Single Parent Pick-up Tricks

Can you really meet a potential date when pushing a stroller or at your kid’s “music and me” class? Yes, says this writer.

By Lori Gottlieb

ecently I went to my first barbecue as a single mom and brought my 5-month-old son. Like most infants with those irresistible gummy grins, he got a lot of female attention. But at one point, a very attractive father came over with his toddler. Dave wasn’t just attractive. He was clever, and funny, and made my son laugh so hard that I thought he might stop breathing. I was breathless, too. Driving home, I wondered if I’d ever meet someone like Dave, but who wasn’t already taken.

Dave, I later found out, had wondered the same thing. About me, that is.

If you’re confused, don’t worry, so was I. You see, Dave is newly divorced. I’ve never
“What makes you think I’m not single?” I asked idiotically.
been married. But as two rookie single parents looking for love, it never occurred to us that other parents of very young children might be single, too. In other words, we completely forgot to do the ring-check. Check for a wedding ring… of course!

A few days later, though, I was pushing my son’s stroller in the park and, as we stopped to admire a dog, I couldn’t help but admire the dog’s owner. I did the ring-check, noticed he was single, and while his dog and my baby scoped each other out, Andy and I did our own mutual scope-out. The conversation went swimmingly until, instead of asking for my phone number, Andy asked for another woman’s number. “You don’t happen to have any friends like you,” he wondered, “but who are single?”

“What makes you think I’m not single?” I asked, idiotically, as I wiped some spit-up off of my son’s onesie and handed him a binky. Even Andy’s dog looked at me slightly askance, like I was trying to pull something over on both of them.

“Um, you know,” Andy began awkwardly, gesturing toward my Graco Metrolite. “When I see a woman pushing a baby stroller, I assume she’s married.”

He had a point. So I decided to ask my single parent friends for advice on how to go from Dating Misunderstanding to Dating Magnet. Here’s what they said:

Even if you’re exhausted, try to look “put-together"
My friend Michael, a divorced father of a 4-year-old, said that if he sees a mom who looks “put-together” — “You know, her clothes are stylish, she’s in good physical shape, and she’s wearing lipstick” — she’s sending the message that she’s available. When I replied that I know a lot of married moms who look put-together and are sending no such message, he thought for a minute, then added, “Well, that’s OK. If she’s hot, men don’t care if she’s single or married.” He claims he was kidding, but these types of jokes are precisely why he’s divorced. And still single. But consider his point about being pulled-together nevertheless.

Be direct about your status
Michael’s ex-wife, Jennifer, says she never would have met her current boyfriend, Dan, had she not been direct about her single status. Waiting in line with her toddler at the meat counter, she opened a conversation with Dan by saying, “Don’t you hate cooking for one?” For those of us not bold enough to initiate
Make it immediately clear that you’re unattached.
contact with a cute stranger at the meat counter, Jennifer suggests asking the grocery store guy — loudly — “How much should I buy for just one serving?” The point, she says, is to make it immediately clear that you’re unattached. Personally, I think this makes it immediately clear that you’re desperate, but some people swear by this tactic, so make up your own mind.

Recognize that the ring-check is not foolproof
A friend who shall remain nameless warned me that a ring-check won’t convince a man you’re available. “My ex-wife didn’t fit into her wedding ring right after having our daughter,” he said. “If I were to see you with a baby so young, I’d probably assume you weren’t wearing a ring because you’re still bloated from the pregnancy.” I am no longer talking to this friend.

Dads who play bad cop in public are probably single
Both male and female single parent friends agree that more often than not, the men who say “no” to their kids who want a candy bar, a toy, or to do something dangerous on the playground, are likely single. The reason? Many married fathers prefer to play the role of good cop, figuring that Mom will discipline the kids at home. But single dads who want some sleep know better than to give the kid a sugar high or a concussion right before bedtime. So be alert to his parenting style and proceed accordingly.

If a dog can be a chick magnet, so can a toddler
Most women admit that a guy with a child is a chick magnet, the way that a single person with a dog is. The difference, though, is that a woman with a baby isn’t always a guy magnet. According to my male friends, when it comes to romantic bait, dogs are unisex. Kids are male-advantage.

Needless to say, I found these pick-up tricks enlightening… and somewhat confusing. Which brings me back to Dave, the guy from the barbecue. After he heard from a friend that I am, in fact, single, he called me up and asked me to dinner. “And I’d be happy to share our babysitter if you need one,” he added. A date and a babysitter? Now, that’s the best single-parent pickup line I’ve heard yet.

Lori Gottlieb is the co-author of I Love You, Nice To Meet You (St. Martin's Press) and a commentator for NPR. Her website is
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