For a lot of newly single parents, sharing the fact that you have, um, children, can be a scary thing. You might worry:
Will she think I have too much baggage?
Will he think he’ll never be a priority?
Will he run for the hills once he finds out I come with two drooling products of someone else’s sperm?
You might be wary of telling a potential paramour that you’re a single parent, but as I was reminded when watching one of my favorite TV shows this past summer, The Mindy Project, there are a lot of ways that having children makes you more desirable, not less.
In episode 15 of season 4, television’s most stylish OB/GYN, Dr. Mindy Lahiri, is back on the dating market. She has to figure out how to date like she’s never dated before: as a mother. She’s so unused to dating as a parent that on her first dip back into the dating pool, she actually forgets she has a son.
“I had the best date,” she raves to her friend Morgan as she waltzes in the door that night. “He’s cute. He made sports tolerable. He paid for three figure’s worth of chicken wings.”
“See? I told you it’s not impossible to date as a single mother,” Morgan replies, holding Mindy’s son.
“Oh my God, I’m a mom!” Mindy exclaims. “I didn’t tell him I have a kid!”
Which brings up the question: when should you tell a date that you have a child, or children?
This was Mindy’s first date with this man. Should she have told him before the date? On the date? Is it ethical to wait? If so, for how long?
You should tell someone you have a child before the first date, suggests Fran Walfish, a psychotherapist with a private practice in Beverly Hills, CA. “It could feel like you withheld the truth if you don’t say it,” she says. Presenting yourself honestly is the best way to go.
Not that your first date should be a one-on-one parenting support group over drinks. When on a date, you’re a single, available adult first, and a parent second. There is more to you than parenthood. Sometimes it’s hard to stop talking about your kids. After all, they’re so cute, so smart, so perfect . . . But your dating life should be mostly about you.
On her second date, Mindy confesses that she’s a mom. “I'm just going to take my food and eat in the ladies' room on the toilet,” she sighs, assuming her date will flee now that she’s “revealed” her real status.
But her date doesn’t reject her. “We’re both in our thirties,” he says logically, supportively. “We have our histories.”
In real life, as on TV, having children is NOT a dirty little secret that you need to hide and eventually “confess.” Being a parent is probably a pretty fundamental part of your identity. If it doesn’t match up with someone else’s stage of life, that is not a flaw of yours.
We’ve all dated people whose lives don’t mesh with ours. No matter how sexy she is, if you’re a farmer and she’s a city rat, things tend to crash and burn. Children may not have been a part of your life the last time you were dating, but they are now. You need to find someone whose life and values sync with your life today, as it really is now.
In fact, having kids can actually make you a better catch. Parents know how to care for others. Parents may have developed wells of patience, reserve, empathy. Parents know how to do a lot of practical, sexy things.
3 ways that having kids makes you hot:
1. Running a household builds swoon-worthy skills.
“Many single parents are built-in homemakers, ready to cook, clean, bake, and be maternal [or paternal],” says Dr. Walfish. The soothing skills you learned while applying Buzz Light Year Band-Aids or comforting a child who’s dropped her ice cream cone can make you quicker to offer love and support to an adult in a life full of ups and downs. And what guy doesn’t like a woman who can bake him killer brownies? What woman doesn’t swoon for a guy that knows how to give a kid a bath? Instant swipe right.
2. Arranging playdates develops planning prowess.
Being a single parent requires serious organizational skills. Those same skills you fine-tune while running a household and children's itineraries can come in handy when crafting a creative date night. If you’re looking for something more interesting than dinner and a movie, as a single parent, you're someone who can easily devise a cooler outing—perhaps even print it out for your date, and add sticker smiley faces. If you’ve had to hire a babysitter or coordinate your dating life around a custody arrangement, you probably have a huge amount of experience showing up on time and not canceling.
3. Your date is off the (procreation) hook.
You don’t need a father (or mother) for your future children. You already have your children. You can be more open about who you date, and less worried about whether or not this other person will be a good parenting partner or provider of genetic material.
Having children makes us all stronger, bigger people. The right person will realize that. Your children are part of you. And if someone likes who you are, it’s because you’ve been through everything you have—including becoming a parent. The right date will accept, support, and embrace everything you have to offer, including your children.
Laura Brienza is the author of two nonfiction books for Globe Pequot Press: Discovering Vintage Washington, DC and New York's Historic Restaurants, Inns, and Taverns. Her writing has also appeared in Flavor & The Menu, Feminine Collective, 1st Amendment Media/IndyBuild, The Date Diaries, and she is a Weekend Reporter for Obsessed With Everything. Her plays have been produced and developed by The Lark Play Development Center, the Kennedy Center, and Luna Stage, where her most recent play Old Love New Love was hailed for its "sharp writing" and "poignant moments" by The New York Times.