Single parenting is a challenge never to underestimate; you need to be everything to your kids, and when you throw work and friends into the mix, it's almost impossible to find five minutes of the day for yourself!
It's equally important to look after yourself, and allocating some time and energy to your love life is essential. We all know that you can't pour from an empty cup, so feeling like you have to come last on the list isn't good for anybody.
Whether you're newly single, just thinking about dating again, or have been hoping to meet somebody special for a long time, here are some great tips to jump back into the dating pool.
Children aren't sexy; we get it. And you don't want to start a flirty chat with a hot young thing talking about potty training, car seats and the parent/teacher evening.
However, what you must do is be open about the fact that you have kids! Finding a decent partner is about sharing and honesty, so while it doesn't have to be the primary topic of conversation, never think it's best to hide your kids away until it's a good time to bring them up.
A person is more than the sum of their parts, and whether you're a parent or not, and your date is either, won't make a difference to the chemistry and attraction you feel.
If a casual date doesn't go any further, then hopefully you had a good time! But if it does develop into something more long-term, knowing right from the outset that you have a family to think about will pave the way for a successful partnership.
Hand in hand with being honest about having kids is remembering that they do come first. If you're chatting with a nice person who you'd like to date, they're always going to understand if:
You can't do impromptu dates (childcare doesn't work like that!).
Saturday mornings are a no-go.
There might be times when you have to cancel, and its just part of being a parent.
If your hair isn't perfect, or your shoes don't match you probably had a rough night's sleep - and it's best not to mention it!
A new date is exciting, nerve-wracking and thrilling - but you don't have to choose between a guy and your children. Simply be honest about your priorities, and be clear about where your boundaries lie, and you will find a way to fit in everything that matters.
Have you been in this scenario?
Someone asks your child's age and a random question about their Dad. Or the school asks whether Mum or Dad is coming to sports day.
You reply - oh, that'll be me; I'm a single Mum.
The sympathy, the looks, the well-intended but horribly awkward attempts to set you up on a blind date...
It's everywhere; society has this old-fashioned notion that every family must have two parents, and you find people caring far more about your relationship status than you or your kids ever have!
Being single isn't a negative, and can be an empowering period in your life when you don't have to think or focus on anything but yourself, your kids, and your happiness.
Never feel pressured into going on dates to satisfy anybody else - no matter how desperate your Mum is to see you coupled up, the time is only right when you say it is.
Becoming a parent changes a lot of things, but not your character or personality! Your taste in guys is likely to be pretty much the same - so if you've ever made a wrong choice (haven't we all) now is a great time to evaluate what sort of partner you are looking for.
This doesn't have to be set in stone; it's always great to be open to new possibilities.
However, give some thought to what qualities matter, and what sort of date would be a terrible idea in the long run:
Do you want a partner who also had kids, and therefore will understand how family dynamics work?
Or, would you prefer a guy without kids but who is happy to meet yours one day?
What qualities are essential for your kids to see in your date - you'll maybe want somebody reliable, trustworthy, kind and honest - but are there other characteristics that are important to you?
Remember that you DON'T have to pick someone 'boring' just because you're a Mum, nor do you have to date another single parent - your options are as broad as they ever were!
There is little doubt that every Mum has overdone it a bit, on those rare occasions you get to let your hair down with your friends, or get a babysitter for the night and have some time to party like it's 1999!
When you start dating, it's easy to get sucked into that same excitement and go a little bit crazy at the opportunity of truly being yourself and nothing else.
In my mind, this is a healthy and fun way to keep in touch with your inner party girl and to make the most of your downtime.
Dating, however, isn't the place for it. When we get the chance of something new, it's all too easy to start scheduling dates on a school night and reliving our pre-kid days.
As a Mum, you want a guy who you can rely on, but who still makes your heart rate kick up a notch. Don't go for party boys who are just out for a good time, without having your eyes open that they're probably not a keeper or somebody you are going to want to introduce to your children.
All in all - have fun!