Single mum, would like to meet . . .

Wed, Oct 24, 2012, 01:00

Online dating is a tricky business at the best of times. It’s even harder when there are already two people in the relationship, writes NESSA TOALE

BEING SINGLE is great. Not having to answer to anyone, never having to explain where you’ve been till 6am, dancing all night so you can’t climb the stairs the next day for pure agony. Those were the days.

Now, though, being single is a whole other ball game. It means staying in each evening while my daughter sleeps upstairs - bar one night when I'm not chained to the house.

I was single when pregnant with Beth, but never considered dating. When Beth was born, it was the last thing on my mind, but after a few months I decided to throw myself back into the dating pool.

As a single parent you have to make the most of your free time, but if you are looking for someone special, what do you do? On the few occasions I get to go out, I’d rather catch up with friends than go trawling for men. It’s challenging to find the time to date.

Late dinners or a movie when Beth is gone to bed are good options, but dating in Ireland is not easy. A good chunk of our social activities centre on drink, and trying to meet people in a pub or club is not straightforward, especially from your late 20s on.

Another choice is to go online. Having had a relationship in the past with someone I met on a dating website, I decide to sign up to another website.

None of the first few emails grabs me. I rule out the “hi, ow r u” emails: if someone can’t be bothered to write a personal email in English they aren’t right for me. I also ignore the offers of no-strings-attached “fun”, which come with the territory of online dating.

In my profile I state clearly I have a daughter. I want anyone who might be interested in me to know Beth is the most important aspect of my life. Some men stop emailing after they find this out, but if they can’t get their heads around that, they’re not for me anyway.

The next step – giving a phone number – is trickier. I prefer texting to talking at this stage, and in my texts I try to put across that Beth’s dad is very much in the picture. I don’t want to lead any guy on. I want them to have as much information about my situation before they get involved. Not only are they getting Beth and me as a package deal, but Beth’s dad is here to stay, in her life and indirectly in mine. We are in each other’s company during handovers, Christmases and birthdays. That will never change, and I’ve no time for jealous people.

One encounter leads to a date. After texting for a couple of weeks we decide to meet. We go for a drink one evening while Beth stays with her dad. It’s awkward, as first dates are, but it leads to a second date, and a third and so on. On my 30th birthday, I have a barbecue at my house, and the new man gets on with my friends. Beth also meets him briefly.

But the following week, it fizzles out. I’m still not sure why.

I take myself “off the market” for a while, hiding my profile on the dating website, but after a few months, I start seeing happy couples everywhere holding hands. The pull to find someone special is strong, and I dive back in.

I have exchanged emails and texts with other men, but no more have made it to the dating stage. The ones I become interested in live too far away. A nice guy in Dublin would be worth the travel if I was unattached, but when I have only one evening off a week, I don’t want to spend it travelling back and forth on a bus.

When I go out, there are times I meet someone nice. There may be a shared flirtation, the odd time a kiss, but I have yet to meet my next great love. If I’m going to decide to spend time away from Beth, it has to be worth it. I’m not about to start a relationship with someone just to see how things go.

As a little girl I never dreamed of a white wedding. As a teenager, I believed in love but never marriage. Since Beth, I feel I’m farther away from it than ever.

It is hard to make online dating work, and not just because I’m a single mother. There’s little romance meeting someone online: there is no spark, no shared moment when you brush past someone in a library, knocking his books to the ground, then inadvertently touch hands as you pick them up. Where’s the romance behind a computer screen?

There are people who might shy away from dating a single parent. It may seem like taking on an instant family, but any sensible single parent out there, male or female, is not going to jump into a relationship. They will take their time, make sure it’s right, and the children will not be brought into the mix until the parent is sure they have found someone special.

I don’t find being a mother puts men off. The biggest put-off for men is my age. The older I get, the less interest I get from the opposite sex. Single women over 30 are often seen as desperate to get a man to settle down with and have babies. I’m lucky in that my biological clock is not ticking. I’m in no rush to settle. I don’t want more children. I don’t want to return to sleepless nights and nappies.

The bit that scares me the most is that any new love of mine will potentially be a big part of Beth’s life too. He will have to love her unconditionally and if, after five years together we decide to split up, how would that affect her? I can get over a broken heart, but I’ll do anything to spare her that.

For the moment, it will have to be undercover dating. It is good with Beth so young; she doesn’t ask what mammy gets up to when she’s not there.

I believe there is someone out there for everyone. For me, it’s probably a neurotic artist who doesn’t own a computer. Until our chance meeting, I’ll keep my options open.

Nessa Toale blogs about single motherhood – among other subjects – at pursuitofacrawling

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