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Are dating apps the way for single mums?

Updated on: 20 May,2024 09:23 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Anindita Paul |

A survey revealed that single Indian mothers prefer dating apps to seek companionship, drawn by the promise of a lack of judgment, authenticity and a long vetting process. We spoke to those in the know to learn more

Are dating apps the way for single mums?

Online dating can be difficult for single mothers, and makes it important to safeguard their self-esteem

To this day, dating as a single mother isn’t easy — in addition to the practical considerations of eking out me-time after balancing childcare and professional obligations, most single mothers still grapple with the judgment and stigma that’s associated with them seeking love. So, when we came across a recent survey published by a dating and matchmaking app (QuackQuack) which claimed that 46 per cent of single mothers find dating apps the most non-judgmental platform for exploring genuine companionship, we were all ears. Can dating platforms offer single mothers the safety, legitimacy and discretion they seek when navigating the world of dating and relationships? 

Issues with full disclosure

The survey, which was conducted on Mother’s Day, and covered 4,000 single moms between 28 to 45 years of age, from various walks of life, went on to list authenticity as the top reason why dating apps work better for them as compared to other alternatives. In that, participants claimed that the ability to disclose their status as single parents upfront was liberating, without having to wait for the ‘right time’ to make that all-important disclosure. However, the single mothers we approached to corroborate this view had a differing opinion of what the dating app experience for them is like. “Most men respond to this bit of information in one of two ways — some believe that it is their moral responsibility to take care of our needs from the get-go, which can be quite stifling. Others perceive us as being especially vulnerable, and hence try to play us or even con us. It’s extremely difficult to gauge how genuine they are, when you interact with them virtually,” says 40-year-old JB, an HR professional who requested to be identified by her initials only. She adds that having men reprimand her for seeking a committed relationship on a dating app (she claims that they directed her to a matrimonial platform instead) and the inability to trust her matches’ true intentions led her to declare dating apps a waste of time and swear off them completely.

Have an open conversation with your children on their feelings about you dating. Representation Pics
Have an open conversation with your children on their feelings about you dating. Representation Pics

In the case of 46-year-old Sonal (name changed on request), her experience was also marred by the lack of authenticity. “Over time, I learned to weed out the married men who were lying for the sake of a casual fling and single men who were only interested in sex. I was always very cautious and picky, and I barely met anyone from the app in real life,” the entrepreneur says. She notes that while women tend to be much more accepting of single fathers, the same isn’t necessarily reciprocated by men: “I was dismayed to find that many men upped and vanished when I told them I was a single mother, while many others didn’t really care, and this was the case irrespective of whether I was talking to a single dad or a single man.”

Some pros, many cons

“The reason I decided to try a dating app was because I wanted to take my time. Matrimonial websites are too overwhelming, and families become involved very early in the process. After a failed relationship, I have become particularly cautious. I like to get to know my prospective partner first, but whether in the case of apps or in the real world, it’s slim pickings,” shares 40-year-old entrepreneur Ritu. She comments that while single mothers are typically upfront about their status, single fathers often withhold this information. Even when they do, they tend to prefer single women. Sonal notes that even for women like her, who approach apps in a moment of vulnerability and for some external validation, the largely negative experiences leave a bad taste.

When dating, single mothers should set clear boundaries and take their time
When dating, single mothers should set clear boundaries and take their time 

Taylor Elizabeth, an emotional intelligence coach, says that dating as a single mother can be both exhilarating and daunting. She, and counselling psychologist Namrata Jain, lay down certain guidelines to help single mothers navigate the online dating space.

Take your time 

“Do not rush into dating if you are not ready — it may take days, months or even years, post heart break or divorce. Spend enough time with yourself until you are comfortable with being alone. Reconnecting with your inner self lets you understand yourself on a much deeper level,” says Jain. Similarly, be selective about who you choose to associate with. “Single mothers should have the mindset that dating you, and getting to know your children one day, is a privilege and not the other way around. Never be bogged down with the question of ‘Who would want to date a single mother?’” she emphasises.

Taylor Elizabeth
Taylor Elizabeth

Be upfront

“Use your profile to explicitly state who you are and what you want. This betters your chances of finding that special someone who embraces you for you. This simple step will save you time and heartbreak as it will help you avoid connecting with individuals who are not interested in dating single parents or having the type of relationship you are searching for,” says Elizabeth. 

Set clear boundaries

Boundaries are an act of self-protection. Take time to think about what type of relationship you want; how much you want to share about your situation; the pace of the relationship, what types of conversations you want to have (or don’t want to have), and so forth. Make a vow to keep these boundaries, Elizabeth advises. She clarifies that although single mums can be flexible with their preferences, they must always be comfortable expressing what they want and are comfortable with in an online dating setting. Jain feels it’s best that single mothers don’t introduce dates to their children until the couple is seriously involved. “Your children may get attached and will get hurt if the relationship doesn’t work out. Also have an open conversation with your children about the possibility of falling in love with someone and encourage them to be open to you about their feelings,” she says.

Trust your intuition 

“As women and mothers, intuition is a powerful tool. If something doesn’t feel right, trust your gut. It’s better to be cautious and take a step back than to rush into a situation that doesn’t feel right. Just as time heals all wounds and tempers disappointments, it can also allow for a clearer perspective,” Elizabeth advises.

Always safeguard your self-esteem

Dating can lead to emotional highs and lows, with rejection sometimes impacting your self-esteem. Elizabeth says, “Remember that rejection is not a reflection of your intrinsic value; it simply means the match wasn’t right. To embrace this mindset, treat each interaction as a learning experience about dating and what you are looking for. Reflect on each interaction by looking for clues on what went well and what didn’t, using this knowledge to grow in your understanding of yourself and what you want in a partner.” Jain adds, “Online dating sites can be ruthless to single mothers. The lack of responses, ghosting or even negative responses on these apps may start affecting your self confidence. To protect your emotional well-being, it’s important to seek support from friends and family who love and support you. These connections can serve as an important reminder of your own self-worth.”

When you get on dating apps

Green flags:
>> They are flexible and adaptive to change: Being a single mother can lead to changes in your schedule with last minute projects, illnesses, and the need for attention from your children.
>> They give you space to progress in your relationship and are empathetic.
>> They are upfront about their intentions. 
>> Their actions and words match.
>> They regard you as an entire person, beyond being a parent.

Red flags:
>> They refer to your children as ‘baggage from the past’.
>> They refer to your family as broken and believe it can be completed with their presence. 
>> They withhold important information intentionally with the fear of being judged.
>> They show a keenness to meet your kids too early while dating.
>> They repeatedly offer parenting advice without understanding your family’s dynamics.

As shared by Namrata Jain

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