• Nicola Prentis has been a single mom to two sons for five years. 
  • When she started dating, she found herself to be too judgmental toward single dads.
  • She has quit using dating apps and only seeks out non-fathers.

"I was away for a month, home for a month," he said on our first off-the-app coffee date, recounting the end of his marriage. He was a nice guy, in good shape, and attractive. But he had kids and the judgmental words flew out of my mouth before I could think to soften them: "How was that conducive to fatherhood and a relationship?"

I couldn't stop myself from judging single dads. My ex had also been away with work all the time, leaving me to do the lion's share of raising our two young children. I'd had to adjust my life and work around his work.

It was clear I could never see this guy again. This date was bringing up resentment on behalf of a woman I'd never even met. I ignored his texts to meet up again.

Then there was another guy I got on well with. He was chatty and fun. But he had a daughter who he had 50-50 custody of and saw himself as the stable, less chaotic parent who had clear routines.

Maybe it was true. But I couldn't see beyond the things my ex probably said about me in our custody situation. At the time, I was fighting against losing 50% of my time with my children, and it stirred up panic and loss for me. I never had a second date with that guy either.

Even a single dad who'd moved four hours away from his children and only saw them during school holidays wasn't right for me. What kind of father moves that far away from his kids?

Men with children couldn't win. If they had equal custody, I felt like they were the enemy because I didn't want to think about my own sons being taken away from me. If they spent less time with their children, I had a negative reaction to that too.

The author stopped using dating apps and now only dates men she already knows. Foto: honeyhousephotography.com

I started dating men without children

The answer has been to date men without children, which I've found to be easier, as I only have time to date when my children are with their father. I'm not looking for someone to be a father to my children. I have no desire to mix my two worlds.

But navigating dating apps as a single mother was tricky at first. If the app didn't require me to mention my children, I didn't. Instead, I would bring it up only when it was relevant, which sometimes meant I never heard from them again.

So I tried not mentioning kids at all to see if that worked better. But it was weird and uncomfortable as my story just didn't add up. Why was I living in a city where I didn't have many friends and in an apartment that was more expensive than a single person would normally rent? I went back to finding a relevant point to mention being a mother.

Dating men without children has been less complicated. A handful run a mile at the first whiff of children, but others stick around and have no baggage about it. I've met some who were brought up by single mothers, providing them with respect for my setup. A couple have had complex issues with their own mothers and are drawn to the nurturing side I've developed since becoming a mother myself.

On my breaks from motherhood, I'm also free from the constant issues and tensions that can come from having an ex who, by necessity, has to remain present in my life. In that more carefree mode on my days off, the last thing I want to deal with is someone else's ex, even if it's just hearing about them.

I prefer to keep dating simple

In the five years since I've been single, I'd say a third of the guys I've been interested in have been single dads, and two-thirds have not. All of them knew I had children.

After deleting the dating apps a few years ago, these days I only date men I'm already friends with — even if they live in other countries. Some of them have already met my sons, but I make it a point to keep the romantic side of things for my off-duty days.

Interestingly, the non-fathers are just as hard to make plans with as the dads because they're equally busy, albeit with travel, hobbies, and friends, not looking after kids. I've found that they tend to be more casual in terms of relationships than single dads who are usually searching for a life partner.

Less intense suits me better at this point in my life because motherhood demands a lot of my time and attention. I like not having to talk about where we're going and how we could one day blend our families and juggle exes.

Single motherhood is complicated. I'd rather my dating life was simple.

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