Dating as single mom: It is very recently that the new family models have taken emergence in our society. Apart from conventional heteronormative married couple family, we have unmarried women/ men adopting kids, gay parents, and couples in live-in relationship. One such growing tribe that needs a worthy mention is single parents. These are the people who are raising a kid single handedly. There is a glaring lack of awareness on the challenges and desires that single parents experience in their lives.
Yes, like any other person, a single parent also desires intimacy, however in the face of a unique situation which our society has still not gathered full awareness on, a single parent and particularly a single mom faces a lot of stumbling blocks. This piece talks about some of those challenges in a dating context.
I am a single mom and I have the first-hand experience of the stigma and the negative experiences that come with looking for a partnership when you have a child. Our society is seeing an upswing in the growing no. of people who are opting for childless lives. The age of marriage has increased drastically and couples take years to decide whether or not to have a kid. In this situation, a single parent who is already handling the responsibility of young child faces a double whammy when it comes to finding a prospective partner.
My friend Meenakshi said during one of our informal conversations “Pallavi, in our society we still give a huge importance to blood lineage and it’s a rare Indian man who is willing to take the responsibility of a kid, that too of someone else.” I was dismayed as well as amused at her viewpoint but this is the prevailing mindset in our largely juvenile society that is ruled by shallow morality and self-image.
I have dabbled in online dating a handful of times, and the experience has left much to be desired. Even though I clarify that I am a single mother looking for serious relationships in my profiles, a lot of men on these sites approach me for a casual relationship. These individuals cannot see single mothers as someone worth committing to a long term relationship. For many men, single mothers are only good for casual fun without any attachments. The fear of family / social image runs high in these men coupled with a lack of responsibility in their lives that get translated into the type of relationships they look forward to. There is deep-rooted hypocrisy at play here.
For a man, being a divorcee is not seen as a huge issue, but having a child diminishes the “value” of women. According to Laila Zafar, Lawyer and founder of The Village, a support group for desi single parents, there is the actual judgement from society, including family, friends and potential partners or dates. And then there are the internal struggles that single mums face. Both these voices of judgement are very real and extremely loud. It is assumed that single mothers are either looking for a ticket to escape their current lives or replacement dads for their kids. Also, it is hard to find someone who is okay with dating someone for whom their kids will always be the first priority. In some cases, where the prospective partner is interested, they see the child as a hurdle to the romantic relationship and ask you to “make arrangements” to have the child removed from your life.
She shares a real life experience of some of the single mums from her community: “There is a single mum in the Village who told me that she had a boyfriend who asked her to give up custody of her child to her ex-husband and only then would he marry here. There was another who was asked to hand over custody to the new partner, in a sense to wipe out the existence of the actual father of the children.
But there have also been instances of single mums meeting good partners who have accepted them for their realities as single parents and their children wholeheartedly as their own. There also are instances aplenty of catfishing and lying about wanting a long term commitment just to achieve the object of having sex.”
It is not at all uncommon for single mothers to be approached by men who lie about being comfortable dating a single mother, only to bolt at the first sign of responsibility or commitment. I had a previous partner who insisted that he wanted to be a family with me, knowing that I was a single mother, only to back out when things started getting serious. This deeply painful experience of mine is the one that resonates with and relates to countless other single mothers who have been through the same.
But like everything else in life, good things and people do exist.
In our own country, Anil Kumble set up an example by marrying a single mother way back in 90s. French President Emmanuel Macron also married a single mother. Unlike what most people believe, single moms are not ‘double baggage’ who will burden their partner’s life. In fact, there are many benefits to dating a single mom. First of all, if a single mom has chosen to date you and introduce you to her child/ren, it means that she is in it for the long haul. Introducing a new partner to their children is one of the most thought-out decisions that single moms make so whoever they have chosen has a special place inside her heart and thus the person is in for a long-term commitment.
Having children teaches people to love unconditionally and if someone is lucky enough to get a portion of that, they should count their blessings. Single mothers are also incredibly emotionally strong and resourceful. Their confidence also translates into their personalities and single mums are undoubtedly sexier and sexually confident. They are much different than the sad wallflower we believe most single mothers to be. If only we could bring ourselves to not be intimidated and influenced by hearsay.
Pallavi Barnwal is a certified sexuality coach and founder of a sex-positive platform Get Intimacy. She has been featured in HUNDREDS — of magazines, newspapers, and online articles as a sexpert – Huffington Post, India Today, Vogue, The Hindu, Dainik Bhaskar, Indian Express, TimesOfIndia, BBC, Deccan Chronicle, Femina, Mint, and more. Pallavi specialises in helping people address challenges facing their sexuality and intimacy and provides them with skills and tools to experience more pleasure and satisfaction in their intimate lives. Views expressed are the author’s own.