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 a man 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 to pay child support meant your child’s needs were met. In actuality, 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.
6 Things Every Woman Should Know When Dating a Man With Children
In this article:
- Don’t take every word as gold.
- Don’t let the child’s mother be the straw man.
- Don’t put a timer on meeting the children
- Remember you’re not actually a co-parent just because you’re dating one.
- He has other financial obligations.
- Pay attention to this parenting style.
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 a woman needs to know when dating a man 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.
4. Do realize that You are not a Co-parent but rather dating a Co-parent.
You are not a co-parent when you are dating a co-parent. You really don’t have a role in the child’s life at this time. It’s not your job to make the rules and set the schedule. The man should schedule what time he has with his children and what time he has with you. He should prioritize his kids, and only swap time for one-off scheduling conflicts, such as celebrating your birthday.
Pay close attention to the visitation schedule. Does he see his children on a regular basis—every other week or weekend, during summer months, etc. It is less about the frequency in a short period of time and more about consistency in the long run. Remember, if he has kids, you shouldn’t be looking to be his number one. If you’re dating a man with children and he has to choose between you and his kids and he chooses you, then he’s not a good father.
5. Do Accept the Fact that Your Man Has Other Financial Obligations.
If you’re dating a man with children and you don’t have children, be understanding of his financial obligations to his family. He may have to shell out money for daycare, school uniforms, extracurricular activities, etc. You cannot call a father on a Thursday and ask him to go to say the Essence Music Festival. Also, know that child support doesn’t cover all expenses. What is the quality of his children’s life? Is their hair done? Are their clothes clean? If you have children of your own, do not demand a man to do less for his kids and more for yours.
6. Do Pay Attention to His Parenting Style
Are you dating Disney dad? Does he only take his children on fun and exciting activities? Does he know how to interact with them without buying them something or taking them somewhere? Is he going to be able to transition out of that indulgence mode, or will you be expected to tolerate it if you become Woman of the House? Does he discipline his children? Don’t think because you are getting married that you magically become the woman of the house. If it was a free for all, and you come in and everything changes, don’t allow your husband to put you in the position to become an evil stepmom.
When dating a man with children, he should take ownership of the situation by preparing his children for the change. I don’t know any family that has blended smoothly without thoughtful, prior consideration of rules and roles. It’s easy to resent the children at times, but ultimately the adults are responsible for the dynamics in the family.
You can read more about Co-parenting 101 by reading the book on it!
Hey BWMK Fam–What advice would you give to a single person dating someone with children?
Editor’s Note – This post was originally published on July 19, 2013, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.