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Single moms move on

By BEA TRINIDAD, The Philippine STAR Published May 01, 2022 5:00 am

In dating, there’s a saying that goes, “There’s plenty more fish in the sea.” But often, the same types of fish swim together. 

Specialized dating is a new trend in dating apps. Think of it as grouping the same types of fish. There is an app for every person, like farmers, Christians, K-Pop fans, military, dog or cat lovers, etc. But rather than swiping on just about anyone, there’s a guaranteed commonality between potential love matches.

Match Group, a global company that owns Tinder, Match, Hinge, OkCupid and other dating services, recently launched a new dating app called Stir for the 20 million solo parents in the US. The primary feature of this app is that there’s a calendar that shows a solo parent’s free time.

Although this app is currently available in the US only, the Philippines have similar statistics. There are an estimated 14 to 15 million solo parents, 95 percent of whom are women, based on a study by the Department of Health and the University of the Philippines-National Institutes of Health.

As a single mom, there’s a tendency that you’ll forget about a partner for a while, which shouldn’t be the case.

The stats on solo parents and the rise of an app like Stir make me wonder what it’s like to date as a single parent, specifically single moms. 

Are there some lessons to be learned from solo parents on becoming better at dating and relationships? I spoke to four single moms about their experiences. Their stories share words of wisdom that anyone can use in life and love.

Ciara Sotto: ‘I’m open to dating if time permits. And I’m told you can date again if you no longer have bitterness in your heart.’

You don’t always need someone. You are enough.

Ciara Sotto, singer and actress, president and founder of Philippine Pole and Aerial Sports Association, with her son, Crixus Sotto Oconer

When I asked Ciara if she was actively dating, she said, “It’s not my priority at this moment.” She’s been busy campaigning for her dad, Tito Sotto, running for vice president. She added, “As a single mom, there’s a tendency that you’ll forget about a partner for a while, which shouldn’t be the case.” However, she admits that she is still open to it if time permits.

She also had an empowering realization that came with her separation. “I thought I always needed someone, but when I got separated, I was like ‘Wow, I’m okay. I am enough.’” Instead, she spends a lot of quiet time with God and her son, Crixus. She joked, “He checks up on me, video calls me if I’m not home. He doesn’t want me to have a boyfriend.” In time, though, when he gets older and leaves home, she knows that she may find love again.

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Stop looking for the feeling of butterflies. Instead, find someone with a plan. And set your boundaries.

Contrary to her younger self, she is wiser. But, she shared, “Pag kilig lang hinahanap mo, it’s easy to find that, but it’s not lasting unless you both work hard at it. It’s very rare na parang like my mom and dad na nag-kikiss every day.”

Given her past experiences, she is always that blunt friend for love advice, saying lines like, “Don’t be like the second option unless second option mo rin siya.” Or, “You can date again if you no longer have bitterness in your heart.” And, “If he doesn’t call you, he doesn’t like you.”

She adds that what she wants in a man has changed. “Now that I have a child, I need someone who can lead and feed both of us, someone who’s stable, mature, and who will love me, my child, and my whole family.”

Fenelle Victoria: ‘I kept trying even if there was pain and hurt.’ Power through after a heartbreak. 

At the pandemic’s start, Fenelle visited her relatives in New Zealand. But she ended up moving tentatively with her now four-year-old son for work, business and studies. She had already broken up with her son’s father by then.

Fenelle Victoria of Fenelley’s Kitchen with son, Luke Javier

As a single mom, she decided to meet people on dating apps. She said, “I put in my online dating profile, ‘Don’t swipe right if you don’t want to date a single mom.’ So I’ve already filtered the guys who would want to date single moms. The others, I don’t want them in my inbox.” A few weeks into swiping, she did meet someone she’s been dating seriously now for two years. Her son, Lukey, also likes him. 

Her biggest mantra with dating and moving on is to power through. She said, “I kept trying even if there was pain and hurt. You’ll never know unless you try. And the more you face it, the more it gets lighter eventually.”

Create a loving environment, whether from a child’s love, self-love, co-parenting love, or new love.

When I asked her what motherhood meant for her, she said, “You know, kids don’t judge. They see you as it is, and then they love you. They accept you, and they play with you. It’s nice to have that kind of love and joy. You have a human being to share life with.”

Her biggest priority is creating a loving environment for her son, Lukey, by being committed to self-love, successful co-parenting, and intentionally dating. She said, “There’s always love if there is acceptance and open-mindedness. That’s what matters above all.”

Karen Santos: ‘Love is always possible, no matter the timeline.’

Look for maturity, good character, and a good steward of money. 

Like others, Karen decided to give Bumble dating app a try at the beginning of 2022. She shared one instance where she matched with someone virtually. The next day, after some banter, she said, “Matanda na tayo, let’s meet na. Let’s not waste time.” Match.com had a survey that showed most single moms get ghosted after the second date. For Karen, the experience was the opposite. 

Karen Santos, real estate broker and makeup artist, with son, Franco Luis Luna

On that coffee date, they spoke in-depth about life and politics. She added, “I like those kinds of wholesome and mature dates. The next day, we chatted and asked each other if we thought this would work. And we both agreed na baka hindi. And I just said, ‘Let’s just stay friends.’” 

In her 40s, she is no longer the type of person that goes with the flow. Instead, she is looking for a level of maturity, integrity, and someone who has their finances together. And if the three are not there, she focuses her energy on exploring new coffee places, taking care of plants, teaching, learning, makeup and socializing. 

Have an accountability partner that will encourage and guide you. 

A big part of her growth and self-awareness is strengthening her spirituality. In her faith, she said, “I have an accountability person like a mentor, who’s seven years older than me. She got married at 45.” She stressed, “It’s important to be accountable to somebody because you don’t see your blind spots.” Her mentor’s story and support give her hope that love is always possible, no matter the timeline.

Anthea Rosales: ‘Dating has its pits and peaks. Now, it’s about if I like them, versus if they like me.’

Focus on building an independent life. 

Anthea was only 15 when she found out she would be a mom. At such a young age, she learned to be selfless and think of another human being. She chose to break up with her first boyfriend because of the relationship’s toxicity. She said, “After birth, I realized it was no longer about me. It was about another human being. So, my goal was to finish my studies, work and to provide.” 

Anthea Rosales, sales manager, with son, Gabriel Rosales

She recalled, “I didn’t stop. My life continued. I gave birth in March, then went to college in May. I was lucky enough because, compared to other young moms, they had to stop and skip one or two years. But for me, it just continued, but it was also a struggle,” pointing out the balancing act of being a student, a new mom, and having a social life. 

Understand that dating has its pits and peaks. 

Today, she is a lot more settled. She is very driven at work, financially independent, and enjoys hobbies like bike riding. With that feeling of being settled, she has started to think about dating again, whether from being set up or on dating apps. But she is fully aware that dating has its pits and peaks. “At some point, mapapagod ka, like right now. It’s only natural. I’ve hit a peak moment, but I know I have to work on it.” For her, it’s about changing perspective to lessen the pressure. She said, “It’s now about if I like them versus if they like me.” 

* * *

After chatting with these women, I decided to follow Fenelle’s advice: “Power through.” So I went on the Bumble app and swiped. After many swipes, I got an alert that I had reached my daily limit and needed to practice intentionally swiping.

Technology has shown us that there are plenty of fish in the sea. But if there’s one lesson here from the stories of these women, it’s not just a numbers game. Date with intention, not just for the butterflies.