What Do I Need To Know About Dating A Single Mom?

Medically reviewed by Andrea Brant, LMHC
Updated April 22, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
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Wondering about dating a single mom?

Dating a single mother, or any single parent, often comes with certain challenges to consider in a budding romantic relationship. Single mothers sometimes face significant stigma when navigating the dating world, and many prospective partners may not be aware of how the myths of single motherhood compare to the realities. Educating yourself about single mothers and the challenges they sometimes face may give you the best chance for a happy, healthy relationship.

What is different about dating a single mom?

Parents regularly enter the dating world. Despite some people's misconceptions, many mothers engage in happy, fulfilling dating lives, especially when their children are young. Most single parents often cherish the time they spend with their children, making them great partners who value family and relationships.

However, even with young children, especially older ones, dating can become complicated as demands on a mother's time are split between her children, career, and dating partner. Understanding the added complexity of dating a single mom can help avoid pitfalls and overcome barriers to a happy relationship. Some of the common differences are described below:

Time constraints are inevitable

The demands of parenting can significantly reduce the amount of time a mother has to contribute to her dating life. Perhaps one of the most important things to know about dating a single mom is that her time commitments are likely to differ significantly from those of someone without children. To childless men or women used to dating people who don’t have children, this may feel as though the relationship carries a lack of commitment or that they are not being appropriately prioritized.

Tempering expectations based on a mother's available time while also considering her children as a priority may help prevent conflict in the relationship and promote a more meaningful connection. While it is commonly said that a mother's children always come first, dating with children can be a balancing act of shifting priorities between her children, her partner, and her own needs. Potential partners who recognize that a mother needs to balance her time and priorities may experience higher relationship quality than those who demand to be constantly prioritized.

Her kids’ opinions matter

In most dating arrangements, the partners involved are the only two who decide to enter a committed relationship. However, when dating a single mom, it's important not to assume single moms' kids will automatically be receptive. Entering a romantic relationship when your partner’s kids are involved may introduce significant stress that could affect all parties. However, evidence suggests that mothers who take time to involve their children in the dating transition process experience smoother transitions and less conflict.

Experts suggest that communicating openly and allowing children to voice their thoughts and feelings about a breakup, a new partner, or the dating transition can significantly reduce distress for all parties involved.

The children's other parent may still be around

In ideal circumstances, parents with children together but no longer romantically involved will adopt a co-parenting regime that defines how parenting duties are split and broadly defines how the parents will work together to support their children. In that case, a mother's partner may have a role to play, but parenting will likely be the responsibility of both biological parents.

Conversely, a mother may have a conflict with the father of her children that could significantly impact her romantic relationships. It may be important for a single mother to decide if she is willing to go on a first date with someone new before the conflict is resolved. Conflict between biological parents can create tension in a new romantic relationship and may negatively impact the new partner's relationship with the children. In some cases, you might not just be a long-term partner but also a potential father figure.

She may take extra time to progress the relationship

Most mothers will prioritize the health and safety of their children when re-entering the dating world. Some women may be hesitant to expose their children to a new companion. Parents who find new partners may expose their children to potential risk; evidence indicates that children who live with a stepparent are 40 times more likely to be abused than those who live with biological parents. Therefore, it may be helpful for the mother to establish important rules and guidelines before a new partner spends time with her children, which may lead to a stronger bond over time.

If you or a loved one is experiencing abuse, contact the Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Support is available 24/7.


How you can help make the dating process easier

While additional challenges are sometimes associated with dating a single mother, many people go on to have happy, healthy, loving relationships with single parents. You might make this process easier by considering a few of the following helpful tips:

Temper your expectations, but don't yield your needs

Dating a single mother typically requires that you stay flexible and accept the reality of her family situation; her children will be a top priority in her life, and she will need to split her time and attention between herself, her children, and you. One of the simplest ways to ease the dating transition may be to accept that time constraints, shifting priorities, and changing schedules will be a reality in your partner's life.

If you find that, after a period of dating, your new partner can't meet your needs, it's okay to recognize this as a big deal and assess whether they are the right potential partner. In that case, understanding that this person may not be suitable for you may be the most beneficial option. 

Don't rush with the kids

You might find it tempting to initiate a relationship with her children quickly, both to demonstrate your willingness to participate in their lives and to see if they are a good fit for you. While it may help to get to know your partner's children, you might wait until you and your partner have established your relationship and have begun to set the guidelines for a healthy dating transition. 

Moving slowly and giving your partner ample time to prepare her children for getting to know you and your relationship with their mother will likely offer the best chance at a smooth, peaceful transition. If the children's father is involved, it may help to give him time to discuss his concerns with his ex and come to terms with a new person in his children's lives.

Prioritize communication

One possible way to increase the chance of a successful relationship is to ensure that you and your partner communicate adequately. Single mothers often have different demands made on their time and resources, and practicing active listening and clear communication can help you feel prepared for sudden shifts in your girlfriend’s schedule or priorities. There might be moments in your conversations when it's best to stop talking and listen, especially when discussing the needs and feelings of her children.

As the relationship progresses, being an active listener and voicing your honest thoughts may help you solve any problems as you form bonds with her children. As in all relationships, partners rarely have the same expectations as each other when the relationship begins. Communicating openly about each other's parenting style and expectations is key. Being open about how you envision your role in the kids' lives can also help prevent conflicts and align your parenting styles if you move toward a more involved role.

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Wondering about dating a single mom?

Finding support with relationship challenges with a single parent

When navigating a relationship with a single mom, it may help to speak with a licensed therapist about your concerns. Online therapy is an increasingly popular way to get the services of a trained mental health professional. Online therapists deliver their services remotely, so you don't have to leave your home to receive therapy. This removes common barriers to therapy, like traveling to an office. Also, you aren't restricted to therapists near you, which can make online therapy an especially popular option in areas experiencing a shortage of mental health professionals.

An online therapist may be able to help you better understand your thoughts about dating a single mother and help you manage the stress associated with the relationship. Online therapists typically have the same training and credentials as traditional therapists and use the same evidence-based techniques, such as cognitive behavioral therapy. Although the services are delivered remotely, evidence indicates they are as effective as those delivered with in-person therapy.

Counselor reviews

Here are some recent reviews of online therapists by BetterHelp users.

“Loretta is a very knowledgeable therapist. She has a lot of experience and is able to relate to me and my experiences. She has helped me think about problems from other's perspectives; helped bring out my self confidence; and has made me a better partner. I am glad to have Loretta by my side during this pandemic!” Read more on Loretta Brown.

“Working with Elaine these past few months has been extremely helpful. She is a good listener and provides you with practical ways to navigate through issues. She doesn't just tell you what you want to hear, but what you need to hear but in a way where you are able to evaluate yourself deeply and take steps to improve. I see tremendous growth after having worked with her and so has my family. Would definitely recommend her services.” Read more on Elaine Morris.


Dating a single mother sometimes comes with unique challenges, but open communication may help reduce their complexity. It may help to empathize and understand her position, remembering that she must balance her life's priorities, her children, and her relationship. It may be helpful to communicate freely about wants and needs in the relationship rather than imposing expectations from previous relationships. Taking time to establish a relationship with her children while recognizing the unique demands on her time may help to avoid conflict as the relationship progresses.

If you’d like to speak with a licensed therapist about your relationship, consider online therapy through BetterHelp. With BetterHelp, you can typically be matched with an online therapist within 48 hours. Take the first step toward getting support with your relationship and contact BetterHelp today.

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