"I'm a parent, first and foremost": How dating changes when you have children

Dating can be a minefield for any singleton out there – add to that dating when you have kids, and you’ve got a whole new can of worms waiting to be opened.

At the last count, in 2019, there were 2.9 million lone parent families in the UK, so that’s a generous amount of mums and dads who are trying to find love while raising their kids solo.

A survey conducted by EliteSingles, said understandably, 79% of those surveyed would seek approval from their children when they met someone new.

Read more: Are single parents right to put their children before dating?

This is something Steve, 34, a soldier from Liverpool, and Carley, 34, also from Liverpool, know only too well. The pair, who both have young daughters, were taking part in a virtual date on web show Dating At A Distance.

Steve, who has an 11-year-old daughter called Chloe, admitted at the end of the date that she’s the only woman in his life at the moment.

“The only girl in my life is my daughter,” he said. “That's the only girl I can love at the minute.”

Chatting to Yahoo UK after his virtual meeting with Carley, Steve said it’s so much harder to date as a parent, as you have to put your kids’ needs first.

Steve, a British soldier, says that when it comes to dating, his child is his priority. (@survivalste)

“You've got to think about their needs as well, haven't you?” he said, while admitting that a new partner would have to be “open to – and realise – I'm a parent first and foremost.” 

Carley, a singer, has a 12-year-old daughter called Jessica and believes dating as a mother is difficult because some men don’t understand that your child will always come first.

“Sometimes, in my experience, they want your attention,” she explained to Yahoo UK after the date.

“It's like, ‘Look, if this child was your child, would you react the way you're reacting, wanting my attention that much?’ I have felt that in the past.”

Read more: The realities of dating in your forties

Carley says, while she’s not especially looking for a relationship, if the right person came along, she’d be happy to settle down, especially as she really wants another child.

She explained that, though that she was wary of a serious relationship: “I do want kids again in the future, but I think what if I have a baby with the wrong person and I'm left looking after two kids on my own.”

As well as chatting about the kids on their virtual date, the pair spoke about what they are looking for in a future partner. Not surprising for Steve, who is a survival expert, he’s looking for a lady who loves adventure!

“I look for someone who is up for a laugh, who is bubbly, who wants to travel instead of just sitting there doing the same thing on the weekends,” he told Carley.

Singer Carley says that in the past men have been jealous at the attention she gives her daughter. (Instagram/@Groovy_mama_5)

While Carley wasn’t impressed when Steve suggested trying crickets, she did compliment him on his “war-time face” saying he’d get lots of castings if he was an actor. She told Steven her type was “nice and clean, funny and spiritual and stuff!”

The pair are both interested in the more spiritual side of life. While Carley, who is into crystals and has just passed a Reiki course, attempted to ‘read’ Steve through the screen, he shared with her a gratitude ritual that he and his daughter do daily.

“I do something every evening - I do gratitude,” he explained.  “You say three things you're grateful for. Me and my little girl do that.”

Read more: Celebs Go Dating’s Anna Williamson shares her tip on dating in lockdown

While Carley and Steve both said they had enjoyed the their first virtual date, they also said it was all a bit weird – and that they preferred ‘real-life’ dates.

Unfortunately for the Scouse pair though there won’t be a second date. Carley told Yahoo UK that while she’d contacted Steve, he hadn’t been back in touch.

“Well, he never texted me back,” she said. “So, I just thought I'd leave it then!”

Watch more episodes from Yahoo UK’s ‘Dating at a Distance’

With a major spike in online dating and thumbs getting 'swipe fatigue,' Yahoo's UK’s new video series takes a different approach to dating during lock-down. Ana, 38, Boxing coach from London and Helen, 30, a BBC Radio Essex Host from Essex, put their virtual dating skills to the test as they meet for the first time on Yahoo UK's ‘Dating At A Distance.'