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|Amber Brooks • 2/08/18|
The Short Version: Single parents often have to create their own rule books on how to date, deal with an ex, and raise children on their own. For John McElhenney, becoming a single dad meant having to be it all and discovering his own strength as a whole parent. His blog, Whole Parent Book, outlines his own personal guidelines to living a full life as a single parent. John has written extensively about his post-divorce experiences — from healing a broken heart to meeting someone new — and his relatable journey is inspirational to single fathers and mothers going through similar trials. Whether you’re tackling online dating for the first time or struggling to stay friends with your ex, you can read through John’s articles to learn from the emotionally honest insights of a single dad in the modern dating scene.
Shortly after his divorce nine years ago, John McElhenney took his two young children to the beach to prove to them (and to himself) that they could still have fun as a family, and life would go on even though he and his ex weren’t together anymore.
John was laying out on the sand as his children made sandcastles a few feet away when it occurred to him that he couldn’t go back to the hotel to read a book or go off to the poolside bar for a drink — he had to stay present with his children because he didn’t have a partner there to tag in and take over. He was the one, the only one, and he had to do the job of both parents.
“When you get divorced, your role changes,” he told us. “You have to start playing both roles. You have to grow into a whole parent.”
This idea of a whole parent stuck with John, but it would be a year and a half before he decided to create an uplifting advice blog called Whole Parent Book. He had learned important lessons about how to recover from divorce and date again, and he felt ready to share his takeaways about single parenthood with an online audience.
“I started blogging about my experience being a single dad and what I was looking for in my relationships,” John explained. “The Whole Parent Book blog is something I’m happy to put my name on because it’s 100% positive.”
In his blog, John writes personal anecdotes and heartfelt assessments about what it means to be a single parent in the modern dating world. He told us the most popular topic he covers is dating because single parents feel a lot of confusion and conflict in that arena. Overall, Whole Parent Book is a positive place where readers can go to discover how to recover from divorce and become a better parent, dater, and person.
Many readers have learned from John’s thoughtful articles about fatherhood, online dating, breakups, and other issues close to his heart. His posts get hundreds of views on average, and he’s been tapped by major online publications, including the Good Men Project and Huffington Post, as a contributing columnist. John has also recently published a book called “Single Dad Seeks” to discuss a single parent’s dating strategies and setbacks in more detail.
Whether he’s talking about making child support payments or introducing a date to his children, John writes with authenticity and authority about his own experiences dealing with divorce, and his blog inspires countless others to approach single parenthood with positivity, empathy, and hope.
Once John was in a positive place emotionally, he decided to build a positive resource for single parents, like himself, who wanted to heal their hearts and try dating again. Whole Parent Book is an ad-free blog focused on the real-life experiences of a single dad. From the Single Dads’ Survival Guide to online dating fails, he covers a range of issues facing single parents and offers practical solutions to common obstacles.
John found a long-term romantic partner online — they were together for over three years — so he knows online dating can work for single parents seeking a fresh start. When he was with his girlfriend, he wrote a lot of posts about what it feels like to fall in love again and how to balance parental responsibilities with a serious relationship. Now that he’s single and dating again, he has turned his focus to the struggles of online dating and what single parents should look for in a potential partner.
“I’ve had some success online,” he told us. “On first dates, we kind of laugh and talk about online dating and how the experience for guys is so different.”
Even when the experience is disheartening, John approaches online dating with a curious and can-do attitude. He wants to understand the dynamics at play so he, and other single parents, can use these online tools to get in a fulfilling relationship.
In clear and compassionate prose, John assesses the hurdles faced by single parents who are actively dating or starting a new relationship with someone. He has experienced both sides and can speak to the potential conflict of becoming involved with a partner who doesn’t have children and may not know what to expect when dating a single parent. He has established divorced-dad ground rules through years of trial and error because he believes it’s best to be clear about your family’s needs when dating.
“I’m probably going to end up with a mom because they’re the ones who’re going to really understand that when your kid calls, even if you’re on a date, you’re going to take the call,” he said. “My kids are a priority over me finding my next relationship.”
John told us part of the reason his last relationship failed was that his partner didn’t know what it’s like to have children and didn’t put much effort into bonding with his two children. By sharing honest reflections about his relationships and dating experiences, he helps other single parents better understand their own love lives and find renewed purpose in the search for love and happiness.
“Mainly it’s about hearing the male’s emotional perspective, which is rarely offered,” he told us. “Guys don’t typically share emotional stuff. We share logical stuff. So maybe I’m half woman.”
Hundreds of readers scroll through John’s posts every day, and his work with other online blogs has only grown his following. He said his most popular articles are the ones dealing with dating issues, which support about 60% of the site’s traffic. His articles about parenting and emotional healing also perform well in terms of overall site traffic.
“Thank you for writing with so much honesty and genuineness. You have managed to give clarity to feelings I’ve had.” — Jeannine Grego, a Whole Parent Book reader
About 80% of the Whole Parent Book readership is female, so these issues clearly strike a chord with single mothers. John is one of the few men writing about single parenthood, and many readers can relate to his point of view.
“I write about feelings,” he said, “and I’m not afraid to share when I’m having a hard time and what it’s about and what it’s like to miss my ex-wife and long for her and our family.”
In recent months, John has begun contemplating what’s next in his career. He’s established himself as an authority on single parenthood, particularly with regards to dating and relationships, and he wants to do more to reach people dealing with the same issues he faced in the years after his divorce.
He has started offering coaching services on the Whole Parent Book website to see if people would be interested in hearing his advice in a more personal, one-to-one conversation. He knows what it’s like on a personal level to recover from heartache and provides guidance via email, Skype, and Facetime.
“I’m not a psychologist,” he said, “but I’m here if you want to talk about your divorce with someone who has been through it and is articulate about it and passionate about it.”
John offers himself as a confidential friend to anyone struggling to deal with an ex, raise children alone, or date as a single parent. He’s looking into possibly getting his certification as a dating or relationship coach, and he hopes to build a successful business advising singles and couples who have to navigate the complications of dating after divorce.
“It seems like coaching is driven a lot on personality,” he noted. “I don’t want to be the pied piper calling myself a dating coach and promising this and that. I want to be more of a relationship coach helping people by sharing my perspective as a man and as a single parent.”
When John’s last relationship ended in 2017, he sought comfort in a Facebook community centered around a post-breakup self-help book he’d read. He found the supportive heart-to-hearts in this group made him feel less alone and more at peace with what had happened. It was an amazing feeling to know there were people experiencing the same struggles he was. So he decided to create a Whole Parent Book Facebook page where his readers could interact with one another and share their stories.
As a result, the Whole Parent Book community has shifted toward the social media platform where the conversation is less static than the typical comments section. John has set up a closed members-only discussion group to give his readers the privacy to discuss personal matters. John said he’s interested in fostering the community aspect of his blog because he loves hearing from his readers and wants to support them throughout their dating journeys.
John’s insights on dealing with divorce have changed his life, and he hopes they can change others’ lives as well. “My revelation is to do anything I can do to stay focused on my kids and how much I love them,” he said. “You have to step away from that relationship with your ex. If you can stay focused on your kids, and put them as the priority, you can maintain a positive attitude.”
“So very refreshing to see that there are single dads out there who have this authentic, genuine, and mature perspective!” — Misty, a commenter on Whole Parent Book
John’s ability to be open about his emotions about divorce and dating resonates with a lot of readers who feel uncertain or discouraged about their own love lives.
“I really enjoy your stories,” commented Hasha on an article about the essential elements of love. “It’s been a long and winding road for me as a single mom trying to find a stable relationship again. I have everyday questions as I feel this is all so new to me.”
“All the comments and all the Facebook pings I get,” John said, “are from women saying it’s healed them being able to read a man’s emotional point of view about this.”
Since that day on the beach with his children, John has made a conscious effort to become a whole parent — someone who fulfills the needs of his children without a partner. His deliberately positive outlook has helped him cope with his life after divorce and become a successful online dater.
Now, as a professional blogger, John seeks to share the lessons he has learned while trying to date and find love again. He knows what’s it’s like to have to balance romantic dates with child custody dates and can empathize with single parents tackling the modern dating scene. By giving steadfast support and advice via Whole Parent Book, John empowers his readers to feel confident about dating and pursue romantic relationships that will work in the long run.
“I’m not afraid to be deep in the feelings — in fact I may be too much in it, personally. It gets me down more than it should,” he said with a laugh. “I’m not a typical bull male, and many people seem to like that.”