If you’re dating and you’re over 30, chances are you’re going to end up meeting a man who has a kid. Some people know that dating a man who’s a father is not their jam. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. It’s better to know your limits from the beginning. However, plenty of women enter relationships with fathers willingly. And while they may think they’re ready, there’s a lot they don’t anticipate. As a woman whose ex is a father who dates, there are some things I wish women knew before dating a dad.
Even if a man doesn’t have primary custody of his child (or children), if he’s a presence in their lives, he’s going to make them (and should make them) a priority — whether he has a custody arrangement and/or contributes to their lives financially. If you’re going to be with a man with a child, you have to know you’re going to be second. You have to be able to handle that, or there are going to be problems. Sometimes he’s going to need to cancel a date to pick up his kid last minute. You may not be able to take a fancy trip because he has child support payments to make. There are things you’re going to have to sacrifice. Some women may think they’re fine dating a dad, but the deeper they get into the relationship, the more they realize they’re not so into it.
My son’s father has been in a relationship for the last three years. His girlfriend is great and has a good relationship with my son. But even with a good relationship, things come up that can put a strain on a relationship. For the last few months, my son’s father has been unemployed due to COVID. I was working more and asking him to take our son for longer periods of time. He was on board, but his girlfriend was not. Her fear is my rambunctious six-year-old interrupting her work time. She has a lot of meetings all day, and having my son around is distracting. This put my son’s dad in a really difficult situation.
My ex wanted to take our son, but it was causing friction between him and his girlfriend. I tried to be as sympathetic as possible, but I admit, I was frustrated. I understand his girlfriend’s concerns about being distracted. That’s literally been my reality since March. She has an office that she can hide in. I don’t. I have had to hide in my bathroom to do phone or video meetings, and my son has barged in on those meetings because he has to pee. I needed help, and my ex is committed to raising our son together. He cannot currently give me financial help, so he needs to be able to support me in other ways, so that I can continue to keep a roof over our son’s head.
Also, his son desperately wants more time with him. Ultimately, he had to come up with a solution that worked best for him.
What I wanted to say to his girlfriend — but didn’t — is that this is the reality of dating a dad. My son is rambunctious anyway, and being stuck in the house for the last six months isn’t helping. But if she’s going to be in a relationship with his dad, she’s going to have to deal with it. Because at the end of the day, my son is his father’s top priority. And as inconvenient as it is to have a loud child around, that’s life when you’re dating a parent. I didn’t want my son interrupting me during a phone interview with an important source, but that happened. And I had to roll with it. She only has to deal with him being around for a few hours, a couple days a week.
It sucks when my ex’s girlfriend gives him a hard time about seeing his son, because then he feels like he has to choose. It’s not fair to put fathers in that position. Yes, it’s true that biologically or even legally, this isn’t your kid. But as soon as you make a commitment to the relationship, this kid is a part of your life. We all have to be adaptable, because life happens. And a dad shouldn’t have to always be the one to compromise his relationship with his kids.
I get how hard it is to have to play second to children. Their needs should always be more important. But that doesn’t mean you aren’t a priority in your relationship. It means that you have to be more willing to share your partner. Unfortunately, that’s how it is when you’re dating a dad. You have to constantly make the commitment to being okay with the fact that your partner has kids that aren’t yours. It’s important, especially before you get married, to check in with yourself and make sure you’re still okay with the arrangement. And if you’re not, then you need to communicate that.
As you continue dating a dad, you need to know — it doesn’t get easier. Kids only get older and need more time and attention. So you may be fine when they’re toddlers and then be miserable once they’re in grade school. At some point, you need to be honest with yourself. Ask yourself if you’re really cut out for being in this relationship long-term. You may think so, but then quickly realize that you’re reaching your breaking point. That’s where the friction comes from; women not being honest with themselves and their partners about how they feel about those kids. If you ever think you could second-guess or not feel comfortable with it, you need to be open about it. You may be saving everyone a lot of stress down the road.
As the ex and mother of a child, I can assure you most of us want to get along. We don’t want you to resent our kids. It makes our lives more difficult. It is our sincere hope that you love our babies as much as we do. And if you’re one of the ones who do, thank you. Dating a dad isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay. No one will fault you for that. In fact, it’s more commendable to know your personal limitations.
But if you’re going to do it, you have to go into it with the understanding that your life is going to change. You really have to be ready for that.