Anyone who has ever gone on a date knows that dating can be complicated, time consuming, and stressful, even when you are dating someone that you get along with well. That is particularly true if you are a single parent raising one or more children. Managing your dating life while trying to be a single parent can be a monumental struggle. The best way to make it manageable is to follow these 7 rules.

1. Be Open About Being a Single Parent

Before you ever go on your first date, make sure your dating partner understands that you are a single parent. This will turn off some potential mates and that is okay. You want someone who is comfortable with the fact that you are a parent and wants to date you anyway. One other thing to watch for is someone who is overeager about you being a single parent. If your mate seems more interested in your child than you, end the relationship fast.

2. Introductions Are Made on Your Schedule

Assuming you date long enough, your partner will eventually meet your child. That is perfectly reasonable. But that introduction happens entirely on your schedule, when you feel comfortable making the introduction. If your partner is pressing for an introduction before you are ready, that is a clear sign that you two have different expectations for where your relationship is.

3. No Cancellations

When dating as a single parent, you need to find someone to watch your child during dates. This is a time consuming process that will either cost you money for babysitting or require you to call on favurs from family. As such, you need to insist that your partner never cancels dates without reasonable warning (you choose what is reasonable). If the person you are dating doesn't understand how difficult it is for you to reschedule or cancel last minute, they aren't worth dating.

4. Any Event with Your Children is Not a Date

Once you have dated for a while, assuming your children get along with your partner, it is very likely that you will attend some family friendly activities, like a carnival or a trip to the zoo, with your date and kids in toe. This is a great way to get closer as a group, see how your date deals with children, and to simply have some fun. But it is not a date.

A date is a romantic activity and your children should never be involved in romantic activities. By being absolutely clear about that, you will make the activity more comfortable for everyone, especially your children. This means you should avoid kissing during such activities and even avoid holding hands.

5. Your Child Doesn't Get a Say in Who You Date

Dating is about your emotional satisfaction, not the emotional satisfaction of your child. While it is preferable that your children approve of the person you are dating, this isn't essential. In fact, even if your children hate the person you are dating, that doesn't make you a bad parent. If that is the case, though, you should definitely go out of your way to make sure your child interacts as little as possible with your partner and you should definitely understand the reasons for that dislike. Odds are it is jealousy, but it could also be signs of something more concerning.

6. Your Child Does Get a Say in Who is Their Parent

If your dating life reaches a point where things are getting very serious, your child's opinion suddenly matters a lot more. While there is nothing wrong with going to dinner withsomeone your child doesn't like, it is a very different matter if you intend to put those two people in the same house together.

At a bare minimum, you need to make peace between the two parties before moving in together or getting engaged. Even then, if your child simply can't accept your partner as a parent, then that is a ground rule you have to set: You are the parent, not your partner.

7. You Can Still Date for Fun

The final rule is the most important rule and one most single parents often forget. Just because you have a child, that doesn't mean you have to be dating with the intention of finding a life-long partner. You can, and should, date for fun. Casual dating, with no intention of a long term relationship, is the perfect way to release the type of stress that builds up from being a single parent.

And if you are having trouble finding someone to date, because you are a single parent, an online dating site is the ideal solution to finding someone who is both interested in dating a single parent and wants to date someone like you.