There was a time in my life when I thought I’d never date again. I was a single mom living in Wayne, NJ with an infant—somehow it didn’t seem like guys would be beating down my door. When I started going out again I realized that while single mom dating is different than it was before kids, it’s still super fun, exciting and butterflies-in-your-stomach worthy—so do it! Here’s how to get started.

Look in the Right Places

“Keep your eyes open at the playground and the gym. Finding a guy who also has kids and shares a common interest like fitness is a good start,” says Rachel Russo, MS, MFT, relationship coach, matchmaker and New Jersey native. Pay attention to who’s around you when you’re doing something you love, whatever you’re doing—chat up the guy ahead of you in line to get his skis sharpened, or the one ordering a triple espresso (noting that you totally support his caffeine habit). Get in the practice of being more social and conversational, generally. Even if you don’t meet Mr. Right, it’s a great way to get more comfortable talking to the opposite sex again

Talk About the Kids in Your Online Profile. And then Don’t.

Amy Spencer, relationship expert and author of the dating advice book Meeting Your Half Orange, says it’s important to be honest when you’re creating an online profile. “Don’t hesitate to check ‘yes’ for the kid question,” says Spencer. “There’s no point lying because you might end up meeting a bunch of really nice guys…who don’t want kids.” But once you’ve ticked that box—leave the kid thing there and resist the urge to incorporate them further into your profile—this is the time for you to shine and sell yourself. Keep photos recent: one headshot-ish photo, one full body shot and one where you’re doing something you enjoy, like playing tennis or hanging with friends. Don’t include kid photos (see above). When writing your profile, keep it short, simple, honest and positive.

Be Smart About Your Time

“Try to plan dates when your kids are with dad for an overnight or weekend,” says Leah Klungness, Ph.D., psychologist and co-author of The Complete Single Mother. “You’ll save money on a babysitter, get out without having to explain to the kids where you’re going and won’t run the risk of them seeing you drive off with someone who isn’t dad.” Solo single mom? Arrange a sleepover at the grandparents, or ask a friend to watch them in exchange for your sitter services another night. “Rule of thumb is to leave your child with someone they like being with, so you can relax and have fun,” says Klungness.

Where to go?

Keep a first date casual—and short. This will help if you’re nervous, and if there isn’t chemistry between you, you haven’t wasted an entire (kid-free) night. Suggest a bar or a coffee shop where you’ll be comfortable—or skip food entirely and go mini golfing or ice skating—you’ll get to see how he deals with a silly adventure. Avoid the movies, since you won’t actually get to have much conversation. And keep the talk light with a getting-to-know-you vibe. Plan some questions in advance to avoid awkward silences, like asking where he’s traveled or what his favorite restaurant is, and—it bears repeating—make sure you don’t spend the whole time talking about your kids. Remember, he’s there to date you.

Christine Coppa is the author of Rattled! A Memoir (Broadway Books, 2009) .

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