You’ve met someone who you actually like. There you are, on your first date and you think, I can’t believe how well this is going. Finally! We laugh at each other’s jokes, we both love Italian horror films and French cheese, and I can’t wait to wake up with this person after a long night of passionate sex and maybe a pint (or two) of Talenti Gelato...Moroccan Mint, I think. You zoom back out of your fantasy, as you hear your dream date talking about which nights are child-free and which nights little Olivia is home. Yes, you’re dating a single parent.
Before I had a child, I never came close to dating anyone with a child. Now, dating someone who acts like a child, I had that ground covered, but with a child, nope.
Then, I found myself on the other side of the table. I was the single parent. I had my son in my late 20s. By 31, I was single again, but this time, I had a plus-one.
As I re-entered the world of dating, I discovered that many men were unsure of how to proceed with a single mom. The uninitiated didn’t know how to act, what to say, when to meet, etc. And, I didn’t know what to tell them. The vast majority of my friends were childless. I learned, sometimes the hard way, about what works and doesn’t work when dating with a child. I also learned a lot from my husband, who dated me, the single parent, for three years before we got married. Lucky for you, I’m gonna break it down.
1. You Are Not The New Best Friend. The most common mistake people meet when meeting their new sweetheart’s child is to come in like Tom Hanks in Big, acting like a big goofy kid, running, crazy, screaming, “HEY, KID, LIKE ME! I’M SO MUCH FUN!” No. Although they may love it at first, kids ultimately want adults to provide the boundaries that they don’t yet have. It’s fine to play, have fun, and be light, but don’t go jumping off the roof or having a water balloon fight in your date's apartment.
2. Insta-Parents Need Not Apply. While your partner’s kid doesn’t need a best friend, that kid also doesn’t need an insta-parent. Yes, be an adult, but you don’t need to jump into the role of mom or dad just yet. First of all, the other parent may actually be in the picture in a very real way. If they aren’t, that kid doesn’t need a stranger suddenly playing that role. There seems to be a misconception out there that all single parents are looking for a new mommy or daddy for their kids. They’re not. Trust me, they’re not. Yes, if this relationship goes somewhere, you may be a parent to that kid some day, but cool your jets for now.
3. Keep Your Parenting Tips To Yourself, Please. While we’re on the whole parenting subject, please do not regale your boyfriend or girlfriend with the loads of parenting advice you have based on not having a child yourself. Do I really need to explain this one? Thank you.
4. Meeting The Plus-One Doesn’t Have To Be Such A Big Deal. You might be freaking out about meeting the kid. Listen, you’re not meeting Vito Corleone here, you’re meeting a kid, who has met other adults. My son met many of my friends when I was a single mom, men and women, 99% of whom I was not dating. He didn’t know the difference until the time was right for him to know there was a difference. So calm down, don’t make a big deal about it. If this relationship fizzles out, they probably won’t even remember meeting you.
5. Moving In: Don’t Do The Crime If You Can’t Do the Time. Look, I get it. You’ve met the kid, the relationship is going well, you want to wake up in the morning with that aforementioned pint or two of gelato after a long night of passionate sex. But don’t do it. Don’t move in together unless you are planning on getting married/having a domestic partnership/staying in it for the long haul. Breaking up after living together is hard enough, don’t make it doubly hard by adding in the feelings of a little one, who will be disappointed if you’re there one day and gone the next. (Unless they hate you, which means they’re going to be popping juice boxes when that U-Haul drives away, but also means you’ve probably done something else very wrong to make them hate you, and if that’s the case just stay away from single parents in the future when dating, K?)
Well, I hope you’ve learned something from my misadventures in dating with a plus-one. It’s really not as scary as it seems. Take my advice. Trust me. I’m here to help.