It’s Just A Date

40th CakeHow pursuing my dream of having a child made dating more fun.

I had often assumed that some women, unlike me, were able to date lightheartedly.  Unconcerned with a hoped-for long-term outcome, these women could treat a date as just a date. They found a way to relax and have a good time. These women, I further suspected, were free to be themselves with their dates and so were the ones finding the right partner.

As these musings might indicate, my single dating life was often riddled with worry. When dating a man, I was rarely fully present. My mind ran the back-story. I’d size him up, then rocket mentally into an imagined future. Is he the right fit for me, and I for him? Is he commitment-phobic? Am I? Are we wasting our time?

Of course, sometimes, there was true hope and love. But the stifling “what-ifs” commanded my attention. Revelations. Then about a year ago, a crossroads moment appeared. My father was in the hospital, in what would turn out to be the last month of his life. I was about six months past the most painful breakup of my life, and about six months away from 40. While chatting with a friend during a business trip to New York, I blurted out to her, apropos of nothing, “I think I’m going to become a mom on my own. Do you know anyone in our field who’s done this and how on earth they did it??” She grinned at me. The biggest, most joyful grin I have ever seen. I knew in that moment—we were in a bar, but I’ll take revelation where I can get it—that motherhood was where I was headed. That I was going to do this.

For many women, the decision to become an SMC comes with intense mourning for “the dream,” that happy imagining most little girls grow up with of a traditional marriage and family—or whatever version fires one’s personal aspirations. Giving up the dream was one of my roadblocks. I tried to focus on letting go only of the order in which the dream would take shape, but it was hard. In my pained and somewhat perfectionist heart, I was letting go of ever finding love, before or after motherhood.

And for a while, I lived this out. During the initial trying months of fertility tests and treatments, dating was the last thing on my mind. Regular appointments with the vaginal ultrasound technician can do that to a girl. My thoughts were directed at my ovaries and the vials in my doctor’s deep freeze.

As difficult as my trying to conceive phase has been so far—including unexpected surgery and other things—the rebirth I first felt when I committed to becoming an SMC has remained. Out from under that pressure to find a mate, I have made space for lots of other types of fulfillment in my life. I’ve learned to better appreciate my friends, and I enjoy them more than ever before. No longer does every sighting of a traditional-appearing family cause envy and anxiety. My focus and confidence at work has improved, even as I mentally rehearse methods of fitting a child and my career together. The last thing I expected at the (previously dreaded) age of 40 was to blossom, but that is exactly what I felt. More than 20 years of dating and not quite getting what I wanted and hoped for were over. I was going to give myself what I wanted. It was a new era. Opening Up.

In addition to all this, my feelings about men have become delightfully uncomplicated—for the first time in my adult life. Obsessing over which class or volunteer cause might have the highest male/female ratio was no longer occupying my thoughts. I’ve even found that I’ve been getting a lot of male attention—without really trying. Again, not what I expected at 40, and certainly not what I expected in the pursuit of SMC-hood.

Pregnancy and early motherhood won’t easily accommodate dating, and, no doubt the grounding experience of parenthood will temper the near-euphoria I often feel these days. But I am, for now, while in the trying to conceive stage, enjoying an unexpected gift. I no longer look across the dinner table at a man and size him up as a future partner. I simply size him up as a person that evening. He need not meet my dreams of “the one,” although if this happened by chance, great. If he and I stay in touch, I just let those encounters add to my impression of him. Unknowns regarding his (and my) commitment potential can remain unknown unless he and I decide otherwise. This feels more natural and human than any other moment in my dating life. I can be my authentic self, “rules” be damned. Some women friends say I am finally getting to “date the way a man dates.” Whether that’s true or not, I certainly feel like I am more fun to be with. I am finally one of those women who can treat a date as just a date.

Perhaps most important, and ironically, I feel much better equipped now to recognize who is or is not a potential “keeper” (perhaps a divorced dad I meet with my child on a playground, or maybe someone I’m dating now, who knows?) than I was before I was regularly in touch with a sperm bank. I feel truly romantic on the dates that I do have. Go figure.

What seemed at times to be one of the darkest moments of my life, letting go of a life plan I had held close since childhood, may yet yield more hope than I ever would have imagined. There are so many side benefits when you give yourself what you truly want.

Joanne H

7 thoughts on “It’s Just A Date”

  1. I just wanted to say that what you have written was really well put and has helped me in my thought process of being a SMC. Mostly, losing the idea of the dream, its a hard realization and at 36 it’s not gone, but if history has a way or repeating itself? I am choosing now to make this life altering decision on my own and not hoping/wishing/pining for a partner to join me in this!

    1. In case you weren’t aware, about half of the members of Single Mothers by Choice are what we call “Thinkers”, meaning women who are trying to decide whether or not to become an SMC. So if you’d like to join us, please do! You can join on our website, http://www.singlemothersbychoice.org.

  2. I loved your post and agree that taking the plunge (or bungy jumping as I used to call it to myself) to make the moves to have a child on your own is exhilarating and definitely becoming pregnant seems like a feminist crime that changes your life. I started trying at 41 and now am 4 months pregnant just having turned 43. I never really stopped dating and recently started one of the best relationships I have ever had with a man who doesn’t care at all that I am pregnant, wants 2 more kids and sees it as a bonus that I am already pregnant. I have no idea yet if it will work out but it shows that the world is becoming more progressive and men are starting to accept and even embrace women who do this.

  3. Great article. Unfortunately for me dating is no easier after having a child. I have no family to use as baby sitters so the date is either for coffee in the morning (while the gym crèche is open) or I have to book a baby sitter. I have been a member of a dating website for over 6 months now and had about 10 dates (mainly for coffee) with one short relationship. I am 40 now and can get more dates than in my 30’s partly I suspect because I no longer want another child (my first one was born while I was married and the second while SMC). Although that fact takes the pressure off to some extent, I do not want anyone meeting my children until we are serious. That is logistically very challenging beyond the first few dates.

  4. I always find your blog posts uplifting and encouraging to women and all types of situations. Thank you for sharing and for your open honesty. Although you may not realize that you help women and all walks of life with your posts.

  5. I am 39 years old and was with someone for the last 6 years that had two children, and did not want more. Trust me, I wish I knew then what I know now. He was not honest about having a vasectomy, and I was devastated. I learned that this could be reversed, and honestly thought I could change his mind about wanting to have just “one” more child. The answer continued to be no. I thought that love involved making sacrifices and compromises, especially considering I was giving up so much of what I truly wanted. I was a teacher for five years, and always wanted to be a mother. I was honestly never told no in my life or with any of my past relationships so to me, this was hard to swallow. All of my family and friends didn’t understand why I didn’t just walk away, but I guess the saying is true, “love is blind”. He proposed a year ago by saying, I want to spend the rest of my life with you, but I will never give you a child. I have never endured so much stress in all my life. I have had some time to heal, am stronger, and now am at a place that I am ready do this on my own. I read these stories and it inspires me to fulfill my dream. It definitely was not in my “life plan”, but I am learning to accept where I am today. I am giving up “My Story” now, and I hope that I have a new story to tell, the happy ending that I deserve now.

    1. Janel, thank you for sharing your story. TAKE HEART. I broke up with a lovely caring, smart sweet capable man when I was 43 because he told me honestly that while he wanted to have kids and wanted them with me, he wasn’t ready and wouldn’t be for some time. PUT YOURSELF FIRST. There are other men out there.
      I am now 44 years old and an expectant single mother by choice. I’m due in April 2015.
      You can do it! And you can have it all.. possibly not in the order that we thought 🙂 but you can indeed have it all. x

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


seven + = 13