‘Single Parents Are Often Ghosted And Told Kids Are Baggage – So I Created A Dating App Just For Them’

‘With single parents, there's a natural connection. You both know the trenches you’re in': one mother explains why she created a solo parenting app

dating app single parents parenting

by Lauren Libbert |
Updated on

Getting a match on a dating app is often about having stuff in common. If you’re both vegan, love Labradors and share a mutual passion for snowboarding, there’s a strong chance you’ll want to meet up. But what about single parents?

Up until now, single parents interested in dating had to go on the usual apps such as Tinder and Hinge and decide whether to “out” themselves in their profile upfront - and risk rejection from the off - or save the information for a real-life date and risk the possibility of rejection at that stage too.

But Frolo Dating, an app launching in the New Year for single parents, is set to change all that.

It’s founded by single parent, Zoe Desmond, after she spent four years dipping in and out of the dating scene and finding it wanting.

‘I went on a date once with a nice single-no-kids guy who asked me how I felt about raising my son in a broken home and this immediately got my heckles up,’ recalls 41 year-old Zoe, who lives in London and has a five year-old son, Billy. ‘I told him I wasn’t raising my son in a broken home just because I wasn’t with his dad and, in fact, my son had two homes that were filled with love. He just didn’t get it – another single parent wouldn’t say that. Needless to say, I didn’t go on a date with him again.’

Aside from the lack of understanding, Zoe says that single parents are often at a huge disadvantage on the dating scene, being told their kids are 'baggage' or getting ghosted when the person they're dating discovers they have children.

‘Over the years, I always found it soul-destroying because I’d wonder if I should tell them I have a kid or would that go against me and I’d end up being ghosted? But if I didn’t say anything then I wasn’t being honest. These are very real questions for single parents – you’re always feeling on the back foot,’ she says.

Whenever she matched with single parents, it felt entirely different.

‘There’s immediately a deeper, shared connection,’ says Zoe, who co-parents with Billy’s father. ‘You’ll talk about your kids, why you’re a single parent, maybe discuss your relationship with your ex. There’s no shame or hiding the fact you have children, which can be a feature of normal dating.’

Shame and guilt as a single parent are feelings Zoe is very familiar with. Like the singer Adele, she says she always dreamt of raising her son in a nuclear family with both parents living under the same roof. But when her relationship of three years fractured beyond repair, she had no choice but to go solo.

‘Billy had just turned one and it was such a tough time,’ she says. ‘It wasn’t just the heartbreak of a relationship breakdown but also the heartbreak and guilt for my son that his family unit had broken down as well. For the first year, I felt so overwhelmed, trying to contend with a one-year old and be the mother I needed to be when I was struggling emotionally. I remember a taxi driver taking us home after a few days away and asking where my husband was and having to explain I was no longer with his dad and my eyes filled and a lump came into my throat. I found myself full of feelings of shame and failure to have to say that I was a single parent.’

Despite there being roughly two million single parents in the UK – one in four families – Zoe knew no-one and was crippled with feelings of isolation and loneliness.

‘I had great friends around me but none of them were single parents and a lot of my weekends were spent pushing a buggy around, seeing other nuclear families and feeling really triggered by it,’ she explains. ‘It was like the elephant in the room and some friends seemed uncomfortable discussing it. I’d try to put on a face to show I was OK and coping but behind closed doors I wasn’t.’ She went searching online but found nothing to connect her with local parents in a similar situation to hers and started to imagine creating an online community that did. Then she bumped into a local mum who had a son the same age as Billy and she experienced her lightbulb moment.

‘I’d always chatted to her briefly but didn’t know her very well. Then she told me she’d been on holiday, but that it was full on as it was just her and her son. I couldn’t believe it. She was a single parent like me, living just around the corner and I’d never known it!’ says Zoe. ‘It made me realise I had to make my idea a reality – otherwise so many single parents like us would spend weekends feeling lonely when we could otherwise be supporting each other and doing nice things together with our kids.’

She went onto launch the location-based app, Frolo – a combination of the word ‘friend’ and ‘solo’ - in 2019 to connect local single parent families and it now has nearly 30,000 registered users or ‘frolos’ in the UK and Ireland and has just won Social Media App of the Year in the UK app awards.

‘With single parents, there's a natural connection and empathy,’ she says. ‘You both know the trenches you’re in. If the kid is sick, it’s just you. If you’re up at 3am changing bedsheets, it’s just you. It’s you that’s holding the emotional weight of your own home and on the days when everything is hard and the kid is having a meltdown, you don’t get to hand over and say, “I need 5 minutes.” When it’s on your watch, it’s on your watch. Only single parents understand this.’

The Frolo community saw a 700 per cent increase in users during the pandemic, offering virtual events such as Friday night drinks, movie nights and book groups at a time when so many of its members had no interactions with another adult during the day.

‘It was a lifeline and continues to be now we’re back meeting in real life,’ says Zoe. ‘My Frolo friends have become some of my absolute closest friends. We celebrate the good times, support each other when things are tough and remind each other how good a job we’re doing as single parents.’

Frolo Dating, she says, was the inevitable next step as, ‘the Frolo community were crying out for it’ and Zoe, whois still single, has her profile ready to go for when it launches in January. ‘I would love to meet another single parent as I love the idea of blending families with the right person,’ she says. ‘This is not the way I planned my life to be but I wouldn't have it any other way and I’m really excited for the future.’

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