I was recently asked for my opinion on dating a woman with a child from my perspective as a single mom. This was coming from the standpoint of, “I’m not sure that’s the type of life I want to lead.”
It takes a certain type of person to date someone who is a parent. This goes for men and women alike. Not wanting to date someone with a child doesn’t make you a bad person. It’s a challenge for all parties involved. It takes more patience than other relationships because there is another person involved and everything that happens in that relationship affects that extra person (or persons).
Even as a single parent, I refused to date a guy with a child of his own. I felt like having two children and two lives with two schedules going around children was more added stress. I also worried about it getting to a point where the kids would meet and get close and I get close to the kid and it not work out. That is more all around heart ache for all parties involved than I am willing to deal with. It’s just not for me.
The most important thing you can do when dating is be fair to the kid. That is the absolute top priority for you and your significant other or person of interest.
My advice is that if you are not 100% certain that you want children in general or that you can find it in your heart to love that child as you would love your own, do not pursue the relationship. Dating someone with a child involves a balancing act. It invovles babysitters and time away from their child when the parent probably already has limited time due to shared custody or work and other priorities. Taking away additional time from that person isn’t fair to them or the child.
Let me give you all a glimpse into what I experience personally in dating.
Before my current relationship, my biggest worry was first and foremost, “is this person okay with the fact that I have a child?” In the getting to know you phase, it was looking for signs that they were worth continuing to see, not just as a match for myself, but as someone who is responsible enough, compassionate enough, patient enough, and good enough to be a role model for my son. It’s mentally draining trying to figure this out but still enjoy yourself.
Then there is the trouble of figuring out when it is appropriate to begin bringing this person around and deciding how they should interact. What is appropriate to you? What will work for your situation? Roles will be different and vary by relationship on how much of an authority figure you will be in this child’s life. How much responsibility you hold could be drastically different between one person and another. There is no text book definition or instruction manual for this.
My boyfriend I was with the longest after having Jordan was 11 months. I got lucky that at the point we broke up, my son was just about to turn 2. He doesnt’ remember this person at all.
My current situation is even more different still because my boyfriend and I were best friends first. My son doesn’t remember a time when he wasn’t around. But now the relationship dynamic has shifted. How much affection do we show in front of him? How do we start developing their relationship to be prepared to be a family together some day? When do you even start having these conversations with him? How do we balance having alone time together and spending time together all three of us? How do we make this all seem normal?
Most importantly, how do you make a child comfortable with gaining a second parental figure when he’s only ever known having one and knows that his dad dipped out on him?
These situations are sensitive. There are so many questions and very little answers because the real answer is that there aren’t any. You have to take your situation and decide what is going to work best for all parties and how will you be most comfortable. There will always be challenges and anticipating them and mitigating them as best you can takes an uncanny amount of patience.
This is all a juggling act. It’s not like I can just go out on a date. I have to look at my son’s activity schedule, because the kid has a greater social life than I do. Ice hockey, roller hockey, soccer, birthday parties. It never ends. Then I look at my schedule because I like going to concerts. Okay, so how am I going to juggle seeing my boyfriend, when in this week I am taking my son and a friend to WWE one night, have my kid’s hockey two other nights that week and a birthday party and a graduation party on the weekend? That is my actual schedule. That is my honest to goodness life in the next week or so.
But I have to be fair to my son and not leave him with a babysitter too often. So where does your time go? I don’t believe in giving up seeing my friends just because I have a boyfriend and he shouldn’t have to give up his life outside of me either. It’s just a different way to have to plan. If I want to see him just the two of us it’s costing me money for a babysitter, plus whatever we spend when we go out. But most of all it is costing me time away from my kid and that time is just as precious to me as my time with him is.
You have to recognize that in dating someone with a child, that that child’s life is the one that matters most. They are depending on their parent. If you don’t have it in your heart to work around their lives and integrate their life into your own, stay away from the situation. We’ve been lucky to find a way via a ton of compromise to make this work and things are beyond fantastic. But that hasn’t been the case with other guys I’ve dated since becoming a parent.
And it wasn’t all them. I’m still figuring out how to allocate my time so that my kid and relationship are both getting the attention that they deserve and still give my friendships the attention they deserve. But it always will come down to the kid. It does when you’re married with kids. That will never change.
Dating someone with a child can be absolutely wonderful for all parties involved. But before you take that first step, think about what you truly want and if your visions are hazy, be fair to her (or him), be fair to the kid, and move on to the next.