Fresh onto the college scene, I was adamant about not dating a man with a child. I always wanted the experience of having a child to be the first for me and the person I was having a child with. (It’s safe to say I always dated with a purpose… for the most part.) My partner choices were intentional, and I considered everything. With that being said, I wrote off anyone that had a child because they just didn’t "fit the plan" I had for my future. That didn’t hold for long and I started to be less dismissive and more open to new options. I dated my first father when I was still young, and I tried it again a little later (apparently, I wasn’t tainted from the first experience). During these experiences, I learned the following 6 absolutes about dating a man with a child.
You must know the history and current status between him and the mother. This is SUPER important because too often, parents mix "co-parenting" with having sex on occasion (or regularly) because it’s convenient. You don't want to be a part of a co-parenting triangle that consists of you being betrayed for your man to have convenient sex with his ex. Let's be real, they have a child together and if boundaries aren't clearly set, old feelings can end up driving the bus that you're thrown under. Have the talk, get a clear understanding, and express your concerns (if you have any). If you don't like the terms, leave. It's not worth trying to force your way into a ready-made family if your feelings aren't considered.
You are not mom’s replacement. I've seen friends and family members try to push the mom agenda too hard in these situations. Someone I know was co-parenting a child that was not hers with her ex because she'd taken on a mom role in the relationship. Maybe I’m a bit callous, but why… just why? I saw the issue it created with her efforts to move on because she insisted on co-parenting a child that wasn’t hers. It was weird to her new love interest and it kept her unnecessarily connected with her ex. Don’t overdo it trying to be the child’s mom. They have a mom already and they may actually make a better connection with you otherwise.
The children will always be prioritized over you. I said it and will say it again. If you’re considering dating a father, this is something that you MUST accept. I’ve heard older church ladies say that once you marry someone that person comes before your kids. Well, church ladies… we’re talking about DATING and this is the standard. If you have thoughts of being his number one priority and require a lot of attention, this situation is NOT for you, love. Don’t waste his time or yours trying to make it work out in your favor.
The children can and probably will be used to cancel reschedule dates, events, etc. This one ties to the previous absolute and only annoys me because it’s almost a “get out of jail free” card. It’s a little difficult to be in a relationship with someone who has less accountability to you than you to them (by default). This is also workable with a conversation. Set ground rules, and stick to them, but be rational.
You’re expected to “win the child over”. I’m sure the adult ego cringes at the thought of having one’s relationship made or broken by a child, but that’s kind of how it goes. This is the fun part (maybe because I love kids and most typically love me). I don’t see it as a challenge at all and I think of it as a normal expectation from a parent. Sometimes there will be biases put in place by the mom for whatever reason, but overall… children know good people. Be genuine and be yourself.
Forming a solid relationship with the child will strengthen the relationship with dad. If you are successful at “winning the child over” and end up forming a solid bond with the child, daddy will be impressed. Not only will he be impressed, but he’ll see how much value you place on your relationship with him. It’s all positive here. If you really want to be in a serious relationship with him, a solid relationship with his child is necessary to eventually merge as one.
This is my list of absolutes from my own experiences and the experience of those around me. Are there any other things you would add to this list or maybe even dispute? Sound off below!