I’m a single mum dating and life couldn’t be better.
I opened the door quietly, I didn’t want to wake
the babysitter my dad. It was a Saturday at 3am, it was surprising enough that I was awake for a reason other than a toddler jumping on my head, let alone the reason being that I was returning home from a successful second date. I was riding high on a teenage-esk wave of carefreeness and hormones. Mr second date happened to be my favourite of all the guys I’ve met over the last two years or so which seemed like a neat coincidence.
I felt positive. I’d had fun. I felt attractive and, dare I say it, interesting. I crawled into bed and curled up next to my little bundle of joy. This was the life. Not some loveless marriage. Not getting frustrated with a partner who doesn’t pull his weight. Perhaps this solo mum malarky was the best of both worlds after all – I was oozing gratefulness.
I had to try really hard to stay realistic, not let my overactive imagination get away with me as I tried to fall asleep.
Then the me of recent times reared her ugly head.
As I tossed and turned trying to fall asleep, the negative feelings started to rise. Don’t be ridiculous. He was probably messaging other girls too. Why would he be interested in you? You’re getting carried away now, God it’s embarrassing. Here I am building castles in the sand and bloody mansions in zone two, while he is probably dreaming about someone else.
Finally I fell asleep.
First thing the next morning he messaged me. Maybe I wasn’t so crazy after all. Maybe this could go somewhere. Perhaps I could succeed as a single mum dating. I held off replying, tried to play the ‘not too eager’ game. I didn’t want to let the chance of an actual boyfriend slip through my fingers though, so later that day I texted him.
Approximately ten hours, 37 minutes and five seconds since that message and I know it’s not going anywhere. He won’t message, of that I am certain. I used to trust my gut instinct, but it’s been so confused of late. Do I listen to the ‘he’s a nice guy, let’s just go with the flow’ gut instinct, or the ‘he won’t be interested in anything serious, he’s probably got a load of others on the go, he’s laughing at you right now’ gut instinct instead? How do you tell the difference between gut instinct, paranoia and delusions? My brain is telling me in no uncertain terms that I am unlovable, hell probably unlikeable, by a decent guy. I know it’s self-defeating but what can I do? I feel this way despite the fact that I managed two dates where I talked about things other than toddler sleep regression, I even made him laugh. I saw him enjoy my conversation. He found me funny and attractive. I almost felt I was those things again. But as soon as there was a question there for me find, I found it. Who was I thinking that he would choose me – the overweight, single mum?
If this is what single mum dating is like I’m not sure I have the strength for it. I mean, it was one thing when the dates were abysmal, passable at best. When no-one wanted a second date, my ego got dented but it’s not like I actually thought they were that interesting either. Now I’ve met someone I like, it’s a different matter. It turns out the good dates are the worst. Those fleeting moments showing me what I’ve been missing all these years. Tender kisses. Loving caresses. Yet still I hope. It’s that hope which makes single mum dating so painful. I think I’d rather plod along indefinitely in survival mode rather than have these glimpses of real happiness reminding me what life could be like.
The real problem with single mum dating is that I don’t want to date, I want a partner. There’s a big difference. I don’t have a palate for meaningless fun. I’d love to, oh, I would love to. But where would I find the time or the energy? A date with a man I loved, that would be different. A glass of wine and some nice company where I felt safe and secure – that would be perfection. But single mum dating isn’t like that and it’s very hard to go with the flow when I have a womb-shaped ticking time bomb telling me to shack up, and do it quick. Dating requires putting myself out there and revealing my best side only. I don’t want to do that. I keep on trying because I know that a partner won’t just fall out of the sky, I have to work for it. Yet all I really want to do is protect myself from that scrutiny and effort.
Then things start to look up again. It’s a few weeks later and we’ve made it to date number three. It was a nice evening if I could only let myself believe it. The never ending internal fight was exhausting though. I struggled to be myself. The first date was the best by far, before I piled the pressure on, I managed to be me. Now I keep worrying what he’ll think. What he wants me to say or do – it’s pathetic. I sit there quietly willing myself to think of something to say but it never comes. That’s too this; this is too that. I’m going round and round in circles in my head. He talks openly but I struggle to do the same. I’ve spent too long hiding my life from the outside I don’t know how to open up again. I want to be that flower in full bloom, only I can’t take in the air and water needed to even sprout. As I write this tears stream down my face because I know I’m ruining my own life and there’s no one left to blame. Perhaps it’s easier to admit defeat; believe that I’m not made to meet someone and just make the best of what I’ve got.
It’s been four days since the last text. I have a feeling he won’t message. The reality of it going nowhere is nowhere near as painful as the combination of a hope of it going somewhere paired with the crushing negativity that sears through my brain telling me it never will. I’m not good enough/ slim enough/ attractive enough/ interesting enough/ fun enough (delete as appropriate depending on today’s negative thought of choice). Apparently that means I’m not ready. I need to love myself before I love others, or is it before they will love me? I’m not sure anymore. Either way I disagree. Do those of you with partners sit there feeling happy and content with who you are? I hope so, I truly do and I’m sure some of you must, and rightly so. But that’s not a prerequisite to a fulfilling relationship, I know many people with great relationships who suffer nagging self-doubt. Loving others is what brings me self love; the love I feel for my son has shown me my own self-worth. Yet it doesn’t stop me wanting an adult to love and share my life with too and I’m sure I’d be an even better person if I had that. Is it so wrong to want a partner there to reassure me? Aren’t most of us programmed to want that?
Two weeks later and it’s all over. Ended before it began. Him and his ex are giving it another go. So perhaps my bouts of paranoia weren’t so paranoid after all. I can’t say I wasn’t gutted, I was. I went upstairs and crawled in to bed next to my son. He cuddled me. It felt good, but the thing is, I know I have an expiry date on this. It might sound dramatic and I know my son will always love me (at least I hope he will) but soon he won’t want to cuddle up with me. In a few years he’ll be off out more than me and before I know it he will be gone with only the occasional phone call home.
I’m a single mum dating and life couldn’t be shitter.
Have you done this single mum dating thing? How did you make it through unscathed? Is there a cheat’s guide to how to chill out and go with the flow?
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