How do you get back in the dating game when you are a single parent? How do you navigate meeting someone in an age where a person’s interest in you is determined by a left or right swipe? Two single mamas in Singapore spill all!
Ladies, you know the drill. You move to a new country, get out of a relationship or start a new job, and then Boom! Mr Right bumps into you outside that chic dessert place that everyone’s talking about. It’s the standard Hallmark meet-cute most women dream about, but casually meeting new people is near impossible these days, thanks to a certain pandemic.
These days, the easiest way to meet someone new (especially when you are a busy single parent) is through online dating apps like Bumble, Hinge, Coffee Meets Bagel or Tinder. Dating through an app seems simple enough. The general understanding is that every cute man (or woman) on the app is single and definitely ready to mingle (although do your own due diligence as always!) However online dating can be an extremely daunting experience; perhaps doubly so if you’re dating as a newly single parent! Two single mamas spill the tea on their experiences with online dating in Singapore.
‘I’d been married for a decade so dating was not a scene I ever expected to find myself on.’
“I’d been married for a decade before, so dating was not a scene I ever expected to find myself on,” says Anna*, who had been single for about six months before she decided to give dating a chance. The mum of one started – like many others – on Tinder. “That was the only one I’d heard of, but I quickly realised that it was more suited to those looking for short flings,” she says.
She then tried other dating apps like Bumble and Hinge – the latter was her preference because of the various prompts that allowed her to add interesting things to her profile. “It’s easier to learn more about someone before you swipe on them, versus apps where some only add their photo and nothing else!”
Despite that, dating came with its own set of challenges, says Anna, who feels she may have been in denial a bit when she first got started. “I thought being a single mum wouldn’t impact my dating life much, and I was offended that some people saw it as a deterrent,” she shares. Often, Anna opted to omit the fact that she was a parent until after a first date, but she soon realised that wasn’t the right approach for her.
“Dating someone with a child is different, particularly if you don’t have one. It changes the trajectory of how a relationship can develop, restricts the amount of free time available to date and there’s a whole other dynamic to consider. So now I’m much more honest with myself and with other people about it.”
It wasn’t just something Anna had to adjust to; it was also important that her mini-me warm up to the idea, too. On the rare occasions that she did get serious with someone, she often introduced them as “mummy’s friend”, leaving no room for PDA and keeping things strictly friendly. But she’s had plenty of cause to rethink this after a thought-provoking conversation with a fellow single mum friend. “She suggested I approach it differently because introducing children to the idea of developing healthy relationships and the concept of dating is actually valuable. So it’s definitely something I’ll keep in mind for the future.”
Sometimes, online dating can be a bummer – or an outright PITA (pain in the as$) – but the great thing about it, Anna feels, is that for every new match, there’s hope. It also helped that she had a very supportive circle when she first dipped her toes back in the dating scene. “My single friends were glad to offer advice and help me through the process. My married friends and family found the dating apps a point of fascination, I think. They loved hearing about how the online dating world worked nowadays!”
Anna’s now dating someone she met through an app. “It’s a really fantastic experience so far, and I don’t want to say too much, as I don’t want to jinx it!” – Anna*, mum of one, British
‘I’d been with my ex since I was 15 years old, so I’d never had to ‘date’ until my marriage ended’
For 37-year-old Mel, the idea of a new experience was what drew her to download Tinder and start swiping. The mama of two decided to jump in after her separation. “The breakup of my marriage came as a complete shock and flipped my life on its head entirely,” she recalls, but it also gave her reason to try online dating.
“I’d been with my ex since I was 15 years old, so I’d never had to ‘date’. The very thought petrified me, but I was also curious about what online dating was about since I was so naïve about it all!” says Mel. However, she didn’t begin dating with the intent of meeting anyone. Rather, she saw it as an opportunity to prove to herself that she was capable of dating again. “My confidence had taken a huge knock, so this was one way that helped me build it up again. I used the online dating experience to remind myself that I am able to hold my own, and have fun.”
It’s also helpful that most dating apps let you initiate what’s popularly known as the “talking stage” without giving out your phone number. This way, you can end the conversation on the app if you aren’t vibing with the person you’re chatting with, without ever having to actually meet. “There are also lots of ‘interesting people’ on dating apps, which can lead to unsavoury conversations,” Mel says. But the beauty of virtual dating is that you can block and delete if that’s not what you want. “It’s also a convenient way to date as you go,” adds Mel, “since you can log on at any time of the day.”
Her biggest dating challenge? “Time! I’m sure all mums agree that we get very little ‘me’ time as it is, but then I became a solo mum, and then there was really no ‘me’ time, which means dating required some extra scheduling,” she chuckles. Singapore is also relatively small, and several friends recounted awkward situations where they ended up dating the same person as a friend or close acquaintance.
Luckily, Mel didn’t have to swipe for long before she found herself right in the middle of an incredible Tinder fairy tale. “I started chatting with Sam on Tinder and I insisted he meet me for drinks – check out my oozing confidence! He was also new to Tinder and was reluctant, but I guess my charm – or nagging – won him over!” Mel says. The duo met for (pre-Covid) drinks one Wednesday night after she’d tucked her munchkins into bed and hit it off instantly.
Mel and Sam have been together for four-and-a-half years now, but it didn’t come without a few bumps on the road. Mel knew her kids needed time and space to process the separation first, so she didn’t tell them that she had begun dating again. “I introduced Sam to the kids four months after knowing him, and we took it very slowly.”
Her kids, then aged 5 and 2, were happy to meet “mum’s new friend” and loved having Sam around. They gradually increased the number of visits and outings together, and in the end, everything fell together so naturally and they all were able to embrace each other completely. “I have been incredibly lucky to meet someone who has been willing to compromise and put the children first. We are constantly learning together about how we can create the best possible environment for the kids and, of course, ourselves,”. – Mel, mum of two, South African
Online dating: Thinking of putting yourself out there?
One must-do when you start dating online is to keep an open mind about what your “type” is, stresses Anna. “I once matched with someone that I, on first virtual impression, thought rather odd. I kept putting off meeting him until I ran out of excuses, but we ended up dating for nine months after that!” she says. “It was a good experience, and it taught me to keep an open mind about who I meet.”
Trust your instincts always, and navigate introducing new partners mindfully, too. Some kids may take longer to come to terms with mum dating. “Each child is unique and you know your little ones best. You can also reach out to counsellors and therapists if you feel you need help,” suggests Mel. That advice also applies to you, because you should always come first. “At first, I prioritised dating (or rather, my mission to meet someone) over other aspects of my social life or hobbies,” Anna recalls, but her dating game levelled up when she began prioritising herself. “Once I flipped that on its head and became a happier, more rounded person in myself, dating became a much more enjoyable and successful endeavour.”
Most importantly, be kind to yourself, because you will face some mum-shaming and judgment about dating as a single parent, Mel cautions. Ignore your haters, she advises, and “surround yourself with non-judgmental friends – including solo parents, if possible! – who will have your back and support you on your journey.”
*Name has been changed for privacy reasons.