A few things I have learned from friends and even my own experiences is, dating doesn't have to be a terrifying idea after you have kids. Look around, most people over the age of thirty who are single do have children, you aren't unusual and you shouldn't feel awkward. However, here are a few things I find myself repeating to myself and my friends.
#1 - You actually CAN help who you fall in love with. I have a friend who is gorgeous. She's older, but she doesn't look older and she is constantly approached by men young enough to be her son. These guys typically aren't looking for marriage, a serious relationship or even anything more than a good time it seems. My advice on the ones that you know are bad ideas - don't go out with them. Even though you may be bored and tempted to go out on any date you can find, if you're looking for something serious, stay away from the guys who are too young and the biggest red flag - if they say they like "cougars" run as fast as you can. In my opinion, that isn't exactly a compliment. There's only one Stiffler's mom, and what works for her doesn't work for anyone who is looking for a lasting relationship.
#2 - Be choosey. make a mental list of the qualities you want in a mate. Someone who is established, I'm not saying be a gold digger, ladies, but I am advising anyone not to hook up with that cute drummer from the cover band who plays at the local bar... unless of course he actually has a real job.
Is honesty important to you? If you catch him in a lie in the beginning, lose him. These things rarely ever get better or go away.
Do you want someone who has some of the same important hobbies as you? Find someone who shares these interests and won't find taxidermy or whatever you like weird.
#3 - Not every man in or around his forties wants to date a twenty year old. Granted, there are those who do, but for the most part, and surprisingly, men think much like we do when they mature. They want someone who can hold a conversation, will spend time with them doing grown-up things instead of going to the nearby watering hole and they enjoy the company of a gal who has had the same experiences in life they have.
#4 - Although I am all about independence, there is something to be said about chilvary. I like it when a man opens the door for me, understands common courtesy and treats me like a lady. More of this in the next one, but let's talk about the whole idea of today's woman and what to expect. Example - who picks up the check for dinner. It is okay for you to offer to pay. It is okay for you to leave the tip or go dutch, but if he refuses your offer, don't badger him about it. Thank him for dinner and maybe offer to get the next one.
#5 - Back to the whole being treated like a lady. This may be where you will find big warning signs. Does he ask you out then want you to come to his place instead of going somewhere? Chances are he is expecting something. Are his compliments laden with sexual innuendo? For example, a friend of mine mentioned to a date that she was going to the local pool with her children. His response, "I'd sure like to go down there and rub oil all over you." Really? Did she not just mention she was taking her children to the swimming pool with her? Maybe out of context this doesn't sound as bad as it was, but this fellow was a true creeper and constantly made her uncomfortable. Just drop these guys. if he consistently compliments you by saying you look "hot" instead of "beautiful" - watch him.
#6 - What if your date doesn't have children? Well, my first question is - Is he aware that you do? If so, then put no more thought into it. Guys aren't as stupid as we we overthink them to be. You don't know his situation or why he hasn't spawned a bunch of little juniors. He knows you are a mom, if he had a problem with that, he wouldn't have asked you out. Single dudes with no kids aren't as freaked out by dating us as we probably think, and if they are, you will pick up on it very quickly.
Call a sitter, put on that dress you have hanging in the back of your closet that you thought you'd never have a chance to wear and have a good time. Give people a chance and take no crap. You don't have to ignore any possibilities of finding someone, and you certainly don't have to settle for the first bad choice you find.