Note: A lot of what follows has been slowly changing for me as my kids have gotten older. I’m keeping the post in the present tense with the thought that it might ring true for single parents whose kids are still under their care 24/7. Maybe one of them will send a copy to a potential person-of-interest, and maybe that will help said p-o-i understand the parent’s situation better. Anything to help the cause!
Here is one of the most obvious things you will ever hear anyone say: When you’re a single parent, dating is really, really hard. The obvious reason, of course, is just finding the time to get out of the house and meet people. Especially with younger kids, the days are a flurry of remembering who needs to be where, getting them there and back, feeding, checking on homework, bedtime—all on top of one’s “day job” (or jobs, in the case of us freelancers).
There are other issues, as well. Believe it or not, the “flurry” of activity described above commonly leads to exhaustion. So even when you finally make it to Friday or Saturday night and things are quiet and the coast is clear, the last thing many a single parent wants to do is dress up, go out, and make nice with a stranger—especially with the thought of putting one’s best foot forward to try to make a good impression on a potential mate. Often, the only thing we want to do with our feet is put them in our slippers, to complement the sweats we are wearing as we finally collapse on the couch in front of the TV. The most seductive dream we have at this point is an early bedtime.
My hunch is that another factor may be more prevalent in the gay world, but I could be wrong. Where dating is concerned among gay men, it’s treated a bit like deciding whether to get dessert after a meal out. Tonight I will, tonight I won’t, nothing on the menu here grabs me so I’ll go somewhere else, I have a pint of ice cream in the freezer at home. It’s all very spur-of-the-moment, subject to change on a moment’s—or whim’s—notice.
In response to that, I’d like to point out one thing that doesn’t work very well in the parenting world: spur-of-the-moment. Of course, we make spontaneous decisions all the time where our kids are concerned: “Michael just asked if I can stay for dinner. Can I?” “The store doesn’t have any shoes in your size. Let’s try that other one.” “You have a fever. Need to stay home from school today.” And so on.
But where our adult lives are concerned, the magic word is: plans. My own experience tells me that folks who don’t have kids really have no clue how vital it is for us to plan, as far in advance as possible, for get-togethers—and how important it is for those plans to stick, barring emergencies. And again specifically in the gay male world, the epidemic of “Can’t make it for the date that was supposed to happen in an hour. Sorry.” can really throw a potential date-parent off his or her game.
I know this flakiness epidemic is … well, it’s pretty epidemic across our community. The difference is, if you’re a non-parent and you get stood up, you now have an open slot that you can fill pretty much however you want: going to try to meet someone else, waiting till tomorrow, etc. For the parent, that few-hour block of time might be the only free space for the next couple of weeks. Trying to regroup and figure out how to spend those hours—for what, a hookup?—isn’t exactly inspiring.
The other thing that factors in here—and again, this may just be me—but as a parent, my expectations for what I want from a guy have gotten pretty high. Given that the bulk of my time is spent nurturing—or creating a system for nurturing—two young and growing lives, I’m not really in the market for someone with a lot of unmet needs. That screens out of lot of people, unfortunately. I need stable, and, for good measure, someone who can actually step forward and take on a little bit of need-addressing himself—especially if he does not have kids of his own. This seems to be a tall order, especially if you throw in the fact that it would be nice if he were cute.
It doesn’t help matters that I work from home, so my daily routine doesn’t allow for a lot of socializing. I’ve tried online dating, which … well, you get a lot of first dates. The second? Still reaching for that brass ring.