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Don’t be afraid of the single parent: he could be one of the most easy-going, loving and patient men you ever meet. Parenthood has a way of doing that to a person. But if you are going to date a single parent, you should know that comes with slightly different rules than dating someone who doesn’t have kids.

Don’t freak out over time

It’s very hard for a single parent to keep a tight schedule. A single parent’s schedule doesn’t just depend on time—it depends on whether or not their kid will get in the car, or whether or not their kid secretly eats ten popsicles and gets sick. Any number of wrenches can be tossed into a single parent’s schedule at any moment.

Be flexible

Try not, at least in the beginning, to plan dates that depend on punctuality. Sunset cruises that leave at 6 pm sharp won’t work. Pricey shows that stop seating at 7:15 sharp won’t work. Plan dates that don’t put pressure on the single parent’s schedule.

Don’t be a scenester

If you’re used to being at every happening event in town from restaurant openings to tequila releases to movie premieres, you’ll have to let that go. Every time you ask a single parent out, he has to find (aka pay for) a babysitter.

Get good at at-home dates

Get creative with ways to have date night at home. This takes so much pressure off the single parent to arrange for a babysitter.

Don’t ask, “Are you listening?”

At the end of the day, you have to unwind from work. The single parent has to unwind from work and from raising a human being. A single parent needs a little more time to be mentally present with you. Don’t get irritated if he seems spacey for the first half hour of date night.

Just relax

Don’t overload a single parent with questions or anecdotes when you first meet up. Get him a drink. Order/make appetizers. Put the television on for a little while, just until he is relaxed and ready to engage.

Don’t insist on meeting the child

Every single time a single parent introduces his child to someone he’s dating, that child either becomes attached or gets upset. If that girlfriend disappears, and the child liked her, the child is devastated. If the kid didn’t like her, then the poor kid was upset for nothing!

It’s up to the parent

A single parent might want to wait up to a year of dating you before introducing you to his child. Just know that that is perfectly normal and probably not personal. He’s doing this for the good of his child.

Don’t be a big spender

Depending on the single parent’s financial situation, he might not be able to support his child and go on couples vacations every three months. Don’t suggest pricey dates or trips.

Let him set the price

Stick to suggesting low-cost activities until you have a better feel for the parent’s financial circumstances. You don’t want him to feel like his bank account is holding you back from doing things you enjoy.

Don’t drink too much

If the single parent is willing to bring you around his child, he doesn’t want to bring anyone drunk around him. Even if you won’t meet the child, the single parent you’re seeing probably doesn’t drink too much—he has too many responsibilities and doesn’t want to be drunk in front of his child.

Party with your friends

If you need to blow off steam, have your drinking nights with your friends. Don’t invite the single parent to every lounge and party you go to. He’ll just feel like he’s holding you back.

Don’t cling onto adult activities

Should the single parent decide to introduce you to his child, you’ll need to be ready with kid-friendly activities. A kid doesn’t want to go to jazz night at a steak house.

Get familiar with kid-friendly activities

Learn to love places kids can go like the zoo, a park, Pixar movies, etc. If you only suggest places the kid obviously won’t like, the parent might think you’re rejecting the child.

Just communicate

The most important thing to know about being a single parent is that you know nothing about being a single parent. (Unless you do, of course, but then you wouldn’t be reading this). If the single parent you’re dating does something that annoys you, just be open about it. He probably has a perfectly good explanation that you, as a totally single, care-free person, would have never thought of.

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