Dating In NJ: A Single Mom's Logistical Nightmare
As if juggling dating post-divorce custody schedules isn’t enough, add in the nightmare of meeting guys all around the state and see the reason I’m still single.
I'm sure everyone has heard stories about how hard it is to date post-divorce. Personally, I've struggled with the challenges of online dating, the last time I dated (pre-marriage) the internet was something that barely existed! I remember the day my ex-husband and I first got email accounts -- it felt like we had time-warped into a Star Trek episode.
These days "getting back out there" and "meeting new people" is even more complex complicated by the need to carefully delete inappropriate unsolicited photos texted to you before your kid accidentally sees them (which happens more often than you can even imagine).
As a single mom, I tend to meet and talk to single dads… which has inherent challenges with scheduling, especially when you factor in after-school activities and a job. You basically need an advanced degree in higher mathematics to figure out when you can see someone. My brain constantly is swimming with logistical problems like, "I'm working until 5 and my daughter is with her father on Wednesday and Thursday, but he has his son and daughter and they have baseball until 9, and he's coaching, so that's out. And Saturday might work, if we meet for coffee before 11 am when my daughter is done with gymnastics, but that's hoping his babysitter gets there before 9. So we might be able to spend 30 minutes together before I have to get in my car and head for pick up… " And god forbid he travels for work, or has a pet that needs to be walked or I want to take a vacation. It might be close to a month before that mutually free moment opens up. Like the craziest, busiest venn diagram you can imagine.
That's a lot, and it can work, but it can also leave you emotionally exhausted if you finally work out that perfect time to meet up with someone and then you have that drink and there's zero chemistry. Or if I finally meet someone I really like, we hit it off and then the we remember that it's taken 6 weeks for us to meet for 30 minutes.
All of that is just how it is for most dating parents, but the real problem is the Garden State. I love living here. I've been here almost 20 years. But for dating? It stinks.
Online sites have settings that go by proximity, but don't take into account tunnels and tolls. So I might get matched up with a great guy… who lives in the city. At first it seems great. I wait until my daughter has a slumber party or is staying with her dad…. but then I have to deal with traveling. Do I drive into the city and pay tolls and parking (really hard on a budget… especially if the date wants to go dutch when their commute involved walking two blocks after work)? Or do I take a train and have to explain to a potential suitor why I can't have another drink because if I miss this one that's running on an already limited-schedule, I am stuck sitting in Penn Station until 5 am…. when I have to work in the morning.
Heaven forbid that potential nice guy I meet is from Brooklyn or Queens. They might as well live on a different planet. I could almost get to Newark and fly to Chicago for less time and money than that date commute would cost. My mind starts thinking thoughts like, "well, I can see him, but not on a Sunday when I have to deal with MetLife Stadium traffic. And not on a Friday night, especially during the summer because everyone is trying to get to the shore." If he drives to me, or I drive to him, it's nearly 30 dollars… just in tolls. And public transportation would require at the bare minimum a train or bus in NJ and at least one subway in New York and likely take over two hours, barring any rush hour traffic.
So after trying to make a few of these relationships work, I've limited my dating pool mostly to guys that live in New Jersey. Sounds like that would simplify things but it really doesn't help all that much. Someone who lives 20 miles away doesn't seem far on Tinder, but that's usually a 40 minute drive. If there's traffic, it can be a lot longer. If I live in North Jersey and they live in Princeton, that's a 45 mile drive and over an hour on a good day. I pretty much consider that a long-distance relationship.
Hoboken is 14 miles from me, which doesn't seem too far, but it’s at least a 30 minute drive -- and that’s only if you can avoid the Lincoln Tunnel helix and pray for some magical side road to open up. It means that no matter if I drive or they drive, there's no such thing as "lets meet for a quick cup of coffee or a drink".
It can turn into a power struggle filled with resentment of "I always have to drive to you" or "why do you have to live in the middle of nowhere", especially when you are both already dealing with the aforementioned scheduling nightmares. I've actually stopped seeing decent men just because the idea of getting in the car and driving (after I drive about 40 minutes each way to work already) was far too overwhelming.
Even when I date guys without kids the driving becomes and issue. Most often they don't really get that I've worked and driven all around for carpools and playdates all week, and spent until 2 am trying to re-piece together my daughter's broken doll house or make cupcakes for her girl scout troop party. It’s hard for them to fathom why I'm dead exhausted at midnight, and don't want to get back in my car to meet them at some cool spot that's "only like a half hour away in Hoboken," where I'll then have to spend 45 minutes searching for parking or pay a fortune for a garage. Even worse when the guy doesn't drive. Which happens. A lot. You'd be surprised.
Instead of wondering when I'm going to meet Prince Charming, I find myself asking instead where are those flying cars I was promised? Maybe if I had one then my first question on dating sites wouldn't be "where do you live" and my first to-do wouldn’t be looking them up on t Waze to make sure they are geographically desirable, first..