True Parent 2
Being a single parent sucks.
I’ve consulted with my friends who are also single parents, and we’ve all come to the unanimous decision that raising your kids alone truly does, in fact, suck. Unfortunately, the only thing freeing you from the terrors of single parenting is not being single anymore. And do you know what sucks worse than being a single parent? Well, that would be dating.
When I was 16, I met my daughter’s dad while hanging out at the mall. Now, at the age of 30 with two kids and a full-time job, the only thing I have time to get at the mall are cardigans, and the only men hollering at me are trying to sell me a hair straightener.
Honestly, there aren’t many options available—what with the time constraints that come with raising your family solo and your social network slowly dwindling down to the guy who rings up your bottle of wine at Walgreens. . . and the other guy who rings up your bottle of wine at Walgreens.
Fortunately, the internet was created and led us to the glory that is “online dating.” I discovered that every person I knew was online dating, and the only couple I know that hadn’t met on the internet found each other at a Civil War reenactment (though they lie and say they met online).
When I first activated my dating account, IT WAS EXCITING! There I was, bravely jumping into the dating pool, and to my surprise, it was FUN. So many options! A whole website filled with people eager to take me out and watch me eat, despite what I considered my “baggage.”
I swiped left and right so full of hope and optimism; swiping so much that my index finger got tired and calloused. I handed the phone over to my kids in a fun game I like to call “Choose your new father while I make mac ’n’ cheese for dinner again.”
Dating, I quickly realized, is a lot like Christmas. Not the one where you got the bike you’d always wanted, but the Christmas when all you wanted was a Snoopy doll and you woke up Christmas morning, ran to the piles of presents, straight for the first Snoopy doll-shaped box you saw, ripped off the wrapping paper, and discovered a 40-year-old male with spinal meningitis still living with his mother.
I wasted too many precious and rare kid-free evenings listening to someone talk about how their band is an “esoteric mix between electronica, jazz, and contemporary country,” all while sharing a plate of gravy fries that I paid for.
I went on so many bad dates that I perfected the art of escaping dates. The most successful means of escape is to hand the date a Frisbee and ask him to toss it to me. But instead of catching it, I just keep on running as fast as I can, never looking back.
But you know what? As terrible as dating is, the best part about having to do it is as a parent is that it forces you to raise the expectations of what you’re looking for in a partner. Gone are your days of cute food court employees. You’re not looking for just a fun time anymore, even if you checked that “just looking for friends” box.
Perhaps you think that a nice Saturday night slam piece is all you need. Maybe it is for a while, and that’s fine. But ultimately, in the back of your head, you’re also sizing up every date, wondering if they are the person that will help you run your small mundane nonprofit of a household.
It takes time to filter through the garbage, and some days you give up completely, deleting your perfectly crafted profile and lying in bed trying to figure out exactly how many Chicken McNuggets it would take to make a replica of an adult human to keep you warm at night.
Though if there’s one thing raising my kids has taught me, it’s that it’s okay to take a break—to take a time out and just cry. But eventually? Get back out there. Because there are good people out there, the kind who make you want to leave your Frisbee at home.
Amber Strommer is raising her precocious children singlehandedly while working full-time. In her spare moments, Ms. Strommer is changing the face of comedy and art.