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

Medically reviewed by Andrea Brant, LMHC
Updated November 30, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Content Warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that include abuse which could be triggering to the reader. If you or someone you love is experiencing abuse, contact the Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Support is available 24/7. Please also see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.
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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 misconceptions that some people hold, many mothers engage in happy, fulfilling dating lives, especially when their children are young. However, even with young children, and especially with 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 a partner who is 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 may help prevent conflict in the relationship. While it is commonly said that a mother's children always come first, in practice, dating with children can be a balancing act of shifting priorities between her children, her partner, and herself. 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 someone with children, especially older children, other opinions often must be considered. Entering a romantic relationship when kids are involved may introduce a period of significant stress for both the mother and her children. 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 distress for all parties involved.

The Children's Other Parent May Still Be Around

In ideal circumstances, parents who have children together but are 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 primarily the responsibility of the children's biological parents.

Conversely, a mother may have conflict with the father of her children that could significantly impact her romantic relationships. It may be important for a mother to decide if she is willing to date before the conflict is resolved or how it should be handled if it is unlikely ever to change. Conflict between parents may add strain to the romantic relationship a mother is forming with her new partner, and the new partner's relationship with her children may be adversely affected.

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 are 40 times more likely to be abused than those who live with biological parents. Taking time to get to know a new partner in-depth may help mitigate the potential risk of harm to a woman’s children and may necessitate taking the relationship very slowly at first.


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 tips:

Temper Your Expectations, But Don't Yield Your Needs

Dating a single mother typically requires that you 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, that's ok. 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 test if they are a good fit for you. While it may help to spend time getting 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 the prospect of 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 life.

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 ensuring open communication can help you feel prepared for sudden shifts in your girlfriend’s schedule or priorities. Open communication can also allow you to feel heard and register your concerns.

As the relationship progresses, communication may help you solve any problems that arise as you form bonds with her children. It also allows you to outline your expectations and boundaries for the relationship. As in all relationships, partners rarely have the exact same expectations as each other when the relationship begins. Adding children into the mix typically opens many new domains where expectations and boundaries need to be set. You and your partner deserve an opportunity to voice your thoughts and feelings openly, empathetically, and constructively.

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Wondering About Dating A Single Mom?

Can An Online Therapist Help?

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, which means 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 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 in-person therapy.

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 the priorities of her life, 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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