YOU HAVE most likely heard of MILFS. Now meet the SMILFS (that’s single mothers, if you were wondering). It’s also the title of a new American comedy series following the dating dramas of a single mum.
But how does a real-life SMILF juggle work, relationships and raising their kids? Is dating different when the babysitter lets you down, your kids read out your flirty text messages and your daughter categorically tells you she does NOT want you to meet a prince? The non-stop attention that a SMILF gets is hard to navigate, too.
The SMILFs we spoke to are women on a dating mission. They take their kids on dates, send their offspring to their dads if they fancy overnight male company and are confident enough in their post-baby body to snare a reality star...
Stay-at-home mum Mimi Belkessa, 34, lives in London, with her daughters Saffia, four, and two-year-old Zahara.
Men are always surprised that I have children. I’m quite petite. Whatever their vision of a mum is I obviously don’t fit into that box.
I've been single for 18 months. I split with my girls' dad when the youngest was five months old. I’m now at the point in my life where I'm looking for something serious. Granted it is difficult while the children are so young.
I'm picky. Before I even agree to go on a date there are several hoops he has to jump through. I might sound like a tough cookie but that isn’t the case. I want to have a great night with someone who is good-looking and interesting company. It is non-negotiable that he has to be hot!
Like most of my friends I have been on various dating apps, including Tinder and Bumble. When I start messaging someone I’m already assessing them. While I don’t mind about ‘text talk’ or spelling mistakes they have to make me laugh.
Over the last year and a half I've been on six dates and have a couple more coming up. When I tell men I have children, they do get scared.
Like most women who date via online websites and apps I've had good experiences and bad. One odd date was particularly memorable. I was quite excited to meet him. We’d been talking online for a while and built up a flirty rapport.
When I politely asked what he had been up to that day, he casually went into explicit detail about masturbation! It was more locker room X-rated banter than something you would tell a woman you were trying to impress.
When you’re a single mum you don’t give guys second chances. Needless to say I refused to see him again.
Men don’t take SMILFs seriously - they don’t see us as long-term prospects because the kids are ‘baggage’Mimi Belkessa
My theory is that guys reckon they can talk to single mums differently. A lot of men don’t take us seriously. They don’t see us as long-term prospects because the kids are ‘baggage'.
I do get chatted up in real life. If I’m on a rare night out with a girlfriend the odds are someone will approach me. It happened recently. I was out with a girlfriend and a guy caught my eye. He came over and started chatting to me. It was very clear he fancied me and while nothing came of it it’s always flattering to know you can still turn heads.
My body hasn’t changed that much since having children. I appreciate I'm lucky in that respect. My sex life has to take a back seat, though. I’m a mum, my girls have to come first.
I’m lucky that I have friends who are single mums, too. We help each other out with babysitting. I wouldn’t be able to go out otherwise. My children are used to seeing me dressed up. I straighten my hair everyday and always wear make-up too. They do love it when I put a nice dress on, though.
A male friend I used to be intimate with came to stay once. We’d seen each other in my early twenties. He was an old flame really. Were intimate together, but only when the girls were either staying with my friends or at school. I don’t want them face-to-face with the situation of finding someone they don’t know in my bed.
He didn’t even sleep in the same bed. To be fair he didn’t expect to either. While the sex side of things was great what was as important was having grown up male company. It was lovely having a man at home and having adult conversation, too.
I introduced him as a friend and he stayed for four days. That kind of a relationship is as much as I can handle right now. I don’t dream of getting married. I never have done though. If it happens it would be fantastic but I am a realist, too.
When it comes to sleeping with guys I am seeing I normally go their place. If I invite them back to mine it will only be when the kids are on a sleep over with family or friends.
Me and my daughter Saffi have had The Talk. I explained that mummy goes out because I am keen on ‘finding a prince.’ She isn’t convinced, telling me, “You don't need one. You’ve got me mummy!”
Sales advisor Jordon Casey, 23, lives in Leicester with her daughters Kianna, seven, Zara, five, and 17-month-old son King.
My dating life was a lot easier with my first two. If I wanted to go out and let my hair down the girls went to their dad's house. We’d been childhood sweethearts, but grown apart and split when I was 19. We still get on well.
For a year after we broke up I was casually seeing people. There was no one serious. There was a guy I'd hang out with and sleep with. The girls would be at the dads and it was fine for him to come to mine. It was a casual thing and I kept it separate to my life as a mum.
Then I met King’s dad in 2015. I was 20 and saw his picture o line. It was a 'boom' moment for me. I asked my friend who he was and when I got his name I messaged him.
My seven-year-old daughter read out a flirty text message I'd received - I was mortifiedJordon Casey
He got on great with the girls. Of course, there were those awkward moments when people would assume he was the girls' father. It was awkward putting them straight. We’d laugh it off, though.
But since we split and now having King, my youngest, my love life has been difficult to organise. It took me a long time to get to a situation where I wanted to date again. Although after seeing how much the scene has changed, I’m not sure I’m ready to meet someone new.
Everything revolves around social media. It gives guys the opportunity to be really sleazy. It's hard to spot the genuine ones. I’ve got used to constantly receiving random messages from men. I get up to 30 a day. Recent ones included: “I hope you don't mind me saying, but you’re absolutely stunning x” and “One thing! You are fit as hell! Are you taken?”
It was so much easier to meet guys before I met my youngest child’s dad. I was at university and I used to get hit on even while I was studying. Even though I had two daughters it didn’t put guys off. It is more reassuring to get to know someone face to face or via friends. You knew if chemistry was there or not.
I wouldn’t be able to date without the help of family and friends. King goes to his grandmother’s every weekend which helps.
I’ve been on 10 dates since getting back in the scene. I’ve not gone all the way with anyone though. The problem is I’ve had so many first dates cut short. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve arrived, sat down and then got a call because my son’s sick.
Recently I didn’t even get to the date. I’d spent an hour dropping my daughters off to one babysitter and then taking King to someone else. I live in the countryside and had to drive into the city centre. There was so much traffic, I was on the road for an hour when I got the call, "King isn’t very well, can you come and collect him?" I hadn’t even got to the date!
The guy was understanding - luckily. Typically I'll try to reorganise it. Dates are never spontaneous - there is always a two-week minimum lead-time!
Men are shocked when I say I’ve got three children. They don’t believe I’m a mum. I always ask them, “What is a mum supposed to look like?”
My daughter’s dad and I have a rule: that no one gets to meet them unless the other one has – it’s only fair. So, if I am serious about someone, like I was with King’s dad then my daughter’s dad met him before they did.
I do want to find love and while I am enjoying the single life I am disillusioned with the dating scene. I was last single in 2015. Everything has changed. It’s all online. I know deep down I’ll end up getting back with King’s dad.
The trouble now with organising dates is that my eldest daughter Kianna always looks at my texts over my shoulder. I forget she can read properly now. When she recently read one out to my mum I was mortified! Luckily it was just a romantic one.
Carer Abigail Murray, 22, lives in Finsbury Park, North London, with her six-month-old son, Azriel.
I’ve been single since my son was born. Azriel’s dad and I really tried to make a go of our relationship but it just didn’t work out between us. We both wanted different things.
I am still young though and have the rest of my life ahead of me. I don’t intend to stay single forever! Since I gave birth last November I have already been on five dates. I gravitate towards older guys - the oldest guy I have dated is 34. Ones my age are too immature.
The best way to meet someone is via dating websites, such as Plenty of Fish. I am careful about giving out too much personal information until I get to know them. Even though I have invited guys back to mine who I am attracted to - you get to know the ones who just want to have no-strings sex and that is not for me.
I’m surprised that I get so much attention online. I was expecting zero interest. It might sound like a cliché but I assumed that because I’m a single mum I’d be dismissed as someone with baggage. Nothing could be further from the truth. Men aren’t put off by it. Guys don’t think like that anymore. My theory is that it’s normal nowadays. Some of them have children too. It’s the world we live in today.
On a practical level my son is with me all the time. I even brought him with me on a date once to a Caribbean restaurant. While I don’t want any 'randoms' meeting my son – it was someone I’d been chatting to online for some time. My date was fine with it and they bonded. We didn’t talk about my son, though, we just focused on getting to know one another.
I am body confident. If I want to have sex with someone I am seeing I’ll go back to theirsAbigail Murray
The brutal truth is it’s lonely at night on your own. When Azriel is settled asleep I do think about what I have given up. I’ve got a university degree in early childhood studies. But I’m working as a carer until he is in school and I can return to uni. I don’t have any regrets but it is a different life. I don’t go out with my girlfriends anymore either.
Some guys are shocked when I tell them I’m a new mum. When I look in the mirror I see stretch marks and a body that doesn’t look as hot as I used to. Even Azriel’s dad tells me to keep an eye on my figure. He's said that I need to get back down the gym.
I am body confident. If I want to have sex with someone I am seeing I’ll go back to theirs or I’ll wait until my son is with his dad and invite my date over. It takes a lot of juggling.
The first date I had after giving birth was a bit of a disaster. We met online and he came to pick me up to go out. I took one look at him and said I’d made a mistake, I couldn’t go out with him as I needed to collect my son. I closed the door in his face. He looked nothing like his profile picture! He was a lot shorter. His picture was obviously 10 years old. If he’d lied about that – what else had he fibbed about?
It was funny when I told my girlfriends about it afterwards. But it was a real missed opportunity for him. You’re so much pickier and more careful when you’re a single mum.
Waitress Daisy Shaw, 19, lives in Southend-on-Sea with her 16-month-old son George.
I only discovered I was expecting when I was 26 weeks gone. It was a shock to everyone – me included! – because I wasn’t showing. Even the medical staff only thought I was three to four weeks pregnant.
A lot of people really tried to put me off being a single mum. I used to hear, "no one wants to date a young girl with a baby". I am lucky because I live at home. My mum and dad help me out all the time. I broke up with George’s dad because we were arguing all the time. He still sees George and things are better this way.
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve cancelled a date because I’ve been let down by a babysitterDaisy Shaw
I was single throughout the pregnancy. I started dating again a couple of months after I had George. It didn’t bother me about taking him out either. Last Easter some friends and I were at a park. We met up with some guys and I hung out with one of them all afternoon. Having George with me just wasn’t a problem. The world has moved on today and men are more accepting of women who have babies on their own.
Everyone is surprised that I am a mum. “You look too young!” is the common reply. I work weekends at a local restaurant. Whenever there are new staff I explain I only work part-time because I’ve got a son. They are always stunned.
People tend to have me down as in my early twenties. Whether maturity comes from being a mum I’m not sure.
Trying to date when George first came along was hard. I couldn’t be spontaneous anymore. Most guys want to go out when they have finished work. That’s normally George’s bedtime. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve nearly cancelled a date because I’ve been let down by a babysitter. What typically happens is someone cries off and then I’ll spend half an hour on the phone trying to get another friend to step in. In the end I used to organise dates when George was with his dad. That way I knew I wouldn’t end up cancelling at the last minute.
Like most of the country last year I was addicted to Love Island. I messaged one of the contestants, Craig Lawson, on his Instagram account last September. I’ve never done anything like that before.
I put my forwardness down to the confidence you have when you’re a mum. I've grown up a lot since George came along so it didn't faze me to contact him. I was amazed he replied. We began messaging one another - and hit it off.
I told him about George straight away. I wouldn’t hide my son. Anyway he’d only need to look on my account to see pictures of us all over it!
We had our first date on the beach near where I live. Of course, George came along. Craig was really cool and gave him a cuddle. It went much better than I thought it would.
I have nearly had to cancel dates on a couple of occasions which is stressful because Craig doesn’t live near me. When someone is driving over an hour to see you and the babysitter can’t make it you want to scream!
Craig met George the same time he met my parents. It’s a modern way of dating. They get along really well. My parents have even let Craig stay over with me too. He stays in my room and that's fine. George is still a baby.
We’ve been seeing each other for five months now. It helps that Craig is older and also has children. He likes to advise me on my parenting techniques. We don’t always agree. But recently he complimented me on George's progress - so I know I am doing something right!
I am serious about Craig. We’re going to get a place together. I want to tell all single mums to keep dating because you will get your happy ever after. I’ve got mine.
We’re moving in together now. I’m really looking forward to having our own bedroom, too!
Meanwhile, these four women chose to become single mothers after deciding they didn’t have time to wait around for Mr Right.
And, a mum reveals why dating and finding love as a single parent is "a totally different world".