And while a man with kids can find he is as much of a chick-magnet as a floppy-eared puppy or a half-price sale on Manolos, dating a single father has its challenges.
The good news: It’s easier to get dates. The bad news: It’s harder to keep them.
Alan, a single father of two (ages two and five) says, “I think fatherhood makes it easier to find dates. One time a friend of mine mentioned that women love dads because something very primal in their nature makes them think ‘the boys can swim.’ And that he is able to commit to raising a family. Seems to have worked so far.”
Alan adds, “Dating is tough for me primarily because of scheduled time with the kids. I have the kids half the nights during the week, and alternate weekends with my ex. I usually work out a schedule with the woman I am dating, but there are many times that something pops up on a specific date that I can’t go to because I will be with the kids.
“The person I am dating right now is very understanding and actually likes to have nights to do her own thing, but I have a feeling that the schedule still frustrates her a bit, like it frustrates me. I wouldn’t trade spending time with my kids to have more time on the dating scene, but the rigid schedule of joint custody can be tough.”
Rudy, a single father of an eight-year-old girl agrees, “We have less time to date.”
But lack of time isn’t the only challenge. How do you weigh time with your child against time for yourself? Is it more important to spend every waking moment with your child? Or show them that you are a real person who needs adult relationships?
Bill is a single parent of a four-year-old daughter. He has been raising her on his own for the last three years.
Bill says, “I gave up a flying career in the US Marines in order to come home to allow her to grow up closer to her cousins and grandparents. The challenges I face in dating are numerous. First is just finding the time to date when you work until 5:30 or 6 at night, then have to run to pick her up from daycare, cook dinner, bath time, play time and bed time all squeezed in before 8:30.
It’s a constant stress on me that I do not spend enough time with her. When I do have a night free, I usually want to either grab a drink with some friends or just relax with a movie.
“Another obstacle,” Bill adds, “is overcoming the whole ‘ready-made family’ deal that women see you as. Most women I meet want families but they want to start their own and do not want the drama that a teenage stepdaughter may bring in a few years.”
This fact does not come as a shock to single mothers, who face that same dating obstacle as well — men may want their own families but they aren’t particularly interested in raising someone else’s.
However, many men find that single fatherhood makes them especially attractive to a certain type of woman, namely single moms. Maybe it’s all those years of watching Brady Bunch reruns.
Nancy Michaels, founder of Matchgonewrong.com says, “I for one am more interested in dating a man with kids as opposed to without.” Why? Michaels says, “They get that kids come first, they’re not offended when there’s an unexpected change of plans or interruption and they’re not as selfish or stingy (in terms of finances etc.), and they have a greater appreciation for what you do as a mother.”
The biggest mistake single dads make? Not telling the new woman they’re dating about their kids.
Julie, who has dated a number of single dads, says, “It always ticks me off if I find out a man has kids a month into dating him. That’s important information.”
The good news for single dads, according to Michaels, is that when you’re honest up front, women tend to be more accepting and less likely to freak out. “It’s highly likely for a man over 40 to be a single dad; therefore, it’s no big deal.”
Paula, a dater, says, “I would definitely date a single dad. Child-rearing can be one of the most important life lessons for all of us. Raising children could make the dad even more wise, sensitive and caring than he was before the children came along.”
The Mommy-of-the-Month Club
Most experts agree that a parade of girlfriends is hard on the kids — the children form attachments and then the person disappears. A few weeks or months later there’s someone new, and the cycle is repeated. The kids eventually learn not to trust in relationships, that the people they care for are not permanent. (A seed already planted when mom and dad got divorced.)
Alan says, “I really think that the kids need to be kept separate from the dates. It is tempting to introduce them early to the person you are dating because that would give you more time with that person and your kids — the best of both worlds. But parenting and dating are worlds apart. Also you wouldn’t want to make the kids go through multiple new girlfriends. It would be very upsetting for them.”
I once dated a man who asked me to babysit his daughter a week after we met. It was an emergency (his wife didn’t show up and he needed to go to work.) His daughter was just two at the time, she was incredibly sweet and I have always loved children.
But as the day wore on, two thoughts occurred to me: First, I wouldn’t want to have a family with a man who would just leave his toddler with a virtual stranger, and second, it seemed clear he was looking for a replacement mommy for his daughter. He was a nice man, and his daughter was a delight, but I wasn’t comfortable with either scenario.
I didn’t even know him well enough to know if I wanted to continue dating him, but I couldn’t bear the idea of getting attached to his daughter (and her to me) and then discovering I wasn’t really into him. I cut it off immediately.
Relationships blogger Natalie Dean says, “Embrace the child, but don’t get too attached until you have a ring. There’s no use in playing stepmom if there’s no future for you and him. Once he feels comfortable enough to introduce you two, you’ve got somebody new to ‘impress.’
“Remember, if you don’t hit it off with the child, you can’t expect to get much further with him. I just suggest holding off on family outings until you’re sure about him. Don’t let him drop his child off on you in the very beginning. That shows bad judgment on his part.”
What to consider before you date (or sleep with) a single dad
If you are not a patient person, dating a single parent is not for you. The fact is, dating a single parent means sneaky sleepovers, dates cancelled at the last minute and pretending to be “just pals” when you’d rather be making out on the couch.
Sort of like an affair, but without the pricey jewelry.
You’ll be entering into a relationship where you’ll never come first. And for many women (and men) that’s a hard pill to swallow. Even if you logically understand that the kids need to come first, the day-to-day reality of it can be pretty wearing.
Single dad Alan offers more advice for women dating single fathers: “Don’t feel unimportant because he hasn’t offered to introduce you to a lot of friends yet. Many of his friends may be off-limits in the beginning if the divorce/separation was very recent since they may be mutual friends of the ex. That will soon change.”
The good news, according to Dr. Tina B. Tessina, psychotherapist and author of The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again is that, “A single father who is dating is more likely to be successful with women who are serious about relationships. They will see his commitment to his children as evidence of his ability to commit in general. This will make it easier for you to date, but also more difficult if you don’t want to commit.”
Guidelines for Single Parents
Dr. Tessina offers these guidelines for single parents:
- Make sure you know a lot about any new person before inviting him/her into your home.
- Always introduce new adults to your children as friends, nothing more.
- Do not pressure your children to like your new friend or to spend time with him or her.
- Insist that your children behave appropriately and politely to your adult friends.
- If you want to get serious with a date, find out his or her feelings about children, especially your children, first.
- Gradually introduce a new date to your children by doing family-oriented activities together.
- Give your children and your date a chance to develop their own relationships.
- Don’t sacrifice your children’s alone time with you for the person you’re dating.
- Don’t miss sport or school events in order to date.
- Don’t share inappropriately with your children. Do not use them as “confidantes” for your relationship confusion or problems.
- Don’t allow them to find out about your sexual relationship.
Whether you’re a single parent or just dating one, remember that responsibility, putting someone else’s needs ahead of your own, and the ability to love deeply are the cornerstones of any good relationship — and single parents have them in spades.
By Lisa Daily