Before I start on the lessons I learned about dating a single dad, let me give you a bit of history about me.
In early 2011, after almost 10 years of marriage, I found myself divorced, single, in my mid-30s and (gasp!!) childless. For the first year and a half of my new “singleness” I shunned the thought of dating. I wasn’t ready to share my life with someone and really needed the time to grow and figure out who I was, and what I really wanted in my life.
When I finally decided that I was ready to date again, I had this expectation that dating in your 30s was going to be just like dating in your 20s. Boy, was I wrong, and what a smack into reality I received! Here’s the deal, when you are a single woman in her mid-30s, with no children, pretty much every man you are going to meet, that is your age, and you want to date is going to have children. Not to mention, you are both employed in some way or another and have a multitude of life, family and work commitments to work around. It’s hard enough to date as an “adult”, but throw in someone else’s child or children and, whoa! we are playing a completely different game!
While dating, I met and spent time with a few single dads and some single guys with no children. Let me tell you, I quickly learned that the single dads were, in general, the best guys I met. They were kind, patient, considerate, and frankly, not self-centered jerks. Their lives were bigger, happier and full of good stuff.
So, by the time I met Jason, I had scoured the internet looking for helpful advice for single, childless women dating a single dad. I was sadly disappointed because apparently, women like I was; single, mid-30’s and CHILDLESS are freaks of nature. It seems that I missed the memo that said by the time I was 30 I needed to procreate so that when I got divorced I could be “normal” and be a single mom. I read a lot about being a single guy dating a single mom. It was sort of helpful, but not. To be honest, I started to feel like there was something wrong with me because I didn’t have a child, and I began to fear that I wasn’t going to be attractive to a man with a child, because I didn’t have any experience being a parent. It was a really lonely feeling. I met Jason, and any loneliness I had vanished. He was my guy, “the one”. I knew it on our first date. But, he had this little girl, who he gushed about, and I was TERRIFIED to get serious with him because I wasn’t a parent, I had no idea how to be a parent, and I didn’t know how in the world I would ever be as special to him as his little girl and how I would fit in their life.
Here’s what I know now, that might be helpful for you, too…
- Until things get serious, you aren’t his priority. Get over it.
Yup. That’s what I said. You aren’t going to be at the top of his priority list. You might not even be number two on the list. Number one on his list is his child. Children come first, always. If he doesn’t put his kids before you, RUN. He’s not a quality guy. Respect his commitment to his kids. As your relationship grows you will become a priority, but when it’s new, you will be second fiddle to his kids. And, if you are OK with that, and understand his commitment, he will respect you and be willing to give more of his time to you.
- If he introduces you to his child, it’s a BIG deal.
Parents are super protective of their kids (think about your mom and dad). Introducing a new person to a child’s life is a serious thing. If you have been dating a single dad, and he wants to introduce you to his kids, don’t take it lightly. It means that you are important enough to him, to start including you with his family. This is a sign that he is ready to take his relationship with you to a new level. The family level. For him, this is a REALLY big deal, because he’s hoping you are going to stick around. You leaving means that you leave him AND his kids. If you aren’t ready for this commitment, let him go before he gets here. It will only mean heart break for you, him AND his children, who may not understand why you aren’t there anymore.
- There is another woman (well, most of the time)
This is one thing that I struggled with at the beginning, because jealousy is my special type of crazy. Unless his children’s mother is deceased and he is a widower, there will be another woman in his life that he will need to commit to in some way, and she’s there to stay. First, remember that he’s with you, not her. Jealousy and worry aren’t going to help your relationship. If he wanted to be with her, he would be. Let it go.
Second, despite his relationship with her or how she treats you, be kind and respectful to his ex. No one says you have to like her, but kindness from you will go a long way in building a pleasant and respectful relationship. Not to mention, it just makes life so much easier when things get really serious. Besides, you may find that you actually LIKE HER!
- It’s OK if you don’t know a thing about being a parent.
He’s not going to expect you to know how to parent. And probably if your relationship is young, and you’ve just met his kids, he doesn’t want you to “parent”. You will be another adult in his kid’s lives, so start by being a nice, well-behaved, polite grown-up. Treat his kids kindly. As your relationship with your man grows, perhaps your role will look more parent-like. Don’t worry because you will learn what works, and he will help you. And… you will probably hear your mom’s voice in your head every now and then too.
- Go with the flow.
The reality here is that forcing things to happen, isn’t going to make life easier for anyone. Let your relationship with your guy and his kids grow in its own time and way. Don’t force things to happen, like the old cliché says, “If it’s meant to be, it will be”. Be patient and take your time, grow at the pace and in the way that is best for everyone. This is sure to create a happy life, and hopefully a long relationship.
I had a lot to learn, I still do. We just got married, so I must have done something right, but I can tell you, I did a lot wrong. And there were tons of things that I never expected when I started dating a single dad, but it has been an amazing adventure. An adventure I wouldn’t change for the world!
Single, childless and dating a single dad? What advise do you have to add?
Guest Post by: Tamara Moon (aka my wife)