A single mom's guide to men

I have been a single mom for ten years, and I've done more than my fair share of dating during those ten years. I've dated all kinds of men and yes, I have developed my own stereotypes of the men we single mamas date, and through that, I know the types I prefer. That said, when there is chemistry, there is chemistry, and sometimes these preferences fly right out the window.

Here are the various characters I've run into "out there." And yes, they are all based on real men.

1. The Confirmed Bachelor. The confirmed bachelor is in his late thirties or older, has never been married, and does not have kids. He has his life structured the way he wants it. He used to think he would never date anyone with kids, but he really likes you so he decides to give it a whirl.

Pros: Prepare to be spoiled. This guy likes impress his ladies with nice dinners out, trips, concerts, and sporting events. He is definitely a lot of fun.
Cons: He's not ready to settle down, not sure he ever wants to settle down, and that whole "exclusive" tag can be difficult for him. And I think I speak for most single mamas when I say that exclusive tag is pretty darn important. And he doesn't relate well to your kids because he has no idea how to do that, even though he may try hard to.

The Verdict: If you really like him, Proceed With Caution, but keep your expectations realistic.

2. The Gorgeous Single Playboy. Oh you just know you need to stay away from him but he's just sooo good looking. And he can be sooo charming. He charms you, and if he has the chance, he'll charm your kid(s) too.

Pros: Ladies, do I really need to say anything here?
Cons: In my experience, in addition to the obvious (see Cons for the Confirmed Bachelor), really good looking guys tend to have the most hidden issues and when you are a single mama, well, the eye candy and charm just isn't enough to make up for that.

The Verdict: Stay Away

3. The Recently Divorced Single Dad. You'll run into a lot of these out there. This guy has been divorced less than two years. He has a couple of kids. He is out there. You might have met him on a dating site because the dude is dating. After fifteen years in a stifling marriage, he is the happiest guy in town, and he's out every non-custodial weekend with someone new.

Pros: He's happy and enthusiastic. He gets your situation. He understands your time constraints with your children, and he understands the whole parenting gig. He's good with your kids.
Cons: He is not ready to settle down. He loves his new single life. He really likes you and wants to see you, but he also wants to see those other three awesome single moms he met on that site. And he may have a crazy Ex in the background.

The Verdict: Give him a call in a couple of years if he is still available. My personal rule is three years. A single guy needs to have been single for a good three years before I am really interested. At that point he has settled down enough to be good dating material.

4. The Generic Single Guy. He isn't a confirmed bachelor just yet. He would really like to get married and have kids, oh but it's hard to give up his freedom for a relationship. But he wants it enough to try. He may not have dated someone with kids before, but like the Confirmed Bachelor, he likes you enough to jump in.

Pros: He's got time to spend with you and your offspring. He doesn't have an Ex to deal with. If you want more kids, he does too. Since he ultimately wants a family, he is open to being in a serious relationship.
Cons: Your time constraints are tough for him. He wants more of your time, and understands that more of your time means time with you and your kids. He's mostly okay with that but it's not always easy. He may be wary of the Ex situation, even when it's good. You just come with a little more baggage than he was expecting, and he may not be ready to move out of his fun, single life into a married with children situation. It's very challenging for him even when he really digs you.

The Verdict: Go For It. If it's right, you will work through all of the issues. Just be ready to really work and be patient with him.

5. The Single Dad. Different from Number 3, because this Single Dad has been divorced three or more years. He has settled into his routine with his kids. He is very open to a relationship. His life looks a lot like yours.

Pros: He gets it. The whole situation. He understands your time constraints, and he respects them. His life already accommodates children, he's got the dad thing down, and there are a lot of conversations you don't have to have because he has been there and done that. On the weekends you can do things with all the kids together.
Cons: May have a crazy Ex. Your schedules may not match up (he's on the dad schedule and you're on the mom schedule) so it may be hard to find time together without the kids. You may have different views of parenting that you have to work through.

The Verdict: Thumbs Up. I love a Single Dad, and I prefer to date single dads. Like any relationship, there are challenges, but when you are coming from the same place, more or less, it all fits together much easier.

So Single Moms, weigh in! Do you have your own way of profiling the eligible men out there? What do you look for when you meet someone? Do you have any single mom dating tips to share?

Clare is a Shine Parenting Guru. A single, working mom to a tween daughter in Austin TX, Clare spends a lot of her time managing her various alter egos when not focusing on the one that's a mother. You can read more from her at "Life on the C Train"