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Dating single parents: The good, bad, and ugly

Whenever kids are involved, dating takes even more careful consideration about who you let in your life and why. It’s one thing to date wholly inappropriate people and have a casual fling when it’s just two consenting adults. When one or both of you have children, you should probably know with some degree of certainty – that the person you are seeing is a viable romantic partner. It also helps when they aren’t clinically insane.

I know of two friends that are dating single parents right now. They are going through vastly different experiences trying to navigate new romances with people who have children. It makes it pretty clear that the way you handle challenges makes a world of difference.

While one relationship seems to be solid, the other is rocky and full of drama. I can only speculate, but it seems that it’s a maturity thing – or lack thereof.

Dating a single parent can be a really rewarding experience, especially when everyone agrees the kids come first. A lot of people actually struggle with this and I think it ends up being a deal breaker a lot of times.

Have you found ways to successfully date while single parenting? What advice would you give someone who is trying to juggle work, parenting, and a love life?

What pitfalls should you avoid to give the romance a chance of working out?

Are you childless and dating someone with kids? What was the good, bad, and ugly? How do you make it work?

By Wise Diva, Misadventures in Atlanta Dating Blog

323 comments Add your comment

The man formerly know as Dan - still...Superior

February 16th, 2012
8:16 am

“especially when everyone agrees the kids come first”

Bad thinking.

In my day – son of single mom – her happiness was tantamount. Our comfort with the guy was second, but you had to get over that first hurdle to even ‘meet the kids’.

This^ statement is what’s wrong with a lot of the kids and parents today. A kid is going to follow suit – that is go along with whatever is in front of them – until they know (and can do) better.

Placing a childs happiness at the center of one life is dumb, let alone placing it front and center of two merging lives.

For the child(ren) to be happy, the parent(s) must be happy in order to provide stability and create an environment for the child(ren) to thrive.

Kids happiness and health are important, but they shouldn’t be the most important thing in an adult relationship. I’m still a believer in a “top, down” management style, freak “bottom up”.

Julie

February 16th, 2012
8:22 am

I dated a man with kids and needless to say, that will never happen again! Part of this is knowing who you are and I want to come first in my man/husbands life, not his kids and baby momma. Therfore since I know what matters to me, I don’t even go there.

Lady~Sunshine!

February 16th, 2012
8:22 am

Dan that is an EXCELLENT POST!!!!!!!

Morning MIA!!!!!!

Lady~Sunshine!

February 16th, 2012
8:25 am

For the child(ren) to be happy, the parent(s) must be happy in order to provide stability and create an environment for the child(ren) to thrive.

Kids happiness and health are important, but they shouldn’t be the most important thing in an adult relationship. I’m still a believer in a “top, down” management style, freak “bottom up”.

^^^^^^^^^^Absolutely love this and embracing this theme as I start my relationship as a single mother.

The man formerly know as Dan - still...Superior

February 16th, 2012
8:43 am

@Julie

You’ll be first…for about two minutes.

A man’s first consideration for the people in his life is (physical)saftey, then security (usu. financial, but also environmental).

Your happiness, and the attention given to you, then becomes part of a formula of providing the things he feels that you need, the things he needs to give you (see above), and the things he wants for himself.

While I don’t know you age, I do know this: if you don’t get over that need to be ‘first’ or the center of attention in a relationship, you’ll find yourself ‘first’…in line at ladies night 2020, wondering how it happened.

#getrealwitchyaself

David

February 16th, 2012
8:45 am

Parents, both single and married, must place the UNION of the adults as FIRST. The children are very important, but kids are also learning from the parents how to relate and deal with the opposite sex. I know married parents that simply live through their kids and pay little attention to each other as husband/wife, lovers and companions. Those parents wake up one day when the children leave the nest and wonder “Now WHO are you again?” That is a lonely road and leads to many breakups. I even know a married couple that was contemplating divorce have the counselor tell them “If you are staying together simply for the sake of the kids, that is the absolute wrong approach.” Kids ARE important, but paying attention to each other so you can set a loving example for the kids should be positively #1.

Lady~Sunshine!

February 16th, 2012
8:46 am

good post David!

Celisea

February 16th, 2012
8:58 am

I wasn’t gonna post but reading Dan’s, I feel inclined.

First of all you must have kids in order to speak or have real insight. Being a product of a single family home doesn’t really qualify you as an expert (no slant to you Dan).

The statement: “For children to be happy, the parent(s) must be” should be taken with a grain of salt and just depends on the age group. For 2 or 3 year olds, yes, for 15,16,17….your happiness won’t so much matter to them. At that age, what makes them happy is doing whatever the heck THEY think is right and a hundred times out of a hundred they are wrong.

I just wanted to paint a picture of reality that going through the teen years ain’t the bed of blues for all parents as it is for some, if you rule them and your house but for all your happiness and the happiness you can give, it won’t make them happy during these years. Your happiness and their happiness are far removed and on different ends of the spectrum.

I agree though what you do in front of them will be the behavior they learn and adapt.

I for one didn’t “date” so much during my kid’s baby years but it wasn’t for her “happiness” so much as it was for cultivating and pruning and rearing. And really, I didn’t have the time…often. As a parent or single parent I shoud say, the hard reality is there are sacrifices and things you give up. Usually it’s the stuff you like and enjoy. Yes, you can have a life but if you’re serious about raising a healthy, thriving, well-balanced (not perfect) child, then sacrifice you will make. Not saying you CAN’T, but sometimes (for me), it was just easier and better and less stressful to do without something steady. A night out here or there to catch a break, yes but again…FOR ME….I didn’t do it.

Now that my kid is older and stepping off into finding a life of her own, I still have the guiding hand and the authority but I’m in a place where I can pull back the reigns of my life and have a little fun. I’m in a place where I can talk openly and explain and tell and teach (not that I haven’t been). I’m not in a place of becoming frivolous as I’ll never be, I’m not in a place of losing descretion but I’m in a place where I can have that separate privacy…something I didn’t so much do during the younger years. So forth and so on.

Roberta

February 16th, 2012
9:02 am

What’s the difference between “insane” and “clinically insane”?

Lady~Sunshine!

February 16th, 2012
9:04 am

C I am bout to email you!

I love the best of both worlds on this blog!

Leggs

February 16th, 2012
9:06 am

Morning.

I am one of those who stayed together for the sake of my child. Growing up w/o a father I wanted her to have a two-parent household simply because of my own idealistic views. It became apparent that although her happiness was vital to me, the unhealthy marriage negated any and all that I thought I was accomplishing. Although divorce can damage some kids, I firmly believe it’s how life is handled after the divorce that truly helps children understand and transition into their parents leading lives apart from one another.

Being a divorced parent, I must take into account my child’s happiness. Is it above my own, sometimes! It’s not only dangerous, but quite foolish to bring men around your child simply because that is your new flavor of the month. Let the relationship grow, determine if both parties are truly willing to put in the work toward development. As time goes by, you will know if and when it’s time to introduce your children. What one shouldn’t do is hide the fact they indeed have children. Why people do that is beyond my scope of reasoning.

disco

February 16th, 2012
9:08 am

good morning. I’ll show my selfish, shallow side and let it be known that I don’t want anything to do with single parents of minor children right now. heck no. as randy says been there, done that, have tshirts, battle scars and paperwork to prove it. I’ve raised mine and have no desire to raise anyone else’s right now. I’ve even discovered that I have limited tolerance for adult children who still act like and are treated like small children. nope. not saying it’s not rewarding for those who don’t mind it but I mind it.

Julie – DITTO. boy was I there and I had to let that one go. I dated a guy whose ex-wife had legal custody but he had physical custody (the kids wanted to be with him) but he continued to pay the ex-wife child support to keep the peace. I told him he needed to man up and get his business right. he didn’t see it my way. he figured I just didn’t like his kids. had to let that buster go.

The man formerly know as Dan - still...Superior

February 16th, 2012
9:08 am

@Cel

Thank you for sharing, and I didn’t take it as a slight.

I have the distinct pleasure of seeing from both sides – not in the infant, completely helpless stage (though I know enough single mom’s to have experienced it).

And no disrespect to your more than admirable decision Cel, but allow me to ask, if you found someone in your child’s younger days – whether looking or not – would you have considered your child’s happiness before your own?

Leggs

February 16th, 2012
9:09 am

@Celisea ~ reading Dan’s post I thought of your first sentence. Dan speaks often of his single mom and his perspective is from that angle and how she raised him and how he was protective of her. You don’t necessarily have the same views when you have children of your own.

Celisea

February 16th, 2012
9:11 am

Lady – Okay

Honestly, because of the place where my kid’s father was during that time, I’m sooo grateful she didn’t grow up with him and really she’s all the better. I’m not wishing any ill will towards him, I just know for his state and where he was, if having a physical male present that’s not ready going to do more harm than help, than I’d rather not.

Julie

February 16th, 2012
9:12 am

@Dan-While you have a right to voice your opinion, I have a right to voice mine. Dude I prolly know myself better then you know yourself. I think when you know what you want or don’t want, you save a lot of people time and heartache. There are too many other variables that you don’t know about me to make such a generalization as my current or future relationship status. But what I do know is my post must have pushed a button. Get over it!

Lady~Sunshine!

February 16th, 2012
9:18 am

You don’t necessarily have the same views when you have children of your own. <<<<<Leggs that is so true too……..Becoming a parent you see the world so differently and often times try to make up the wrongs your parents did per se good point!

single and out & about

February 16th, 2012
9:19 am

I am stuck somewhere in the middle. I am a recently single mom of two girls. I grew up in what I call “Ozzie & Harriett land” so I thought everyone stayed together forever and always. When problems arose, I stuck it out “for my children” finally I realized that I was doing my children more damage than good. They were witnessing exactly what I would never want for them. Now that I am single nd trying to navigate the dating life; I am very protective of my girls. I don’t want men coming in and out of their lives while I’m just dating and don’t want their lives to be disrupted. They have already survived a divorce & the last thing I want is for my impressionable girls to have “daddy issues” because they have seen me trying to date normally. But I do totally get what Dan is saying – I do want to find that happiness with a significant other and I want them to see what it means to be in a healthy relationship and hopefully have the same in their future.

Celisea

February 16th, 2012
9:20 am

Dan – I did. The stockbroker. She was 3. That was a VERY hard thing to walk away from. I had to consider a number of things. So it was her best interest….and his….that I made my decision. When I mentioned on here the other day, two men in my life that was always understanding of “not spending the night” and wanting days of quality time, he was one of them. I remember him asking me after dating for some time, “why don’t you just pack an overnight bag” and I said…”I can’t. He was cool with it and that didn’t get in the way but really how can you mesh and vibe and connect and interact…truly come together on scheduled visits? So that’s what I meant by being considerate of him. So I didnt’ take her around him a lot (maybe 3 times) as my sister would keep her when we wanted time together but it was difficult trying to do her and him separately. I think in retrospect you can merge both but you gotta be REEEEEAL careful and have to REEAAAALLY have a quality standup person. A person who interests aligns with yours….for your kid. I don’t think back then I knew that nor knew how to do. So I always kept both worlds separated. Eventually, I chose her world over mine or any potential suitor.

The man formerly know as Dan - still...Superior

February 16th, 2012
9:20 am

@Julie

The snark was an uncalled for attack in an attempt to be funny, no personal offense intended.

And I take your point about “knowing [yourself] and what you want”, but question: what do you think happens when you get married? And I ask this under the assumption that’s something you’re interested in. If not, no dis and my apology still stands.

@Leggs

Yeah, me and my mom were close – very close. And while being a parent does provide a different perspective than I’ve ever experienced, hear what I’m saying.

Despite her more than noble intentions, I grew up seeing my mom lonely. I saw her yearning for companionship and someone to understand her and her struggle. And that affected me in ways that I’m just starting to understand.

As stated earlier, kids see and experience life right along with their parents so emotional states like happiness, sadness, remorse, and yes lonliness can’t be hidden. You don’t have to talk about it for it to be felt (by you or anyone else).

Lady~Sunshine!

February 16th, 2012
9:23 am

but what I am noticing her currently with me is doing what works best for me definitively and unapologetically…….That comes with self awareness

SlimNu

February 16th, 2012
9:24 am

Good morning,

I don’t have much experience in dating a guy with kids nor to I really have a desire to. I do realize that i’m pushing 34 this year and the dating pool of finding a decent guy who has not been married, doesn’t have any kids but would like to get married and possibly want to have a child is dwindling year by year..so not much to add to the topic.

Now in stealth lurking mode…

Lady~Sunshine!

February 16th, 2012
9:25 am

As stated earlier, kids see and experience life right along with their parents so emotional states like happiness, sadness, remorse, and yes lonliness can’t be hidden. You don’t have to talk about it for it to be felt (by you or anyone else). <<<<<<<I agree with this!

single and out & about

February 16th, 2012
9:27 am

Lady~Sunshine… I agree as well and hope that my girls do not feel my lonliness, etc…. I try and keep it all very separate but am always worried that it bleeds into their lives…

nelsonh

February 16th, 2012
9:28 am

That is a great question. I really like it. If the single parent is a mother of small children it is a safe bet she is looking for a guy to help her raise the kids financially. Soooooo if the mother has her own financial resorces it makes the guy’s decision a whole lot easier. I remember a single[almost] mother, I was wild about her. She had a couple of small children. And just when I thought things could not get any better, a relative of hers died and left her ooooodles of money. Now, this was the cherry on top of the sunday.
Do you want to know what happened?you do? Well I’ll tell you, she dumped me and took her husband back. Now how much sadder can a story get?

Celisea

February 16th, 2012
9:29 am

Lady~Sunshine!

February 16th, 2012
9:32 am

single and out & about I felt your post as well!!!!! we are >>>>>HERE<<<<<

Exiled!

February 16th, 2012
9:42 am

Interesting discussion really!

I see Dan point and I get Celisea point too.

They are All valid and it depends on the situation.

And I agree with whoever said you won’t know until u have kids of ur own.

I would stay in my marriage,if I wasn’t that too happy with it,for the sake of my kids. It’s kinda the flip side of this discussion.

Kids need to be raised well,with role models around them..the whole nine. So if a single parent female or guy feels that bringing different folks into the picture is detrimental for the kids,I can understand that. I can see how I would hate that if my ex were doing that.

As an adult you are in better control of situations than a kid. Show a kid the wrong way and it spoils them for life.

That’s why,while I respect Dan’s point mightily,I would respect more,the female/male that defers dating until they have raised the kids to a respectable and more attuned age.

There are a lot of irresponsible single parents out there. Jeeveing and Jiving in full view of the kids.

That surely can wait!

single and out & about

February 16th, 2012
9:43 am

that we are. This delicate balance is difficult to manuver and sometimes I feel like I am failing miserably at it while other times I feel like I am spot on. More than anything these days I feel like the quality of what I am meeting out there is not what I would want to bring home to our (me & my girls) comfort zone… Even more difficult in itself.
It is so true that what you would “have fun with” and possibly date when you don’t have children to consider is completely different than what you will tolerate and deal with having children in your lives

disco

February 16th, 2012
9:45 am

well in the words of jody’s momma on baby boy – “momma’s gotta live too” (or something like that).

kimmie - the original :)

February 16th, 2012
9:49 am

Morning All!

Hey Dan! How goes it, hope all is well with you & yours? I get and appreciate your perspective. It is often missing in discussions like this.

I can also really appreciate you talking about seeing your mom lonely. People don’t realize how much kids want to see their parents happy and how important it is to for them to see an example of a healthy, happy relationship. Once they are past the “wanting mommy and daddy to get back together” state, they want mom or dad to be happy. Those kids that never want to see the parent date are usually the brats that think the whole world revolves around them and they get a rude awakening when they realize it doesn’t.

I didn’t have any kids of my own, but my husband had them with his late wife. He didn’t have a revolving door going on and the kids met me within 3 months of dating. They expressed often how they wanted us to marry. They love and will never forget their mother, but they wanted their dad happy too. I appreciate it that, while my husband adores his kids and will do anything for them, he also puts our marriage front and center and does not allow the kids to run things. Some folks take the “my kids come first” thing to the extreme and he doesn’t.

Leggs

February 16th, 2012
9:50 am

@single ~ it does bleed into their lives. Mine is now a teenager and sh’s constantly telling me to go out more, go the party I declined, get out the house more. She tells me I’m a good person and a great mother, but I need to find companionship. Damn, that teared me up because for some reason I didn’t want her to wonder or worry over me not dating much.

The man formerly know as Dan - still...Superior

February 16th, 2012
9:50 am

@Ex/all

I understand and respect the decision to not ‘date’ when you have kids…

But I also recognize the tradeoffs, both immediate and long term, for both the parent(s) and the child(ren).

It’s definitely a hard choice to make….

disco

February 16th, 2012
9:54 am

dan – you said the magic word – “choice”. it’s about making wise choices. you can choose to bring a good man/woman around your kids or you can choose to bring the wrong one. it’s no secret that a lot of women bring men into their lives and those same men end up molesting their children. and the term “evil/wicked stepmother” was put into circulation for a reason. the parent with the small children has to really focus on making a good decision. a good step-parent can be very beneficial. a bad step-parent can be very detrimental.

single and out & about

February 16th, 2012
9:56 am

@Leggs ~ my oldest is a preteen and say the same things to me. She is constantly telling me that I’m hot and wants me to go out, date and enjoy myself and regularly talks about that she wants me to be happy because I deserve it. like you said it is hard knowing that they worry about us almost as much as we worry about them. just a delicate balance.
And I know that it has been said to focus on my happiness and they will adjust but as a mom I consider will the person I’m on a date with not only work in my life but work in all of our lives cause there is 3 of us not just me. Does that make sense? Granted maybe that is why I am still single and not able to find anyone….

Lady~Sunshine!

February 16th, 2012
9:56 am

leggs tears all they way around LOL I just told C I am so emotional this morning LOL!!! very teary eyed! lol

Lady~Sunshine!

February 16th, 2012
9:57 am

disco great post 9:54!!!!!!! This subject is a new venture for me and a very sensitive one…..

The man formerly know as Dan - still...Superior

February 16th, 2012
9:59 am

@Kimmie

All is well, thank you for asking. Here’s hoping all is well with you and yours.

For those that don’t know: I married a single mother – after forswearing never to date one.

We have discussions about her life post divorce and people she ‘dated’, the thought process of meeting the kids, etc.

And I’ve stated before that one of my main concerns with dating a single mom was getting attached to the kids (and vice versa). Having to deal with the loss of a parent’s companion – be it through attrition or a mutual decision – is something traumatic for children.

So, I’m extra sensitive to their perspective with what goes on between their ‘parents’ (all 3 of us), and if nothing else we try and present a united front on matters big and smal;, and keep our discussions private.

But knowing how to give/receive affection is something that I (slightly) missed out on growning up, and again, it’s affecting me now.

Celisea

February 16th, 2012
9:59 am

My concern was first the sort of things done before her and yes, secondly having a joker around my kid that “like” little kids. Ut uh. I just couldn’t fathom bringing someone into my home that harmed my kid nor could I fathom bringing someone in my home where I’d have to watch both him and her. I’d say you’re naieve to bring someone in and assume they have the best interest of your child and forego keeping a watchful eye. Yes we all gotta live but when you decide to make babies and bring them in this world, you have a responsibility to see to it that they have the right footing for stepping off ont he good foot in life and if that means scaling back yours for theirs then that’s what you do as a good parent. I don’t recall really giving a lot of thought behind “what to do, what to do”….it’s what you do naturally…meaning “what’s best for them.”

Of course this is just my life, my view, my perspective. Not intended to push or persuade anyone else’s view.

Lady~Sunshine!

February 16th, 2012
10:05 am

C you funny with your disclaimers! hot mess LOL

Jake a.k.a. SPJ, TWB

February 16th, 2012
10:06 am

Great discussion, I dated a single -mom with a toddler once, it was definitely uncomfortable for me…sneakin in late, leaving early often. Had some moments with the young child, but I distinctly remember feeling that I needed to get out of the relationship before the kid developed some attachment to me because I knew I wouldn’t be there for the long haul. Part of why I knew I wouldnt be there was that she had small child, I was not ready to “step in” for the baby daddy. She was a good woman, and “IT” was wet and tasty, but we both could see that writing on wall.

Leggs

February 16th, 2012
10:07 am

“But I also recognize the tradeoffs, both immediate and long term, for both the parent(s) and the child(ren).

It’s definitely a hard choice to make….” – It most definitely is. Didn’t even consider dating immediately after my divorce, but didn’t consciously take into consideration the long term negative side of putting of dating. I for one really didn’t take age to be a big factor once I decided to start dating again, but I’m not the same person I was at 45. I’m still in my prime, but some people do not consider age just a number. I’m very, very thankful I don’t look my age, my body doesn’t look my age, but I am still my age!

Leggs

February 16th, 2012
10:09 am

“But knowing how to give/receive affection is something that I (slightly) missed out on growning up, and again, it’s affecting me now.: – I am proud of you Dan for recognizing this. It’s never too late to correct. You good people, as long as you’re willing to make changes, it can only be good!

Lady~Sunshine!

February 16th, 2012
10:10 am

She was a good woman, and “IT” was wet and tasty, but we both could see that writing on wall. <<<<<<Jake so damn true!!!! lol

Lady~Sunshine!

February 16th, 2012
10:10 am

I agree Leggs 10:09!

Celisea

February 16th, 2012
10:13 am

Thank you Jake…the top of your post is what I decided against. That’s what I meant by to hard of a thing to do. I’m not “sneaking” and getting in where I fit in…with a young child. I want the full blown open healthy thriving relationship….that or nothing.

Not doing a relationship during those tot years didn’t kill me…lol I’m still here. I don’t regret my decision either. Like I said in retrospect if you have discernment, insight and oversight and a really really really good, standup, quality mate, maybe.

kimmie - the original :)

February 16th, 2012
10:14 am

If things are really bad at home, I don’t advocate staying together for the kids. It’s a lot of stress on them, more than folks realize. My parents marriage was not perfect by any means. Their room was above mine and I remember crying sometimes and wishing if they could not get along better they really needed to divorce.

Celisea

February 16th, 2012
10:15 am

Dan – I can appreciate though your thoughts and insight surrounding your mom and raising you as a single parent :)

Exiled!

February 16th, 2012
10:18 am

@Jake!

I know what u mean.

I have tasted the cherry while the kid was in the vicinity(house) only because mom allowed it,only to come to better sanity again after the sweetness wore off. Lol

A parent should do better.

Lady~Sunshine!

February 16th, 2012
10:19 am

Kimmie I really think this causes more psychological damage long term into adulthood>>>>>>If things are really bad at home, I don’t advocate staying together for the kids.<<<<<<It certainly did for me and NO I am not blaming my parents for my misadventures however I am a huge advocate of psychoanalysis and that bases is childhood oriented. Your childhood is so important and those first 6 years are crucial.

I am selfishly glad I had to parents in my home however I just came to peace with why they stayed and the stuff I we dealt with for them staying……..it is touch and go but they did what they saw fit under all situations and conditions and I will never hold that against them. They did their 25 years and kept it moving separably then after. #life