dating a man with kids
Dating a man with kids can be a tricky situation and a big responsibility. But at the same time, it’s a rewarding experience. And that is why a whopping 92% of single ladies are open to dating single dads, with 55% being “very open” to the idea, according to a survey.
However, dating a busy man with children is going to be different from your typical relationship experience in many ways. You need to set your expectations realistically and know exactly what to expect to build a fulfilling relationship. We’re here to help you understand the rules for dating a man with a child in consultation with emotional wellness and mindfulness coach Pooja Priyamvada (certified in Psychological and Mental Health First Aid from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the University of Sydney), who specializes in counseling for extramarital affairs, breakups, separation, grief, and loss, to name a few.
Dating a man with kids – Pros and cons
The moment you feel attracted to a man holding a toddler, your heart may be racing faster than ever but your mind will instinctively focus on the red flags when dating a man with a child. And every logical strand in your being will try to convince you that you are putting a lot at stake for this man. These relationship insecurities are not unfounded but those inhibitions shouldn’t hold you back from following your heart. Who knows, a love story of a lifetime may just be waiting to unfold.
All you need is to figure out how to date a man with kids without resenting him for it or putting your own needs on the back burner. To be able to do that, you first need to make an informed choice about whether dating a man with a child and ex (or a single dad going it alone) is the right choice for you. What better way to do that than by relying on a good old-fashioned pros and cons list:
|If you are a kid person, this relationship can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life||You may go through the classic “My boyfriend puts his child before me” problem|
|Men with children are consistent and stable; they consider messing around a waste of time||You may be the third wheel when dating a guy with kids|
|He doesn’t have the time to be clingy/obsessed with you||There may be signs he still loves his baby mama|
|He won’t be rush into a relationship, so you can truly work on nurturing your connection, taking things one step at a time||Whether you’re dating someone with custody issues or just a single dad who feels overwhelmed with all that he’s got going on in his life, the stress may spill over on to your life and take a toll on your mental health|
|You can expect him to be sensitive to your emotional well-being (since raising children is likely to have made him more in touch with his soft side)||He may need time to figure out how much he wants you involved in his child’s life|
|As the relationship progresses, you’ll feel lucky to be with a guy that can balance anything – household chores and a job, parenting and a career||Lack of alone time is one of the disadvantages of dating or marrying a man with a child|
21 Things To Know When Dating A Man With Kids
Perhaps, there is a single parent whom you’ve known a long time (a friend/coworker), and have been finding yourself drawn to him of late. Or, you have connected with someone on the dating scene – thanks to online dating, social media, or a friend’s recommendation – and they lead with telling you that they have children.
You like him enough to want to take a leap but just don’t know how. You’re wondering, “Should I even be dating a man with a child?” If so, how? Keep these 21 things about dating a single father in mind, and you’ll sail through.
Related Reading: 12 Tips To Be A Successful Single Mother
1. His children come first ALWAYS
So, this man has been upfront with you about the fact that he has a child/children and you choose to date him anyway. Know that one of the first rules for dating a man with a child is to set and manage your expectations realistically. That means knowing and accepting that for him, his children will come first, ALWAYS.
Pooja says, “If you’re wondering what to expect when dating a man with a small child, know that the responsibilities and emotional attachment of a single parent are very high. Raising children single-handedly takes a lot of quality time, space, and effort.” No matter where you both are or what you’re doing, if his children need him, he will leave everything at the drop of a hat and rush to be with them.
Linda, who is dating a divorced man, shares with us her experience, “My boyfriend has a child from a previous relationship. Meeting his child for the first time was no cakewalk for me. But gradually, I realized both of them are doing everything to welcome me with open arms. When a guy is patient with you, you don’t mind going on a playdate.”
2. Dating may not be his priority
Leah, a nurse practitioner, was dating a man with kids and feeling left out. Her partner was a senior doctor at the same hospital. Between the demanding nature of his job and responsibilities at home, he hardly had any time to devote to Leah. That bothered her to no end initially but she gradually began coming to terms with the fact that even though he wasn’t able to prioritize dating, it wasn’t a reflection of how he felt about her.
When dating a guy with kids, you have to be mindful of the following facts:
- He may have gone from “I never want to date again” to “let’s give it a try” after years of careful consideration
- You have to be mindful of the fact that you’re dating a busy man with children
- It just may not be practical for him to put everything aside and plan dates with you or spend all his time in your company
3. You won’t make it to the inner circle easily
Whether you’re dating an older man with grownup children or dating a man with a kid in your 20s, it won’t be easy for you to penetrate and be accepted into the inner circle of his world, comprising him and his children. He will be cautious about introducing you to his child/children and involving you in their lives. Perhaps, to some extent, you will always be somewhat of an outsider.
Pooja says, “You have to understand the situation from the perspective of the kids. Accepting that the only/primary caregiver in their life has found someone else can be threatening to them. They may fear that you, the new partner, may try to replace their other parent. This insecurity can be very real, irrespective of whether the other parent is present in their life or not, and could become a cause for conflict.”
4. Patience helps when dating a man with kids
From canceled dates to unreturned phone calls and messages, there will be many moments of disappointment. Given how much he has on his plate, what with managing a full-time career and parenting responsibility, it can be hard for him to make time for you, especially spontaneously.
On the other hand, if you have children of your own and the two families blend in like pieces of a jigsaw, it can lead to a more fulfilling relationship. This is undoubtedly among the top benefits of dating a man with a child when you’re a single parent too. So, weigh the situation pragmatically and decide your future course of action:
- Before you react or blow your top, take a moment to put yourself in his shoes
- If he is on the same page as you, all the patience will be worth it in the end
- Keep yourself busy with ambitions/hobbies so that you don’t spend all your time waiting around for him
5. You won’t have to worry about mind games
If you’re starting to feel like this relationship is just bad news, think again. There are many upsides to dating a man with a small child, a tween, or even a teenager. One of them is that you’ll never have to worry about him playing mind games just to control the narrative of the relationship. He won’t:
- Disappear just to make you miss him
- Manipulate you with hot-and-cold, push-and-pull dynamics
- Make you feel jealous or insecure
Related Reading: Single Vs. Dating – How Life Changes
6. He will be sensitive to your needs
Your man will be surprisingly sensitive to your needs and will always treat you with kindness. This is especially true if you’re dating a man with a teenage daughter. There is a young woman in his life who is the center of his world. Raising her and doting over her all these years will definitely have polished his sensitive side.
That alone makes being with him worth all the effort you’re putting in to keep the relationship afloat. Again, if you’re a single parent, this is one of the unmistakable benefits of dating a man with a child. Since he is in the thick of the parenting rigmarole, he will not only be understanding of your compulsions and commitments as a parent but also your children’s needs.
7. The other woman factor
If you’re dating someone with kids, it goes without saying that there is bound to be a mother in the picture. In case they are divorced/separated, they will talk and spend time together every now and then. The precarious dynamics of dating a man with a child and ex need to be handled delicately. On the other hand, if she is deceased, you may feel her presence in your life even though she is not physically around.
Whatever the specifics of the situation, feeling like the other woman or dealing with one can make you territorial, insecure, and jealous. Looking for tips on how to date a man with kids? Process these emotions the right way to not let them hamper your relationship or wreak havoc on your mental health.
8. He will give you stability
It’s very easy to notice relationship red flags when dating a man with a child, but if you look closely, it has its fair share of green ones too. A relationship with a man who has children may not be the most spontaneous or passionate but you can count on it to be a stable one because of the following reasons:
- This man is mature and settled in his life. He knows what he wants
- Since he has gone back on the dating scene, he’s ready to turn over a new leaf
- He has chosen you to be his partner in this journey, means you’re special to him
9. He may be rusty at romance
If you’re dating a divorced dad, chances are that this may be his first rodeo since he donned the single dad hat. He may hesitate to express his feelings toward you. He may struggle with something as simple as saying “I love you”. You have the ability to change your romantic life by showering him with love and affection to a point where reciprocation comes organically to him.
Pooja says, “Sexual intimacy and privacy can also be affected when you’re dating a man with a kid in your 20s. If the child is young and is still co-sleeping with your partner, making room for intimacy can be hard. Even if the children are older, being intimate with your partner, especially when you’re in his house or once you start cohabitating, can be awkward.”
10. He may not have dealt with women in a long time
If you’re dating a man with a son, he may not have interacted with a woman intimately in a long, long time. His home may well be a boy’s pad and he might just be totally clueless about a woman’s needs and expectations. Even the most predictable things like a woman getting a little edgy and moody while PMS-ing can catch him off guard. At times, it may make you wonder, “Is dating a man with a child worth it?” Well, you’re just going to have to rewire his outlook, slowly and steadily, and everything else will fall into place.
11. Your man comes with emotional baggage
A marriage/relationship that didn’t work out. Losing the love of his life. A casual hook-up that culminated in his partner getting pregnant. Whatever the story, you have to prepare yourself for the emotional baggage. Not to mention the gnawing feeling of not doing enough. So, tread around these trigger points carefully and be empathetic when dating a single father.
Carlos, 35, says, “After I started dating Matthew, I knew he was hiding a wound from the past. He never opened up about his ex-wife. I didn’t even know if she was alive or not. I was patient for a long time but this mystery was eating me up on the inside and one day, I snapped. What he revealed was beyond my expectations. His wife was with her lover on the day they met with a car accident and she passed away shortly after.”
12. He may not tell his kids about you instantly
While dating someone with kids, you might notice his lack of enthusiasm in telling his children about you. And this can be bothersome because you’re not wrong in expecting to be a part of his life. But if you see the situation from his perspective: he wouldn’t want to disrupt his children’s lives until he is sure that this thing you’ve got going is rock solid. And that’s completely justified. That’s why another important rule for dating a man with a child is to never rush him into making that decision.
Pooja says, “Since my partner and I both had children from our previous relationships, we understood this conundrum perfectly well. To make the transition smooth for them, we meticulously planned outings where our kids got a chance to interact with and get to know each other without the pressure of their parents dating. Once a certain rapport was established, only then did we tell them about our relationship.”
13. His kids may not like you
Since they are children and to their innocent minds, you may seem like the intruder who is taking the place that once belonged to their other parent, the onus of breaking the ice the right way is on you. And of course, your partner. “One way to ensure that you don’t get off on the wrong foot with his children is to not make them feel excluded at any point, in any way. This new relationship should not make the children feel insecure or threatened,” advises Pooja.
Related Reading: What Does Dating Mean For A Man?
14. He has too many obligations
It’s pretty obvious that leisurely time may be a luxury for him. But it helps to check how much of a luxury. Before you get too emotionally invested, take the time to reflect on the following questions:
- Can he take out at least a couple of hours over the weekend or midweek to be with you?
- Will he be able to call you at least once a day and speak at length?
- Can you communicate through regular texts?
- Is he open to setting certain ground rules for dates, calls, and texting while dating?
If not, then this person may be too unavailable to have a relationship with. No matter how desirable he seems in the moment, things won’t pan out well in the future.
15. He may want to take things slow
When you’re ready to say “I love you”, he may just be getting comfortable telling you that he likes you and cares about you. The thing about dating a divorced dad is that the baggage of his past relationship and the reality of the present make him a tad too cautious.
As we said before, patience is your best friend if you really want this to work. Before taking the plunge, you must introspect on:
- Should I date an older man with a child if I am in a hurry to commit to someone, or even marry?
- Why do I want this relationship?
- Am I dating him for the right reasons?
16. Moving in together can pose challenges
Something as simple as moving in together can become a challenge when your partner has kids. They have to be on board with the plan. Once you do move in, you will have to make adjustments in your routine and lifestyle to accommodate the needs of his children. And you have to think through the financial implications of this decision, such as the impact of his existing financial obligations on your shared expenses, the cost of vacations involving children, college fund, and other expenses.
17. You have to build a relationship with his children
“Meeting his kids for the first time can be overwhelming. If you assume the role of a parent from the get-go, it might send out a message that you’re trying to erase their other parent’s place in their life, which can backfire. The correct approach is to engage with the children as you would if they were any other friend’s kids. Slowly, build a bond and connection with them,” says Pooja.
Yes, you may find guys with babies attractive. But dating or marrying a man with kids is a totally different experience altogether. You need to handle the whole get-to-know-his-children phase with caution. Here are some safe topics of conversation you can lead with to break the ice and get the kids to warm up to you
- What is your favorite cartoon/music band/show (depending on the age of the child?
- What is the worst food in the world?
- Rate your day on a scale of 1-10; 1 being awful and 10 being the best day ever
- What is new at school these days?
18. You have to adapt to their traditions and routine
Say, you’re dating a man with a son and they spend their Sunday morning playing soccer. Or dating a man with a teenage daughter and they both spend weekends going on treks. Once you become a part of their lives, you will be expected to be a part of such routines. If the kids feel that their father is abandoning family time for your sake, they may start resenting you for it.
That can open a can of worms and lead to a lot of unpleasantness. You can prevent the situation from turning messy by simply including his children in things to do as a couple. You have to make room for family outings, picnics, and movies, in addition to your date nights.
19. PDA may not be welcome
Let’s say, you’re having dinner with your boyfriend and his children. And he says or does something that makes your heart skip a beat. Your first instinct may be to kiss him and tell him you love him or find him adorable. But you have to think about how this will go down with his children. They may feel uncomfortable with such gestures. This means you’ll have to learn to rein in your most instinctive reactions around them.
Related Reading: Exclusive Dating: It Isn’t Surely About A Committed Relationship
20. He may not want marriage or kids
If you’re dating a man with a baby and thinking long-term, you need to keep in mind the uncomfortable kid questions to ask your boyfriend. Yes, it can seem premature to bring up these topics when the relationship is still new and no commitments have been made. But it will stand you in good stead.
What if he just isn’t open to the idea of getting married and having any more children? And what if that’s something you really want for yourself? Naturally, this will become the undoing of your relationship at some point. So, it’s best to clear the air at the onset by asking the right questions about marriage and children to make sure that you’re both on the same page.
21. Your friends and family may not approve
It may be the 21st century and all that, but there is still a stigma attached to dating a man with children, especially if you’re not dating as a single mom. Expect some unpleasant reactions from friends and family members. They may not approve of your relationship or suggest that you find someone who is in the same place in life as you.
If you’re already debating whether dating a co-parenting dad is a good idea or not, such reactions can add to your confusion. If you’re convinced that you and your man belong together, your decision may strain your ties with the people closest to you, even if temporarily. That can be hard to deal with.
- One-on-one time might suffer if you have a boyfriend with kids
- If you really want to get with someone who has children, you have to tread with patience and sensitivity
- Don’t make him feel obligated to introduce you to his kid
- Stability/lack of mind games is one of the benefits of dating a single father
- If it feels right, don’t let societal stereotypes or your own inhibitions stop you from dating a guy you really like – kids or no kids
Finally, if you’re dating a man with children and struggling to make it work, know that it’s totally natural. As far as the complexities of relationships go, this one ranks quite high in the order. But, if you feel in your gut that this is the right choice, don’t let the effort needed to make it work or societal prejudices get in the way.
People will tell you to never date a man with a child but don’t let that get in the same. If you feel a strong connection with him and think there’s potential for the long haul, don’t give up.
Meeting your partner’s child for the first time can get overwhelming, especially if they’re a teenager. “I feel like a third wheel with my boyfriend and his daughter” or “My boyfriend’s daughter controls him” might be your initial reactions. But you have to be patient and try to slowly build a bond with the child.
Meeting your boyfriend’s kids is a clear indication that he sees a future with you. He wouldn’t want to disrupt his children’s lives by bringing in someone new until he is sure that this thing you’ve got going is rock solid and lasting.
Not everyone can pull off relationships with kids involved. If he adds stability to your life and if you don’t mind embracing his family as yours, that’s your green signal. Finding a man worth keeping is difficult. So, hold onto him. Before you jump in with both feet, make sure there are no red flags such as signs he is sleeping with his baby mama or still has feelings for her.