Staring into the Hunger Games that is the adult dating world can be a bit intimidating. Dating has evolved from the golden days of taking your high school sweetheart out for ice cream, then to the dance, then to 60 years of marriage as the classic American nuclear family. Finding a life mate is a whole different animal now. You’re not “Going steady with your best gal” anymore. You’re meeting up with that girl you met at the networking event for drinks and hoping you don’t fuck it up. At this point, you can even attempt to corral your future spouse via an app on your phone. Shit’s getting crazy, especially when you’ve been out of the game awhile.
Nothing drives the lives of the majority of people like the pursuit of making sure you don’t die alone. There isn’t a season of any sitcom ever that doesn’t have a “love interest” or at least character who is a serial dater. As much as one can say “Eh I’m not looking for anyone” or “I’m focused on my career, I don’t have time for dating,” dating finds a way to forcibly dominate your thoughts (unless you’re already locked down). Getting back out there feels like throwing a pair 76-faced dice and trying to hit a 7.
Those apprehensions and daunting odds seem to get a bit amplified when you know you’re venturing out into the dating world as a young single dad.
The last time I was single, I was in my redshirt-junior year of college (I can totally say that as a small college athlete). Back in that day, things were different. You met girls at parties, in class, or I don’t know, the library or something. A date was, “Hey, wanna ride with me to the bar tonight?” ‘Twas a simpler time.
Flash-forward a couple years, and the script has flipped quite a bit. My life isn’t driven around school, liberty, and the pursuit of women. My time is divided between progressing my career and, of course, my BFF Crash Jr. I’ve been rocking single dad life for a while, and as I’ve said before, being a parent is the best and most important thing that can ever happen to your sorry ass.
That being said, I haven’t yet resigned myself to being perpetually single dad, living a life of wifebeaters and briefs as my preferred casual at-home wear and nothing but Hungry Man microwave meals for dinner. I’ve got other priorities filling up my plate, but your boy has been considering dipping his toe back into the dating pool. Wading into that body of water with your little one metaphorically hitched to your side in his floaties provides a whole different set of factors.
Right off the bat, you’re marked off the list for plenty of women. Not just because you’re not so smooth with words or can’t manage to not have an awkward looking hairstyle. In your 20s, a lot of people are still holding onto their youth and knocking items off the bucket list. I’ve sacrificed some of that as a parent, and don’t get me wrong, I’m more than happy with the trade-off. Wouldn’t trade any other life with the one that I have now that involves me getting to kick it with my little guy and watch him grow.
But, frankly, plenty of people in my age group aren’t down for that yet. Pretty sure half my friends on Facebook have posted the “Everyone’s getting married and having babies and I’m over here drinking” meme or something similar. Not knocking them for it because if I was in their shoes, I can’t say I’d be chasing down single moms trying to settle down. I’m going to take initiative and speak for the rest of single parents in saying that we aren’t old boring ass homemakers. But there is a certain amount of finite responsibility that our peers who haven’t reproduced yet don’t have to address. At first the thought of this being a reason for getting turned down really bummed me out.
But, after sitting back and pondering, I started to realize that it’s a good thing. It’s like a dating app filter for the real world. Plenty of attributes go into if a couple is really compatible or not. Interests, aspirations, life goals, etc. Once I took the parenting plunge, being a dad shot up to my #1 interest on my Mel Kiper Jr. Big Board. It only makes sense that it would also be the number one thing I’m gonna be looking for in the opposite sex. It makes it easier when I already know that I’m not on the draft board of that young receptionist at the doctor’s office, and she’s not on mine (although, she still has a high draft grade).
I’ll still flirt. You better believe I’ll still whip out charm (side note: huge exaggeration) from time to time when I get the chance to be out and about. Yeah, your plans to move and work in a few different spots in the nation sound admirable; packing up and moving at the drop of a hat sounds like an experience. Yeah, I’m living in a pretty good place to raise a child so I’m sticking it out. Mixing in a spur of the moment trip to the lake tomorrow afternoon? Sorry, girl. This guy is gonna sit at home and watch some football while playing Legos with a toddler (the big ones you can’t choke on because I’m not completely irresponsible).
In my younger, childless days, the standards of what you’re looking for geared towards someone fun who shared a common interest (like drinking) with me. Obviously there’s more you want in a person, but that caught the initial eye. Dad life hones what you want to a few different specifics. Someone a little more settled, driven, and hopefully nurturing, which as a parent are qualities you can relate to (you know, unless you’re a shitty parent). I’m not going out there looking for someone to sit on the couch with me 365 days a year so we can bore ourselves to sleep every night, but the pace of one’s night life does slow down a bit once you’re living parent life.
On the opposite note, you’re not going out exclusively trying to find an instant step-mom. It’s quite a formidable calling to step up to the plate and be a parent; it takes a whole different sort of greatness to take on the responsibility of helping raise someone else’s child. It’s something single parents need to acknowledge when they date. By now parenting is second nature to me; diaper change? Boom, holler at your boy. Aw, bumped your elbow against something because toddlers walk like piss-drunk adults? Here, let daddy comfort you for a second before you run off again.
It’s your child and you love them no matter what. You can’t expect someone else to instantly get to that level. Acknowledge how much it can be to take in for the person you’re dating, especially knowing that a past relationship was at least serious enough to share a child in.
As a single parent, the top tier of “Shit, this relationship is getting serious” isn’t meeting your parents anymore. It’s meeting your offspring. Your first goal is figuring out if you’re two people who actually like being around each other, and going from there. I’m not recommending the pick-up line, “Hey, wanna be my kid’s step-mom?”
Part of reentering the dating rat race is to realize the responsibility I have as a dad who’s dating. I’m not just dating for myself and my own interests. Eventually the dating choices I make will impact my son as well. When dipping into the dating pool you can’t forget that your top responsibility is being the best parent you can, and that doesn’t involve forcing a meeting between him and the girl you took out to lunch for the first time last week. She doesn’t’ deserve to have a child thrust upon her presence right away any more than your kid deserves to have woman after woman shuffled in front of him.
Being a young single dad isn’t some crutch, just makes it clearer about the type of person I’m searching for, and that someone has to understand what’s going on for me. I’ve already found the most important person in my life; he stands just above my knee and yesterday wiped his snot on my pants. My most important job is being a loving and positive role model for him, and that takes up a lot of my time. Want to go on a date? I’m gonna have to find a sitter. Spur of the moment weekend trip? Sorry, I promised the little man we’d go to the zoo.
This isn’t to say that a relationship won’t be important to me or deserve its own time. I think myself and every other single parent is more than hopeful for having a classic 21st-century romance filled with exciting dates and…what’s that thing people do now? Netflix and chill? Idk, sounds lovely though.
But, I’ve got someone who counts on me to always be there for them. Finding someone you’re interested in who can understand that while also seeming fond of you is the first key to dating as a single parent. Old Crash isn’t setting out to get hitched anytime soon, but maybe it’s about time to throw on some Sex Panther and start courting the ladies. .
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