Like a widower, the mother who splits with her lover during pregnancy–or more acutely, because of it–is expected to sustain an extended season of mourning and reverence and soberness. She will be watched, her next actions weighed and measured. If she returns to the fray too soon, she is a bad mother, dodging her new role as diaperer, doter, and dairy in order to don peep-toe stilettos and hit the stroll, wielding a clutch full of condoms.

It’s tricky.

When the casual observer spots this woman with an infant, he conjures an image of domestic life for her that includes a shared bed, nightly lower back rubs, and a partner, because early on–while the baby is still dewy and wordless, while the mother is still bathed in her miraculous life-bearing aura, while the father is still awed by his heir–this is simply implied.

There is no uncomplicated way to explain the echoing loneliness, the cavernous absence, the awkward near-daily phone updates on their daughter’s development. At a time when her most intimate moments should be spent with her partner at the rail of a crib, whispering over the shared triumph of getting their colicky infant to rest, the last thing anyone suspects is that she’s calculating the appropriate time to wriggle free of her billowy blouses and pull on the form-fitting regalia attendant to getting back Out There.

Out There, with its speed dates and hookups and earnest long-term courtships, is no longer her scene–or if she is me, it never was. If she is me, she is practically hermetic, all her previous relationships casual and unconsummated, or in the case of this last, the result of happenstance, fondness, and, later, inertia. Every man she’s dated–and there have been less than a handful–was found in the places she most regularly frequents: school, work, church.

She doesn’t know how to meet them, otherwise.

Regardless, an unbidden desire to meet them has risen, like decomposing Lazarus improbably exiting his tomb.

She knows there is a link between this pining and her heart’s recently enlarged capacity for love. Love is emanating from her pores, insomuch that she runs the risk of becoming an unrepentant helicopter, hovering over her increasingly independent child, lifting her for hugs and kisses before she ever has the chance to ask for them. She needs a reservoir for the runoff; a dreamcatcher for the excess; a man who makes more sense within the context of a world that has reimagined her as someone’s mother.

And, there–there is the other rub: she is someone’s mother now. This necessarily changes everything.

 

If dating was a house of mirrors before, filled with misshapen images of herself and her possible suitors, dating with a child is a house of cards, full of false starts and toppled attempts to balance a new identity with an old one.

She will need to reconfigure her banter, curtail her nervous laughter, meet eyes and match their fervor, infuse all conversation with clarity. She can no longer be one for ambling. There is no time.

It has become apparent to her, in these twenty months she’s spent alone, that as the mother of a one-year-old, she will be treated as though she is unavailable. And in so many ways, she is. The best part of herself has been claimed, the bulk of her time accounted for.

What can she offer a prospective paramour, other than leftover love, the slivers of time per day that her daughter spends sleeping, the occasional phone call at dawn?

She must grow more.

It is impractical to desire a garden she has no space or time to tend. But what is life without the wildness of flowers, the sustenance of fruit and grain, the lushness and full spice of the herbs? And what will she do with the love overflowing these buckets, if not use it to water a series of promising seeds?

Her season of mourning has ended. A partner is not so readily implied of a mother with a toddler. Now, the wind has turned. The soil will yield to tilling.

How soon after the birth of a child do you think it’s acceptable to start dating again? Do you have any tips for newly single, new mothers? 

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  • ruggie

    I say give youself permission to go out there and find love. If you’ve so far allowed relationships to just fall into your lap, be proactive this time in finding the person you deserve. Make a list, and seek out the best.

    And not to be alarmist, but watch out for predators and child abusers…

  • Nene

    When I read this article, it made tears come to my eyes. I am the single parent to the most perfect three year old boy. His father left before he was born and never looked back. I have not been on a single date in the last four years. It’s not that I don’t want to date. Really I’m looking for something permanent which noone I have encountered is looking for anything long term. So I will remain celibate until the right person comes along. Reading the comments left on this page leaves me puzzled. Perhaps people with closed minded and ignorant responses have no children. Having a child is a very emotional thing, tying two persons together for life. Whether my son’s father ever decides to be a (visible) part of my son’s life, he will always be his father. I think that is why god instituted marriage so that parents can be there emotionally for each other. The first few months are the most emotional especially with the hormonal rollercoaster and body changes women face. We need someone in our corner emotionally. Unless you are a single parent, I don’t think you can fully understand the loneliness. Physical needs for love and companionship are only one component. Not having someone to share the work load, to commiserate over the hardships of parenting, and to laugh over the joys your child will bring. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone!

  • ms_micia

    Well first off…beautiful writing. Absolutely gorgeous. Second, as a new mommy the answer to that question is no. I don’t know other’s circumstances, but ending up a mommy with an absentee father was definitely not in the cards of what I had planned for my life. I had to take a lot of personal stock in the how’s and why’s of how I got there. And yes the man that was in my life holds a lot of the blame for my current situation, however he doesn’t hold all of it. I had to take responsibility for my participation in what was some bad decision making. And after a lot of tears and lonely nights and ones filled with anger and anguish I finally realized that I had a new life to care for and that life deserved one without it’s mother’s hang up and relationship dysfunctions playing out in his life. So after giving his and my life back to God and realigning myself with His grace…I realized there was a lot of ME I had to get together before I’d ever allow another man into my life or my son’s life. I want a husband, I want my son to have a present father figure in his life, I want a life partner to support me and share my faith and my standards. Getting “back out there” doesn’t really allow for that. Have I been hit on while bouncing my son in his Snugli or pushing his stroller, absolutely. Do I think these men have any real desire to be the type of husband and father that I deserve. Absolutely not! Folks may think I’m being too selfless by committing myself to my son and living a life devoid of a love relationship for now but my life is complicated enough. The decision to be a mom and to have my son, meant I put all my stuff to the side to be the best mom I could possibly be. And that means staving off dating until I’m in a much better place emotionally. I keep myself busy being a mom, being a great daughter and sister and friend. It is possible to go without dating even though you’re a mom and that within itself leaves you more susceptible to loneliness because of the desire to have a complete family unit not just for you but your little one as well. But it is selfish and reckless to just be dating while your a mother. It can have disastrous consequences on not just your life but your child’s as well. Just enjoy being a new mommy is my advice. All that will come when God deems it necessary.

  • ms_micia

    Well first off…beautiful writing. Absolutely gorgeous. Second, as a new mommy the answer to that question is yes it is too soon. I don’t know other’s circumstances, but ending up a mommy with an absentee father was definitely not in the cards of what I had planned for my life. I had to take a lot of personal stock in the how’s and why’s of how I got there. And yes the man that was in my life holds a lot of the blame for my current situation, however he doesn’t hold all of it. I had to take responsibility for my participation in what was some bad decision making. And after a lot of tears and lonely nights and ones filled with anger and anguish I finally realized that I had a new life to care for and that life deserved one without it’s mother’s hang up and relationship dysfunctions playing out in his life. So after giving his and my life back to God and realigning myself with His grace…I realized there was a lot of ME I had to get together before I’d ever allow another man into my life or my son’s life. I want a husband, I want my son to have a present father figure in his life, I want a life partner to support me and share my faith and my standards. Getting “back out there” doesn’t really allow for that. Have I been hit on while bouncing my son in his Snugli or pushing his stroller, absolutely. Do I think these men have any real desire to be the type of husband and father that I deserve. Absolutely not! Folks may think I’m being too selfless by committing myself to my son and living a life devoid of a love relationship for now but my life is complicated enough. The decision to be a mom and to have my son, meant I put all my stuff to the side to be the best mom I could possibly be. And that means staving off dating until I’m in a much better place emotionally. I keep myself busy being a mom, being a great daughter and sister and friend. It is possible to go without dating even though you’re a mom and that within itself leaves you more susceptible to loneliness because of the desire to have a complete family unit not just for you but your little one as well. But it is selfish and reckless to just be dating while your a mother. It can have disastrous consequences on not just your life but your child’s as well. Just enjoy being a new mommy is my advice. All that will come when God deems it necessary.

  • Kalyn

    I agree with ms_mica, beautifully written.

    Some of the comments were way harsh and terribly judgemental. Why is there anything wrong with a woman wanting companionship or longing for a partner? I don’t have children, but my friends with children describe it as a wonderful blessing, but sometimes they miss adult conversation and adult “things”. Especially my friends who either became mothers later in life and/or live miles away from family who can help with childrearing (or have older parents for whom they are also caregivers). Most women have a loving circle of friends, but those friends are also deep in their own lives/careers/families and can’t always be there in those wee small hours when the baby won’t sleep or you are worried out of your mind about ‘whatever fresh hell’ awaits you and you need someone to hold you and whisper, “it’s gonna be OK.” Or hell, maybe there is just a need to release some sexual tension. As women, we are sometimes compartmentalize ourselves and others into “mommy” or “lover” or some other single-minded label. Why can’t she be a mommy AND someone’s lover without sacrificing or cheapening her mommy-hood? Let’s not assume the worse about each other, Ladies. I would hope this author is smart enough NOT to bring Joe Anyone around her child. And for goodness’ sake…lighten up, will ya?

    • chanela

      soooo. its harsh and judgmental to say that your newborn child is more important than some man? WOW

      i could totally understand being lonely and all but come on! priorities! we tell our kids all the time “stay in those books! worry about boys/girls later!” so all of that goes out the window then you’re an adult? you would think that a single mother’s child would need all the attention and nurturing but i guess the stress of relationships and kissing frogs to find a prince is FAR more important! smh

    • fuchsia

      No one said that a man was more important than their newborn child. The author has waited 20 months and weighed her situation and found herself in need of a companion. There is nothing wrong with being honest with one’s self. Once a parent, life becomes a balancing act, and taking care of yourself physically and emotionally is just as important as caring for your child. A child needs a healthy and well balanced parent especially if that parent is single. She can have both and be successful as long as she stays thoughtful and careful about her decisions.