Embracing Butter

“Expat Burnout” and when it might be time to go home

marcus-zymmer-189542

I’ve been living abroad for seven years now. Make that seven years and five months, but hey – who’s counting? At this point, I am. For the most part, I love living outside America. I’m a bit of a wanderer by nature (I blame my Aquarius start sign as well as my nomadic upbringing for this), but at some point there comes a time when even the most adventuresome of us want to put down roots somewhere. After the better part of a decade here in Germany, I think I’ve reached that point.

All expat experiences are challenging. Moving to a new country with a different language, a different climate, different way of doing life, is not easy. My experience was also a bit more challenging than most – in addition to raising three kids alone here in Berlin for the most of our time here, I also went though one of the nastiest divorces ever, which included a child kidnapping case (google my full name and you’ll see ALL the details of this misadventure, thanks to the US government and their sharing of public records).

That life-draining and life-altering experience is I believe what made me go from crazy-in-love with Berlin and never wanting to leave, to the point where I am now. Which is some days is get-me-out-of-here-ASAP! Of course there are still good days – days when I don’t want to leave my life here in Europe, in all it’s cappuccino-fueled and wine-soaked Old World beauty. Those days though are few and far between. Most days I’m griping about how little personal space there is, how rude Germans can be (yes, the Germans I used to love!), and how I just can’t be bothered with the difficult German language or endless bureaucracy any longer.

Apparently I am not alone in feeling this way. A quick Google search last night showed me that things like “expat burnout” and “expat depression” are real things that people face at times when living abroad. Especially when they have been abroad for a long time and are kind of done with their life abroad. Of the several interesting articles I found written on the topic, my favorite – and the most applicable to my experience – is one posted on a website called Expat Info Desk. They give four signs it’s time to leave your life abroad, and what do you know – I can relate to all four. It’s as if I wrote the article myself – or rather, a neutral, honest bystander saw my life from the outside and wrote about where I am.

In short, as much as I love so many things about living abroad – I love the culture one is exposed do, I love the different languages you hear at any given time, I love love love the wonderful foods and desserts and travel and clear water of the Med that you don’t have in the US. But you know what? There are things that I love about and miss where I come from. For example – there is space enough for everyone so you don’t get mauled while waiting in line at the bakery or supermarket, because people generally know how to stand in lines and wait their turns; the bureaucracy isn’t time-sucking and mind-numbing as here. There is a also general sense of responsibility and caring for others in America that I’ve not found here in Europe.

Beyond the lovely parts of life in Europe and the easier living that can be found stateside, another and even more important factor is people. Since we’ve been abroad, I’ve missed two funerals, three weddings, and countless other celebrations and birthdays. This is not to make myself sound pitiful, as I had a reason for moving here and I take full ownership of that decision and I do not regret it. But at some point you realize that once you’ve reached the goals you set out to reach, you no longer have a reason for being where you are. Continuing to miss the lives of those closest to you and yours is not something you are willing to sacrifice any longer, which means it might just be time to start packing bags. Or at least starting on a game plan for the near future.

Learning to make REAL Apple Strudel

apple strudel

I love to bake. And I love to eat. I also have a special place in my heart for all things Austrian, so when I came across the Cafe Strudelka’s Apple Strudel baking lesson recently, I signed up immediately.

For a bit of back story, you have to know that I’m getting tired of (AKA, so done with) Berlin. I’ve been here seven years, three of which were spent in an exhausting, traumatizing and expensive fight with my now (thankfully!) ex-husband. Ever since then the city which I once loved and thrived in drains me. But it’s not quite time to move on, so in the meantime I’m filling my days with things that I love.

Which brings us back to baking Apple Strudel. If you’ve never had it, you should. It’s a lightly sweet dessert made of a deliciously thin, buttery dough filled with apples with a touch of cinnamon and maybe a few raisins. Strudels can also be filled with berries and other fruits, and savory versions exist as well.

I first saw strudel being made at Vienna’s Schönbrunn palace years ago. It was both impressive and intimidating, because to make the lovely dessert, the dough has to be spread out into a paper-thin, large disk. You work the with your hands in a somewhat similar fashion to pizza baking, but as the dough is soooo thing it is a challenge.

At Strudelka the course was small and fun. A welcome drink of sparkling rosé, also from Austria (I think!), was given. I was hoping for seconds but we each just got our one glass. The owner and strudel teacher is from Austria and learned to bake from her grandmother, so I knew we were in for a treat.

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The six of us in the class that night did it all. From prep – mixing together ingredients for the dough and letting it rest for an hour, to chopping apples and dousing them with apple cider vinegar to break them down before baking, to sautéing Semmel (Austrian bread crumbs) in loads of butter for the topping.

In about an hour and a half we each had our very own, authentic and very yummy Apple Strudel. We ate a piece – some of us had two – together with coffee, and we got to take the rest home. Which means – apple strudel was both the midnight snack and breakfast the next morning.

Strudel in the making

Conclusion? Fun class to take if you want to learn how to make a real and pants-tightening classic European dessert by a pro. But as delicious as it was, I still prefer to eat my Strudel made by someone else – in Vienna.

Let’s talk about Berliners

Berlin

Berliners. They’re an interesting breed. I’ve lived here for seven years now,and I still can’t figure them out. They can drive you insane some days, but then they can turn around and surprise you on others.

So what are Berliners like? They’re direct. They’re a bit rough. They’re bossy. They lack grace and joie de vivre. At their worst, they’re brash control freaks who bump into you on the streets because they don’t look where they are going (although here in Berlin it’s your job to stay out of their way). At their best, they’re efficient get-it-doners pay attention to detail and who make sure things are done right (which is why I love the medical field here, for example). But kind, relaxed, and friendly they are not.

To be fair, it’s not entirely their fault that they are the way they are. This is Northern Europe – we’re actually further north than London. In this part of the world winter can last a good half of the year or more. And by winter, I mean days that darken around 4 p.m. and in which grey skys with rain or snow prevail.

At the very least, the majority of the population is likely Vitamin D deficient – the stuff isn’t added to milk here, six months of winter means six months of too little warm rays. And it’s common knowledge now that too little sunlight/Vitamin D leads to depression. So really, how happy can you be long-term in a place without enough sunlight? Not very happy. And it’s no wonder there are so many grumps here.

Beyond the weather, look at the history of this area. As my father pointed out ages ago (in response to one of my rants about how difficult Berliners can be), this part of Germany was Prussia. And the Prussians were bred and raised to be warriors. Apparently they were good at it, and if you’re familiar with military types, you’ll see a bit of soldier in many Berliners. I was both a military brat and married to a US Marine, so I know the characteristics and I see it here quite often. At times I swear people here are marching rather than walking.

Beyond the Prussian-era, Germany has two long and rough world wars under its belt which decimated country economically, culturally, and spiritually. Then slap a few decade of part of the country living behind the Iron Curtain with a wall dividing its capitol, and WOW – you have a lot of years of heavy. And the burden of history does take a toll on a population. 

Add it all up and it’s a bit easier to understand how the general population here in Berlin is not the most carefree of people. Of course there are exceptions – there always are – but in general this is not the lightest of crowds. As a happy-people-loving Southern girl who loves sun and living as carefree as possible, I have to ask myself some days what I am doing here and now much longer I can stay. But that, my friends, is a topic for another day. ;)

For anyone reading this, I’m curious to know what your experience with Berliners has been. Are Berliners as tough as I make them out to be? Am I exaggerating? On point? Do tell!

Last week’s cake: Rhubarb Streusel

Rhubarb cake edited

 

Despite the fact that I’ve been baking for the better part of thirty years (yes, I am that old!), there a few things baking related that intimidate me. These include, but aren’t limited to, because I’m sure I’m forgetting a few, the following: Italian buttercream, meringue (made it successfully but avoid it like the plague), choux pastry, and anything with rhubarb in it. Yes, rhubarb has, up until a few days ago, always been an ingredient I feared.

In my mind, rhubarb has always been something of an exotic ingredient, only used by the most seasoned of bakers and therefore not something I should dare mess with. Silly thinking of course, but hey, we all have our quirks.

Since I grew up primarily in the South, I’ve always been most comfortable baking with ingrients, recipes, and techniques used in the South. Think lots of sugar, butter, the occassional bottle of red food color, pecans, cream cheese, sweet potaotes, etc., etc. Basically, if one of my grandmothers or friends made it, I was certain I could too. But that rhubarb neighbor was part of another baking world (I’d seen it baked with by a neighbor during our family’s short sting in Seattle when I was a kid) so I just wasn’t comfortable with it.

But all that changed last week, when I decided it was time to face the fear of the ingredient that looks like pink celery.  And it was high time, as rhubard grows in abundance in Germany. It’s easy to find, fresh, local, and cheap. Yet it still took me nearly seven years of living in Berlin to make the jump! Again – silly, but oh well.

Germans make great rhubarb cakes, and this time of year you see plenty of them at bakeries, cafés, and any sort of school potluck or social outing. So that was always my excuse actually – the Berliners have rhubarb baking down pat, so why bother using it myself? Well, this year enough was enough so I found a great recipe on Pinterest from The Busy Baker.

As it turns out (see photo above for proof!), the rhubarb is super simple to bake with, and the cake turned out delicious. Moist, sweet, tangy, and nicely browned because I baked it in my cast iron skillet rather than the cake pan the recipe calls for. So if you aren’t afraid of rhubarb, or if you are and you’re ready to get past it, I’ve coped the recipe for you below.

Try it out and let me know how it goes!

 

Rhubarb Stresuel Cake

You’ll need:

For the cake:

1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
3/4 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup sour cream (full fat is best)
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

1 tbsp unsalted butter (for greasing the cake pan)
2 1/2 cups chopped fresh rhubarb

For the streusel topping:

2/3 cup all purpose flour
2/3 cup white sugar
4 tbsp melted butter
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (roughly 175 Celsus)

Wash 3-4 stalks of rhubarb and chop them into bite sized pieces (you’ll need about 2 and a half cups of chopped rhubarb to cover the cake.). Set them aside in a bowl while you prepare the cake batter.

Add the butter and the sugar to the bowl of your stand mixer and beat them together until the mixture is fluffy and becomes a pale colour (about 4-5 minutes). It’s important that the butter is at room temperature before you begin. This will allow it to integrate properly with the other wet ingredients.
Feel free to use a hand mixer if you prefer.

Add the eggs and the vanilla and beat them in on medium speed until the mixture is smooth. It’s a good idea to scrape down the bowl periodically to make sure everything is incorporated evenly.

Add the milk and sour cream and beat in these ingredients on low speed until they’re combined.

To a separate bowl add the flour, the baking powder and the salt and mix these ingredients together with a fork or a wire whisk. Once they’re all incorporated, dump the flour mixture into the bowl of the stand mixer with the wet ingredients. Turn the mixer on low and watch the batter come together. As soon as you see the batter form with streaks of flour throughout, turn off the mixer and remove the bowl.

Over-mixing at this stage can cause an overly dense and dry cake with large air bubbles, which
you definitely don’t want. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the sides
of the bowl by hand and gently fold in the remaining flour. Be sure to
stop folding as soon as everything is combined.

Grease a 9×13 rectangular cake pan with some butter and pour the batter into the pan, using the spatula to push the batter into the corners and even out the surface. Don’t worry, the batter will seem thick but it’s supposed to be like that. You can also use an iron skillet. I sprinkled sugar on top of the butter instead of flower for some extra sweetness.

Spread the rhubarb over the top of the batter.

In a clean bowl mix together the flour, sugar and cinnamon for the streusel topping.  Add in the melted butter and mix everything together with a fork until the mixture becomes crumbly.

Bake the cake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 47-50 minutes. When it’s finished baking the topping will be slightly browned on top, the rhubarb will be bubbly, and when you insert a toothpick into the centre of the cake it will come out clean.

Let cake stand for at least 20 minutes before cutting, and ENJOY!

Fun food outing: Eat-the-World tour Neukölln

bakery sign edited

It’s no secret that I love food. And I love exploring new places almost as much as I love food. So when the folks at Eat-the-World invited me to bring a friend to join one of their tours through the Neukölln district of Berlin, of course I said yes. Eat-the-World gives food tours throughout Germany, and here in Berlin they have tours through seven of the city’s districts.

I’ll be honest with you - Neukölln has never been my favorite part of town. In fact, I like it about as much as I like Kreuzberg, which is not at all. However, my sister just moved to that part of town, and I can’t say no to a food offer, so I dragged her along with me.  I was so excited about the tour invitation that I even told my local café owner all about it while stopping by for my morning Cappuccino. He wasn’t as excited about it was I was, but regardless. The chance to eat my way through a part of Berlin had me pretty thrilled.

And I was not disappointed. The day ended up being a long and lovely afternoon of walking (lots of it!), history (you will know all about Neukölln after this tour), and food (we stopped at 7 different places, sampling food at each stop!). I can’t tell you each and every stop we made, but I will tell you about a few of my favorites.

Zuckerbaby

Zuckerbaby is a cozy, cute café owned and operated by two American/German sisters, who focus on the combining tasty treats – both savory and sweet – from Germany and the US. We got to sample their Lemon Gugelhupf cake, which was a miniature version of the traditional German bundt cake. It was light, lemony, and moist, which we loved (German cakes can be dry so this one may have been more of an American recipe baked in the German shape).  According to Jill and Tanya, the owners, weekends are the best time to visit their place, as they have a larger cake assortment. So will we be checking that out? We most certainly will be.

Kønigliche Backstube

The second stop on the tour was a bakery I’d heard of but had never visited before. The Koenigliche Backstube is an artisan bakery with a limited but delicious menu of organice breads and pastries. Everything here is baked the Old World style – meaning with a sour dough starter instead of yeast. The place smelled amazing, and we sampled their baguette and a walnut bread. Both were delicious, and had we not had such a long trip back home and more stops to make, I’d have bought and taken home some of the baguette and the orange cookies they had for sale too.

Prachtwerk

This was my abolutely most favorite place on the tour. Prachtwerk is another well-known Berlin establishment that I’d been curious about for some time. And with good reason. While there are some famous Berlin places that you visit and end up disappointed by (seriously – some places are just dives and you wonder why they are popular), this is not one of them. Prachtwerk has it all: a bar, delicious baked treats, style, a stage for open-mic nights, great atmosphere, and friendly service. We tried the Carrot Cake and the Cheesecake, and I can’t wait to go back and sample their cookies and their Coffee Martini. An added bonus is that the café is located next to the Statdbad Neukölln, so can swim in a stately, turn-of-the-century pool and refresh afterwards with coffee and dessert. So yes, we’ll be going back there too!

In all, the Eat-the-World a tour I would go on again. It’s something you can do that is off the very beaten Berlin track, you learn a lot about the city by a local (our tour guide is an opera singer originally from Berlin who seems to know the city like the back of her hand), and you walk so much that you burn off a good deal of what you eat on the tour. Which I think is a very good thing. So highly recommended if you’re new to Berlin, visiting Berlin, or you’re like me and have lived here for a while and need a breath of fresh air and to visit a new part of town.

My sis, our tour guide, and me

My sis, our tour guide, and me

The only thing we didn’t love was that we weren’t stuffed by the time the tour was over. Mind you, we certainly weren’t starving, and everyone else on the tour seemed to be full. But in my somewhat gluttonous world, by the end of a food tour you should be rolling, not walking away. ;)

p.s. If you’re a food lover like we are and would like to try out Berlin on foot with lots of munchies, go sign up for one of the Eat-the-World tours.

 

Cake of the week: Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake

Sundays are almost always cake baking days in my world. Except during Lent, which has – thankfully – ended with today’s Easter celebration. Which wasn’t much of a celebration this year, as I woke up with a stiff neck and a UTI (too much information, I know … but as I said before, I like to keep it real here), so instead of taking my kids happily to church to celebrate the Resurrection, I ended up in the emergency room to get antiobotics and subsequently spend the day catching up on movies I’d missed over the last decade.

But back to the cake! This week’s Easter cake was a cheesecake – or cheesecake cupcakes, to be exact. I found the recipe on Pinterest weeks ago. Since I’d given up cake for Lent, I could not wait to make – or eat – these tasty treats. Which means I sort of cheated by baking them the night before and eating the first one the same night as well. I’m pretty sure it was midnight by the time I got around to taste-testing these, which means that technically it was Easter Sunday and I was in the green zone.

Regardless of whether I was “allowed” to eat cake again or not, these little lemony cakes were delicious. Lemon curd is part of the recipe, and as I’m cheap and love any excuse to make fresh lemon curd, I made it myself earlier in the day, using another recipe found on Pinterest. The lemon curd turned out pretty delicious and was worth the extra time it takes to make it. I listened to their advice to use a hand blender to puree the curd rather than straining it. This resulted in a sort of fluffy curd, which was very tasty and easier than straining. What I didn’t love so much was that the mixing lightened the color, so that lovely yellow curd color ended up a very pale yellow. But the taste and texture tasted divine.

The cheesecakes themselves were delicious as well and worth making if you like lemon. I’m not sure that ricotta cheese was necessary, either in the recipe or the title, as I couldn’t really taste a difference between regular cheesecake made from cream cheese, and this one with cream cheese and ricotta. In any case, they turned out yummy. The cheesecake had a nice, light lemon vanilla flavor, the crust was sweet, and the curd on top added a great tangy pop of lemon too. (As a side note, you can’t easily find graham crackers here, so I use the German “Butterkeks” instead, and that works fine for crusts).

I’m embarrased to admit how many of these little sweets I have eaten since making them last night, but I’m certain it was more than cheesecake than anyone should eat in a 24-hour period. But hey, I went about 40 days without cake, so I think a big cheesecake splurge was in order. ;)

This week’s cake creation: Rustic Chocolate Cake

Rustic Chocolate Cake

(This photo is not mine – it’s from the blog where this recipe is originally found, Eat Drink Binge

One of my secret talents is being able to look at a cake recipe and know before baking whether it’s going to be a good one. Only rarely am I wrong, and I can generally tell by the ingredients and how they are listed. Call it sixth sense, call it random, but I like that I can tell if a cake will be good – because really, who has time to bake a bad cake? I certainly don’t.

This cake was no exception. It turned out perfectly – the layers didn’t fall apart. The Whipped Chocolate Ganache frosting actually did, to my surprise – turn out to be a thick, mousse-like frosting that held the layers together perfectly. And the remaining darker ganache draped across the top of the cake lusciously.

It looked like a masterpiece and tasted the same. It was a perfect chocolatey that was sweet but not so sweet that it will kill you. And pretty, but in a slightly messy, naked-cake kind of way. My kind of pretty, that is. I veered away from the recipe only a bit, by making fat chocolate curls to put on top of the cake instead of shards the recipe calls for. I also refrigerated the Whipped Ganache Frosting a bit longer than the thirty minutes recommend in the recipe. It just wasn’t ready sooner. Remember that recipes can be tweaked – good bakers know when to flex a bit to make sure the result is just right.

So if you’re looking for a yummy chocolate cake that’s a crowd-pleaser and fairly fool-proof, this is a good one. It will cure and chocolate craving and give you the satisfaction creating something beautiful with just a couple hours of work. And while I generally like to focus solely on baking when I bake, this one got baked while I was Face-timing with family back in the US, managing my three kids, and chatting with friends online.

You can find the recipe here, so go for it!

 

Why Women Should Date Like Men

Hot guy

I work with singles through my budding matchmaking and dating events business. I’ve got loads of single friends. I am also single myself at the moment. Which means I spend more time than I like to admit digging into the topics of dating and relationships. One can learn about breaking up without breaking down, getting the girl, making “any man want you,” and everything in between. While there is a lot of good advice out there for both men and women, I’ve noticed some things that seem to be missing.

For one, men could stand to be taught how to keep a great woman once they manage to attract one. There are all kinds of articles and YouTube videos teaching guys how to attract a woman, how to get her interested, and how to keep her on her toes. But when it comes to actually maintaining and building a healthy relationship that will last, things seem to get a little quiet. So stay tuned for this topic to be covered another day.

I also don’t often see women encouraged to date more like men. Yes, I said that we ladies should date more like the boys when it comes to relationships. And that’s today’s topic. I’m not saying that we should be more masculine. No way. Women should be women. I’m also not saying that men get it all right. They don’t. But men tend to go about the romantic world much more relaxed than we do, and we can learn from them.

There is one simple thing I’ve noticed that men do differently than (most) women when it comes to relationships. They put themselves first. No, it isn’t rocket science. But it’s a simple mindset difference that I believe keeps men more grounded when it comes to dating. Men – and I’m talking about confident, masculine men – will not let the woman in their life completely rule their life. And women – well, some of us get it right and focus on #1 first. However, more often than not I see women put themselves and their lives on the back burner as soon as an eligible and interest bachelor enters the picture. I’ve been guilty of this myself, and it is draining and simply doesn’t work.

This plays out in a couple of different ways. First, guys tend to pursue serious romantic relationships only when the other areas of their lives are in order. And it makes sense. It’s hard to focus on building a relationship with someone if you have major life issues to take care of (again, I’m guilty of this as well). It’s also not as fun getting to know a new person if you’re stressed with other areas of your life being out of whack. Your life doesn’t have to be perfect, but if you have any major things – health, family, financial – issues getting in the way, then try to tackle those first before embarking on your mission to finding a partner. Trust me, the results will by far be better.

Secondly, confident men don’t let their woman become the center of the universe. Take notes on this one – it’s even more important than having all your ducks in a row. Think about it – do you think the guy you’re dating, or maybe the last guy you dated – spent anywhere near as much time as you did thinking about, talking, and maybe even crying about you as you did him? I don’t think so! Men keep it cool – partly because it’s their nature, and partly because it just makes sense to not give another person in your life power to control your happiness. We women should do this to, but so often we let our emotions take complete control over us and our love interest takes center stage of our lives.

So my advice is to keep it light, have fun, focus on yourself above the guy. And for God’s sake – if you don’t have your sh** together, get it together! You’ll be more fulfilled, calm, and fun. All of which are qualities that will up your value on the dating market and make you that much more of a catch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lemon Velvet (Birthday) Cake

Lemon Velvet Cake

We celebrated my oldest son’s birthday this past weekend. And luckily, unlike last year’s birthday, this year’s party was a lot of fun. Last year, the celebration was largely ruined by a wild child friend of my son’s named Franz who’s antics wore me out for the entire rest of the evening after the party. To be fair, the kids all had a good time last year – but the other mom who was with me and myself were wiped beyond belief and hoarse after yelling at the wild Austrian-German kid who wouldn’t listen to anything we said.

This year we did not invite Franz, and we all had a great time. My son had three friends over – one American, one American/German, and a German kid. We had cake, went bowling, had dinner, then played at the park (well – they played at the park, while I got showered and dressed to go out – yes, mother-of-the-year, I know!). All in all, it was a fun time. Happy kids, happy birthday boy, and happy parents.

And like every birthday in our family, cake was the center of the celebration. Somehow last year he ended up with two cakes (one amazingly wonderful lemon cake made by my daughter and The Austrian (yes, that one – the ex whom I am still crazy about), and another Oreo cake. Both were beautiful and delicious.

This year was no different. He got two birthday cakes (although this year I was my daughter’s baking buddy). They were Red Velvet Cupcakes (not pictured) and Lemon Velvet Cake (in the photo above). Yes, velvet was the theme, and both were delicious. It was a flavorful, dense cake that we filled with the leftover Cream Cheese Frosting from the cupcakes, and topped with a glaze and strawberries as a garnish.

And yes – with two cakes, we were all pretty sugared out by the end of the weekend. But wow, they were yummy. And my ten-year old was a happy kid. So if you need a good birthday cake recipe, do give the Lemon Velvet Cake a try. It’s a good one. And good cake makes for a good birthday in our world.

Dating with kids (never a dull moment)

love picture

When I jumped – for better or for worse – back into the world of dating after nearly a decade of marriage, I realized two things quite quickly. One, that the players had changed. A lot. Meaning that the boys I’d dated before becoming a wife in my early twenties were no longer the boys I was used to. Those boys had grown up and were now MEN. Which meant this was an entirely different ballgame than the one I was used to playing. And there were new a few new rules to learn. There was a bit of a learning curve there, but thanks to good dating advice out there, this wasn’t too big a hurdle to jump over.

The second big challenge change in dating after divorce was that this go-around, there were new players who were part of the game. Namely, my three children. That’s right – this once single-no-kids woman had turned into a single-with-kids team of four – myself, my daughter, and my two boys. Meaning that anyone I date not only dates me, but in a way, my three no-so-little tikes as well. That’s right – men who date women with children not only have to woo the woman, but they have to charm the kiddos involved as well. It is not for the faint of heart.

And it goes the other way around. As a woman with children, I not only have to make sure that I bring my best to the table, but I have to make sure that my entire “team” is presentable. No self-respecting man wants to be a part of a chaotic circus act of a family. So essentially, I have to make myself attractive, and since my kids are part of the package – they have to be “attractive” as well. Or at least not repelling to eligible would-be suitors. As one of my sisters once said, “Make sure your children are assets, and not liabilities.” She was right. Your children should make potential suitors want to be part of the picture, not run away in fear.

Sound exhausting? It is. There are babysitters to organise (and pay), and getting yourself ready for a date while getting kids ready for an evening with a sitter can have you harried. At times you may even have to answer to your kids. Trust me, answering to your pre-teen daughter about who you are out with and why you got home so late last night is more difficult than any parental inquiry you had as a teenager! You will also get uncensored opinions on the men in your life from your children, which can be both funny – like the time my daughter posted on Twitter about my ex buying me flowers for my birthday – and insightful. Kids often have a sense for situations and people and wisdom beyond their years. Their vibe radar is good, so do hear them out – they may pick up on things that you are less sensitive to.

Despite the extra work that comes along with dating as a single parent, it is also fun. And believe it or not, there are some perks. For one, having kids tends to weed out the slackers and players (generally, not always!). Remember – guys dating women with kids are also dating the kids in a way. Not everyone can handle this, especially in today’s world of extended adolescence among adults. So men who put in time and effort to get the know your kids and you are worth keeping around. And if you’re dating a guy who not only works to get to know your kids, but puts effort in impressing them as well? As long as it’s genuine, my dear – you may have a keeper on your hands.

Another plus that comes with dating as a parent with young kids is that you’re busy. Maybe even very busy. Which keeps you interesting – you’ve got more going on than the other single ladies, and this can be a factor that for a lot of men makes you stand out. This busy also makes you less likely to obsess over a guy. Of course, we all have our moments of irrational female behavior. But in general, as a parent with kids you have a lot less time to obsess over the man in your life (although let me be real – I have been known to obsess about the love interest in my life at time or two). But between work, children, and taking care of yourself, as a single parent who is dating, it is difficult for a man to become the center of your universe. And that’s a good thing!