Divorced, Parenting, and Dating: Does Same Seek Same or No?

Parents simply have different priorities when it comes to considering a romantic partner.

Words by Laura Wheatman Hill. Photography by Sai De Silva.

In the United States, there are 10.5 million single parent households. Being a parent significantly changes people’s lives and priorities, single or not, and being divorced adds an extra layer of consideration. Without a partner, parents have to factor in custody schedules, having less energy, and a variety of other factors before they even begin to think about what they want for themselves or put any thought into dating.

For parents that can make the time for and have desire to date, many feel strongly about their reasons for who they will date – especially when considering a long-term partner with children of their own.

Parents Seeking Parents

Owned and created by Match, the dating app Stir is for singles “who just happen to be parents.” With an entire app created for them, there are many parents who seek out other parents, but there’s diverse set of reasons why they want only people who have kids of their own.

Greg Shippen, dad to a 12-year-old daughter, said, “When I first became single I dated two women who did not have kids of their own…and it didn’t work. They didn’t understand how to exist in a world in which they would never be their partner’s number one.” He changed tactics. “As soon as I started dating other parents it became a very different world…communication was better, needs and desires were better aligned, there was more understanding and frankly sex was better — when you know you have limited opportunities you tend to take full advantage of that opportunity.” He now has a girlfriend with children ages eight and four. 

Jelena Mosher Doney agrees. “Men without children do not truly understand the way my time had to be prioritized. Just because my kids were old enough to be left home alone (at like twelve), didn’t mean that I could leave them alone constantly. It’s also attractive to find a man who is a good father to his own kids,” she said. Many single parents put a lot of weight into whether they think the potential partners are also a good parent.

However, some parents, especially experienced ones, have caveats. “My kids are now grown and now I like dating men without kids or who also have grown kids due to the flexibility of our schedules,” Doney said. Jody Allard, who has kids 12 to 24, agrees.“I’d prefer to date parents since they understand the deal,” she shared. “That said, I wouldn’t want someone with kids younger than mine since I’m counting down to freedom after parenting 24-years and counting!” Parents know the value of free time. 

No Kids, No Problem

Some parents are adamant that they will not date another parent. Some of these people have older children and are prioritizing their hard-earned free time. Angie Ebba, parent to a sixteen and seventeen year old says she dates non-parents because she’s past parenting little ones. “I’m exhausted and am seventeen years into this parenting gig. I don’t want to take on more kiddos at this point. I want to date for fun and for adult connection at this point,” she said.

“I’ve dated both, but my preference is men with older teenage kids or no kids,” Randi Shaw, who has teen and adult children, said. “I’ve been a mom since I was 19, and with my daughter being older, I can enjoy my forties in a way I didn’t necessarily get to in my twenties.”

Many parents of children of all ages stated they want to date non-parents simply because it’s easier to schedule when you only have to manage one person’s custody arrangements.

Some Parents Are Indifferent About Whether Or Not Potential Partners Have Kids

For some, the value of a mate does not lie in whether or not they have children for some dating parents. 

“I definitely had a list of ‘must haves’ but non-parents or other divorcees wasn’t one of them,” MsVero Cee, whose kids are nine, six, and six-months-old, said. “For me, I was more interested in a connection first and then if it evolved how the person treated my children who were eight months and two-years-old at the time. My husband now had never been married and has no kids. But he’s such a wonderful bonus dad.” 

Some of those who didn’t care either way said it was because they weren’t looking to get married again or didn’t want to date seriously enough where introducing kids would be an issue. If the person wasn’t going to potentially parent their kids, it didn’t matter if they were a parent at all. 

Some Parents Don’t (or Can’t) Date At All

It should also be noted that parenthood often still feels like a barrier for some parents in the dating realm. Some simply feel too busy to date. Others feel traumatized by their marriages and don’t feel ready to commit to romance. Parents with sole custody sometimes don’t feel comfortable introducing kids too early and therefore don’t date at all. 

Brittnea McLellan, a twenty-nine year old divorced mom of two struggles with the balance of being a single woman under thirty and a mother. “I’ve found men my age without kids aren’t looking to be around kids, or are looking to have kids of their own and I don’t know that that is in the cards for me,” she said. “They also don’t seem to understand that my life is literally devoted to my kids.” So non-parents are out in these circumstances.

“Men with kids usually have drastically different parenting styles than me, and that was a huge reason my ex and I divorced. It’s made me weary to put the work and effort in again,” McLellen said. Being fiercely protective of your kids and making sure they have a consistent parenting plan is vital.

McLellan also voiced concern echoed by other divorced parents. Including parents who were children of divorce themselves: when you break up, kids lose a parental figure again. McLellan said that when she divorced, her step daughter “was ripped from my life and my oldest child’s life.” It’s a pain she doesn’t want to feel or put them through again.

There is no correct answer as to the right way to date. No matter the choice, parents who are dating have responsibilities non-parents don’t have. To date a parent, whether you are one or not, is to date someone who is never alone, even when it’s not their night. 

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