Dating in my 20s as a single mother?

Dear Readers,

Today’s question piggybacks on a previous question: Will guys date single moms?  Please read that post for more information about dating with kids. Or dating someone who has kids. Also read a personal account, “Dating as a single mother in my 20s.”

Please use the form on the “Ask the Guys” page to leave us a question.




Dear Guys,

I’m 20 and I have a little girl on the way—my first child. I was engaged to the dad for a year and he promised me the family I have always dreamed of. We planned our little one and he left me for another girl three months after we found out I was pregnant. Now I’m worried there won’t be any men in their 20s to date that are okay with me being a single mother. I believe in love and want a healthy relationship around my daughter. I don’t though want to be bouncing from guy to guy with her involved or be living like a nun until I get older when men are more ready to commit.

I would be more than okay with starting a bigger family with my husband in the future, but will I even be given that chance in my 20s? Is it just a waiting game until guys mature or is there hope to still settling down?


Dear Ashley, 

Thanks for your question.

There’s always hope. However, most guys aren’t ready to settle down in their early twenties. They’re busy pursuing careers, women and fun. But most of all they’re peeling away the layers of childhood, trying to discover the kind of man they want to be. This process can take years and years, and that’s why many men aren’t ready for a commitment in their twenties. They are focused on finding themselves as they vie for position and rank in this competitive world.

The father of your child exemplifies why men get a bad rap. He was interested enough in you and the relationship when he was getting what he wanted or when it was all talk, but when the consequences—albeit wonderful, your daughter—of his actions emerged he couldn’t deal with the situation and left. We can see how this would leave a bad taste in your mouth, and make you skeptical and concerned about all guys in their twenties, but don’t let him “speak” for all men. We’re not all like that.

Your instincts are good Ashley. You certainly don’t want to be bouncing from guy to guy, especially with a child in tow. While dating different men is fine, we would recommend keeping your dating life and home life as separate as possible until you are fairly confident the guy you’re dating is in it  for the long haul. Which means, you might not want to have men stay over too often, especially as your child gets old enough to know. (And believe us, if she is old enough to see, she will be old enough to understand on some level what’s going on. And ultimately be confused.)

It’s always best for any child to have consistent people in their lives, male and female. Ideally you will have an amicable enough relationship with your ex so he can be involved. However, if that’s not possible, hopefully someone will step up to the plate. Perhaps a brother? Or your father? That is until you are involved with someone you love and respect.

And that brings us to your question. You read the previous post and our answer, so you understand that any time you add another “difference” to the dating equation things can get more complicated because there is just that much more to sort through. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t ever work out. It just means BOTH people have to be VERY committed to making the relationship work.

Examples of differences: 

Age: People dating someone much older or younger. (Watch our videos on the topic)

Race/Ethnicity: People from different cultures, countries, backgrounds. Read previous post: Why is he hiding our relationship?

Religion: People raised with different beliefs.

Marital Status: Divorced people dating single people.

Parental Status: People with kids dating people without kids.

Dating and relationships are complicated enough without adding more factors into the equation. Figuring out if you want to be with someone for a lifetime is a big decision. But when people truly love each other, most of the time they will try and work through whatever is dealt to them. And sometimes these “extra ingredients” are actually time savers. They often weed away quickly, the people who shouldn’t even be there.

Ashley, your first priority will be your child, and you certainly don’t want to waste your time with guys who don’t get it. So your child will help you cut through the BS. Life is full of surprises. We’re sure there’s some young guy out there who will be more than happy to welcome you and your child into his life.

But you’ll only meet that person by getting out there yourself. Finish school. Or start school. Take some classes that interest you. Join a book group. Say yes to invitations. Get a job doing something interesting. (If possible) Elicit the help of your friends and family—you’ll need support with daycare, etc. and emotional support—so you can move forward with your own interests and goals. And by doing all of that, it’s more likely you will meet some great person who shares many of the same interests and values that you do.

Good luck. Please leave us a comment here in the comments section. Or a follow up question. We’ll respond here as well.


ps. Let your friends know about us. Thanks!

Some other questions for THE GUYS:

My boyfriend is on dating sites; is he cheating?

Why does he have a secret Facebook page?

From a guy’s perspective; is my marriage over?

He won’t bring me out with his friends

Friends with benefits: why me? 

Kissing Cousins: Should we date? 

Casual Encounter on Craigslist: Is my relationship over? 

Dumped by text

Does future career always trump future relationship?

13 Comments on Dating in my 20s as a single mother?

  1. Ashley, you are young. And you have decided to start a family. For whatever reason. My wife wanted a child whilst she was young, as she wanted to be a young mother.

    From reading your question, I think that maybe there is more going on here than practical reasons.

    Is it wrong to suggest that the desire to have a child was somehow to fill a gap in your life left by some love void? A child will always love us unconditionally. I’ve heard it said many times.

    You go on to comment that you would be prepared to have family with a new man should you be fortunate enough to find one . . . And so it seems to me that you are contemplating and anticipating the future, and future needs and expectations.

    Back to my first comment. You are young. Although you can be told this, you probably cannot understand yet, as it is a question of time. You will change a lot over the next few years. Your interests and desires will change, as will your perspective. What you want today will not be the same as you want tomorrow.

    You emotions and understandings will mature. And your perspectives will change.

    You will be attractive to the right man if your qualities and commitment as a mother shine through. Your child is the single most important thing n your life. No question. If you dedicate yourself to your daughter, it in itself will be extremely attractive to a good man.

    You have needs of course, but as the guys suggest, keep it separate. You will find you will have several relationships before you finally find the right ‘one’. Avoid exposing your baby to a temporary man in your life. Be wise enough to work out who’s a keeper.

    When you meet a new man, avoid laying on all the father hood talk until he really gets to know you.

    A guy must know YOU first and know that you are his ‘one’. It will be difficult for a man to see YOU if you wave a child in front of his nose.

    as you’re keeping your parenthood and dating lives separate, you can ease him into exposure over time. This isn’t suggesting that don’t disclose your daughter to him, just that this isn’t the focul point in the early days.

    If possible, do what some of the guys suggest about developing yourself socially, or even educationally. This is as much about self-esteem and confidence as it is about being in an environment to meet the right person.

    And, good luck!

  2. @Paul….thanks for speaking on the topic of her age. Good point.

    @Ashley…..We agree with Paul on this. We were struck by your statement, “have the family I always dreamed of.” This “idea” of your dream seems to trump all else. That should not be your focus, because we think it will come organically if you pursue your own interests and try to be the best mother you can. Be patient even if it’s difficult. We have faith in you.

  3. I can offer up the firsthand view and experience of dating in single motherhood…

    I wanted to get married and start a family at a young age, and I did just that; less than a week after turning 18 I married my high school boyfriend of eight months. Almost two years into our marriage, I gave birth to our daughter, and by the time she was two and a half and just shy of our 4 year anniversary, we were divorced. Like Paul and the guys above state, I was looking to fill a void. Not by having my daughter, but by having the whole ‘happy and complete’ family fantasy that I never had growing up. Of course it’s taken me many years to honestly see and admit that fact.

    My dad wasn’t around like he should have been because he was military, and he was busy with other women behind my mothers’ back for the 17 years they were married. I love my dad, we are better now than we were when I was a kid, but he wasn’t the shining male example I should have had and it has caused me to fall for and accept men of similar, bad treatment towards the women they claim to love.

    When I decided I deserved someone who truly wanted to be a husband and proper example of a man, I asked my husband for a divorce even though the worry crossed my mind about being so young and a single parent that no one would want the ‘baggage’ I would be carrying when dating again. I decided though that I would rather be happy and back on my own and most likely single for some time to come, than in a marriage that would never work. My advice is this;

    As a single mother, the few men I have dated over the 5+ years I’ve been single now have been losers. The first I dated was very brief, only a couple months. He lied, met women behind my back, begged for a loan that he promised he’d pay back, and then took that loan and flew back to his hometown of Vegas. After him, I ended up in an abusive relationship for four years with someone younger (you can never know the difficulty of leaving something as such until you experience it yourself, believe you me). When my daughter grew to an age where she could truly comprehend the difference between good and bad treatment, and I finally got the courage to leave and set the example for my daughter (he was very good to her, but horrid to me), I booted him for good. It was one of the most difficult things to have her understand when he had been involved with us for so long, but when I was able to tell her and show her that when you love someone, you are not cruel and unkind, she understood.

    I have been so used to being with a man that I jumped from that relationship right into another who honestly DID seem to be what I had been missing. He professed love for my daughter and I, we integrated our lives quickly, and I was convinced I had finally met ‘The One’. We were together almost a year when last November he left me for his high school flame whom he never dated but always wondered ‘what if’ about when she relocated back over from Eastern Washington. My daughter and I were crushed. She’s almost 8, and damn it, I’m almost 30 and I’m tired of the games men keep playing. And that last one was even 30, so some men aren’t even mature and ready by their 30’s! It’s literally luck and chance of meeting the right person who means what they say and will forever stick around.

    I’ve been refraining from dating until a new year since my ex left, and I’ve been surprisingly happy with the break. 20 is so young, and really, you are going to change so much over the next decade. I’m 27 and amazed at how my taste and desires have manifested over the years, and it’s taken all of my experiences to get it. Being a single mother is a rough road and being so young can make it feel like the end of the world and you’ll always be alone. But here’s the thing; you won’t. There are men who will be involved with a single mother, but unfortunately, a great deal of them will be wrong for you. You have to take your time with everything and approach relationships far more slowly and carefully now that you are one plus a little one. It’s going to feel like an eternity, and you’re going to feel lonely A LOT. But when the right man eventually makes his way into your life, the patience will all have been worth it.

    Focus on you, living an amazing life, and be a shining example of a strong independent woman for your daughter. Mine asked me the other day if this year I was going to have a boyfriend. I giggled and looked at her with a grin on my face and said ,”Maybe, anything can happen. But you know what, if it happens, great, and if it doesn’t, then that’s okay too. When I’m supposed to be with the right person, it will happen, but right now, I’m very happy with how things are”. And I meant every word. Her response, “Right Mom, we are happy together!” I feel wonderful knowing my daughter is seeing and feeling such positiveness from my choices. Love/Relationships/Dating/Marriage is just a piece of the lives we live and lead, don’t let it be your all consuming focus. What’s meant to happen, will. Don’t give up hope, be strong, and know that good things come to those who deserve it :]

  4. @Sabrina….we loved your comment, so we made it an actual post on our Ask the Guys page. Check it out. Also, we may even end up using it for our Women Speak page. You’re a good writer. And we’re sure your honesty will help some other people going through what you’ve been through. Please consider contributing something to our Women Speak page. Thanks and take care.

  5. i am 23 and i have a 1 year old daughter. we left her father/ my husband 7 months ago and i have filed for divorce. we married young (19) but we grew up together and i thought i knew him well and was in love. shortly after we got married he became verbally abusive (calling me stupid, idiot, severely threatening me, constantly belittling me). then he became physically abusive 6 months after we were married. it started with shoving and grabbing my arms roughly and yelling in my face when i said something “stupid” or “challenged” him and soon led to slapping and hitting me. he rarely apologized after and he blamed me for his actions. he’d say that if i would just shut up when he told me to or didnt say stupid things he wouldnt get so angry with me to the point of hurting me. and i somehow believed him because i valued his opinion and always admired him as a person (why i dont know). so i constantly blamed myself because i know i can be opinionated and i dont always think about things before i do them. i also had my suspicions about his fidelity. i didnt have any proof at all, i just had a feeling and he tended to be secretive but he always denied it and claimed he wasnt the type to cheat and that i should know he’s not cheating because he’s always very honest, sometimes brutally so. i concluded that there was no way he could treat me that way and cheat on me too. i just didnt think it was possible to have both issues in a marriage . then things started getting better (i thought). he was still verbally demeaning at times but not physically abusive for at least 7 or 8 months and we talked about having a child because he always wanted a daughter. he agreed that he still had things to work on but that he was doing better and that being a father would make him an even better man. and i convinced myself that he would make a good father and he was working on being a better husband. i really wanted to start a family. looking back i think i really longed for his approval and i thought having a child with him and being a good mother would make him happy and make him want to work even harder at being a good husband. during my pregnancy however he started to get abusive again, one time he even shoved me to the floor. he wasnt very supportive, didnt want to go with me to labor and delivery classes, and showed very little patience and compassion when i went through my mood swings. he even encouraged me to get induced because he had to start his six weeks from work because of several false labor alarms. he was always pressuring me to do something. after a difficult emergency c-section our daughter was born and he was initially helpful but everything had to be done his way, despite the fact that im her mother. he pressured me to go back to work 3 weeks after having her because we “needed the money” and “he wasnt allowed to go back to work earlier than his 6 weeks” (although he was willing to take care of her while i went to work). it became rather apparent that his parenting style was different from mine. he tended to be very rough and impatient with her even at 2 months. he wouldnt let my daughter and i bond and demanded that i keep her in the baby room almost all day (unless she “needed something”)it was a very difficult time for me especially since i was going through postpartum deppression and he showed very little symapthy. soon i started to see inconsistencies and i saw a suspicious text on his phone. he continued to deny any cheating. but it was a recurring topic that led to heated arguments, until one day he got physical again for the first time since our daughter was born. he’d slapped me and i told him i was leaving and taking our daughter with me then he punched me in the stomach and dragged me down the hall, then threatened to kill us both if i left with her. i guess you could say my motherly instincts took over and i knew i had to get her out of the situation. we left one day before he came home and since ive gotten proof of him cheating and i filed for divorce. he’s shown very little interest in our daughter since, which convinces me even more that im doing the right thing. i just want to know: how its possible to move on from that situation and maybe even find a great guy who actually cares about me and my daughter and who could be a great father to her? honestly he has me doubting the existence of great men all together, plus the fact that i never had a great relationship with my own father. would any man even want to date a divorced woman with a child, especially after i’ve been in a relationship like that and how can i know what man to trust??!

  6. @Kim……We’re so sorry. (FYI: This question may be above our capabilities, and we encourage you to seek some professional help. Seeing a counselor/therapist might really help you as you put the pieces together and move forward.) Here are our thoughts: No person should ever be subject to any form of abuse—verbal or physical. Do not blame yourself. It doesn’t matter if a person says “stupid” thing after “stupid” thing—we know you didn’t, but we’re making a point— no one has a right to abuse another person. There are no excuses. Once again we’re very sorry you had to go through that. And we’re sorry for your daughter as well, although she’s lucky to have you as a mother. Remember Kim, you’ve got to take care of yourself AND your daughter. As per your questions. You ask about finding a guy. Well there are plenty of good guys out there. You got married young and maybe you weren’t ready to make this type of decision. (Finding a mate.) It’s likely you weren’t looking for what’s important. (Someone you can trust. And someone who respects you and loves you, and is committed to building a life with you through the difficult times and the happy times.) Sure, there needs to be physical attraction too, but without the rest, that falls by the wayside pretty quickly. What you need to do is focus on rebuilding your self-esteem, and making yourself stronger internally. Although it takes a lot of strength, to leave an abusive relationship. You’re a lot stronger than most people in your situation. Never forget that. Give yourself some credit. Basically, when we read between the lines, you blame yourself for things that you shouldn’t, and we get the sense that you’re unsure of yourself in general. That’s what we’re talking about when we say focus on getting stronger. The more inner strength you have the more attractive you’ll be to guys. And the more you’ll be able to judge the moral fiber of a guy you’re just meeting. Obviously the past affects all of our lives, but don’t let your past be an excuse. We know you can rise above it. Here are some steps: 1. Get yourself situated in a good apartment, or back with your mom, or friend, or relative. 2. Look into finding a therapist/counselor to talk about everything. (Sometimes insurance will pay for this. And sometimes they charge based on income/need.) 3. Focus on your daughter and be the best mom you can be. 4. Don’t date for a while. You need time to process, learn, and grow. Finally, just try to understand the choices you’ve made so you won’t make the same ones in the future. Does this help at all? Your thoughts? Let us know if you have any other questions. Ask away. ps. Please share our site with friends. Share on Facebook, Twitter. Thanks. We appreciate it.

  7. thank you so much. i really appreciate your thoughtful words. it is an ongoing battle for me to value myself as much as i should and i actually have been seeing a therapist since i first filed for the divorce (5 months ago). its helping but i guess like you said it takes time and it IS a slow process. also my daughter and i moved in with my parents when i left him and theyre helping out a lot and are trying to be as understanding as they possibly can in this situation. i felt it was important to get a guys point of view on the issue and you certainly gave me that and it was very helpful. its going to be a long road and a lot of patience and i may not be able to find a good guy as soon as i would like but your reply gives me hope that one does exist. thanx!

  8. p.s.: im also going back to college to become a nurse so that my daughter and i can eventually move out and have our “own” life. its not exactly “glamorous” having to move back in with your parents 🙂 but they have been very helpful and supportive, along with his parents.

  9. @Kim……Thanks for filling us in. We’re glad you have a place to stay for the time being. (Nothing like supportive parents to help.) Maybe it’s not glamorous, but it gives you some stability while you regroup and move forward. And you’re not the only person living with their parents. It’s becoming more and more common these days with the economy, etc. We’re also glad you have a plan in place. Nursing is a great profession. Good luck with that. Keep us posted on how things are going with you. And come back any time to ask a question. Actually, you might be interested in checking out our relaunch. We’ll be asking our audience to weigh in on questions using a multiple choice format. Maybe you’ll come back and bring your posse? Should be up in a few days. Keep checking. Take care for now.

  10. I’ll definitely check that out and i’ll pass it on. Thank you so much for your support and helpful comments. I’ll make sure i keep you posted and i’ll try to send a donation in soon!

  11. @Kim….Thanks. And best to you. Yes, keep in touch.

  12. I’m 23 years old & a full time medical student. When I was 19 I became pregnant with my daughter. Her father, my boyfriend at the time, did not want anything to do with a child in any way, shape, or form. Needless to say, he left the picture before she was even born. He has never met her and has no intentions to be a part of her life. When I was pregnant, I began dating one of my very good guy friends. I know it seems weird- that I was dating someone who is not the father of my child, but we had known each other for a long time and he was okay with the fact that I was pregnant. Our relationship lasted two years- possibly the worst two years of my life. He was an absolutely terrible boyfriend- he cheated on me constantly, lied to me about everything, and was EXTREMELY emotionally and physically abusive. When I finally had enough respect for myself and realized my daughter deserved better (even though he was never mean to her- but I always told myself, if he really loved my daughter and me as much as he said, he would treat me the way I deserved)I finally left him. One of the biggest obstacles that kept me from breaking up with him was my fear of being alone.. I hated sitting at home by myself. I would cry myself to sleep every night, just wishing my life had gone differently. I love my daughter more than anything, but being a single mom with absolutely ZERO help from her father is a lot harder than I ever imagined. The abusive relationship I was in ended almost a year ago. Since then I have dated a few people casually.. but it has never been anything serious. I finally realized that I do not need a boyfriend to make me happy, and that my daughter and I are just fine by ourselves. But even though I am okay with being alone, there’s still a part of me that wants more than anything to be in a relationship and be loved by someone.. My entire life I have never been in a relationship with someone who has not cheated on me, and usually along with the cheating came emotional and physical abuse.

    My mother watches my daughter once a week, so that I can go out with my friends and get a little time to relax. About 9 months ago I met a gentleman at the bar. We never exchanged numbers or talked, except when we would run into each other when I was out. We recently exchanged numbers at the bar one night and began talking. We met up at the bar a few weeks ago and actually hung out for the first time. Long story short, I drank too much and went home with him. I’m not the type of person to engage in this type of behavior, and I figured that was the end of that. Why would he want to keep talking to me after he already got what he wanted? To my surprise though, he kept talking to me and we hung out again sober. This past weekend we met up at the bars, hung out for the third time, and I stayed with him again. I usually don’t gain feelings for men very easily- I know what guys want and I know what they’re capable of. I don’t enjoy setting myself up to get hurt, and given the way college guys are that’s what tends to happen. I feel as if no guys my age (granted he is a little older, turning 25)want anything to do with a 23 year old, single mom. However… this guy is perfect. He is seriously one of the nicest guys I have ever met, and we have everything in common.. But since we hung out a few days ago, I haven’t really spoke with him too much. He text me once and we sent a few texts back and forth but the conversation ended quickly. I’m not the type of girl to constantly initiate conversations with guys- I don’t want to be annoying or bug them, so I usually wait for them to make the first move. This guy actually seemed to like me though- he told me each time after we hung out how much fun he had and how glad he is that we’re getting to know each other… But now I’m confused. Why isn’t he texting me or saying anything to me anymore? Granted its only been a few days, but the past few weeks we talked all day long, every day.. And now, nothing. This just makes me feel again like I’m going to end up alone. I would NEVER trade my daughter for anything in the world, I just wish she had come at a later time in my life.. Or that her father would be a part of her life, so that I could get a much needed and well deserved break every now and then. I’m scared that this guy is just looking for what most guys are and doesn’t really want to continue talking to me and hanging out with me.. But then again, there would have been no need for him to tell me how much he likes me and ask me to hang out sober… Would there? It’s not like he was trying to get in my pants… He’d already accomplished that ha. Did I do something wrong to scare him away? I don’t know what I could have possibly done, but I also don’t feel comfortable texting him. I’m just too scared I’m going to bug him. My friends seem to think that maybe HE doesn’t want to appear to be the needy one and constantly text me, but I don’t think that’s the issue. He is a VERY attractive guy and would have no problem getting basically any girl he wanted.. I have read the other posts about dating as a single mom, and I hate to say it, but they almost make me feel worse.. I don’t want to end up alone. I want someone who cares about me and wants to be with me even though I am a mom. And I DON’T want to wait till I’m 30 to find that person when all the other guys grow the hell up & want to finally settle down. I’m terrified I am going to end up alone for the rest of my life, and that I could someday even meet the person I am supposed to spend my life with but have it not work out because I have a kid.

    At this point, I feel as though I am just ranting. The main point of this post is what do you guys think about this person I have been hanging out with? Should I wait it out and see what happens… Or just accept what I feel is the inevitable and realize he’s like every other guy that only wants one thing. I really hope you guys have good news for me!

  13. @Kelsi……We do have good news. It’s WAY too early to start freaking out. We’re not going to guarantee that this is going to work out, but what are your options? Stop dating him? That doesn’t seem to make sense. Our advice: Proceed forward. Be patient. Have fun and see where it goes. But don’t involve your daughter at all—introducing her, etc. or outings—until it’s clear he’s serious. We understand that as a single mom you might want more of a guarantee that the guy is serious about you, but dating is precarious. No one knows how things will turn out. And even when a guy says he loves you and wants to be with you forever, it doesn’t mean that it will turn out that way. Stop obsessing and have fun. Obviously he’s attracted to you and likes you. Just see what happens. And keep us posted. ps. Your friends may be right. Don’t make it too hard for him.

3 Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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