I “met” Deesha Phillywaw through her book Co-parenting 101: Helping Your Kids Thrive in Two Households After Divorce. I wish I read her work before I became a co-parent. While dating men with children, I didn’t take into account certain things thoroughly discussed in the chapters of the book. For instance, I wasn’t used to being someone’s second priority and having to schedule dates around a custodial calendar. I also thought paying child support meant your child’s needs were met. I didn’t realize bills stretch far beyond a daycare’s door. I also didn’t have to budget and sacrifice for others, so I could easily drop dollars on designer bags, shoes and clothes–if I opted to spend the day at the shopping mall.
Now, that I’m on the other side of the fence and co-parenting the most terrific toddler you’ll ever meet, I want my experiences to positively impact singles dating someone with children. So yesterday, Deesha and I sat down to lunch–we ate our favorite Thai food and discussed our not so favorite topic–co-parenting through problems and over obstacles. I asked her what six things should women know when dating men with children. Here’s what she told me.
1. Don’t Take Every Word as Gold
If a man says, my child’s mother won’t let me see my kids, dig deeper, because while the family court system is broken, sometimes men say they aren’t allowed see their children when they haven’t sought parenting time through a judge. You don’t need an attorney to obtain custodial rights. A father can represent himself pro se and file a motion if he cannot work out an agreement with his ex. Ask yourself, is this man in his child’s life for not only the first day of school and graduation but all the moments in between?
2. Don’t Let the Baby Mama be the Straw Man
If a man is unable to provide for a child financially, that’s not the child’s mother’s fault. If a man doesn’t try to visit his son/daughter, that’s not the child’s mother’s fault. It’s easy for someone to place blame on another person, especially if they are not getting along. Don’t date someone who isn’t providing financially for his children yet wines and dines you every night. I would have to ask if he is paying child support. Is there an unspoken agreement between the co-parents—don’t bother me about seeing your child, and I won’t bother you about paying child support? You must decide if you want to date someone who makes that kind of trade off. Is the man constantly speaking ill about his ex? That’s not who the baby’s mother is—that’s who he is. Even if he thinks negative those things, it’s not nessceary that he has to vocalize everything all the time, especially if his children are in earshot. It’s difficult to do in many cases, but he should be civil. I’m friends with my ex-husband, but not everyone has a good relationship. Just make sure he is respectful in his interactions. What is your man’s character?
3. Don’t Set a Timer on Meeting the Children.
Don’t use the time you’ve been in a relationship as a measuring stick against meeting someone’s children. Look at the timeline from the child’s perspective. Just because you are in love doesn’t mean the kids are. When you think you’re ready, the children are probably ready a year from that. Someone can be serious about you, but they may not be ready to introduce you to their kids. Before you meet the children, ask yourself, are you ready to commit to being in this child’s life. When you do meet them in the beginning, make sure the interactions are short and brief. Go for ice cream or to the park. Plan an activity with a finite amount of time and with no pressure. Children shouldn’t be pressured to like or love someone, but they should be respectful. Don’t make meeting his children be the validation of your relationship. Don’t put the burden on the kids.
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