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Dating as a single mother is hard. Not only does it take a lot more time and effort to date, but you aren’t the only person you need to think about – there is a beautiful little one waiting at home. You may be juggling the role of mom, but you also need to focus on your own happiness. How can you manage it all? Lucky for you, we sat down with the amazing dating and relationship coach (for us everyday singles and E!’s Famously Single celebrities) Laurel House, to discuss navigating the dating world as a single mother.

MM: Why do you think dating as a single mom is different from dating as someone who is childless?

LH: Your priorities (and your life) are no longer your own. As a dating coach, I went back to work one week after giving birth, because I am a single mom and I need to support myself and my child – that is my priority. Part of my job is to help my clients date online. I happened to be online and saw this guy who was also a single dad. We began communicating online extensively which is what I call pre-qualifying. We really got to know each other very well online, and started to have hour-long phone calls before we finally met. We met when my son was 3-months-old, started dating, and now we are together.

MM: If you’re a single mom and you don’t have much time, do you think pre-qualifying is the way to go?

LH: It could not be more essential when it comes to dating. Mother or not, you do not meet someone in person until you have pre-qualified, or you’re going to continue going on first dates and in the first three seconds you know it’s not a match. Particularly, when you’re a single mom you have to pre-qualify.

Have those extensive email or chat conversations that then lead into an extensive phone call: I call it a phone date. On that phone date, you are having a real conversation as if you are on a date in-person. You can even do it over Skype so that you can see each other. At the end of the day, as a single mom going on a date, you have to leave your child for the evening, hire a nanny, and then you are stressing the whole time about whether they are OK while you’re out… which does not create an environment for connection! The last thing you want is to sit across from someone and say to yourself “Oh great, this is a wasted night”.

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MM: What do you think are the best dating apps for single moms?

LH: None! As a single mom, I think that dating apps only create what I call “text style communication,” which really doesn’t help to get to know each other. You are only sharing little short bits of information each time you chat on an app platform, substantial online dating websites are much better. At the end of the day you shouldn’t allow the app or website to control your style of communication to begin with – take control yourself, and ask real substantive questions that will allow you to get to know someone on a substantial level before you meet in person.

Look for someone who makes you feel like a priority, who is considerate, who you respect and admire. Someone who is passionate, stable, and makes you feel sexy! Yes you are a mom, but you are also a woman and you do need to continue to feel sexy. Look at what you really need in a partner and communicate that at the very beginning [of your courtship]. If they are unwilling or willing to communicate on the level and style that you work to before a meeting, what that is showing you is that they can or can’t satisfy your needs in a relationship.

MM: As a single mom, what are your tips for feeling sexy before you go on a date?

LH: Let’s be honest, feeling sexy is hard! Especially if you have a young child. We are tired, we are constantly thinking about our children, not ourselves. That being said, you need to put in the effort. Yes you’re tired, yes your child needs you, but you need to take care of yourself, too. Shave your legs! Let’s start with that. Shave your legs, shave your armpits, get a wax on your bikini line, buy a new shade of red lipstick (that you never would have considered wearing before), wear a bra – as opposed to a sports bra, AND wear underwear that matches the bra! All these things seem so simple but they are the little things that a lot of moms start to neglect because they aren’t thinking about themselves. Take a bubble bath! It’s all about preparation. You have to prepare to be sexy!

You have to prepare for someone to take care of your child. This person needs to be someone you trust, so you don’t feel nervous and preoccupied on your date. As long as you know that your child is safe and you can trust in that, then you have to force yourself to get out of that mom headspace and into a sexy place: Your mind is in your body.

MM: What is your advice in approaching the conversation about dating with your child?

LH: It depends on your child’s age. If your child is two or three and starting to understand what is happening then it’s, “Mommy is going out with her friend.” As soon as your child is getting a little older and sort of gets that there is a guy in the picture, then it’s, “Mommy wants to feel loved also.” You need to be an example for your child. Boy or girl, you want your child to learn from you – they need to see and feel what love looks like, they need to see Mommy being loved. So, “Mommy is looking to find a new friend, who loves her and will also love you.

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I have clients with children from the ages 2 to 5, and all their emotional and physical energy comes from their child. That is too much of a responsibility and burden to put on your child. They are not responsible for your touch, or for all of your feeling of being loved. Although they may not realize that they are being burdened, it is something that they feel. As much as your child does need you and want you, you need to leave the house at least once a week to go out and take care of yourself. Show your child that it is important to take care of yourself, even if it’s only for one hour a week. “Your needs are priorities, my child, and my needs are priorities as well.”

MM: Do you think single moms should take it slow?

LH: Definitely. Don’t have very high expectations at first. Dating as a single mom is really about making a connection, not getting a boyfriend who is going to become a father figure to your child. That puts too much pressure on yourself. Allow yourself to slowly get back into the dating pool, to smile at someone…to practice flirting again!

It’s all about owning your new identity and being proud of it. Don’t hide the fact that you are a mom – on your online dating profile check the box that says you have children, and beyond that, say something about your child in the portion of your profile. If you meet someone out in-person, mention your child while you are creating a connection. They need to know you have a child, and it’s not “oh god I hope that’s not a burden”, it’s, “I’m a mom, I have an amazing child and an incredible life, and I am excited to expand this life.”

Even if you’re tired, even if you are overwhelmed, even if you don’t feel sexy, don’t put that on the person who you are dating. Try not to share everything about being a mom with the person you’re dating, but also don’t create a fantasy that is unrealistic. Don’t use your child as an excuse to not go on the date, don’t use your child as an excuse to go home early. Yes, you do need to be a responsible mom and a responsible parent, but it is still about taking care of yourself. Because if you don’t take care of yourself, [and your own happiness], then you are not going to be able to take care of your child as well as you could.

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headshotLHLaurel House is an international celebrity Dating and Relationship Coach and author. House features as a dating coach on E!’s “Famously Single,” a Dating Coach for Three Day Rule Matchmaking, and she has been a featured expert on The TODAY Show, E! News, Good Morning America, Nightline. She has written five different books navigating the life of a single woman. Find out more about her here.