On my 29th birthday, a (male) friend informed me that I should amp up my dating because I needed to find someone soon. You wanna know why? Because “If you’re over 30 and have kids, you’re just desperate.” Yes, he actually said that and the worst part is that he wasn’t alone in his belief. There really are people out there thinking that all of us 30-something single moms are just running around desperately trying to trap a new baby daddy before the wrinkles set in. Of course his statement mortified me. I was already having a difficult time navigating the dreaded world of online dating and the last thing I wanted to be was desperate.
Spoiler alert: It’s not true.
As I write this, I am a 34 year-old mother of two children and I pride myself on being a strong, independent woman. I have put myself through college (with two babies in tow,) established a nice, safe career in the medical field, bought and remodeled a home in a beautiful neighborhood, found myself, courageously stepped out to chase my dreams, became a yoga teacher and I still find time for travel and self development all while taking care of myself and my children all by my damn self. I am happy and whole and I do not need a relationship to complete me. I am still online dating, though and at this point, I like to refer to myself as an expert in the field. In the years since my divorce, I have been on all the sites. I have tried all the things. I have been on more first dates than I can count and I have made up the most ridiculous excuses to turn down a second date. I have also had some success. Many friendships have come from those failed first dates, I have the absolute best “worst” date stories to tell, I have eaten tons of free meals, met a lot of interesting people and I spent almost 2 years in a beautiful relationship that showed me what it felt like to be truly loved and yet, I find myself single again. While I am more than ready to meet my soul mate, I am still not desperate.
A few weeks ago, I was on a date sitting across the dinner table from a very attractive 35 year-old man who told me that he once dated a single mom and wasn’t really interested in doing so again. I don’t fault anyone for having preferences in whom they date and I am in no way offended by his choice, but I did want to open the conversation. He mentioned all of the typical things like scheduling, time restraints, wanting to have kids of his own, but then he mentioned something that I hadn’t really thought about before. He was talking about how people who have children together are already a family and then he asked, “Where do I fit in to that if I’m not the kid’s dad?” And while I hadn’t been confronted with that question before, I knew that I could respond to him with confidence. You see, we really don’t need you. We don’t need you to take care of us or to complete us. There isn’t a gaping “you” shaped hole in our lives. We’ve really got this all under control. So we simply welcome you to join our circus. Step right up. Your presence in our lives (and ours in yours) is meant only to enhance what we already have (and what you already have.) In all honesty, you have just as much to gain from joining our family as we do.
Another spoiler alert: My children don’t need a new father.
My children already have a father who (usually) pays child support and shows up consistently and as a bonus, they were blessed beyond words with the most amazing step-mom who fights right beside me, day in and day out to create the kind of family that they deserve. You will never hear me say that my children come from a broken home; I only speak of our big, untraditional family in a positive light because I truly believe that my divorce from their father was the best thing for them and that having two (or more) happy parents will always be better than the alternative. In our family, we believe in holding a united front, in equality, in acceptance and that love can only be multiplied, never divided. Aka: The more the merrier. And despite the difficulties that I’ve experienced with my ex husband, I am proud to say that we have spent every single Christmas morning together since our separation. We have birthday parties together, dinners out together, we celebrate together, we parent together and even when we are in the middle of a nasty court battle or we’ve just said terrible things to each other on the telephone, we can still walk into a room together with our children and at that time, we’re just a family and we do it all for the kids.
Being a part of our family doesn’t mean that you’ll be assuming anyone else’s role or responsibility. It means that you’ll be joining a team. You’re signing up for awkward family dinners, conversations and photos, the strangest explanations of “how do you know them?” and sometimes, you’ll be forced to wear silly matching outfits too. A few years ago, I introduced a new boyfriend to my ex husband at my son’s Legoland birthday party. He drove the borrowed minivan full of 5 little boys, grudgingly wore one of the matching t-shirts, stood in long roller coaster lines with no other adults to speak to besides my ex husband and posed for one of our now infamous awkward family photos and none of this was out of the ordinary for us. You see, while I struggle with knowing what the “right time” to introduce my boys to potential love interests may be and while it breaks my heart for them to go through a break up with me, I have also seen how much fuller their lives are from knowing the people that have come in to our family either through relationships with me, friendships, or through their step-mom or their father’s side. They have known so much love in their short lives, so many different personalities, cultures, traditions, opinions, and experiences. They have learned acceptance and they have been loved a thousand times over. To love me and to be a part of my family doesn’t mean that you’ll be stepping into the role of a father figure, although you may someday grow into something of the sort, it simply means that you’ll be agreeing to share your life with us. All of us.
I do, however, acknowledge that it’s not all rainbows and unicorns all the time. Dating a single mom also means scheduling our dates weeks in advance, canceled plans, nights in and playground picnics over boozy brunches. It means all the germs, the tears, and the frustrations. It means holidays with my ex husband, celebrating the smallest/most mundane moments, and wearing cheesy matching outfits. But with all the things that you could be falling into in this crazy world of “dating over 30,” is that really so bad? No matter whom you ultimately meet and/or fall in love with, no one has made it through 30+ year of life without baggage, without trauma, without habits (good and bad) and I can say with absolute certainty that my big, crazy, awesome family is not the worst kind of baggage you’ll find. My kids are pretty great and their mom? She’s a catch. We have fun. We go on adventures. We do all (most) of the things that you already do, including traveling and concerts and sports. We eat all kinds of foods and we love all kinds of people and one thing you’ll never be with us is bored. So, buckle up. Dating us is a wild ride, but I promise that we have been well worth the wait.