If you thought dating was tough, dating a single mom is even more challenging. Romance doesn’t die just because you have a child. It can be a difficult course to navigate, but a rewarding one too. Balancing your love life with the needs of your kids is going to take a certain amount of skill. Call it grace. Call it talent. Call it anything but selfish—because after all, doesn’t everyone deserve a little bit of happiness?

Happiness isn’t always convenient. But neither is being a parent. And while you may have placed your kids as your top priority, you’re entitled to a love life too. Because while balancing them may be inconvenient, it can also be its own reward. It can be challenging, frustrating and sometimes it may seem next to impossible. But it’s rarely boring.

Does dating a single mom follow a specific protocol? Not always. But there are some factors that tend to pop up more frequently than others. Here are four of the more common ones.

Children Aren’t Secrets. Dating A Single Mom Is Not A Social Stigma

Hiding the “truth” about your kids because you assume no man will want you isn’t merely deceptive. It’s cruel, irrelevant and petty. Concealing your kids from a man in 2019 is the dating equivalent of a disaster film—you already know how it’s going to end, so it’s more prudent to simply confess at the start of a relationship.

“It’s critical to be entirely open and without questions in any relationship,” explains Cynthia Rudman, a dating counselor in Philadelphia. “But when you have children, you’re not only deceiving a potential partner. You’re deceiving your children as well. If he’s not ready to share you with your kids, then he’s simply not suitable for any long term relationship. You deserve better.”

But Tread Lightly When Introducing Them

“There’s a certain amount of patience you’re going to need if you want to make your relationship work,” says Dr. Michelle Feldman, a private psychiatrist. “But adding kids to the mix makes it all the more volatile. Especially if you’re not careful.”

Her advice? “Children can be a lot more understanding than many people give them credit for. But they can also be sensitive to any lifestyle changes. Be aware that they will likely have a number of questions you need to be prepared for. Be realistic about what they should expect. There’s no need to sugar coat the relationship. Explain the differences between this new person and your ex and just why the relationship didn’t work out. If things get serious, your kids should be well prepared.”

Reevaluate Your Priorities

“There’s no single ‘right’ time to start dating again,” Rudman says. “It might be tomorrow or it might be two years from now. But if you need to ask whether you’re ready, the answer is likely no. Dating requires a lot of emotional effort, and it’s not always the wisest choice to juggle a relationship with a guy and a relationship with your kids.”

“Examine everything. From your choice in men to the priority your kids play in your life. Be brutally honest with yourself. This isn’t 1957. There isn’t any shame in being a single mother without a relationship. You don’t need a man to give your life purpose and meaning. That’s one of the reasons why you have kids. Don’t forget, a partner is expendable. Kids aren’t. Date because you want to, not because you feel you have to.”

Don’t Sacrifice Your Own Values For The Sake Of Romance

“Dating is about sharing, not sacrifice. It’s about a partnership,” elaborates Feldman. “And a good part of the partnership means shared values. It doesn’t mean compatibility on every single level, but it does mean shared values. And if you’re a parent, your children are going to have to come first and foremost.”

“Having kids is a full time commitment.” She suggests limiting displays of affection around your child for the first few months. “Children sometimes need to be eased into a new parental figure. Emphasize to them that they’re not easily replaced. But this is about both your and their happiness. Involve them in adult decisions. Both of you will feel much happier in the long run.”

Dating a single mom may be different from dating a single woman in some ways, but with the help of these tips, you’ll be able to navigate this type of relationship a lot easier. For more dating tips and advice, please feel free to visit Safer Dating.