How to get your groove back

I’ll never forget one night in the mid-80s, when my attempts at dating as a newly-single mom of a grade-schooler reached a low point. I got my daughter into bed, welcomed the babysitter, went in my room to prep for my 9 p.m. drinks-date, lay down on the bed to ponder my outfit… and the next thing I knew, the babysitter was shyly asking for a ride home. It was midnight, and I had slept right through the date.

Single parent dating has changed in some respects since then; for one thing, today I would have gotten an angry text from my date demanding to know why I was standing him up. But other things have not changed one iota.

When you’re a single parent, you are the sun and the moon in your family. Your kids depend on you for everything—from homework help to meals to driving duties to costumes for school plays. It can be exhausting. And, if you’re a good parent, you’re often a bad dater. As in, you rarely carve out the time for it, because your family comes first.

“Dating when you are exhausted from parenting is challenging,” says Ellie Slott, author of Mom, There’s a Man in the Kitchen and He’s Wearing Your Robe and Dating for Dads. “But as anyone who dates knows, a new, exciting romantic relationship infuses us with boundless energy. So go for it.”

It’s also true that you can’t parent well—or even effectively—if you’re feeling exhausted, and resentful because your own needs aren’t being met. Denying yourself social interactions can just hasten burnout. Everyone needs “me” time, which means time with sweethearts—or potential sweethearts.

Fisher recommends online dating, because “Anyone can do it, and in your PJs no less!” and points out that when you enter the dating world, there is a lot of incentive to pull your life together. “Making the decision to date means taking care of yourself, eating well, exercising and looking your best. It can really lead to a healthier lifestyle.”

As for other places to meet single parents, Fisher suggests trolling for dates at kids’ activities. “Consider an activity with your kids that includes the parents. Say a daytime haunted hayride or a children’s book reading in a local bookstore. Granted the likelihood any single person you meet will also be a parent—but who better to appreciate your exhaustion?”

Fisher also recommends, “timing your dating opportunities to coincide with your kids’ sleepovers and friends’ birthday parties.  Skip the nap you are craving; instead, fix yourself up and go on a date.”

This all sounds reasonable, but the issue is energy. How can single parents increase their mojo, so they have some left over at the end of the day for romance? Here are some tips:

Get up earlier—but not so you can start on your chores

Set your alarm for 15 minutes early. When it goes off, instead of leaping out of bed, spend some time thinking about what you’re grateful for, and the wonderful things in your life. Or write in a journal—or engage in any other activity that makes you feel centered. You’d be surprised at how it increases your energy!

Set aside at least one night a week just for you

Whether it’s for a date, for a movie, for volunteer work or time with friends, you’ve earned it. And you’ll feel refreshed afterward!

Make sure your kids get to bed at the same time every night

This is harder when they get older, but it’s impossible to carve out some quiet time in an evening at home for reading, a good movie or pursuing a hobby when your kids are lobbying (loudly) to watch Letterman.

Don’t deny yourself grooming appointments

You might feel selfish getting that pedicure rather than volunteering to bring cupcakes to the soccer game, but you’ll also feel great afterward. Twenty minutes on your own getting your feet massaged is worth 20 naps.

Instead of eating lunch at your desk, take a walk

It’s tempting to skip lunch or chow down at your desk when you’re anxious to get home to your kids. But a light meal followed by a brisk walk can be enormously renewing and recharging.

Turn shower time into spa time

You don’t need to spend a fortune at a spa to feel rejuvenated. It’s possible to get any number of fabulous aromatherapeutic products at a local natural foods store that are inexpensive and make your shower feel like a spa treatment. Turn off the noise in your mind and breathe deeply.

Tune in to the quiet

Whether you’re driving or cooking or getting dressed, the tendency is to have a radio or TV on for background noise and for quick hits of news. This is especially true while driving. Turn everything off and just be still, at least once a day, and you’ll notice your stress level decrease.

Okay, now look at your calendar, call the sitter, accept that online invitation, and put on your dancing shoes.

Featured photograph by bombardier

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Photo by  Abbie Bernet on Unsplash


Jane Ganahl is an award-winning journalist, the author of the memoir Naked on the Page: the Misadventures of My Unmarried Midlife, and editor of the anthology Single Woman of a Certain Age. She is grateful that her daughter is grown so she can stop sneaking around while dating.