The thing about dating when you're a single parent is that it's such a kerfuffle!
I mean, dating in itself is a pain in the bum - you get dressed up, you put on your best smiley face and basically make like you're having a job interview for an hour or so - presenting your best self, smoothing over the parts best avoided in a first meeting.
But when you're a single parent, there's a whole new level of "argh" - not only do you need to arrange a reliable baby sitter, but you also have vet your date not just in terms of whether you think you could get on with them, but whether your child or children could get on with them. And that is a massive question.
On the one hand, you don't want a never ending parade of random men coming through your child's life; on the other though, you don't want to bother starting something with someone who doesn't get on with your child.
And then there is the question of children - if they have their own, will they have a different style of parenting, will their children get on with yours? If they don't have children, are they looking for someone to have children with (and do you want more children); are they even interested in a "ready made" family?
In ye olden days, pre-child, you could just go on a date with someone, carefree and without worrying about these things - you could just have fun and worry about whether they were "partner material" at some undetermined point down the road, if and when it got to that sort of point. Once you have a child, their happiness comes before everything else - so even if you don't ever introduce them to your child until you're sure they're worth the effort, there's no point in getting to the point where you're sure about them, if you then find that your child hates them.
I have been in the situation myself, where you're an older child and a new partner turns up who you hate, but is there to stay - and you never get over that feeling, that someone else has been chosen over you, by the one person who you feel should never choose anyone else over you. That feeling haunts my nightmares as something I would never, ever want to subject S to.
I went on a date the other day (shh, don't tell anyone!) and it was really scary. Having been largely confined to the house in the evenings for some time now, I had nothing to wear. Heck, even brushing my hair is a bit of a novelty these days! And then, once I'd sorted a babysitter and dug out the mascara, I had to actually go and meet the bloke. Terrifying. Well... actually, I'd met him on a dating website a few weeks previously, and we'd been chatting so it wasn't that bad. We already knew a fair bit about each other so didn't have to do that whole "so..." business. Well, I'd be lying if I said there wasn't a little bit of the old "so..." but it wasn't as bad as one of those dates where you have to just start from scratch with who you are.
These days, I work from home and don't have much occasion to leave the house (that sounds worse than it is, honest). When I'm not working, I'm looking after S and my mind is far from the idea of getting a date. So I'm thinking at the moment that internet dating is probably the way forward at the moment. You can do the whole "getting to know you" bit without investing too much in it, kind of like skipping the first few dates. And then you only meet the ones you get on with - and therefore need less of your babysitter's time. In theory.
If any of my lovely readers have experience of dating as a single parent, please do get in touch. I'm interested to hear how other single parents have dealt with this sort of thing.