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The time’s going to come along eventually when you start wondering if you should date as a single mom. We single moms, we’re a pretty over-analytical, cautious, self-doubting bunch of guilt sponges so the decision to date usually takes a lot of thought. But that’s okay because it prepares us for all the planning necessary once we do start dating.

Should you date as a single mom? Probably eventually. Should you do it now? Here are 4 things to think about.

1. Are you ready?

Are you free and clear of feelings for your ex or are you still in the healing process? Yes, dating again can help you heal but it should come toward the end of the journey, not the beginning. We’re not just talking about love-y feelings but also anger, resentment, jealousy and 706 other possible remnants.

You don’t have to wait until you’re free of every single emotion related to your past relationship but you should wait until you’re free of the ones that might have an undue influence on your choices.

2. Are your kids ready?

Even if your kids have never met their father, they may not be ready to share you with someone else yet. While they shouldn’t be allowed to dictate whether you start dating, they should be allowed to prepare for when you start dating.

It’s a good idea to explain in age-appropriate ways that you are thinking about going out and meeting new people. Help little ones understand that adults need adult company just like they need their friends, no matter how much they enjoy spending time with you.

With older kids, especially those who are close to their fathers, be sure to give them opportunities to say what they feel respectfully but honestly.

Really listen to your kids and then decide if this is the right time or if you should wait a bit.

3. Is the guy ready?

If you have a certain guy in mind, you need to pre-qualify him. A lot of guys don’t understand that dating a single mom isn’t quite the same as dating a woman without children.

Does he understand you can’t drop everything to head out on a last-minute date? Does he understand (and like) that your kids will always come first? Is he okay with the fact that he doesn’t have to date your kids but he does have to meet them…or is he hoping to pretend you’re unencumbered?

Sometimes dating a single dad is a great way to pre-qualify someone in this regard, but don’t limit yourself to single parents and don’t assume that all single dads are close to perfect, either.

4. Do you even have time?

Sure, you’re just talking about occasional drinks or dinner out but even casual dating sucks up a lot of time. Once you make the plans, find the babysitter, try on seventeen outfits, shave, and then actually have the date, you’re talking about hours invested.

You remember how dating works, right? Usually before you find a good guy, you have to wade through the weenie, ditch the mama’s boy, and nod off listening to the narcissist. That’s three dates right there before you actually find someone relatively decent.

Or hey… could hit the jackpot the first time out. You never know.

But take a look at everything you’re juggling, all the sleep you’re not getting, and all the things that are on your to-do list and make a conscious decision about whether you actually have room in your life right now or if dating would just be another stressor.

If all of these questions can be answered with a resounding “yes,” then maybe, just maybe, you’re ready to date as a single mom.

Reprinted with permission. Originally appeared on Your Tango

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