I've Started Dating For My Daughter

Leah Campbell
Leah Campbell

This past Christmas, I took my 5-year-old to see Santa. I assumed she was going to ask for a real unicorn, as that was the gift she had been talking about for over a month. But instead, she asked for something perhaps even more unattainable: my daughter asked Santa for a dad.

This probably shouldn't have come as a surprise to me, but it kind of did. I adopted my little girl on my own. It has always been just the two of us, and until recently, that's never seemed to matter. But last Fall, her biological father died. Even though she'd never met him and he'd never been a significant part of her life, learning the news of his passing triggered something in her. For the first time, she seemed to recognize our family as something less than whole.

[My little girl] doesn't have a dad mostly because I gave up on finding a life partner for myself a long time ago.

It's been a hard adjustment for both of us. My little girl suddenly has all these big feelings about the structure of our family, and I've had to swallow my own feelings of inadequacy while trying to help her navigate that emotional minefield — this is all while knowing that she doesn't have a dad mostly because I gave up on finding a life partner for myself a long time ago.

This was never the plan. I always saw myself with kids and a husband. But . . . life. After a few bad breakups and being told I was infertile in my mid-20s, I reached a point where I realized I wanted to be a mom more than I wanted to be a wife. If Mr. Right turned up after the fact, great. But I was done waiting around for him.

I think I sorely overestimated my ability to date as a single mom, though, because once I had my little girl in my arms, making time for anyone else became an afterthought. I've dated a little in the years since, but nothing substantial. It's hard to meet people as a single mom and even harder to carve out the time to really get to know them. I just haven't made it a priority.

Until now.

Something about my daughter yearning for that piece of the puzzle has forced me out of my self-imposed dating retirement and back into the world of dating apps and lunch meet-ups. And while I'm not actually going out there with the intention of finding her a dad (that would be creepy), I'm on board with taking things slow and just seeing what the dating pool has to offer me. It was almost like she gave me permission to take this time to do something for myself, like she made it OK for me to sign her up for a few extra nights with a babysitter so that I could go out into the world and see if I've been missing something, too.

And it turns out, maybe I have been. Because while I'm still new to this whole dating thing, I'm remembering what it feels like to have butterflies. How nice it is to have that physical affection or those flirty looks across a table, and to just feel like there might be potential. I'm remembering who I was before motherhood consumed me.

We're a long way out from introducing my daughter to any potential daddy hopefuls. I'm still testing the waters and trying to remember what it is I'm looking for myself. But this desire of hers woke something up in me. And while Santa didn't deliver her a daddy (or a unicorn) this year, who knows what the future might hold?