I trust that we all know by now that The List is something that is better off trimmed, if not completely discarded. I’m pretty sure that five years ago, you were determined to end up with a tall, dark, rich, handsome, educated, childless, teetotaling, fashion-conscious, sexually skilled virgin who of course was also a tongue-speaking deacon and would never cheat.
I had a list, too – mine was divided into sections and had at least 25 criteria, probably more, in about five categories that included physical, spiritual, and social characteristics. My list included everything from loving music to nice hands. Ha! Of course God answers prayers, but sometimes we see the folly of our prayers and thank Him for giving us the opportunity to change them.
But I digress. For some reason, I completely refused to have anything to do with men who were already fathers. I just thought it was too much baggage. I didn’t think I had the strength to deal with it all – things like the child(ren) coming home from a weekend acting all kinds of ways because on Friday night the baby mama overruled or vetoed guidelines that you and your hubby have agreed will stand in your house. But I’ve realized that dating a Daddy does have its pros, too. Why don’t we just get right to it?
Ten things to think about if you’re considering getting married to a single dad.
(Because hopefully, you’re not planning to get married to a married dad.)
There’s good news and there’s bad news. I’ll start with the bad news: dating a dad is tough. It requires a storehouse of strength that not many women have. I’d say marrying a man who already has children, particularly one who is not widowed, is not just a challenge, but also a calling. I can credibly state that it takes a woman of steel, strength, and superior standards to raise children who are not her own. It’s not for every woman; I personally think it takes plenty of grace.
Also, while I have major issues with the term “baby mama”, I can’t really think of a convenient term that expresses what we all know this phrase represents, so I’d just like to state that I mean no disrespect in the 3-4 instances where I have used this term.
1. There may be plenty of drama.
Baby Mama Drama is the most obvious, most common issue with dating a dad who is single not because of widowhood but because the child was born outside wedlock. You will have to deal with this woman and whatever issues she has for at least 18 years. Maybe more. Hopefully fewer. If he’s a single dad as a result of a divorce, then you might have custody issues to deal with as well, and that’s never fun.
When I say drama, I mean things women struggle with, such as comparing yourself to the child(ren)’s mother and having to compete or outdo her. You know how we are. A woman will torture herself wondering what the baby mama did wrong, and then try her best to ensure she does not end up in the baby mama’s shoes, i.e. out the door. The child’s mother might also have jealousy and insecurity issues of her own – you know how it is when a woman decides that she’s received a revelation that her children’s father is her husband… those midnight canceling prayers and the constant stalking and showing up randomly. You will have to understand that she is not going anywhere, and you might have to find a way to invite her to lunch and come up with a civility plan. You’ll need to understand that your man will have to keep in touch with her from time to time, and that she might call your house at odd hours during emergencies (which hopefully won’t be made up just to irritate you). This communication will probably continue even when you are married. Hopefully, you get to deal with a mature, loving woman who rarely makes her presence felt, but if not, you’re gonna need a really thick skin to handle it.
2. You will not come first in your relationship.
And your relationship will consist of at least four people – you, him, the child, and the child’s mother. No matter how much this man may love you, you’ll never come before his children. As much as Scripture states that our spouses must come first in our lives, you will be the intruder and because this man probably feels guilty for not giving his children the privilege of a neat, nuclear family (remember those?), he will do everything in his power to ensure that things go well for them. There’s nothing wrong with that as long as you’re dating. How he plans to handle it during marriage is another story.
Let me break it down a little more: you’ll probably not be a priority time-wise or money wise. There’ll definitely be wayyy less spontaneity. Your dates will come after soccer games, ballet, algebra, and bedtime stories have been taken care of, and at the outset, you’ll be doing dances if you see his face on the weekends when he has the children. If the babysitter cancels on the night of your date, guess what: no date.
There’ll be fewer, cheaper dates and gifts; there’ll be more cancelations and interruptions than you’re probably used to. Thankfully, you’re in this for more than the money (right?!). If this man is African and he has a son from anyone else but you, your children might come second, too, as far as things like inheritance which we love to say are old-fashioned, but which actually still hold quite a bit of weight in the average African man’s mind. You’re not just going to sideline his firstborn son, so you have to find a way to secure the futures of the children that come from your own womb without advocating for favoritism and without being scheming and manipulative.
The good thing about not really being a priority is you can use the extra time to build your career, discover yourself, find new hobbies… serve God. But coming second also means not having as much clout. There are things these children will be able to get out of their dad that you will not be able to squeeze out of him with good cooking or sex appeal. If you like something and the kids don’t, you just might have to go without it, especially if you hold your left hand in front of you and see no rings.
3. The kids might not like you.
But you must love them if you’re going to get anywhere with their father. Loving them is not a guarantee that you and him will end up married, but not loving them is a guarantee that he will not marry you. Winning the children over is probably a very good idea, as long as you remember that you will never be their mother and that you should never try to outshine or overshadow their mother. These children did nothing to end up in their situations; they didn’t ask to be born and all they need is love. Don’t force things or assume that because their father loves you, they also will. You might have to deal with resentment over the fact that you are taking what, to them, should be their mother’s place and maybe, especially with divorce, they need time to heal and accept you. Speak with their father about your role in their life as far as discipline and family time. Be sure these lines are clear before marriage because you don’t want a woman calling the police on you for insisting that her son accompany everyone to church on Sunday.
4. Some milestones will not be new for him.
If you do end up carrying and bearing this man’s children, then you’ll have to deal with the fact that he’s already shared the newness of pregnancy, childbirth and parenthood with someone else. Of course it will still be special, and it will still be new because you’re not the same person who bore his other child(ren), but it would take away from the milestone “firsts” that many women long to have, and so if you’re that type of woman, you’d have to come to terms with this. With the financial pressures that many face these days, he might even decide that he does not want any more children.
5. You could end up really hurting the children.
What happens if you and the children form a close bond, but your relationship with their father crumbles? It’s difficult to come up with a contingency plan when it all seems so beautiful, but you might have to think about that because until there are rings, there are no guarantees. As a matter of fact, until vows are said, there are no guarantees you’ll end up together. Every step has to be taken with the children in mind.
Did you make it this far? Great, because there’s good news, too. Here come the pros:
1. Dads generally make better boyfriends.
I think there’s something about having children that brings out the nurturer in a man. Dads are superlatively patient, organized, attentive, thoughtful, and creative. They have changed diapers, fixed car seats, been woken up at midnight, sat in emergency rooms, improvised, explained math problems a thousand times, and had to answer questions like “Are we there yet?” and “Why is…? Okay, but why does…? Really? Why?” So if, like me, you’re so horrible with directions that you get lost in your own house for the first week of your stay there, or if you’re stubborn, or want to take things slow, then a dad would be a wonderful partner. They’re very observant. They’ll notice details that men normally don’t notice. They’ve learned to have eyes in the back of their heads and multitask – so that he will be listening attentively to you and suddenly yell, “Kim! Put that back – now!” and you’ll turn around and see Kim behind both of you, guiltily returning a knife into its holder. They’re also very reliable.
2. Character analysis can be a quick and easy project.
You can discover more things about a man in just one interaction between him and his children than you would probably unearth in a decade of knowing him if he had no children. If you want to, you can figure out his parenting style, see if he is selfless, whether he’s a pushover, what role God plays in his life. The information is readily available and is exposed each time he interacts with his children. However, this might also mean that you decide what you want before he does. Because dads are generally patient and might not want to relive mistakes, he might want to take things really slowly. You might decide in three months that you’re ready to be his wife, but it might take him much longer to feel ready to be your husband.
3. It’ll teach you to let go and let God.
How do you know if that last-minute emergency is really an emergency? How can you determine that no flames have been fanned and no fires have been rekindled between him and the children’s mother? You don’t, and you can’t. You just have to trust. It can be quite frustrating, but it’s great for your prayer life. Lol.
4. It provides plenty of opportunities for practice.
As you get to know him better, you’ll be able to plan dates that involve the child or children and that will prepare you for your own children. You’ll get to see the joys and struggles of raising a child from a distance that is close enough for you to gain some experience but also safe enough for you to run away to your own house if it becomes too much. The more you hang out with the children, the better you’ll be with children. This is always helpful; even if this particular relationship does not end in marriage, you’ll be able to carry your experience with you into your own future motherhood journey.
What you see is what you get. If this man tells you that he wants to marry you, then it is likely he has taken the time to study you and is certain that you would not only make a wonderful wife, but also fill in the mother gap in the household. Why do I say this? Because he has a baby mama, and he is not with her. If he’s reasonable, it’s likely he does not want to repeat the same mistakes he made in the past, and has observed that there is a minimal risk of this happening if he ended up with you. On the other hand, if he is serious about settling down and feels that nothing will come of your relationship, the single dad is unlikely to waste your time, which is wonderful because if you realize you’re seeing Mr. Wrong, then you always want to clear the doorways for Mr. Right.
Here are some tips for dating a single dad:
• Get the background info. What happened between him and his ex? What are the custody details? How does all this affect your relationship?
• Don’t pressure him into letting you meet the kids too soon. Don’t try to get to know them or win their hearts on day one. Allow time to do what God created it to do.
• Limit the PDA. Firstly because you are not married, and secondly because children don’t need to see one parent being nasty with a stranger (and to them, you will be a stranger for a while) in the other parent’s absence. The fact that they are children does not mean they do not deserve respect.
• Don’t crowd his space. He needs time with his children and he also needs some time to himself.
• Don’t become his maid – and you definitely don’t want to do this as an attempt to prove some sort of wife-worthiness. Slaving over chores and children will not make you a wife any more than dangling your feet over a pond and quacking will make you a duck. He is the children’s father, and they have a mother. Let the parents be responsible for their children.
• Remember Romans 14:12 – “So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” Whatever you sow into the lives of other children, you are sowing into your own children’s lives and you will definitely not only reap, but also give an account to God.
• Establish early on whether he desires to have more children.
• Disregard idle naysayers. You will be told you can’t do it. Know the voice of the Shepherd, and let Him guide you.