How to go about dating a single dad (long)

posted 4 months ago in Relationships
Post # 2
18 posts
  • Wedding: December 1997

balloffire :  so my first question to you would be how old is the daughter. But im going to answer best i can assuming shes young and from the perspective of a single father with a young girlnto take care of. First, and this is going to suck, if you feel secondary in his life when his daughter is around you probably are but its no reason to be upset or angry or worried about. That man literally created that little girl. Have you ever heard that when you have a child its a love and connection like youve never experienced before? Well its true and i think personally its kind of unfair to both him and his child that youre giving him reason to pay less attention to his daughter by making him feel bad for being attentive to her. Maybe try creating a bond with her yourself abd cementing yourself in her life. Children respond well to positivity usually. Just try a little hard to consider how she may feel also. She may be afraid that youre coming to “take her moms place” or even take her dad away from her. I know when my dad got married he changed so much totally stopped paying attention to me and i didnt get along with his wife so all of a sudden me and him were fighting. Nobody wants to feel like theyre in second place in the hearts of the people they love especially not in an intimate relationship. But keep in mind she also doesnt want to feel that way and shes only there half the time. My advice would be to try to work around it. Get close to her yourself. Since youre moving in with him maybe sometimes when you go out try taking her to making both him feel like you care about his child and her feeling important and happy. And yes i know children can be really irritating. 

Post # 3
994 posts
Busy bee

Coming from a mother of a 10yr old….She is my world. I have full custody of her and therefore have her all of the time. Being a parent is not a part time thing even if he has 50/50 custody. I met my now husband and told him that I was a package deal. Either he accepted us together completely or not at all. He obviously chose us as a package deal. He does not have any children like you and was completely new to the idea of dating someone with a child. Let me tell you, he is the best parent to her that I could have ever asked for. He completely understands what it takes to raise a child now. He is not resentful and loves her as his own. Instead of complaining about nights that she is ill and that we cant have us time, he sits right next to me and takes care of her. If this is not something that you think you will be able to do, you absolutely need to move on. It is not healthy for his daughter to get attached to you and then years later you decide you cannot handle it anymore. Sounds like you should take a step back and reevaluate the situation before you move in. Children require attention, love and understanding. If you cant give that to her or to him when he needs to put her first, then you need to find someone that is in the same boat as you and does not have children.

Post # 4
3320 posts
Sugar bee

Oh, Bee. I am a divorced, single mother marrying a divorced, single father. It would definitely be easier to date a man who didn’t have an ex-wife and a child. That doesn’t mean it would be better.

Almost everyone comes with a list of pros and cons. It does take a bit extra to make a blended family work but some relationships are worth it. Some are not.

Take your time and make the decision that is right for you.

Post # 6
3727 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: July 2013

His daughter is having a rough time with the transition. Do they have one on one time?  A special daddy-daughter date once a week? Something where he makes her feel special and that you aren’t going to take him away from her.  My guess is that will help a lot. Also,  I’m with him on not leaving t-ball,  but I would’ve texted you to let you know the issue. 

Post # 7
989 posts
Busy bee

balloffire :  Wow girl, lots of pent up emotions here! Understandably so, too!

First things first, this is harsh but it’s the truth– DO NOT VENT TO NON STEP PARENTS ABOUT YOUR STEPKIDS. I repeat, I repeat!! No one understands it the way you do, and no one (even well meaning friends) understands what you’re going through unless they themselves are actually a step-parent. I have said it before on these boards and will say it again and again, it is the most thankless job on the planet being a stepmom.

That said, I am a stepmom and have been in my stepkids life since young toddler years. I understand so much of what you wrote and how you feel.

Think very, very long and hard if this is a relationship you want to continue, because from my POV–it doesn’t sound like you’re 100% ready for it and neither does your BF. I could write a book in response to your post but I think it all boils down to expectations. Your expectation of the relationship. His expectation of the relationship. The daughters expectation of the relationship.

You need to have a talk with him about what each of you expects- ESPECIALLY as you move in. Nothing makes you feel worse/ more alienated than being the third wheel in your own home. There needs to be respect and regard for YOUR time, and you as a person. The daughter being allowed to push you away and to physically try and remove you would need to be nipped immediately. The fact your BF thinks it is “cute” is not cool. It’s not cute, it is disrespectful and it demonstrates that your place in the household is firmly beneath the dad and the daughter. 

When it comes to the scenario of him staying late for her practice and not picking you up instead, I’m sorry to say but that’s just one of the many sacrifices you make. As a parent, as a step-parent… you have to have some flexibility in the “little things” and know when to pick your battles. The eye for an eye approach (well you cancelled on me so I’ll do it to you!) rarely ever works. What DOES work is letting him know immediately when an action he has done has hurt you.

Expectations need to be discussed, set and revisited over and over again as the years progressed. What I expected 2 years ago is not my reality today. My husband will tell you the same thing. Kids grow and change, BM’s change as they get into or out of relationships, you change, etc.  It is a moving target where you’re always, always needing to be at the ready to emotionally check yourself.

You and your BF need to establish a baseline of WHAT EXACTLY your role is. You need to establish what YOU are not willing to compromise on and what you are. For example: I was not willing to allow BM to have certain access to our lives and I do not do solo pick up and drop offs. Some people cart their stepkids around everywhere for the bio-parents, but I was not going to become the carpooler for them. Figure out what it is you need to feel sanity in your own home, and discuss it very openly and candidly. Can you BF take feedback about his daughter without getting upset? Are you allowed to do any disciplining? Are you expected to make financial contributions to her? Is she expected to do chores at your house? Is she allowed to talk back to you, hit you, etc? These are all things to consider and iron out. 

As for the child. All I can really say is, buckle up. I would not have married my husband if he and I did not see eye to eye on where my role was in our house and where my role was as a stepmom. At the end of the day, I married HIM. My stepkid already has an involved mother, as it sounds like yours does, too.

I am not a nanny, not a carpooler extraordinaire, not a money bank, not a pick up after your every mess cleaning lady. I am my husbands wife, so I expect HIM to do the parenting of HIS child and do the heavy lifting. That approach works for us all we are all very happy to live together. The flipside to that is, it is MY house, too– so WE make the rules of any kids that enter. I was lucky in that my stepkid was a toddler, so there really isn’t any resistance to the rules. But it’s worth mentioning and I’ve seen it elsewhere on step-parenting blogs that when the stepmom/dad role moves in, it’s good to sit down as a family and discuss the “new rules”, initiated and led by the bio-parent. So, your BF will need to call and conduct this meeting with your input in mind.

It is a tough role, but it’s not impossible. I’m not going to blow sprinkles up your ass and end the paragraph with an, “but it will all be worth it!”.

Because truthfully, it might not be. There are days I wish it was just us two and we could build a life together without the tethers of another child and an ex that will not go away for another couple of decades. However; there’s A LOT of hope if you’re willing to communicate heavily and not be scared of looking like the “bad guy”. Speak up for yourself, acknowledge you’re a human with feelings and needs, and don’t be scared to be very frank with him about what those are. You will be EXPONENTIALLY happier if you can get over the intial, “I feel like a bad person because I’m jealous of a 6 year old” and talk through your emotions.

Good luck!!

Post # 8
462 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: April 2012

His daughter is jealous, which is totally normal. She probably feels conflicted about having mom replaced and doesn’t want daddy to forget about her. My best advice is to try to include his daughter. Make your own girls night. See her as fun instead of as a burden. Kids know when they aren’t liked and she’s probably picking up that vibe. I can pick it up just by what you write about her to be honest. You need to decide if having a daughter is something you want. She is never leaving his life and if you resent her now your relationship isn’t going to work. You told him you didn’t want to date someone with a child, perhaps you need to stay true to that. At this point it doesn’t sound like you have made much of an effort to get to know her and truly be part of her life.

Post # 9
436 posts
Helper bee

I’m just going to be blunt, you will come second in his life. If you can’t deal with that, then this relationship is not for you. Personally, I find cancelling a date for child related reasons to be significantly more acceptable than cancelling last minute to hang out with friends. This child relies on him, her life literally depends on him taking care of her. Your friends can survive a girls’ night without you.

And the examples you gave are completely reasonable. If I was a parent, I would not want to leave my 7 year old without knowing how long the adults are planning to be there. If the coach was responsible he/she would wait, but who knows if they have plans or need to run or just don’t realize that there’s a kid waiting for their parent. Had the child been a teenager, then that might not have been as a big of a deal, but there’s no way I’d make my 7 year old wait alone so my adult partner doesn’t have to (you’re infinately more capable of waiting 30 minutes safely than a 7 year old is)

Regarding the child pushing you two apart physically. She’s 7. You’ve been dating her dad for a year. She’s probably old enough that she remembers her parents being together. But she’s young enough that she’s still living in the fairy tale stage. She probably sees you as someone who is taking the place of her mother. Or at least someone who is changing the way her family works. You’re still a stranger. There’s a very good chance that she’s uncomfortable seeing a stranger in her home and being so close to her dad. Remember, she hasn’t been on dates with you and hasn’t seen your feelings for her father progress or her father’s feelings for you. You were someone she didn’t know and now (very suddenly) you’re someone who kisses and cuddles with her dad and is moving in. That’s going to be jarring.
You’ve got to give her time. I can promise with pretty high certainty that she will grow out of this and at least grow to tolerate you even if she doesn’t like the fact that she has a step mom. As she gets older her parents won’t be as important a part of her life as they are now. She’ll fill her thoughts with her own life and her own drama. Her father’s affections won’t be quite as important to her when she’s 10 or 12 or a teenager. And you’ll become less of a stranger and more of a constant fixture in her life. But for now, cut her some slack. She’s a child and her life is being changed drastically without her consent.

And finally, it would definitely be much easier to date someone without kids. But that choice is up to you. If you do continue dating this man, please take his daughter into consideration and accept the fact that she comes first and that you as a person have to mature very rapidly into a “parent” mindset. That is not to say that you are not mature, but even the most adult and selfsufficient and responsible childless person has to grow up when kids are added to the equation. When in a serious relationship with someone who has kids, those kids will drive how your life is planned. If you can’t handle that (and that’s totally fine too, I dont’t think I could), then please be considerate of the child and make that decision before things get too serious and her life is changed too drastically.

Post # 10
3206 posts
Sugar bee

Sounds like normal behavior to me. I mean, he has a kid. Why WOULD you come first (in certain situations)? If the kid is sick or has needs that NEED attending to, that has to be a priority. Nothing you complained about seems to suggest that he is neglecting you based on insignificant issues. Okay, I understand you’re annoyed about the daughter sitting in between and saying eww when you guys show affection. But for crying out loud, she is 7. Dont you have enough privacy when she goes to bed on those days? It seems to me that you need to date someone that does not have this type of responsibility period. Being a parent (or step) is a huge responsibility and a 7 year old needs a certain amount of time and attention so yeah, it won’t be all about you. Find a man who isn’t a single parent.

Post # 11
386 posts
Helper bee

balloffire :  You’re not close to being ready to move in so please don’t.  If you’re going to be petty about a cancelled date night due to a sick child then dating a single dad isn’t for you–harsh, but true.  I was a single mom before meeting my now husband and your attitude/reactions would have been a deal breaker.  Parenthood isn’t a responsibility you can just turn off like a faucet.  If you move in you’re committing to being a family and loving his daughter and him unconditionally–not the picture you’re painting above at all.

Post # 12
1112 posts
Bumble bee

I understand you and I feel for you and I can only say these few bullet points:

-be very very happy there is no or very very little mama drama. That means you are dealing with mature loving people and this man is obviously respectful to his ex and devoted to his daughter. These are amazing qualities (as you well know) in a partner. You are one lucky lady.

-his child will always be first. And it will suck. And it will annoy you. And it will not end until that child is grown up and out of the house. But that doesn’t mean you and your adult realtionship to this father of a child isn’t important, shouldn’t be protected and is always taking the back seat. The fact is, you and your relationship is very special to someone parenting and should never ever be neglected!  It is important to make and keep date nights, you have to know that your man has your back, and you have to know that within realistic expectations (for a parent) he is investing in your relationship. 

-which leads me to point three: he needs to get the jealousy thing going on between his daughter and you under control. He thinks it’s cute, but he is WILDLY underestimating the damage it is doing to his daughter and to the potentially wonderful relationship you two *could* develop if you wish for it. It is absolutely his job to do this, not yours. He needs to understand that his daughter IS jealous, it is painful for her, but also that she needs to learn to respect and accept this adult relationship. Adult relationships nourish him as a parent, offer incredible opportunities for step kids to have another caring and emotionally generous adult in their lives and help kids and parents to seperate and become independant. It is possible and ideal for this man to love his daughter and you  equally and completely differently and this is amazing and doable.

-it’s gonna take time for all this to sort out. Like, maybe years, Bee. And it may still never be amazing when his kid is there. And you may grow to love her or maybe not. But you must respect her position in his life and she yours or it won’t work.

-Please don’t ever feel badly that it’s not all brady bunch and rainbows. Stepparenting is hard. And people make you feel bad if you aren’t up to it. If you decide that though you love this man, you just don’t want the package, then respect everyone envolved and bow out gracefully. It ISN’T everyones cup of tea and that is totally ok. It doesn’t make you selfish or a bad person. It makes you a realist and honest. 

-Don’t underestimate the power this has to transform how you feel about kids and parenting. if you are up for the challenge of being together in a committed relationship with a man with a child, then be prepared to grow. Grow patience and grow in your interests. If you open up to that all kinds of things can happen. 


(I have been a step parent twice. The first time was a fiasco. I learned a lot. The second time I learned to take things slow, pace myself and not try to do more than I really wanted to. Turns out kids appreciate the honesty)

Post # 13
18 posts
  • Wedding: December 1997

balloffire :  eventually she will warm up to you just continue to chip away at that wall she put up. Even at that age i understood that i was missing something when my mom left and every time somebody tried to get close to me i pushed them away because i was afraid they would leave. I still struggle with this. As far as the him being your #1 and you being his #2 i understand where these feelings are coming from and its clear why you feel this way and thats okay. Sit with him and discuss with him in further depth and detail when and why youre feeling this way and you can work something out but remember in all of your planning you have to think about her too. Also consider having children is a full time respobsibility especially that young. Keep in mind hes really trying to balance you and his daughter in his life. Not easy. Just talk to him it sounds like he rrally loves the both of you.

Post # 15
1689 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: October 2017

balloffire :  

I think you might need to do some soul searching.

My fiances daughter is 18 and we have a toddler together.

His daughter lives with us. I have told her from the day they moved in that she is number one and that I will always be number two. When our daughter was born I told her that the two of them are number one priority, her father and I come last. I’ve told her that her mother comes before me etc.

I don’t want to sound like a martyr because that’s not what this is, there have been a few times where I have felt that his daughter was being completely disrespectful and hurtful and not responding to my questions of is everything ok because you’re being a little rude and I just ask fiance to check in with her.

You need to be respected but at the same time I don’t get the feeling that you are ready to be number two.

For me it was second nature but I’ve always wanted to be a mother. It’s really a feeling of, if our girls are ok, I’m ok. I do feel like that sounds like a martyr attitude but everyone is different, I just naturally ended up feeling that way.

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