Ask Mary Jo: Dating as a single mom & being a good parent

Hi Mary Jo,

What advice do you have for single moms who are just getting back into the dating scene?

Before you begin dating, get in touch with the real reasons you want to begin dating. Maybe you want new adventures or excitement, or you think dating will rebuild your self-esteem and confidence. These are all good reasons, but there are unhealthy reasons people begin dating, too. If you feel like you NEED someone to validate your life, help you financially, or take care of you, those are all the wrong reasons to begin dating. If you are emotionally ready and you’ve taken responsibility for the mistakes you made in the past with relationships, here are suggestions to guide you forward.

  1. Be open to small opportunities to meet someone. The grocery store, the coffee shop, and the book store are great places to casually talk and not feel pressure.
  2. Don’t share your struggles as a single mom. Conversations where you talk about the difficulty of single parenting should be shared with your therapist and closest friend. Keep the dating conversations on a lighter note and strive to learn more about your date. When it gets serious is when you can talk about the more serious stuff.
  3. Don’t talk badly about your ex. When you talk about past bad relationships, it brings out looks of disgust, frustration, and sadness on your face. It also reveals to a potential date that you aren’t ready to begin a new relationship.
  4. Be yourself. It’s cliché, but your intention should be, “This is the real me. If they don’t like it, they aren’t the one for me.” If you’re meeting someone, keep it simple. If you spend too much time trying to look and be perfect, your date may be confused when they see you on a day-to-day basis.
  5. Be realistic with expectations. One date does not make them “the one,” no matter how charming or attractive they are. Your children will always come first to dating, and your job as a mom is to live your life and enjoy it while protecting your children. Take your time; there is no rush. Love is patient and it waits. If a date sounds and looks too good to be true, trust your gut and proceed with caution.  

Hi Mary Jo,

I’m a single mom of three teenage children. I continually ask myself if I am a “good enough” parent. How do you know if you’re good enough?



You don’t have to be a single mom to understand that feeling guilty and being a mom go together. Everyone makes mistakes in parenting; you aren’t alone. It is always better to remain open to learning more effective practices than to be overconfident in your parenting skills. Below are qualities that child development experts use as markers for emotionally well-adjusted children. Practicing these will help you feel “good enough:”

  1. You let your child fail without rushing in to fix it. Teaching your children perseverance and the value of hard work happens when parents allow their children to make mistakes. Don’t forget to later talk about the experience and lesson learned. 
  2. You’ve given up a bad habit because you know your kids are watching and will imitate you. Parents who change their bad habits (e.g. smoking, overeating, cussing, and texting while driving) raise children who pay attention and are more sensitive to these issues (it may not happen in their teen years though).
  3. Your kids have different interests than you. Healthy children feel free to explore and be involved in interests their parents are not.
  4. You have regular family meals with devices turned off. One of the strongest predictors of children’s emotional wellness within the family are scheduled routine family dinners.
  5. You’ve made mistakes and apologized to your children. Children learn to be resilient and more compassionate with other and themselves when parents admit to making mistakes and apologize to their children.

During the teen years, hearing your child complain about the rules or saying they “hate you” is probably a sign that you are maintaining strong boundaries and following through with consequences for breaking rules. That is an incredibly important part of being a good enough parent. Bravo!