Dating is different when you're a single dad. There are definitely challenges, such as dealing with the emotional turmoil of divorce, the responsibility of raising children solo and keeping up with the demands of finances and your job. You are forced to wear many hats and juggle schedules -- all while attempting to look good on a date. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are approximately 13.6 million single parents in the United States today, and single-father homes are the fastest growing type of family situation. Thus, there are likely more single fathers dating today than ever before. It's easy to get lost, depressed and overwhelmed when trying to navigate these murky waters without preparation or direction. It's important to create balance among the several roles you play and stay focused on the positives of being a single parent.
Here are six things all single dads need to do when dating again:
1. Compartmentalize your life to create balance. Many single fathers describe feeling like they have split-personality disorder. Bouncing from leading a meeting as CEO of your company to playing with your son to meeting someone new for a date can be daunting. Instead of letting all of those roles blend together, take the time to cultivate each one. For instance, if you are at work, try to put most of your energy into your professional goals and think about your date afterwards. Also, make sure you have allotted some time to shake off that role before heading into the next. If you have a date right after work, allow some transition time to relax. Listen to music, talk to friends and change your outfit. Much like a costume change in a play, switching outfits is important to help you get into your new role. Avoid running from one event to another without some down time in between.
2. Embrace the benefits of being a single dad. It is easy to focus on the negatives -- the heartbreak and emotional turmoil of divorce. Instead, embrace the positives of dating the second (or third, of fourth...) time around. Many women say they actually prefer dating a divorced man with children because they are more giving, caring and know what it is like to be in a long-term relationship. They also already have children so there is less urgency, desperation and fear of a biological clock ticking.
3. Exercise the mind. Stimulate and challenge yourself mentally. Acquire a skill and learn about things you might not have been able to master when married. Discover a new career, go back to school, take classes, learn a language or read books. By doing this, you might tap into a new part of you and have more to talk about when you are on dates. Women love men who are interesting and can carry good conversations.
4. Feed the spirit. Create calmness, balance and inner peace within yourself by finding you time. As a single father, you are expected to be both mom and dad, all while having to bring home the bacon. It's important to do things for yourself and to let off steam. Join a basketball league with other dads, get a massage, take a vacation or go to a concert. Maintain old friendships and encourage new ones with other single men so that you have a social life outside of parenthood. Having a good group of friends will give you more opportunities tobe social and increase your chances of meeting women.
5. Take care of your body. Many times as a parent, you don't carve out the time or have the energy to exercise. But exercise is a great way to refocus your energy, get in shape and have that you time. Also, you'll sleep better and have more energy for your kids. If you truly can't find the time to exercise, make it a part of other activities. Run around with your kids, walk with a friend, and be sure to schedule those activities the same way you do with work and errands. You can also get into your body and out of your head by taking a salsa lesson or an improv class to regain your confidence. Remember that the majority of communication is nonverbal, which is extremely important in capturing a woman's eye. Women love men who are comfortable in their body.
6. Get a great dating image. Your date clothes should look different than your corporate and daddy clothes. Overall, your dating image should be cool, youthful, sexy and updated. Get rid of the pleated pants, college basketball shirts and acid-washed jeans. Women really pay attention to how you dress when forming a first impression. Make sure you look at your wardrobe and see if it makes the statement you want. Always go out looking your best, whether you are going to the grocery store or walking your dog. Dress in a way that makes you feel confident because you never know who you might meet.
Getting back out into the dating world as a single parent can feel overwhelming and exhausting, but try to have fun and enjoy the freedom. Think of it as an opportunity to find yourself again!
Kimberly Seltzer LCSW is a Therapist, Matchmaker, Personal Image Expert and Dating Coach at The Art of Charm.