Shouldn’t a single mother indicate if the father is still in the picture?

Dear Anthony,

I’ve seen several single mothers on Ave Maria Singles who are available for sacramental marriage and would make wonderful wives. But I think I would be more willing to approach a single mother if she were to indicate on her profile that her child’s father was out of the picture. Do you have any thoughts on this?

This is a great observation on your part and also addresses something very important for single mothers to realize. You are right that many of these single mothers are available for sacramental marriage and will make great wives and mothers. We have had many single mothers over the years find their husband on Ave Maria Singles. So I know firsthand that it can happen for them.

But there is a great concern on the part of single mothers as to whether there are men out there willing to marry them if they have a child or children. I think this point you are bringing up is key. What you are saying is that men are likely hesitant to make an initial contact to a single mother due to the unknown regarding the situation with the father of the child/children, and that men would be much more inclined to make contact if they knew that the father was not going to be involved. And it would be a help if a woman would spell that out more regarding their situation with the child’s father.

This is the whole “baggage” issue. Both men and women tend to be careful about getting involved with someone who has situations or past issues that are perceived to make for a difficult life. No one is too excited about dealing with someone else’s “baggage”, so they are more prone to shy away from getting involved in the first place (and certainly to get out early on in order not to have to deal with it in any long-term relationship). It takes a special kind of person (and probably a powerful degree of love for the other person that is already present) to accept another person’s “baggage” as well as the person him- or herself. It does happen, but it is more unlikely.

Don’t get me wrong. Everyone has some kind of issues to deal with (thus, “baggage”). That’s why it is so critical for each person to have a handle on their issues as far as possible as they go into being open to marriage and start dating. It is much more powerful to have dealt with, or at least identified, our issues so the baggage is minimal. It is the fear of having to manage another person’s baggage, or the fear of how that baggage will disrupt or damage a relationship, that makes someone shy away from another person. But that fear is diminished or extinguished if the person displays that they are fully aware of their baggage and that they do not “need” someone to take over responsibility for their baggage.

Do you see what I mean? That’s why it is foolish for someone to see the baggage another person has and just turn and run. That is a premature reaction (and even an immature reaction, because it implies they, themselves, have no baggage that another person should be concerned with).

So let us all work hard to acknowledge our baggage and be ready to present it with full disclosure to another person, and see to it that the other person is not being asked to deal and accept this baggage despite themselves. In other words, who wants to marry a person who says, “Hey, this is me, take it or leave it”? No, we want a person who is able to say that they have things to continually work on and that their patience, understanding, forgiveness, and prayers are all much appreciated. And in turn, they do the same for the other. That, after all, is what marriage is.

Now, there is some “baggage” that nothing can be done about. I certainly hate to associate a child with being “baggage”, and I’m sure you will understand that I do not. A child is a gift of God and a tremendous blessing. For a single mother, however, their child or children put them at a disadvantage in the dating arena, especially online dating. For better or for worse, their having a child causes an initial negative reaction in men. It makes sense, doesn’t it, at a very specific level? Men don’t tend to seek starting their married life with a child immediately present, and certainly not their own child. We need to accept that this is a normal reaction. But a good man will quickly realize that this negative reaction is not of God, and will be open to the idea of accepting someone else’s child as they allow themselves to be open to the woman. All men should have this openness, and realize that it is very possible God wants them to be open to a woman who has a child or children.

At our first Ave Maria Singles retreat in May 2007, during our faith-sharing session at the end of the retreat, we were all touched and amazed at the testimony of a man who came to the retreat specifically to figure out if he should ask the woman he was seeing to marry him. Why such a dramatic effort to decide on something so common as asking a woman for her hand in marriage? This woman had seven children and he just was not sure he wanted to take on that responsibility. You see, he was open to being moved to such generosity by attending the retreat, and he stated on that last retreat day that he was going home and would ask her to marry him.

That is the kind of miracle that can happen to any man who is truly open to God’s will. And he will find that being open to someone else’s children actually adds to his existence, not takes away from it. This is, therefore, why I hate including a child in the “baggage” category. They are NEVER baggage. They are a blessing. A man who avoids any single mothers is making a mistake. Or at the very least, he is implying that a child is a negative in a woman he might consider dating instead of a positive.

Yes, a man has every right to want to find a woman who has no children and start out his marriage with no children, and have his own natural children. But men need to be always asking themselves hard questions to discover where they might truly be before God in their hearts and attitudes. This lack of openness to a single mother could also imply a lack of openness to adoption. What if the wife he was so careful to handpick for her ability to give him children discovers within the marriage that she is unable to have children? Or, not so uncommon, that HE is the one not able to impregnate his wife? Will he be open to adoption? Probably so, because he will have been humbled by the experience of their infertility as a couple.

Why does God have to always humble us before we will be open to doing all things that are good and pleasing in His eyes? If a man can say “Yes, I would be open to adoption if we were not able to have our own kids,” then why not be open a woman who has a child or children when dating? This man at the May 2007 retreat was surprised by the joy he has found being the instant father of seven. He is a very rare man. And that is a rare situation. Most single mothers have one child. Being open to being a father to a woman’s child is not at all so bad. In fact, it is noble, and likely a blessing to the man, not just the child. And does it not emulate the actions of another famous man who was asked to be the foster father of a child that was not his, that was conceived to a woman he was not married to and whom he was told by God to be open to?

Sorry to avoid your main question all this time, but it does have a purpose. And I guess what I am trying to say is to not be hesitant to contact any single mother on the site just because you do not yet know if the father of the child is out of the picture or not. That is an unreasonable thing to demand on a good Catholic woman who is a single mother and putting herself out there to the men with faith and trust that she will be seen as the good woman she is and the precious gift her child is, don’t you think? You really want her to, on top of putting herself out there so vulnerably, also say on her profile that the father of the child is or is not out of the picture? Don’t you think she will know that by saying the father is still in the picture that she is killing her chances?

My advice is that you, and all men, is just go ahead and contact women that you find interesting, and trust in God. If the woman has a child, then so be it. You can deal with the dynamics of that as you go along and decide things accordingly. If you end up really liking this woman and her child, but then find out that the father is still in the picture at some level, then you deal with that accordingly as it happens. There are many, many situations where a father might still be in the picture but it is completely civil and harmless to a situation.

BUT BY ALL MEANS, do NOT avoid making an initial contact with a woman you find interesting or attractive because of “assumptions” as to what it might all mean for her to have a child and what is the deal with the father. You have to leave some things to faith and trust in God. After all, who is in control here, God or you? And must all our efforts to find love be easy roads? So many are missing their opportunities because they don’t understand that finding love in marriage is a great prize, and such a prize does not come without a great price