Mr. Tall, Dark and Handsome walks up to you, smiles and introduces himself. You take one look at him and become excited -- this just might be your lucky day. You engage him in casual conversation and find that not only is he attractive to you, he is mentally stimulating as well. You must be in heaven. Before the conversation ends, he asks for your name and number so the two of you can continue talking over the phone. Just as soon as you thought your prayers have finally been answered, he tells you he'll call you once he drops off the kids... at his baby momma's house. Your smile starts to fade and so do your dreams.
So what's a woman to do when she meets a single dad? Well, for starters, it's certainly not the end of the world. Even though there are obvious disadvantages to dating guys with children, there are some really great advantages as well. Women tend to overlook these, because the situation isn't exactly what they thought it would be like. We'll explore the advantages and disadvantages to juggling co-parenting and dating below.
Let's Start With The Bad News: The Disadvantages
- Lack of quality time with you: It makes sense: men with kids have to schedule their time around kids. Depending on whether he has full or partial custody of his child, it can severely limit the amount of time he spends on leisure activities. The simple act of going out on a date may require him to hire a babysitter or ask family and friends to watch his child for a few hours, which can become an inconvenience. Dates may sometimes be cancelled in cases where the child gets sick or a babysitter is not possible. Instead of wallowing or getting frustrated, make sure you have a life outside of him. That way, you're not completely disappointed when his kids come first.
- Less financial resources to spend on you: If you are the type of woman who likes to go on extravagant dates and adventurous activities, you may have to lower your expectations. Having kids is expensive, especially when you factor in diapers, clothes, food, health and dental care. If he is a generous man, he'll want to give his kids the best life he can afford. The more generous he is with his kids, the less money he'll have to spend on you. This doesn't have to be a bad thing! Be prepared to pay for a few dates here and there, or be creative with low-cost activities that the two of you can enjoy together, like hiking, picnics and free concerts.
- You'll be less of a priority to him: When you're in a relationship with a man with kids, you're really in a relationship with his kids, his kids' mother, his own mother, etc. Remember, his family was there before you came into his life. They are more of a certainty because they have history with him, and he'll be mindful of this when placing his priorities. Try not to get upset with him if you feel you're less of a priority than you'd like at this time, but do demand respect as you are (or will be) his significant other, and may be a part of his life for a long time.
- Jealousy may rear its ugly head: This is where it gets ugly! As women, we can become territorial when it comes to our men. Wherever there's a break-up, there's a scorned woman. You will have to deal with her on a continued basis, especially if a young child is involved. Interacting with your new partner's ex can be very stressful. Just put yourself in her shoes and try to understand where she is coming from. She thought this man would be her soulmate and things did not work out that way. Now you, the new girl, is in his life sharing the joy that she once did, and meeting the family she helped create. Take the high road and be respectful; she is the mother of his child. But do require respect from her and let your partner know if she isn't giving it.
- You may be considered an intruder (temporarily): Children instinctively want their biological parents together and find anyone other than their immediate family a threat to their world -- and that includes you. Sure, you may have good intentions, but you'll have to give the relationship time before the children can open up to you. Remember, you're an outsider. You'll have to be patient with them so they can see that you have their best interests at heart. Be patient!
Now Let's Move On To The Good News: The Advantages
- Having a man with nurturing and sensitive capabilities: This is one of the best traits single fathers have, particularly if they are raising daughters. They can be some of the most nurturing and sensitive men you'll ever meet, as they have gained these qualities from being a good father to their kids. Usually, when you find a guy who is nurturing and sensitive to his child, he's also nurturing and sensitive to the woman he is dating. The responsibility of having to raise kids really opens him up to other wonderful traits such as loyalty, compassion and selflessness.
- He can be less of a "disappearing act": When a boy becomes a man, he puts away childish things. Kids provide men with a sense of responsibility, and therefore tend to make them grow up almost instantly. Yes, a man can be a jerk with or without kids but if he's taking care of his children on a constant basis, then you probably won't have to worry about him disappearing in the middle of the night. He has developed staying power, which can be a beautiful thing for a budding relationship.
- He may make more concessions for you: It's very challenging to be a single parent, particularly for men. They can be used to their mothers and ex-wives doing all of the cooking, cleaning and diaper changing, so this "mothering" role takes a lot out of them. As a result, they tend to be more open to different types of women. In other words, they may be more compromising on a woman's perceived level of attractiveness, age, weight and other factors which may have played a more important (and superficial!) role in dating before kids. This does not mean they are settling, but rather, focusing on deeper characteristics in a woman, such as the ability to be a good stepmother to his child.
- You can help to nurture and guide his kids: If you're a compassionate woman, this may be the perfect situation for you. You can have a direct influence on how his kids are raised. Sure, you can't overstep the boundaries put in place for the children by their parents, but you can still offer guidance and wisdom to them as a trusted friend or confidante. Sometimes kids find it hard to go to their parents for advice so you would be the perfect person for them to come to in that situation. Just be careful of being their "friend," as you will still be considered an authority figure and they must listen to you accordingly.
- Opportunity to help heal family wounds: This is where it gets tricky. Sometimes when outsiders come into an already dysfunctional family, it can create total chaos -- or it can signal a new beginning. My hope for you is that it becomes a new beginning for yourself and for the family. This is an opportunity for you to bring a sense of hope into a bad situation. There are usually a lot of open wounds when it comes to divorce or family breakups, and you have a unique opportunity to bring healing to all involved.
In summary, dating a man with kids is certainly not for the faint of heart. There can be many advantages to the situation, including a partner who has learned to be more nurturing and sensitive towards others, and one who isn't into disappearing acts. However, you shouldn't ignore the disadvantages to the situation, like lack of quality time and resources he'll have for you -- not to mention the jealousy and disrespect which may come as a result in this family situation.
At the end of the day, no one can judge you if you decide to date a man with kids or decide against it. Some women are happily dating men with children, and others couldn't imagine it. My goal was to provide you with enough information to make an informed decision so that you can live your life accordingly. My hope is that you take this information and make the best choice possible -- for you. Good Luck!
More Stories From YourTango: