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What it’s Like to Be Single & Dating as a Breastfeeding Mom

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Underneath the picture on my new Tinder profile I wrote: “I am completely un-dateable. I’m a feminist single mom who lives with her parents, but if you think that’s as hilarious as I do, we might have something in common. I swear to God I’m not a complete loser.”  

I figured I should just get right to the point. I wanted to get the really big deal breakers about myself out on the table so that I wouldn’t have to awkwardly or defensively say them out loud on a first date. I also wanted to weed out the men who wouldn’t be cool with those things, and I wanted to demonstrate that I have a sense of humor.

Lots of my friends are divorced single parents, but not many have been single from the beginning, like me. I don’t have much of a blueprint for how to date. I’m also really happy just being a mom, so naturally I’ve been hesitant to start dating again. I love taking care of my daughter. Once she was born, I felt like I had found my total joy and purpose in life. I also felt ambivalent about my personal life. What business did I have dating while my daughter was still so young? She’s only 8-months-old. If you consider that I’ve been single since two days before I found out I was pregnant (when her dad and I broke up), however, I’ve been single for well over a year. It makes sense that a single woman in her thirties would be curious about dating after that long.

So even though dating while still breastfeeding seemed complicated, I had recently read Aziz Ansari’s new book, Modern Romance, after a friend recommended it, and I was inspired to put myself out there. Ansari makes a pretty solid case for using Tinder, especially for those in specific dating circumstances, like people with kids or of specific religions. When I lived in New York City, I tried Tinder briefly but didn’t feel it was the right fit for me. However, I was willing to try the dating app again. I was dying to see who was using it in the small southern town I live in now. If nothing else, it would just be funny to see if there was anyone I knew.

I ended up swiping right on a handful of guys (signaling to them that I was interested), and most of them were matches. I knew that the dating pool was small where I live, but I was still surprised that so many guys were interested in dating a single mom. One guy wrote, “Is that for real?” “You mean my profile? Yep…” I answered. I didn’t hear from him again. But then I got some messages from guys I would actually consider dating. One guy, I’ll call him “Jim,” was attractive, a few years older than me, and had never been married before. He had a good job, was kind of a foodie, and really into sports. We chatted for a while but it was taking him forever to ask me out. I finally suggested we meet for a drink. He answered yes right away.

The next guy, “Mike,” was pretty cute, a single dad, divorced, and also a few years older than me. He had a good job, too, but what really impressed me was that he was a very accomplished athlete. Again, we chatted a long time until finally I asked him out. He also said yes right away.

When I lived in New York, guys never hesitated to ask me out. I never had to make the first move, so this was new, but I didn’t mind.

Jim ended up being kind of boring in person — perfectly polite, a gentleman, but, I just didn’t feel any chemistry. Mike on the other hand, was a lot of fun. Despite some big differences between us, like our politics for one thing, and his dirty sense of humor, I instantly liked him. He wasn’t my usual “type” at all, which tends to be more artsy and progressive, but he made me laugh so much. We could have kept talking for hours if he hadn’t had to go pick up his son. We quickly made another date.  

About five minutes into our second date I could tell he wanted to kiss me, and I wanted to kiss him back. We went to a restaurant on the beach and strolled along the shore afterward holding hands. When we were in his car, he just planted one on me and we made out. It was hot. I knew right then and there that I wanted more, and I told him as much. He seemed a little shocked, but interested.  

Something I didn’t mention in my profile, however, is that I’m still breastfeeding. For one thing, I am definitely not interested in somebody who wants to date me because I’m breastfeeding. Ew. I also knew that it wasn’t going to be an issue until I was ready to be physically intimate with somebody. And here’s the thing: I was most nervous about how to talk about sex and breastfeeding with a new guy I wanted to sleep with. I had no template for that yet. So, I basically just blurted it out.

I told him that I had rules. First of all, there’s hygiene. One of the first things somebody warned me about before I had my daughter was the potential to get mastitis or thrush and how you should always wash your hands before you touch your nipple. This isn’t a big deal for a new mom who’s washing her hands all the time anyway to protect her newborn, but my date, who would probably try to get a little handsy, would need to be informed and perhaps reminded. Also, he just couldn’t put his mouth on my nipple. I’m not going to sit here and speculate about what other people do in bed, but for me, that would just be too weird. My baby’s mouth is the only one that belongs there right now. Another thing is, I can’t be feeling all insecure about leaking milk. He would have to just deal with that if it happened and not say anything. Finally, he would have to be gentle with my breasts, end of story.

I half expected him to get out of the car and make a run for it right there. Mastitis? Leaking Milk? Not exactly pillow talk, but to my surprise this sweet, southern man — a man with a concealed carry gun license and a tackle box on the backseat — was completely fine with all of it. Not only did he not care, he was supportive. Turns out, his mom had breastfed him and all six of his siblings. He told me, “Good for you. It’s the healthiest.” It was my turn to be shocked.

When we finally had sex, it was awesome. Without getting into any juicy details, I’ll just say that I definitely enjoyed myself. I have to tell you, I didn’t see my experience going this well. I dated a lot before I had my daughter, and this was one of the most uncomplicated relationships I’d ever had. It felt very empowering. We ended up going out a few more times before things fizzled out. Lots of chemistry doesn’t always make for a long-term thing. Neither one of us left with any hard feelings, but I feel a lot more confident to continue dating now.  

Since becoming a mom, I’ve shed a lot of insecurity, and my new outlook is serving me well in my dating life. Before I got pregnant, I would have thought that becoming a mom would have made things much more difficult; but because I am braver, the intimidating parts — even really sensitive subjects — don’t seem so harrowing. I mean, I gave birth, what’s the big deal about asking a guy out or using Tinder or being upfront about my physical boundaries? It’s definitely easier now to just dive in, and because the stakes of a long-term relationship are higher, I’m less likely to stick around too long for a guy who isn’t right for me. I’m actually looking forward to the next swipe. Who knows where it could lead?

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