitterpation :mad:

God bless you!


I am a former single mom. Also got an annulment, ex husband died shortly thereafter. Now I am remarried sacramentally. I don’t think dating distracts you from parenting, it depends on how you handle it. My priority was always my daughter and my now husband understood that and agreed that that was how it should be from the very beginning. If the other person cannot accept accept that my kid is priority probably that is not the right person for a single mom. Second as someone else said, you have to go slow. I took about four years in between the time me and husband first met (and it took a long time before my daughter met my now husband) and finally getting married. Now I may have been too slow for many people (you don’t have to be as slow as me but take it slow) but going slow gave me enough time to introduce my child only when I knew for sure our relationship was heading to marriage and more importantly to make sure that my husband was the right person not only for me but for my kid and not to let emotions get the best of me.

I also would try to avoid to get too excited too soon when you meet someone. Look at dating as just meeting new people. Don’t expect too much of it and put it in God’s hand. Remember not everyone can or should date a single parent. If someone doesn’t come back to you probanly that someone was not the best for you. It is hard to deal with disappointment in the befinning but if your expectation is low you won’t feel it that much. From the beginning indicate that you are a mother and that is your priority and that on principle you are meeting new people to see what happens. Give it a more casual and friendly environment. Look at new people that you meet or chat with, not as possible partners but as humans to know and with whom you can start a friendship, and again just new people to get to know. If you have to set dates, set the dates on schedules where your kid is at school, visiting with the father, grandparents etc. Your date must understand that they have to adjust to your kid’s schedule and see you and talk to you when you can squeeze them. Believe me if they are really interested and they are good they will understand and stay around.

Dating as a single parent may be difficult but if you pit it in God’s hands, take it easy, have low expectations and keep your eyes open, it can give good results :smiley:

Goodness, thank you for sharing your thoughts.

I am looking to friendship more than “dating” right now, I guess. That seems to be the only place to start. I’ve been sending little messages to men who live in other states on Catholic Match as a way of making connections that feel safe. I guess I’m using that to get some practice in how to communicate with a single man as a single woman – it’s been a long time :rolleyes: I’m not good at reading signals, and I’m not good at knowing what signals I’m sending (as became clear when one of the Boy Scout dads started aggressively flirting with me :eek:).

Slow and steady wins the race :thumbsup:

And a good night’s sleep :yawn:

G’night… and God bless you!


I was a single parent of two boys for 17 years, from the time one was 2.5 and the other unborn. After a few years my mom bought me some kind of dating service, and I dated a whole lot of Boeing employees. Don’t get me wrong, Boeing guys are intelligent, courteous and interesting. They are also guys, and I think a little insecure. Every single one said the same thing: “I’ll call you.”
That means, don’t call me.
It was interesting, but painful at times. I finally gave up on finding anyone, and I was okay with that since I asked Jesus to take the place of their father.
When I wasn’t expecting it, and my sons were 17 and 20, I met a man and we’ve been married now for 21 years. He’s not perfect, but he’s a nice guy.

I would recommend sticking to friendships while your son is young. If you are emotionally fragile, and what single mom isn’t? keeping it to friendships might be less painful.
I joined several groups, since I always enjoy meeting people with similar interests, but here too you have to be careful. One group had a young man for a leader, and I enjoyed talking to him, but his wife asked him to avoid talking to me even in the group.

It’s a tough road, but God knows the plans he has for you, to give you a future and a hope.

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