5 Tips for Dating a Single Parent with Full Custody

A woman who's dating a single parent with full custody laughing as she wrestles in the grass with two kids.

Dating a single parent with full custody can be difficult. Don’t expect a partner who can fly away on a last minute trip or drop everything and meet you for a drink. Likely, they have to do something like chaperone a church lock-in all weekend or rush to drop one of their kids off at soccer practice.

But accepting that doesn’t mean that dating one means there won’t be any romance. Single parents know how to love, know what they want, and if you’re willing to work with them, they’ll be sure to wow you if you both end up on the same page. Plus, after some time, you’ll have a special little someone (or someones) you’ll be able to meet and love too.

Here are some tips to help you date a single parent who has full custody:

1. Expect to spend a little more time in the getting-to-know-you phase.
Single parents with sole custody have very limited time, and they don’t want to waste time (and money on a babysitter) going to meet someone they don’t think it will work out with. 

Whether you meet on a dating app or out in the wild, expect to spend more time chatting or texting before the first date. They’re going to want to feel you out, make sure you understand what you’ll be getting into, and see whether they’re interested in pursuing something further.

Take this as an opportunity to feel them out yourself. Dating a single parent with full custody can be difficult, and you want to know that you’re just as in as they are.

2. You might meet their kids sooner rather than later.
Unless your single parent partner wants to give half their monthly income to a babysitter, you might find yourself riding along to the ice cream shop with little Susie and her mom or dad when you’ve only been seeing each other for a couple of months instead of the six you thought you’d be waiting around for.

While most single parents would love to wait six months or longer before introducing you to their kids, it’s a balancing act between them wanting to see you and also being mindful of not exposing their kids to people who might disappear from their lives. Because their kids are always in the picture, it will likely mean you’ll meet them sooner than you would if you were dating a single parent with shared custody.

Let your partner decide when that will happen, make sure you also decide if it’s okay with you and what you want, and then let things happen organically with their children once you do meet.

3. Be prepared for routine and pre-planning.
Every week, your single momma or daddy partner is going to know exactly what they have to do for their kids and when they might have time for a date. Expect that you will have to work out when you will see each other. There may be weeks when you won’t be able to see each other at all because you’re likely very busy too.

Regardless, be prepared for weekly planning, and the likelihood that every Thursday or Friday will be your regular date night. If routine isn’t for you, know upfront to expect it and decide from there. 

4. Embrace date-night-ins.
Once you and your single parent partner are in a good place, embrace and be creative with date-night-ins. Once the kids are asleep, these might be perfect and more conceivable then planning big nights out.

These might seem boring and reserved for old married couples, but they can be a lot of fun and ease any worries your single parent partner may have about leaving the house every week.

Play a board or card game. Do a puzzle together. Get some good take-out and eat it by candlelight. Make dinner together. Make popcorn and watch a movie. Have a backyard picnic. Purchase a mini-golf set and make a course together in the house or backyard. Buy some paint-by-number sets and wine and get silly.

Just like a date-night-out, you’re learning more about each other, having fun, and connecting. And since those kids are going to be in the picture for a while, embracing these early will help you keep the romance going.

5. While spontaneity isn’t much of an option, embrace it when you can.
You’re going to deal with a LOT of routine and planning in a relationship with a single parent, so when you have opportunities to be spontaneous, DO IT.

Send flowers or bring food over when you know they’ve had a hard day at work. Leave a note for them telling them how much you appreciate them for them to find later. When you’ve been stuck doing the same thing every week for date night, take them to a new restaurant, an art museum, or a paintball course. Grandma decides to take the kids unexpectedly for a night? Look up hotels nearby you can stay at.

Spontaneity can be difficult, but not impossible. Every little time you do it, you’re keeping the romance alive.

If you want a deeply satisfying and mature romance, don’t look any further than a parent who isn’t going to play any games, has it together, and knows what they want. If you can embrace it for what it is, you’ll be able to change your perspective and bring in the spontaneity where you can. And if you’re lucky, you’ll be adding not just one, but multiple, amazing people into your life.

Tara Mae Mulroy

Tara Mae Mulroy is a freelance writer and blogger who focuses on relationships. She is a regular contributor on Medium as well as the author of the full-length poetry collection, Swallow, and other writing found at taramaemulroy.com.

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