How to Love a Single Mom.

Via Rebecca Lammersen
on Dec 21, 2013
get elephant's newsletter


Single mothers are a different breed.

From the outside, we may look the same as our single comrades (with no children), but the insides of our lives, minds and hearts are vastly different.

Single moms don’t have the same free will as other single women.

We have undergone massive life shifts from single-hood to married life, pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding; enduring radical changes to our bodies and minds.

We are connected; interwoven with the lives of our children. We are responsible for their well-being and daily survival. Hidden under the layers of responsibility lies our own needs, which resurface as we disengage from our identity as a married woman.

Since my separation three and half years ago, I’ve noticed a growing number of my contemporaries (in their early to mid-30s) join the force of divorcees.

Recently, several of my freshly divorced friends have confided in me about their struggles. They share the same feelings (as I did and do) of excitement, trepidation, anxiety, confusion and fear over their newborn single status.

I’ve made up for all of the years of inexperience in the dating pool, earning a rap sheet full of mistakes and heartbreaks. I still don’t understand the game of love, but I do understand my needs as a woman and mother. Some of which, I believe are universal to single mothers in my age bracket.

I wrote this piece with the intention of supporting the man interested in a woman with children. To offer him a peek inside her life, to help him understand her better.

This piece is also dedicated to all of the single mothers who will hopefully read this and know they are not alone in their needs and desires.

There are men out there who will embrace you and your children without hesitation, and they will see it as a blessing.

Here’s how to love a single mom:

1. Be patient.

Think of her as a cavewoman transported to the 21st century.

When I divorced, I felt like Brendan Fraser in Encino Man. My 19 year old self thawed in the middle of Single-town, expected to assume the role of a 31 year old eligible bachelorette with an A-game.

It was quite the opposite. I spent the entire decade of my 20s hibernating in the cave of accelerated adulthood—planning a wedding, building a home, getting pregnant, having miscarriages, getting pregnant again, breast feeding, home making and child-rearing. I missed out on the 10 years of dating and hard knock life lessons of an un-committed Gen X’er.

I had no clue how to behave or what to expect from another mate, not to mention the men I was connecting with, had no experience with a woman with children; posing another layer of complications.

My advice is to be sensitive to her single/dating immaturity. She’s only known the security of married life–all in and completely devoted. Taking it slow and playing a smooth game is not her M.O. Remember, she spent every night for years with the same person. She is a fish out of water and she will act like it.

Coddle her a bit. Make light of her ineptness and remember she’s on a learning curve—it won’t be like this forever.

2. Be consistent.

When you don’t have anyone to answer to, come home to, or care for, your schedule belongs to you. You can be as spontaneous as you want.

A woman with children can’t, nor could she even if she wanted to be. She has a schedule. Daily life is planned out because children need consistency and boundaries, and she needs to maintain her sanity.

There is meal time, bed time, a routine, a school schedule, a homework schedule, dentist appointments, doctor appointments, dance class, time with mom and time with dad.

One of the most important actions a man can take when dating or building a relationship with a woman with this cargo ship of obligation is, to be respectful of her time and her life.

The last thing she needs is to be concerned or preoccupied with, is when she will hear from you, her significant other.

It’s really simple. Call her regularly, even if it’s just to tell her you are thinking about her. Plan dates at least a few days in advance. When you acknowledge her circumstance it shows her, you care.

When the kids are with their father, spontaneity can reign, but when she’s on duty, honor her. Plan ahead.

3. Listen.

Chances are, she’s been lonely for a very long time. She hasn’t had the opportunity to share her thoughts or feelings with a partner for years. Give her your time and attention. Listen to her talk about her day—what the kids did, the good parts, the bad parts. Just by listening, you are building trust and intimacy.

Better yet, listen over dinner.

One of the loneliest moments of my days over the past few years has been dinner-time. It is a blessing to sit with my children every evening, but there is a deep ache as I set the table for three. I sit down and across from me, empty space, on either side of me, joy—bouncing legs, crumbs and buttery hands yearning to tell me about their days and I listen, but there is something missing, a partner.

Someone who’s there to listen, contribute to the conversation, and asks the questions I forget to ask, who catches the conversation like the catcher in a game, and throws the ball back to me, “How was your day?” 

As mothers, we feel forgotten, a lot. We listen and listen, but who is there to listen to us?

It is a simple action—to be silent and give attention to the object of your affection. It will mean more to her than any words could ever express.

4. Feed her with sex.

The results are in, women our age are horny.

We are in our sexual prime. Some of us haven’t had meaningful or passionate sex in years.

I’ve heard it over and over again from my friends and other women in the same boat—we need and want sex, lots of it; not with lots of people, with someone who we love and trust.

After the day is over and she’s tended to everyone else’s needs, she will want to express her sensual side and be passionate.  It is important for her to feed her needs, even if they are primal.

Emoji has nothing on the emotional forecast of a woman who has weathered a divorce. Residing under the feelings of fear and grief, relief and sadness is, liberation.

She feels free.

When we feel unsatisfied emotionally or mentally, we automatically lose our desire for sex. Most marriages live in this space.  Those who have reclaimed themselves through separation or divorce live in a sexually liberated state.

This phase won’t last forever, but while she’s in it, enjoy it.  Explore with her and feel honored she chose to explore her newfound freedom with you.

5. Follow her lead when it comes to the kids.

Allow her to decide when it’s time to meet her children, whether it is a month in or four months in to dating. She is the expert when it comes to her children.

When you do meet them, be natural, be yourself. Children are like dogs, they smell fear and they sense insincerity.

Just show up. You don’t need to buy their affection, you just need to be present, listen, participate, and be consistent with your presence.

Your job is not to play ‘Daddy.’ (My advice as an expert single mom) if she makes it your job immediately, I would highly recommend reconsidering your involvement. Your place is as her partner and lover, not as a parent, at least not until you walk down the aisle or commit to a long-term partnership.

Just remember, if you’ve met her children, it’s the sign of all signs that she sees a future with you and most importantly, she trusts you.

Although I was young when I divorced, I thought I might be in for a long life of tables for one. I figured I’d be written off as damaged goods or heavy baggage. My motto for a while came in the form of a self deprecating question, “Who would want me now?”

The rejection of divorce can hold its breath for years; it has only recently drowned for me.

I think the best piece of advice I can give is, give it time. If you just divorced, give yourself some time to be alone before you begin a relationship. If you are a man interested in a single mom, allow her space to heal before you become involved. It will only improve the well being of your relationship in the future. Be her friend first. You will instinctively know when she’s ready and when she is, love her all the way.


*Author’s note: This article is written from the perspective of a single mother, however there are many single fathers for who this applies.

By Rebecca Lammersen




The Best Marriage Advice from a Divorced Man.

Raising Children as a Single Parent.

Single Mom Seeking Stillness. 



Author: Rebecca Lammersen

Editor: Bryonie Wise


About Rebecca Lammersen

Rebecca Lammersen is the founder of Yogalution, an intimate, boutique style yoga studio in Scottsdale, AZ. I love being alive. I love being a mother. I love teaching yoga. I love to write. I love to know. I love to not know. I love to learn. I love to listen. I love to read. I love to swim. I love to travel. I love to dance. I love to help. I love to serve. That pretty much sums me up. For daily inspirations, check out Rebecca's website. Visit her yoga studio website and peruse her articles at The Huffington Post. You can also find her on Facebook. Subscribe to Rebecca's feed and never miss a post!


39 Responses to “How to Love a Single Mom.”

  1. Alicia says:

    I couldn’t have said it better myself.

  2. You beautiful woman. You are amazing.

  3. Ashlee says:

    I appreciate you sharing your experience, and i know many single mothers will relate. however, I think it’s worth recognizing that not all single mothers are not coming from divorce. Many have never been married.

  4. L says:

    I cried…I am not alone…:-)

  5. Neelam says:

    Beautiful!Just how my life is ! I have kept away from the dating scene because it seems so much of hard work, in my already full life. It has been just work, house stuff and my child. There seems to be no room for anything else. I have given up on love and the idea of it.

  6. Thank you Alicia! Happy Holidays, Rebecca

  7. Ashlee I completely recognize that, and deeply admire the women who have done it alone the entire time. I bow to you <3

  8. Eira says:

    I may not be a single mom, but I was raised by one, and I have many near and dear friends who are. I thought this was a wonderful, clear-cut article of advice. God bless all of you wonderful single moms out there! Y'all are amazing!

  9. genext13 says:

    I grew up with a single mom. I appreciate and empathize with single moms. I love you all.

  10. Eric says:

    As a single dad this article is very helpful in understanding the unique needs of a single woman. Well done!

  11. This is really good, thank you. As a newly divorced single mom with full custody of 6 children (their dad walked away and gave up all visitation with them) I am torn between people telling me I should be out there dating and people telling me it's going to be hard to find a guy willing to take on 6 kids. Well, thanks but when I'm ready to date any guy not willing to date me because I don't ever have a kid free weekend just won't be the right guy for me then! Although I'm not dating now, your post is a nice reminder that many other single moms are out there and it is possible.

  12. Lara says:

    Oh my gosh, I am so glad I am not alone. So so freeing to be divorced but lonely and a bit scary as well…Thanks for this article.

  13. Mike says:

    I wish i read this 2 years ago… I love her so much but it's been a struggle…thank you for this

  14. Nancy says:

    I, too have kept away from the dating scene. After the ordeal of living with my ex-husband I have absolutely no desire to have anyone have any claim on my free time or disrupt my interactions with and care of my children. Also, when you have a significant other you lose your freedom to spend time with important friends. But there's no reason to give up on love; just put it on hold. Because someday your child will be an adult, and while he or she will still be the most important person in your life, your life will once again belong to YOU. Then love may fit in. Or it may not, if you don't want it to. But you will have more choices then.

  15. Jenna B. Wiser says:

    Thank you Rebecca for sharing with us. My how I can relate. The best thing I can do is share my story. Sharing is caring!! Ready?? Here goes: I have always been lucky in love. Lucky to have any option, decide who I want, had men treat me like a queen. (No daddy or need to fix someone issues here). I have been lucky to have found love ten times in my life. (I counted:) In each of those ten relationships where I love you’s were shared, I was the one who ended it every time. Most of the time because I saw their genuine love for me, yet I never could fully reciprocate those feelings for them. Even though some of these men treated me awesome, I knew deep down they deserved someone who felt it back and that someone was not me. Now I find myself ending a marriage. As I reflect back I realize it wasn’t healthy even when we were dating. But I was tired of being single so I settled for close enough. You see I’m a little headstrong (ok maybe a lot) and I remember my intuition screaming to me when we were dating to walk away but my head said no. I can make this work.

    Four score and three months ago I was on a business trip. I felt so free to be away from the controlling nature of my spouse and purely wanted to have fun. That’s when it happened. That’s when my life changed. I looked into this mans eyes and I swear I could see his soul. It was like a spark of flames lit his eyes when he looked at me. I was wasted and I still saw it. My whole life that has NEVER happened to me. I have never told anyone in my past they were my soulmate but I’m telling you this man is. He is freaking AWESOME!!! So what do I do?? I fight the feelings. For months, because well I’m headstrong and it took me awhile to be 100% honest with those feelings. Those wonderful true feelings and a spark that I have wanted my whole life and never found in anyone until now. So now I prepare to end number ten I love you. I must be fully free for number eleven. My soulmate. My other half. The one I have searched for my whole life. Can’t wait to fully experience everything about him and rock his world to the core!!!

    So hang in there Rebecca. And remember not to settle because your other half is looking for you too!

  16. Michele says:

    You nailed it – wow, so good to see my life, and feelings, articulated so well! And for the record, these words are just as true for a woman at 50 (all of them) as in her 30s. Although I may add another layer: somewhere, deep inside, a layer of 'time is running out'. Not true, I know, but feelings don't have to be so.

  17. aliza says:

    When I was a single mom I had a different attitude. I put a lot of effort into girlfriends. Especially with women who were happily married. I wanted to be in that frame of mind – not to dwell on singlehood. I wouldn't call my friends when their husbands were home, but that was where the differences stopped. Otherwise we were both mothers and good friends with a lot in common. I never imagined that a man, even a dedicated husband, could be as much of an emotional support giver as a close girlfriend.
    At night I kept busy until I was totally, totally exhausted. When my head finally hit the pillow I was asleep almost immediately. For those few minutes when I was awake, I prepared ideas to think about so my mind would not wander to make me miss what I didn't have. This of course is for all single women – not just single mothers. We all have our ways of dealing with it.
    The years I suffered in a failing marriage, I learned to how to make the best of a difficult situation. And when I was single – it was even easier to make the best of it. I knew I was lucky to have children and I concentrated on being a dedicated mother – not a single mother – just a dedicated mother.

  18. Amy says:

    Not all single moms started out as wives first. I sure didn’t.

    I still felt like Brendan Fraser in Encino Man when it came to dating. I spoke a different language than my ‘peers’.

    As for spontaneity……well, there we differ a bit. As a single mom I loved the autonomy of being a single parent. If I wanted to take my kids to have a picnic dinner at the beach on a school night I could. And I did. I didn’t have to answer to anyone else. Of course, this was rare and dependent on our regular responsibilities and homework time and we never skipped school…but that rarity is what made it special for them. I loved being able to do that as a single parent. No negotiating: just action. So here, for someone who’s interested in a single mom, I think it’s great to encourage spontaneity. Provide opportunities for it. We need it! But please don’t be attached to the outcome, some days it’ll be a no.

    Yes, please be consistent in your communication. I think every woman wants that.

    Yes listen and be patient. For single moms who weren’t wives first, this might be a totally new experience. Hence, the need for patience…we’re use to those one sided conversations with out children. We will often answer your question with a distracted answer about our kids…be patient and ask again. And again if need be. It will take time, but her personal answer will come.

    Yes, I dare say all women in this age group need sex, lots of it.

    Definitely follow her lead with the kids. Never married single moms have never had to negotiate/discuss rewards or consequences for her kids. She’s also been able to apologize at the drop of a hat if she feels made a mistake as a parent. So leave her room, follow her lead and admire the strength it takes to do all of this. These skills will translate into your relationship. And definitely run if she immediately places you in the role of dad to her kids.

    yes, divorced or not, single moms often struggle with feeling like ‘damaged goods’.

  19. Eric says:

    Great advice. Goes for single dads as well. Some of us actually have 50%, or more, of our childrens' time and it's a big adjustment.

    #6 Have your life reasonably together. She (he) already has an "ex" to deal with; child or children that count on them; and they're not looking for another dependent.

  20. spitfire6 says:

    Nicely put & I am a single, never-married mom.

  21. Jennifer says:

    Amazing and EXACTLY how I feel about my last 2 relationships… I am allowing myself to settle because I found someone to love me and my "baggage"… even though I know I am genuinely not able to love them completely like they love me. I am trying to figure out how to "end" this current relationship. I had dated my ex-husband since I was 16 and now at age 31 it is all foreign to me on how to date, break-up, etc…. But I know that the longer I remain in a relationship that I know in my heart I shouldn't stay in, my other 1/2 may be out there looking for me and I may miss the opportunity. Thank you for sharing your story and I hope I can find the courage to walk away from this relationship… even though I know how much he AND my kids will be hurt by it.

  22. @karpisek says:

    I'm fourth year in a relationship with a single mom raising 10year old daughter. I struggle for my own kid…we had to wait because of her spine surgery…hard. Sometimes it's very difficult for me that I am not a dad. To deal with the fact I am not Daddy, but just the taxi driver…fairy-tales downloader, baby sitter. May love and strength to love come in all beings lives… Happy New Year.

  23. Thera says:

    Agreed 🙂 Some only know single motherhood and…some have their children 100% of the time 🙂

  24. Christine says:

    Although this was so beautifully written as a gentle tutorial for those that are open-minded enough to consider a relationship with a single mother, I wanted to thank you as single mother. Your words did so much to validate my largest fears and insecurities about being a single mom. This ‘purgatory’ space in which I felt I resided has made me rethink all the labels (volunteer, wife, mom) and their relevance in my current life. I wish I had read these words sooner as I might’ve felt more comfortable with myself and my life while realizing that the labels that I so steadfastly clung to were merely generalizations and not definitions of who I am or my self-worth. Thank you so much for sharing.

  25. marcy says:

    I cried. Yes, to all of them, but for me there’s more that goes into the being patient phase. My past relationships have been troublesome. My ex was emotionally abusive and I was a wreck by the time we divorced. I’ve since proudly rebuilt myself and claimed my power, but continue to deal with my exposure to him (shared custody) and the insecurities that can raise even if there’s no communication. -my brain knows what he thinks of me.

    After divorce I tried every approach to singlehood, the uncommitted and liberal stuck for a while and it felt safe. Then i landed me in another unhealthy and oppressive relationship born out of partying and drinking and being fun.

    If I was already hesitant of going into that relationship and didn’t heed my own intuition, now I am even more dealing with the fear of failur, the high stakes for myself and my children, and the fear of loosing myself in giving to someone else and put myself last, as I am apt to do in my relationships.

    Being coddled and having someone be patient might not cut it. I will need dedication, safety and constant reassurance. I will prod you poke you and test you, turn you sideways and weigh your reactions. I will trash against the feelings that will rise up as I begin to like you, and expect a steady hand to calm the anxiety down. I’m done avoiding monogamy for the sake of a night or a few nights of fun, in order to get to know myself deeper work through my closed heart and enjoy all: myself, the world, my yoga and my kids. So if you come, I will expect much, and you must have faith, that the glimmer you see is a bright flame, that may only be entrusted once I feel safe.

  26. Eboni says:

    Thank you for this article! Even though it is geared towards men a single mother of 3 I got so much from this. It gave me hope! Beautifully written & great advice. God bless!

  27. karmasutured says:

    I am so grateful to have stumbled across this article. As a single mom myself, this one really landed. Not only do I want to share it with the man I am dating, but with all my single-parent friends. Dating is hard enough, combining it with parenting is a whole new story.

  28. Gineen says:

    Thank you so much for this beautifully written piece. Especially on a night I’ve been feeling particularly lonely, this validated everything I have been feeling. My ex left me for his affair partner when I was 27 and our. Daughter was 6 months old. I am now 35 and still single with some half-assed ” relationships” in between . Being a young divorcee and a single mother can be very lonely, even when surrounded by the best friends and family.

    I hope to find a man who can understand all you have said.

  29. Lori Bryant says:

    This goes for those of us who have lost our husbands through death. Those feelings are exactly mine. It is good to know I am not the only one. My son is almost grown so I don’t have so much demand on my time, but still he IS the priority. Even though my spouse died, he dropped a bomb shell on me two weeks before his passing that would have had me walking out the door 7 years earlier. I am 51(talk about scary!!) I was a caregiver to my mother for 5 years and then my husband for two. I hadn’t taken care of myself at all. Proud to say I am down 25 pounds, I walk and excersize everyday, I juice and I take care of me. I was a nervous wreck the first time I dated after my husbands passing . And I wasn’t to this point yet. Had to remember what it was like to put makeup on the right way, fix my hair, find clothes that didn’t look like they came out of the grab bag. It has been well worth it. I feel great now and I am never going back to the way it was before. Thank you for writing this article. It was very very accurate, and very very good.

  30. Mama Bear says:

    This was a great read. I was a single mom for 3 years, and best friends with my husband for almost all 3 years. If this post didn’t have a date on it, I’d swear my husband read it! Having been friends in high school we reconnected in 2003, he was shocked to hear I had been married, had a child, and divorced. We began talking every night, we would share stories about our latest dates, give advice and just listen. This went on for about a year and a half until one night we looked at each other. .. something felt different, and we kissed. It was really awkward, and our noses kept hitting, yet I was so comfortable.

    *I completely reject the idea of soul mates and other halves.

  31. Sicora says:

    Thank you-Thank you! I cannot express my in words my deep appreciation for this article! I was married for 14-1/2 years, kept the house my 18 yr old step-son, 15 yr old son and 8 yr old daughter all live with me. Their my priority indeed have and always will be. Doing things alone now as a divorcee feels very lonely! My emediant family all live in FL (all moved before my divorce) were from MI & is where I reside. Dr. appointment I don’t have an emergency contact whom knows my wishes etc.
    I had a panicked fearful thought I will never find another love again. All of my friends are married, etc I know it will all work out though totally helps knowing I’m not alone!!
    Thank you

  32. Kristin says:

    This was really dead on. It would be nice to see a little more input on the single mothers who have not been married. More and more are women having children before marriage as it is not as frowned upon as it use to be. I think we go through the same thing for the most part, but I wonder how much difference it makes. My daughter is now 6. Her father and I are courteous and get along, but he also lives a couple hours away and gets her every other weekend. We were not together at the time or long before. (or ever again for that matter) I too have always thought to myself, who would want a single mother. I was only 24 when I had her. Guys at that age are just not into women with children. (specially when you live in a college town) I have not had one date since I had her. Where my taste in men had failed, I vowed never to settle again, and to know what I wanted before I went after it. I did spend quite sometime figuring out who this new person i had become was. What I really liked, the new strength that I had acquired, and finally what type of man I wanted to complete my family. I watched as my other family members flew into marriages, had children, divorced and remarried quite quickly. I also saw how unhappy they were. That's not what I wanted. I still don't. I am still single and it is very hard to raise a now school aged child all on my own. I worked hard to be able to provide my daughter with our own home, fun, food, clothes, and time together as I also work 2 jobs, get her to dance practice, and what ever new thing she wants to do. I'm lucky to have my mother near by to help when there is no one left to help take care of her when I absolutely have no choice. (specially with my recent surgery and another coming up)
    As a divorced single mother, you had a start with a family. I don't know if having a family to begin with is harder when broken apart, but as a single mother from the beginning, it is very difficult to find a person that you feel will be able to complete that partnership with faith that they will love and understand the bond between mother and child who have only known and depended on each other. I personally fear that I couldn't find a person who would understand the way our lives have gone until that point, that my daughter will always come first, because she was first, and my rock. I have become strict with my values of a partner. Someone to take us as a whole, not me with a side of daughter. Not only that but will also love her as his own, and as his family, and not just my daughter. As much as I have always wanted that family, I also know that with my daughter, she is all I need if I never find that one. (but wouldn't it be nice to marry and have just one more….) I do wish all men could read this. They deserve to know just what it takes for us.

  33. katye says:

    Yes, entirely. Having children 100% of the time, maybe never having a partner, puts an entirely different spin on this. not all moms are aware and wait until they trust a man to step in. Sometimes they are so desperate for help, love, to cure the loneliness, that they invite someone in too soon. So, I think your line about "playing Daddy" too soon is important to stay aware of. And I love the reminder that I ought not be thinking about when my partner is going to call- I definitely need them to show up instead of taking extra energy with wondering.thanks!

  34. April says:

    If your children have a parent that they go to on the weekends…you are not a single parent. Being “single” and a being a parent do not make you a “single parent”

  35. Sophia says:

    Single parenting is hard, whether it's by divorce or any other means. It's a job I didn't realize I loved so much until just recently. Divorcing in my 50s after a 22-year marriage with young teens, I truly went through the "who would want me now" phase, and sometimes I still do. Most men my age have already raised their children and just aren't interested in getting involved with another round of teenage years. Divorcing was the toughest but the best decision I'd ever made, and although I get lonely (a lot), my life is full, and I'm grateful for where I am. If a man chooses to enter my life, he will not be filling any gaps but would be a bonus instead.

  36. Matty says:

    Hi, really understanding your own part in not meeting your partners needs is a painful experience but allowed me to become a better person and I hope, partner in future. What I wanted to ask is why a genuine change from your ex husband/bf rarely results in a new relationship together? The lessons on how to manage relationships only seem to come following that first awful break up but genuine second chances seem so rare and are not desireable in most instances it seems?

Leave a Reply