I don’t feel too date-able right now. I’m just two years post divorce, and I’ve got three children who are still fairly small. I have tried dating a little bit over the past two years, but haven’t honestly invested too much time into it.
You could have blown me over like a feather a few weeks ago, when a man asked me for my phone number.
Here’s how it happened.
I was at the school with the kids for Lego-Night. The school had turned all of the classrooms into this Lego-themed festival, and my kids were all running everywhere in ecstasy, in and out of all of the rooms, trying all the games and activities.
My second son ran into one of his friends from his class, and naturally, this little boy’s father was right behind him. The boys were jumping up and down, and us parents introduced ourselves, because clearly we were going to be in the same space for a little while.
I have been avoiding men for a while…
…because I didn’t really want to worry about entanglements. And I didn’t figure that Lego night would be a place where I’d even have to think about the fact that I was single, and that there might be other single people around.
So I talked to this boy’s dad for about 10 minutes, until it was clear the the kids’ attention had diverged. As I was letting him know it had been nice to meet him, he just quickly (and quietly so that the kids didn’t hear), “I’ve really enjoyed talking to you….would you mind if I called you sometime?”
I was floored. I think I stood there with my mouth open for a few seconds. I took a quick stock of my appearance (unshowered, wearing some of the evening’s dinner on my shirt, hair in a bun)….how did this happen?
But the truth was, I had checked him out (good looking), checking his hand (no ring), and I had enjoyed talking to him as well. So before I could change my mind, I gave it to him, and then chased my kids down another hall.
And then he called.
I wasn’t sure if he would….but he did. And then he has continued to text and call on a regular basis. With the kids, there really hasn’t been an easy time to step out and go have a cup of coffee or a drink to see if there is anything really there. But I think it could go there if I wanted it to.
Do I really want to date a man who has kids?
I have kids. I have three of them.
This dude has three kids of his own as well (though one is grown).
Six kids! Like the Brady Bunch.
I find myself just spinning through all of the potential difficulties of dating a man who has kids of his own.
First…there is a real potential for conflict with the other parents.
My kids have a biological dad, and dude-love has a baby mama too. Just because he and I have a connection does not mean that these other people will be as happy about the introduction of new people into the situation.
It doesn’t matter if you plan to nacho parent the kids. The fact is, if you get serious with a man or woman with kids, you become a part of the kids’ lives, because at some point it is impossible to avoid being around them.
And those other parents, outside of your relationship, they may be very critical of the way you talk to the kids, what do you with the kids, or hate the very fact that you are there with their kids, maybe doing things with the kids that they would prefer to be doing (taking them to school, feeding them, putting them to bed, watching movies with them).
These other parents can make your relationship very hard, especially if they become hostile.
Next, your schedule will be impossible
My schedule is currently full, already, with me and the kids. And this is one area where I am just struggling to see how I could make this work. If my schedule is full, his schedule is going to be full as well. With work, and school, and everything else the kids need….how on Earth would we ever see each other?
Sure, we might be able to squeeze in dinner or coffee here or there, or manage to get more time if our weekends off line up. But as the kids get older and add basketball, wrestling, art, music, friends, and all the other multitude of things that they’ll need rides to and support at, I’m just struggling to see how we’d ever even see each other.
The way past this hurdle is pretty obvious. You’d combine households, and then see each other like other people do….in the morning and at night, before and after work, school, and activities.
But how can you ever get there, to the point where you know it is the right thing to do to combine households if you can’t see each other enough? I can see how people rush through the courtship period to be able to move in together, just to be able to spend more time together, share expenses, and to have someone else around to help.
But this seems really unfair to the kids, in my opinion, because the kids may end up in a situation where they aren’t ready or they are uncomfortable.
Parenting styles might not gel
We all parent our kids differently. It is impossible to do things exactly the same way. But it is possible that your parenting styles will be so very different that you might not want to have the kids in the same house.
For example, your partner may be a great person, but he/she is someone who spanks their kids, yells at them, or punishes them in ways that you don’t approve of.
Or, this might be a parent who is more restrictive or less restrictive than you of things like screen time, electronic devices, and video games.
You’ve spent years crafting your parenting style and strategy, and adding a parent to the mix who doesn’t do things the way you do can undo your careful work or create instability in the kids as they watch and see how things are done differently. (My kids are SUPER uncomfortable when they see other kids getting spanked by their parents).
Ultimately, differences in parenting styles could be a real deal breaker….but it also might not be something you’ll be able to see or observe until the families are meshed.
And then…..the kids
He has kids, and so do you. Yes, we established this already.
The kids are also parties to this relationship. For us, that is six children. Six people who will have their own opinions, thoughts, concerns, worries, anxieties about the relationship. And they’ll also have those same feelings potentially about the other party’s kids.
There’s no guarantee that the kids will like each other, or get along. In fact, I think conflict is to be expected. The brains of these young people are immature, and there are a lot of big feelings involved with big changes. There’ no telling exactly how those big feelings will come out.
There’s also the chance that you just might not like his kids, and vice versa.
I think the sum of all of this is that it would just be very hard to date a man who also had kids.
Kids come first
I know I have said this already in this article (maybe above and below). But the fact that the kids come first to parents is very relevant for the future and hopes of the relationship. Many people don’t like to play second fiddle to kids in the relationship.
For the relationship to work, both parents need to be on the same page about this. If you are focused on putting your kids first, and he is focused on putting the relationship first, the relationship is probably doomed.
So what does this mean? Should I quit before I even begin?
You know, I’m not sure if that’s what it means, at least not yet. After all, this man and I have only spoken on a phone a few times since he got my number. I will admit to feeling very intimidated right now by the idea of dating someone with kids, given all the complexities that I talked about above (that I have been thinking through every day when I am away from my computer).
But at this point, here are the takeaways and the things I want to keep in mind for myself and my family.
#1: My kids come first.
They just do. My kids come first. If I want to explore a relationship with a man (whether he has kids or not), I’ll be doing so with them in mind. That means that I won’t be giving up my parenting time with the kids to go on dates or trips with him. I’ll be limiting my “date-night” time to days when I don’t have the kids, and I won’t be getting a baby sitter to cover me when I don’t have my kids 100% of the time as it is in the parenting plan schedule.
This might even mean making choices that anger or frustrate my partner.
#2: No rushing.
I also won’t be rushing into anything. I won’t be in a hurry to introduce him to the kids, nor will I be in a rush to introduce the kids all to each other. Now, I know that the boys have seen each other at school and are friends, but I don’t want them to know at this point that the parents are seeing each other and that there is the potential for their relationships to change. If in the future I decide to get serious with a dad, we’ll take the step of introducing them to the topic slowly.
No matter what is happening, or what I feel, I have to remember that rushing is bad. Bad for me, bad for my kids. When we are making decisions in a rush, perhaps based upon some artificial scarcity or self-imposed time limitations (like must move in after 12 months of dating), we don’t always consider the ramifications of our rushing. We aren’t always thinking logically, and we don’t always do the things we’d do if we actually stopped to look at the situation and think about it.
Regardless of what I do, I’m not going to hurry into anything. Not into that first date, or the second, anything physical, co-parenting, joint households.
#3: I’m going to focus on balance.
Dating someone else with kids is just going to be hard. It is enjoyable now to talk to someone new, and to feel that pleasure you get when someone flatters you (compliments on appearance, wittiness, intelligence, etc). But I can’t get sucked in 100%, not to work, not into a relationship. I have to be able to balance my kids, their needs, and then my own. I need to make sure that I am doing the things I need to do in order to take care of myself, like eating right, exercising, sleeping enough (this is a struggle now).
I need to make sure I am not getting sucked up and away into the relationship to the point that I lose myself.
#4: I’m going to confront the tough stuff early.
When you are out in the dating world before kids, you’d probably go out with people you know you don’t want to marry or have kids with, simply because you enjoy their company. You might even move in with them, and make other commitments, all the while knowing that they aren’t the person you’ll end up with.
When you have kids, you don’t have room for these relationships. Or time. If you spot a problem early on between you and your partner, you have to address it before you and he go any further. Before kids, if you and your boyfriend break up, it sucks but you just get your stuff and move on. With kids, you are looking at some significant emotional trauma when you move out or when someone moves out. The kids are in the relationship too, and they grieve like you do when the relationship ends. Except….they don’t have the understanding and insight that you do. They won’t understand why a person they have come to love has to leave and isn’t going to see them any more.
I, as their mom, have the responsibility to do everything possible to avoid causing them to suffer traumatic losses like this. Children are definitely impacted long term by changes in their parents’ relationships.
This means never avoiding the confrontation about then problems in relationship. You can’t kick the can down the road, or deal with it later.
Other things parents need to do in order to date with kids
Here are some other recommendations that I have seen that I think are good ones, if I decide to start seeing Lego-night dad:
- I’m going to respect his time, and how he chooses not to spend it. I’m not going to let myself feel resentful if he decides to spend his evening reading books to his kids instead of texting me.
- I’m going to stay out of his relationship with his ex/baby-mama. I don’t want to be a part of any negativity, and I don’t want to find myself in a place where the kids observe me EVER saying negative things about other adults.
- I’m not going to talk to my kids about my dating until it is clear that the relationship is going in a particular direction.
- I’m not going to let him push me into anything that I am not ready for. I’m in the driver’s seat of my life right now, and I’m not about to give that up.
- I’m not going to prioritize getting married or cohabitation to reduce expenses. Yes, it will cost more for two people who love each other to live separately. I’d rather pay more to live than to destabilize my kids with another move, even though it has been two years since my divorce from their dad.
- I’m going to be clear and up front about what I want and what I don’t want.
Will I date Lego-night dad?
We’ll see. I’ve got a lot to think about, and I need to know more about him and what he is like.
I’ll update you in the future as it plays out. Stay tuned.
Emily Anderson is a mother of three children, all under the age of 10. Located in the Pacific Northwest of the US, Emily is a full-time mom and part-time blogger, jumping in front of the computer screen when the kids are occupied or sleeping. She started this blog in April of 2019 and is proud that the blog is now paying for itself. If you want to know about her journey as a blogger, check out out her personal digital journal or her post about failing her way to blogging success.