Single Moms Struggle to Find Mr. Right

One Web site — — recommends single mothers run a background check or run a potential boyfriend's name against the database of sex offenders.

"Just because a guy makes your toes tingle, don't forget your common sense," advises "If something about him makes the hair on the back of your neck stand on end, don't make excuses. Just run like hell. You can apologize later if you have to."

The stakes are higher for women than for men, because they usually have full-time custody of their children.

Only about 16 percent of single parents are men, according to the U.S. Census bureau — about 3.2 million fathers, many of whom do not have primary custody and therefore more opportunities to date.

"The woman is thinking about protecting her children and what potential role the man will have with the children," said Wolf. "This is not necessarily the top priority for a majority of men."

Yeshiva University professor Louise Silverman, who teaches family therapy, said the difference between single mothers and single dads is often a financial one.

"Men are the dominant group in our culture," she said. "They make more money and have more status and more power than women."

"It's much more prestigious for a woman to have a man than to go out alone," said Silverstein. "It's much more complicated because men can marry down with age and income and women cannot."

Younger mothers are usually more motivated to get married again, she said. Younger divorced women "tend to marry as quickly as possible," yet older women hold off longer.

'Everyone Needs a Wife'

Divorced men remarry the quickest, "because every one needs a wife."

Men also have the upper hand when it comes to meeting prospective wives. Numerous television shows from "The Andy Griffith Show" in the 1960s to "Full House" in the 1990s to today's "Two and Half Men" portray single fathers sought out by eager girlfriends.

"Men who are single dads and good dads, in terms of not only providing for the children, but nurturing them in an emotionally connected way," are attractive to would-be girlfriends, according to Silverstein.

Given the challenges women face in the dating scene, TLC's new television show may have some vicarious appeal for single moms. But therapists don't recommend volunteering for the casting call.

Reality shows, which rely on the drama of conflict and embarrassment, may be entertaining, but hard on their contestants' personal lives.

"Take a show like 'Moment of Truth' where the point of the show is watching someone in trouble," said parenting coach Wolf. "In the end, it ruins people's lives."

"You can't control what is public when you are out there," she said. "Not only are you vulnerable, but so are your kids."

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