Dating a single dad – not something I ever thought I’d be doing, having always imagined I’d be part of a traditional nuclear family. Other than my own son, I’ve never felt that I’m particularly great with kids (and let’s face it, some days I’m not even that great with him) so the thought of dating someone who came complete with their own child would have been pretty daunting.
But the nuclear family dream went up in smoke a while ago now and I spent 2019 dating. Single dads, child-free bachelors, nice guys, not-so-nice guys, younger guys, older guys – I met them all! Dating a single parent seems to get more than its fair share of bad press, but it turned out that dating a single dad was the best decision I have made in a very long time.
I discovered early on that, when you date a single dad, you generally know what you’re getting. You see what type of parent they are – and I’ve learnt that that can be a great indication of what type of man they are.
You see what type of parent they are – and I’ve learnt that that can be a great indication of what type of man they are.
Brilliant fathers, who parent consistently rather than play Disney dad, can usually be relied on to stick around through the tough times. Men who can be unashamedly silly, modelling pink bows styled by their young daughters, are the ones who will make an effort to keep things fun. A man who scoops his child up, ready to kiss the tears away after a fall, will try to put the smile back on your face after a hard day. A hero who chases away bad dreams will be the person you’ll want next to you on a cold night. And, of course, it works the other way too. A man who is happy to cancel time with his child for the prospect of a date or will miss an important hospital appointment for a romantic weekend away, will almost certainly casually let you down too. Parenthood is like a secret window into the soul, showing you just what someone is made of.
Dating a single dad, particularly as a single mum, is a huge responsibility. The last time I dated, as a carefree girl in my twenties, the worst thing that could happen was a relationship not working out. As a dating mum I’ve discovered something much more terrifying – the possibility that it could actually work out, because in doing so it opens my child up to the potential for more hurt. There are four of us in this relationship and our children have already experienced enough change in their lives without having someone coming into it, only to leave shortly after. It’s a sobering thought and one that I know my boyfriend is as aware of as I am. Having said that, I truly believe that the benefits of this new relationship, for all of us, outweigh the risks.
It’s easy to overthink things when dating a fellow single parent and to jump ahead, envisaging problems before they arise. But being open-minded and flexible can work wonders. I was adamant that I would need to date someone for six months before introducing a partner to my son, but actually an early play date worked well for us. We’re lucky that our children are close in age and that was a possibility – I’m not sure we would have gotten away with stolen kisses during a game of hide and seek if we’d each had a teenager to contend with!
There are of course certain tensions that come from two single parents dating. We haven’t been without our problems and I’m sure we have many more ahead, but so far we’ve managed to resolve them together. Our few arguments have been about our children, each of us rising to the defense of our own but we’re also realistic and don’t beat ourselves – or each other – up about it. These things will happen but, as parents, we both know the importance of being able to say sorry.
As parents, we both know the importance of being able to say sorry.
Logistically, dating a single father can be more difficult. In the past we’ve struggled to coordinate diaries taking into account two young children on different schedules, jobs in different locations, individual hobbies and keeping in touch with friends. At the start of our relationship it took us 6 weeks to find a free weekend night for both of us. It was frustrating but worth the wait. Almost seven months in and we’ve just had our first child-free weekend away. I couldn’t have been more excited if I’d been heading for two weeks in the Caribbean!
All of the above does however come with a caveat. Dating a single dad doesn’t guarantee you’ve got a keeper (after all my ex-husband is one!) While a single father can indeed ‘get it’, identifying with your parenting challenges, there will also be single dads who behave badly – just as there are plenty of single mothers who are no angels.
But it does mean there’s hope. I used to moan to friends that the only available men my age were the ones that had been left on the shelf. I’ve realised now that I had the wrong attitude.
What I should have been doing was checking out the awesome ones that were just coming back on the market.
Emily is a frolo living in Bristol with her son Teddy. You can keep up with her on her blog Pop Goes Perfection.