How To Date As A Single Mom

Dear Is This Normal,

I’m a newly single mom to a preschooler, and I am having the hardest time figuring out to tackle this new life. I really want to get back out there, but where do I start?! My life is so different now. I can’t just run out to meet someone for drinks or bar-hop with my girlfriends to meet new people. And really, I’m not sure that I’m even interested in doing that now! I would love to meet someone new, maybe another single parent, but it feels more and more like I have a better chance of meeting a unicorn at this point. Help!!

Newly Single and Ready to Mingle

Dear Newly Single,

Welcome to the club, mama! This is a really strange time, I’m not going to lie. It sounds like you’re ready to get out there, which is the first step. But you’re right—it’s not the same anymore! You’ve got a little person at home, so your priorities and schedule are totally different. Dating isn’t easy, EVER, and it’s especially weird and hard as a single mom. That being said, don’t write off meeting someone new just yet! All you need is a new game plan.

When my marriage ended, I took some time to adjust to this new normal. When I was ready to put myself out there again, I realized that “out there” was not as I remembered! It didn’t help that all my friends were coupled, so it’s not like we could go trawling for guys together. So, I embraced dating in the digital age, and signed up for a few dating apps. When you don’t have a lot of free time or options for meeting new people, dating apps can really help weed out the ones not worth your time.

I’m going to be honest – some of them are really hit and miss, and you will “meet” a lot of creeps. But the great part is, you can just swipe them right out of your life like they never existed. No one has time to go on a bunch of random dates, and in this day and age, most people want to get to know someone before actually meeting them in person. Download a few of the more popular apps, find the best pictures of yourself, and set up some profiles! At the very least, it’s a lot of fun to have a couple of glasses of wine with your friends and check out your matches together.

Sometimes, dating as a single mom hinges on just getting out there and meeting people in similar circumstances! Are there any local groups in your area for single parents? Maybe some playgroups at the park or an organized get-together at Gymboree. I found a few such groups on social media and through word-of-mouth. Takes a lot of the pressure off, since you’re not there to necessarily meet a specific person. Also, this is going to sound strange, but I met some of the coolest single dads at the grocery store! Dated a guy I had a meet-cute with at Trader Joe’s for a while, in fact! It’s kind of annoying to get cute to go to the market, but when you’re dating as a single mom, you take advantage of every situation that presents itself.

When you meet someone new (and you will!), you might feel guilty about spending time exploring your new relationship. I’m here to tell you to JUST SAY NO to single mom guilt. That crap is going to try to sneak in and put the brakes on things. It’s the worst! And it’s unnecessary. As long as your little one is loved and cared for and looked after when you’re not at home, you have nothing to feel guilty about. Not. A. Single. Thing. You’re a mom, yes – but you’re also a woman who is exploring being single for the first time in a long time. If you want to devote some of your time and energy to that, GO FOR IT. You’ll appreciate the break, and new relationships need attention! It’s a balancing act, but there is room in your life for both motherhood and new love.

I wish you all the best on this new adventure, mama! And trust me, it is an ADVENTURE. It’s going to suck at times. And you’re going to delete and download those dating apps probably ten times or more. But you know what? It’s fun. It’s exciting. It’s not everyday you get a chance to do it over again, you know? Take this chance and see where it goes.

Not-So-Newly-Single,

Is This Normal 

How Do I Get My 7 Month Old To Sleep Through The Night?

Dear Is This Normal,

Our 7 month old wakes up crying every hour and will only go back to sleep if we pick her up. We’re losing sleep and losing our minds. Please tell me this is normal and temporary?!

No Sleep in the Suburbs

Dear No Sleep,

Ugh, sleep is the best. Why don’t babies love it?! Every single parent reading this right now just looked off into the distance, remembering a time not long ago when they, too, though they would never sleep again. The good news is: this IS normal, and this IS temporary. The not so good news? It’s unlikely to change without some work. But fear not, No Sleep, you will one day sleep again.

Babies are a lot of things, but born with the skills to sleep is not one of them. They go from sleeping all the time as newborns, to just … not sleeping? With any regularity or discernible schedule? It’s a real buzzkill, let me tell ya. 

I’m going to share with you the two words that saved my nights, my sanity, my mental health, and in the long run, turned my kids into pretty good sleepers. SLEEP. TRAINING. Sleep training! My god, sleep training. I’ll probably get flamed for this, but I don’t even care. I did sleep training with both my kids (one at 7ish months, one at 9 months), and it was a game-changer and lifesaver. It was a few days of unpleasantness for many, MANY nights of blissful sleep. For all of us. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

So let’s break down what’s happening with your baby. Around 4 months, most babies hit a sleep regression. This is because their sleep cycle is changing to become more like the one we have; they cycle in and out of REM sleep (just like we do), but they don’t have the ability to soothe themselves back to sleep (like we do). So when they wake up, instead of settling back into slumber, they cry. Then we go in and pick them up, and rock them back to sleep, and thus begins a vicious cycle. Now, if your baby was able to settle themselves back to sleep, they may cry out but would quickly fall back asleep. This is where sleep training comes in.

There are quite a few baby sleep training methods out there. I’ll tell you what worked for me and literally ALL of my friends with babies: the Ferber method. I will warn you, there is crying involved. Both for your baby and, probably, for you, too. But, hey. No regrets.  Your baby needs to learn how to fall asleep on their own because that’s how good, lifelong sleep habits are built. The Ferber method is a way to help them develop healthy tendencies while letting you get back to your normal sleeping patterns. 

This is how it works: you’ll do your normal bedtime routine, rock your baby, give them lots of cuddles and love. But instead of putting them in their crib when they’re totally asleep, you’ll put them down when they’re drowsy. They may fuss, and yes, they may cry. So you’ll comfort them, and then leave the room while they’re awake. Wait a few minutes, then return for a minute to soothe your baby. Then leave again! Wait a bit longer, then repeat the soothing. Your wait times will get progressively longer until your baby finally falls asleep. But this is important: DON’T PICK THEM UP! It’s totally fine to talk to your babe, comfort them, pat their back, then skedaddle. It’s a rough few nights, but so, so worth it in the end.

Listen, everyone needs sleep. You need it, your partner needs, your baby needs it! And as much as we want our babies to just sleep, they’re not equipped for that—not without a little help from us. So my advice to you is: look into sleep training, and find a method that you feel will work for your family. Research shows that sleep training is a safe and effective way to help your baby develop sleep habits that will stay with them well into childhood and beyond. And I’m telling you, that first night’s sleep without having to rock a crying baby for two hours? Just about the best night’s sleep you’ll ever have. Godspeed, Sleepless. I’m sending you zzzzz’s from afar.

Sleeping in the Suburbs,

Is This Normal

My Partner is a Workaholic

Dear Is This Normal, 

Since I became pregnant, my partner is suddenly a workaholic. They spend so much time at the office, putting in overtime and using what used to be our free time to work more. It’s starting to make me worry about what it’ll be like when our baby is born. Is this normal?

Dear Workaholic Partner,

It’s hard to predict how someone will react once that line shows up on the pregnancy test. Elation and excitement are pretty normal. Shock, surprise, or uncertainty—sure, those are the easy ones. 

Fear, stress, and a sudden need to start preparing IMMEDIATELY for the baby that will be joining the ranks in about 9 months? Well, that reaction is the oldest in the books. It’s very normal, and very valid, albeit hard to understand when you’re the one whose feels that way and it’s your workaholic partner is spending so much time away from home.

Your partner may be thinking of other things that come along with starting a family, like, for instance, money.

Having a baby is expensive. Not just preparing for the baby (which, get ready to spend spend spend), but the actual act of HAVING one. The doctor’s visits, the labor and delivery bills, stocking up on all the little things you’ll need once the baby is home. Becoming a family of three is an exciting time for sure, but when you start to crunch the numbers and see what you’re going to be spending (and how much you need to start saving!) stress can take hold.  

It sounds to me like your workaholic partner could be putting in some extra hours at work to try and ease the financial blow that’s coming. They could also be having a hard time adjusting to all the oncoming changes. It’s … a lot. So, it’s important that, going into this new life stage, you and your partner keep the lines of communication wide open. 

Sadly, it’s not uncommon for communication to breakdown during pregnancy. But that doesn’t have to happen here! 

It’s time for a heart-to-heart. This may very well be the way they feel most helpful and useful and that’s to be appreciated! But if you’re feeling like you want to make the most of the time you have left, just the two of you, you have to communicate that, too. There’s a middle ground here. You just need to meet halfway to find it.

All Work and No Play is Hard on Everyone,

Is This Normal

 

Stay At Home Moms

Hi Is This Normal,

I always wanted to be a stay at home mom to lots of kids, and then struggled with infertility/loss before finally getting my twin boys. They’re almost 3 and I find myself thinking I don’t want any more, and in fact, I really want to go back to school for a career change. Was I just wrong about my calling and this new career is what I’m meant to do, or am I just never satisfied with my life?

Am I a SAHM?

 

Dear Milestone Marker,

 

It’s TOTALLY normal to compare your kid’s milestone markers to other babies. We track them on a universal scale, so of course we look to other kids to see how ours are matching up! And yes, it’s 100% normal to worry that your baby isn’t doing all the same stuff on the same timeline as her baby peers. We compare ourselves to others in so many aspects of our lives – career, appearance, finances. The thing is, comparing your baby to someone else’s baby is like comparing apples to sushi. No two babies are alike – not even identical twins! This was never more evident to me than when I had my second daughter. I remember thinking, “Two girls, cool! I’ve done this before, second time around is going to be caaaaaake.” And my children literally could not have been more different if they’d tried. It was like I’d gone back to Parenting 101, except I was cockier so the failures and letdowns stung just a bit more. Every time the baby did something later than her sister, I worried about her. Every time she did something earlier, I worried about her sister! Our pediatrician had to sit me down and tell me to stop worrying, because despite being born of the same parents and nurtured in the same household, my kids were their own separate beings, independent of one another. They’re 9 and 5 now, and I’m still learning this lesson, tbh.

 

Now, I’m going to level with you: not all those other kids are super advanced. I’d wager a guess that most of them are just totally normal, developing babies. Because guess what? Parents don’t brag about the normal, ordinary stuff their kids do. That’s not going to win them any accolades at Tiny Gym. They brag about the one-off stuff, the seemingly extraordinary stuff that they can use to set their kids apart from the herd. And you know what else? They also exaggerate about milestones … a lot. An excited, first-time mom can jump the gun and hear “MAMA” when really, all her 5-month-old was was trying to do was poop. You really have to take every brag and boast from parents with a grain of salt, just keep that in mind.

 

But you may have very valid concerns about your little one’s developments, and I don’t want to downplay that at all! There’s nothing worse than having a genuine concern dismissed. If you need some reassurance, schedule a sit down with your pediatrician. The CDC milestone guidelines are just that: guidelines. They are not requirements, and they are not set in stone. Some kids sit up before they roll over. Others walk without crawling first. Every baby is different! I know it’s worrisome, but unless your pediatrician seems worried, I want to gently encourage you to not focus so much on the guidelines or what other babies are doing before yours. She’s working on her own timeline, which is exactly right for her. And don’t worry that your 8-month-old isn’t walking, trust me. Once they start doing that, it’s a whole new (and incredibly stressful and exhausting) ballgame.

 

Doing Things On Her Own Time and That’s Just Fine,

Is This Normal

Too Early? Pregnant Regret

Hi Is This Normal,

I am happily married and we were trying to have a baby, so it wasn’t by accident that we’re pregnant. We’re so excited but nervous, and now sometimes he and I both wish we had more time alone together before we gained an addition to our family. Is this normal?

Dear Too Early,

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: no matter how long you’ve been trying to get pregnant, the nerves show up at pretty much the exact same time as that plus sign or that other line or the word “Pregnant” on those pee sticks. Nerves. Fear. Doubt. Those are all completely normal reactions to finding out you’re going to be a parent. Or you can react in the same way myself and millions of others have, and just sort of stare at the test and mutter, “ohshitohshitohshit” over and over again for eleven minutes. Also a completely normal reaction! It’s fine, it all worked out.

You and your husband still have plenty of time alone before your new family member makes its debut. Luckily, humans gestate for what feels like 14 years. But I totally get what you’re feeling, and I can relate 100%. If we’re being honest, that’s a common concern no matter how long you’ve been married! It’s hard to imagine what life will be like after the baby comes, and it’s impossible to prepare. Try not to focus on all the things you think you and your husband will be missing out on, and instead picture all the ways you’re going to grow together. It’s an insanely exciting and intimate experience, creating a life with someone.

Makes the most of the time you have now, before the baby comes. Take little trips together, embrace the romance and intimacy of your young marriage. But don’t think that your days of being husband and wife are over just because you’re having a baby! It’s so important that the two of you carve out time for yourselves and each other, because I won’t lie, the first few months of parenthood are … rough. You’ll both be tested in ways you never knew possible, as will your marriage. But this isn’t the end, not by any means. Your alone time might look a little different for a while, but you know what? For a solid 2 months, that baby won’t even know who you are. So really, it’ll be the two of you for some time still!

Your Party of Two Days Aren’t Over Yet,

Is This Normal

Why do I still look pregnant 7 months later?

Hi Is This Normal,

I have been working out like a maniac since I had my baby 7 months ago and my pooch is not going away. I swear, I still look like I’m pregnant, and it’s so disheartening to think this could be my forever. Is my stomach ever going to come down? Am I doing something wrong here? I see all these moms on insta that have had their baby in the last like, 8 weeks, and look better than me.

Is there any hope for me? HELP!

Mom Bod

 

Dear Mom Bod,

I have so many feelings about this! Especially the comparing our bodies to other bodies thing. It’s such an awful trap we fall into, and we’re all a victim of the trap at one time or another. I left the hospital after delivering my youngest in the same clothes I wore TO the hospital when I was still pregnant, and they fit … exactly the same. Meanwhile other women were walking out in their pre-pregnancy skinnies (how do you even hide those glorious mesh mama panties in those pants?!).

Just as no two pregnancies or babies are the same, no two postpartum bodies are the same. But some postpartum bodies need a little extra help, and not because you’re not trying hard enough. Pregnancy does a real number on our bodies, and can actually do some internal damage that we can’t see and might not even know is there. Leah Keller is a certified personal trainer, and creator of the EMbody Program™ by Every Mother (formerly known as The Dia Method). Leah is here to help explain what the muscles in your tummy went through when you were carrying your babe, and also give us all some tips on how to repair those muscles and (hopefully!) say goodbye to that pooch. P.S.: Where were you when I was 7 months postpartum, Leah?!

Leah stepping in now:

Take heart! Many, many mothers can relate to your experience, and it is most likely due to a medical condition that affects a majority of women postnatally: diastasis recti, or abdominal separation. During pregnancy, the growing uterus exerts pressure on the abdominal wall, bulging it forward. This pressure often causes the abdominal muscles to separate along the midline of the body. Diastasis recti is not a tear, but a sideways stretch of the connective tissue that runs up and down the center of the abdomen. After the baby is born, this tissue does not always return to normal, leaving women with deflated, over-stretched abdominal muscles. In addition to the cosmetic frustration you’ve expressed, diastasis recti also increases the likelihood of back pain, urinary incontinence and pelvic floor dysfunction.

So why aren’t your workouts improving the condition? Sadly, most of the exercises we turn to in an effort to strengthen the abs: crunches, sit-ups, bicycle crunches and more… will actually make abdominal separation worse! Any exercise that forcefully bulges the abs forward mimics the mechanical stress of a pregnancy. Even planks can be counterproductive, depending on how they are performed. Is surgery the only answer?! Absolutely not. It is possible to close the separation without surgery and restore core strength and function through exercise. In fact, Weill Cornell Medical School conducted a study of 63 women following my exercise program and found that 100% of subjects fully resolved diastasis recti within an average of 12 weeks. What’s the secret sauce? A revolutionary approach to core training that efficiently and effectively recruits the deepest core muscles: the transverse abdominis (your natural corset) and pelvic floor, along with proper coordination of the diaphragm (always exhale on exertion). Every Mother’s EMbody Reclaim program harnesses the therapeutic power of this deep muscle coordination through daily core exercises and full body workouts. Our streaming videos and mobile app walk you through the subtleties of  exactly what to do each day to resolve diastasis recti and strengthen your core while improving overall fitness.

Is This Normal back in action: Sounds easy peasy. Thanks, Leah!

Helping to close your gap,

Is This Normal

Leah Keller is a certified personal trainer and Creator of the EMbody Program™ by Every Mother (formerly The Dia Method). She lives in San Francisco with her husband, young daughter, and baby boy.

My non-mom friends officially suck.

Hi Is This Normal,

My friends officially suck. I’m the first of my group to have a kid and the way my friends have changed/reacted/participated in my life since has left me depressed, lonely and misunderstood. I get that none of them are moms but the oscillating “want to grab a drink tonight” / “want me to come sit on the couch with you” is such a freaking eye roll, I can’t believe they think this is my life now.

HELLO? I’m still 33? I still want to go out (can’t you just give a few days notice), I don’t exist solely in my living room and I’d like to be included in all the dinners and classes and fun shit that’s happening (or at least give me the option!). 

I don’t know how to communicate this to my girls and I also have no idea how to go about finding a mom community. I’ve dipped a toe into a few community groups and honestly, they feel lame  to me….I’m 33!!!

It leaves me feeling like I’m in some push pull of ‘be the old you’ or ‘be a new you’ and I don’t  feel like I should have to change, but maybe I do?

Help me save my friendships and find new ones please.

Love,

Odd One Out 

 

Dearest Odd One Out,

Being the first one in your circle to do something as life-changing as having a baby can be both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, you are The Oracle. The OG. The seen it-done it-been there and lived to tell the tale-friend who, in a few years’ time, will become something of a Motherhood Guru in your circle. But it can also be lonely. Crushingly, unexpectedly lonely. Because your life has changed in the most major of ways, and your friends’ lives … haven’t. And as close as you are and as much as your girls have been there for you up until now, motherhood is one of those things that is hard to understand and process from the outside looking in.

I’m going to come at this from both perspectives. I’ve been The Friend, and I am The Mama.

As The Friend, I can tell you I had a difficult time knowing what my place was in my mama friend’s life, now that so much of it was taken up by this new little human. It was a very delicate balance between wanting to be involved, and not knowing how to be involved, if that makes sense? Yes, I wanted my friend to come out to bars and play wingman for poor single me. But I was also positive that it would seem 100% selfish to ask her to leave her baby at home for the night and come out to do silly girlfriend stuff. Not being a parent, I didn’t understand that mamas need a break and a distraction. I felt like an idiot asking her to go out of her way to stay a part of my life, and didn’t quite understand how to comfortably stay a part of her life. There’s a middle ground between going out to rage at a club and sitting on the couch staring at the baby – I just didn’t know what that middle ground was, or how to broach it with my friend. And while I’m maternal – I also didn’t really “get” the baby thing. I was happy for my friend, but I didn’t understand how one could be happy in the middle of the absolute chaos and disruption that a baby seemed to bring her.

As The Mama, I have had many, many friendships fall by the wayside after having kids. It’s sad and it sucks every single time. It’s hard to explain being a mom to non-parents. It’s hard to explain how you haven’t slept in a week, not because the baby isn’t sleeping, but because you’re afraid they’ll stop breathing in their sleep so you lie awake staring at them for hours at a time. It’s hard to explain why you’re so far behind on all your favorite TV shows when, theoretically, you have hours at your disposal every single day because your baby pretty much just lays there or sleeps on your belly. It’s exceptionally hard to explain the phenomenon of needing to be as far away from the screaming baby as possible while also feeling as if you might actually die if you’re more than two feet apart. Some of my friends continued inviting me out and tried to keep me involved in their lives. But the more I politely declined (“Oh man, that sounds fun! But the baby is teething/has sleep regression/has a fever/I don’t have a sitter and husband is working tonight/the laundry in my house is staging a coup and I need to get it under control”), the less I was invited. And I get that, I do! I don’t even really blame them. But it does hurt. And it’s a process, coming to terms with the permanency of being a mother. That role doesn’t go away. Once a mom, always a mom. A great quote (and as you get to know me, you’ll notice that I LOVE quotes): “I remain fascinated by where you go once you are a mother, and if you ever come back”

It sounds like you and your girls need to have a heart-to-heart, ASAP. I suggest asking your partner to take the baby somewhere for the evening, asking all your girls over for dinner, and just laying it all out there. Be honest with them about how you’re feeling, but at the same time, be ready and willing to listen to and accept their honest feedback. You’re focusing on how THEY’RE letting YOU down, but I imagine they might have their own grievances about this major shift in your friendship. The thing about friendships is that they’re not static. They are constantly evolving and shifting based on your needs and the direction your life is going. This blip doesn’t necessarily signal the end of your friendship. But it may be a sign that it’s time to reevaluate what you need and want from a friend, and adjust your expectations a bit. Cherish the value they bring to your life, but open yourself up to the possibility that you might need something more and/or different now. Life change is hard, and growing pains are to be expected. But you guys can overcome this hurdle, if the friendships are worth saving (only you can answer that).

Now, about making new friends … MY GOD, IS THERE ANYTHING HARDER?! Kids can make friends with a stump, but man is it awkward and hard to do as an adult. I love that the internet has made it possible to connect with so many people. But IRL friends are so valuable, honestly. Here’s my suggestion for you: don’t try to replace your current circle of non-mom friends with a new circle of mom friends. Your girls are going to come around, and when they all start having kids, things will balance out again. But in the meantime, hit up a few local mommy and me classes, in whatever medium strikes your fancy. Take a mommy and me yoga class with your little one. It might take some time to find one that strikes the right chord with you, and that’s OK. I met one of my dearest IRL friends at open play session at one of the neighborhood indoor play rooms. We bonded over our love of memes and our dislike of open play (go figure!). I can’t tell you how awesome it is to have a friend who understands why it takes me three days to answer a text, or have someone who shows up to our coffee date in the same leggings/baggy sweater/messy bun ensemble. Bonus: her baby is 3 weeks older, so she just warns me of all the craziness that is to come next, and then coaches me through it.

Friendship is all about finding people who enhance your life, and every one of your friends will do that in their own special way. You don’t need to cut your old friends out of your life when you have a baby. But it does really help to have a couple of friends who are right there in the trenches with you, who understand this crazy journey called motherhood. Tell your current friends how you feel, and put yourself out there to meet some new people. It’s hard, I know. But deep breaths. Just do it. And remember – as hard as this is for you, it’s just as hard for the mama sitting on the park bench, watching her kid eat sand, waiting for that first yawn from her little one so she can pack it in without feeling guilty. When your kids are older, you’ll encourage them to be brave and do hard things. So this is me, encouraging you: you are brave, and you can do hard things.

Forever the Odd Mom Out,

Is This Normal