Dating is tough enough as it is. But doing it as a single parent can make things even more complicated.
For one, you’re busy trying to tend to your family, do well at work and find the love of your life (who has to be open to kids) all at the same time. Then, you’re evaluating your chemistry with these people while also trying to suss out if your kids would get along with them and whether they’d be a good parent, should this budding romance pan out. Yeah, it’s a lot.
So it’s natural for single parents to wonder how and when they should let matches know that they’re a mom or a dad. Do they mention it in their dating profile so would-be suitors know right off the bat? Or should they wait to see if they connect with someone first and then share about their kids in a later conversation?
We asked dating coaches and parents who’ve been there to share advice on how to navigate online dating as a single mom or dad.
It’s Normal To Be Wary About Saying You Have Children
“I think every single person with kids fears the same thing: That their kids will disqualify them from the right relationship,” said Lily Womble, a dating coach and the founder of Date Brazen.
Maybe this fear surfaces because someone in your past rejected you after learning you had kids. Or maybe you’ve been scarred after hearing one-too-many stories of other single parents getting ghosted for this very reason. Regardless, know that it’s normal to have some hesitation, but try not to let those crappy experiences deter you.
“Your kids will be one of the many reasons your eventual partner will love you,” Womble said. “And in the meantime, you get to disqualify those who aren’t game for kids from your dating pool.”
Honesty Is The Best Policy
If you’re looking for a committed relationship, not just a casual hookup or fling, then “honesty about your kids from the beginning is key,” Womble said.
Think of your dating profile as a snapshot of your life: the more accurately it represents your reality, the better, said dating and relationship coach Meg Rector of One Fish Dating.
“In the same way that I encourage clients to be honest in the photos they post, I encourage clients to be honest about their life situations, especially if it includes kiddos,” she said.
After all, why would you want to waste your precious time getting to know someone only to discover later that they’re not open to dating a person with kids?
“Those people aren’t the right match for you, plain and simple,” Womble said. ”Sharing that you have kids in your profile will attract the right sort of people your way and will save you from chatting with the rest.”
How To Mention You Have Kids
Dating sites and apps have different formats, but if you’re using one that has preset questions, the easiest option is to check the box indicating you have kids.
You could also drop a simple line in your bio (e.g. “Dad of two”) and only offer up additional details once you’ve gotten to know the person better.
Writer and mom Katie Bingham Smith, who has used Match, Bumble and Tinder, said the first things she writes in her profile is, “I’m a mother to three teens.” Fortunately, the men she’s encountered on these apps have been “wonderful” about it.
“It’s never been an issue because they know upfront,” she said.
Alternatively, you can share the information in a funny or clever way, if that’s more your style.
“Your dating profile should be about what you’re looking for in a match and what brings you joy,” Womble said. ”Say something like: ?On the weekend you can find me watching my son’s soccer game, then off to a glass of wine with my girlfriends” or ‘What’s important to me: My kids, being outside as often as possible and amazing mac and cheese, in that order.’”
I think every single person with kids fears the same thing: That their kids will disqualify them from the right relationship.Lily Womble, dating coach and founder of Date Brazen
When Lara Lillibridge, author of “Mama, Mama, Only Mama: An Irreverent Guide for the Newly Single Parent,” began online dating 10 years ago, she had one kid in diapers and another in pre-school. It was important to her that any matches knew right away from her profile that she was a mom.
“My parents divorced when I was a child, and my mom remarried someone who wanted kids, but my dad went through a few wives, most of whom were not eager to be step-parents,” said Lillibridge, who is now engaged to someone she met online. “I never wanted my own kids to feel unwanted, or in competition with someone I dated for my time.”
Father of four Derick Turner, who’s a blogger and personal development coach, has tried several ways of mentioning he has kids in his profile, usually opting for something like “committed father” or “devoted dad.” On one occasion, however, he chose not to state it in his profile and waited until the first conversation to mention it. That, he said, “never felt authentic” to him because his kids are such a big part of his life.
“There seems to be a misconception that being a single parent is a bad thing in the [dating] world,” Turner said. “I generally see it as a sign of accomplishment, maturity, discipline and organization. I know how challenging it is to be a parent, let alone a single parent. It takes a strong, capable person with determination and commitment to something greater than themselves. Those are all good things.”
If you not to mention your kids in your profile, bring them up sooner rather than later, like when you’re messaging back and forth on the app or texting before the first date.
“If there’s a reason you choose not to disclose this information on your profile — and there are plenty of reasons to keep that information private — you can explain that to a potential love interest,” Rector said,
A Few Things To Avoid
Some parents choose to share they have kids by including pictures with their children in their profile. While well-intentioned, some experts have raised safety concerns around this practice, as it could potentially make the children targets for predators.
“The U.S. alone has millions of active dating app users, and that means that your pictures are being viewed by a few thousand people at least,” Womble said. “So for safety and privacy reasons, I recommend keeping your children’s faces out of your profile pictures.”
If you really want to use a photo that has your kiddos in it, consider cropping them out or choosing a shot where they’re not facing the camera. You can also edit the photo to cover their face with an emoji, Womble said.
There seems to be a misconception that being a single parent is a bad thing in the [dating] world.Derick Turner, blogger and father of four
Also, avoid presenting the fact that you have kids in a negative way in your profile.
“For example, this is a no-go: ‘I have kids, so don’t message me if you don’t like kids,’” Womble said. “Or, ‘I have kids, so don’t message me if you want to go on vacation at the drop of a hat.’”
When the topic of your kids inevitably comes up with a match, set an upbeat tone for the conversation.
“You can help the other person know how to respond by sharing with excitement and confidence rather than fear and trepidation,” Rector said. “Be intentional.”
And if you choose to wait a while to reveal you have kids — whatever your reasons — know that some of your dates may consider withholding this information a red flag.
Years ago, Lillibridge dated a guy with two kids who didn’t mention them for several weeks. It didn’t sit well with her at the time.
“I think if it came out on the first date it would be OK,” she said. “But if I spent time with someone and they didn’t mention that they had kids, I’d definitely feel lied to, particularly as I talk about my kids all the time. I’d wonder what else they weren’t telling me.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.