Single Dad seeking advice

by singlemomseeking on July 30, 2008

One of the best parts about writing this blog is that I get emails from thoughtful, caring single parents who open up about their lives. Usually, these emails include a question, too. (“If you happen to know any cute, single dads in southern Tennessee, will you let me know? Thanks!”) I try my best to respond, but every so often, I get stumped.

That’s why I’m reaching out to you. Mark, a single dad of two teenagers wrote to me this week:

“I have custody of my two boys who are 17 and 14. We have a great time together. They are ‘cool’ with me dating and I always like to make sure that I get to know the person I am dating before introducing her to the boys. And I expect the same from her.”

“But recently, I dated a couple of single moms who didn’t wait very long before introducing me to their kids. After a few dates, they wanted me to meet their children. And then, they would ask, ‘So, when can I meet your boys?’ I felt uncomfortable.”

“In both cases, we are no longer dating. I wonder if their kids ask them ‘Where’s Mark? Why doesn’t he come to visit anymore?’ One little girl was so precious, and we got along so well. It broke my heart to stop being there all of the sudden.”

“I just want to do this right,” Marks says.

From a woman’s perspective, do you think that the next person I date (I hope this will be soon!) would be offended if I told her that I didn’t want to meet her kid(s) yet?”

How soon is ‘too soon’ anyway?

“I mean, if it ‘feels’ right, does that mean it’s okay to meet them? I wouldn’t want her to think that I have a problem with kids because I don’t. And if there’s a real attraction between us, I don’t want to run the risk of blowing it because we feel differently about meeting each other’s kids.”

Here’s what I told Mark: I don’t have a teen (yet). Dating and raising teens? Help!

Single moms and dads, can you please give this dating dad your advice?

P.S. Mark’s older son “is interested in girls, but he’s yet to have a girlfriend, so I really don’t know what would happen if and when he starts dating. He and his brother know very well that I am not looking to replace their mom, but I am looking for someone special in my life. They also know that I am careful about who I date and who I introduce them to. We have a great level of trust between us and I think that is key.”

Photo from greyman

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{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

The Exception July 30, 2008 at 8:33 am

I wouldn’t have a problem with that as long as he was honest and upfront about it and the reasons why. But then again, I would not be introducing him to my daughter either until it was a definite friendship if not leading to more!

Honesty is always the best policy in my book!

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Jim aka Sydney&Hunter'sDad July 30, 2008 at 8:42 am

Mark,
Of course there are no hard and fast rules for when to meet her kids and her yours, my advise is to relax, have fun, and go with the flow. If she wants you to meet her kids… fine. If you don’t want her to meet your kids yet… fine. If she has a problem with it… fine… perhaps you will need to move on! My personal opinion is, if you hit it off with someone and there is a casual family outing in the offing, go for it. Besides, how long does it take to know you are serious with someone who you think you may want to spend your life with them? Consider that we are all divorced and thought we had married our soulmates after knowing them for how long… there ain’t no science to any of this! If you keep your family dates casual and friendly (non-intimate) and portray the lady as a new friend, I believe there is no harm in this whatsoever. Additionally your kids will grow up with a healthy attitude about adults dating and having lots of friends (male and female). Sleepovers with kids around are a different story. The last thing we want to do is project our own uptight attitudes and beliefs about anything, especially the opposite sex, on our kids!

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Phil July 30, 2008 at 8:51 am

I second Jim’s comments – there’s no right or wrong answer, it depends on your kids, their perception of what is happening, and their age. With teenagers who probably have a good idea of what is going on and might even be jumping to conclusions, I would error on the conservative side and wait to introduce anyone.

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Amy Nathan July 30, 2008 at 9:04 am

Mark,
I’m a hard-ass when it comes to this. I don’t introduce men to my kids (16 and 13) unless I am in a real relationship with them. That has happened twice in the six years since my divorce. They know when I date, but that’s it. If someone isn’t going to be around long term they have no business meeting my kids – and it would be premature for me to meet theirs. I think it’s kind of you to want to put off meeting someone’s kids – it will save the woman explaining things later. It’s cautious. It’s thoughtful. If it turns off a woman then she wants fast and furious and it seems like you want slow and steady. Good for you.

If you know any SJDs in the Chicago area who think you, send them my way!! :-)

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jenn3 July 30, 2008 at 9:13 am

I’m glad to hear that there is at least one man that feels this way about meeting a woman’s kids. I haven’t dated since my divorce, but when/if I do, I wouldn’t want the man to meet my daughter until I knew we were serious. Maybe I’m weird, but I don’t want her getting attached to someone and then have to explain why they’re gone. (She’s only two, but I think it applies no matter what the age.) I’ve worried that this could potentially make men mad, but I suppose that would mean they aren’t right for me anyway. Stick to your rules on this one, Mark. It’s good to see that you’re putting your children first.

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Andrea July 30, 2008 at 9:23 am

I personally would not be introducing guys to my daughter until I was pretty sure they’d be around for a while. Still, in the interests of not being judgmental–

I think this probably is a good red flag that the person you are dating is not someone you are interested in long term. It’s something you want to agree on, right? Because it touches on how you relate to and raise your kids, and that’s something you’d want to have in common with a partner.

One of the things that told me that my current relationship might be going somewhere, in fact, is that he’s perfectly ok with all of the boundaries I’ve put up around my daughter and the slow-and-easy approach I’m taking to the introduction. If he were pressuring me to speed things up in order to ‘prove’ something to him, I’d probably take it as a sign that we have too many differences to make a relationship work.

I, too, would feel sad and worry about the kids I’d met and developed a bond with who no longer saw me. I think it says a lot of good things about you that you want to be cautious and protective of them. And I think there are a lot of single moms out there who will appreciate that, too; you just have to find them.

Good luck!

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laurakim123 July 30, 2008 at 9:34 am

I most certainly would not be offended! I have introduced my kids to one guy and we were together for a year so I think that qualified!

I dont want my kids getting confused by people in and out of our lives so I also wait until I am pretty sure he is sticking around!

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singleparentdad July 30, 2008 at 10:22 am

I haven’t started dating myself so this is just an opinion rather than something based on experience. But I agree with Jim that there’s no rules and it’s going to be different for different situations/people.

I think the most important thing though when that time does come is how the relationship is explained and presented to the child, and adjusting accordingly based on the child’s reaction.

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Monique July 30, 2008 at 10:26 am

I personally wouldn’t feel offended if the meeting was delayed. First off, you don’t want to introduce someone to your children who you aren’t sure this is the “real deal” with. That would be 6 months or 2 years from then. I do think you need to let your child know that you are dating but as far as meetings go, no, I think you should wait until things same stable. JMO.

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Mom2Maddie99 July 30, 2008 at 10:28 am

I would truly respect a man who ‘waited’ for me to meet his kids.

After a BIG mistake on my part four years ago…where I rushed into a relationship with a man…who ended up moving in with us…and it didn’t work out…and my daughter asked about him for months after the painful split, I vowed to myself to never make the same mistake again.

My daughter has only met two other men since then. I feel very strongly that as mothers we should wait until we are as ‘sure’ as we can be before introducing our kids to the men we date.

I have a friend who dates a lot of men, 4 have moved in with her and her kids, and each time she meets them she insists they have a ‘connection’. I keep trying to tell her how awful this is for her three small children ages 3, 5, and 6…and she just doesn’t get it. I do not think a man you have been dating for a month should be taking your kids out for ice cream without you or making them breakfast in the morning when you all wake up in the same house.

As far as it goes with men meeting the children of single moms…I tend to think that the longer you wait…the better.

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dadshouse July 30, 2008 at 10:30 am

I think Mark is doing it right – wait wait wait to introduce someone you’re dating to your kids. I have teens, but I’m not sure that’s the issue – even young kids are clever enough to figure out if the adult they are meeting is ‘special’. Too-early attachment is a dangerous thing for all the reasons Mark mentioned.

Along these lines, I’d go a different route than Jim aka above. Casual family outing? If it’s a neighborhood thing and you both live in the same neighborhood, fine. But if two families are meeting for the first time? The kids aren’t dumb, they’ll know what’s up.

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Judy July 30, 2008 at 10:44 am

I second Amy and Dad’s House and all else who said wait!!!

Although, I think it is easier not waiting with a teen. I have a 14 y.o. and we have been alone since she was 2. She has meet 4 men. Two she doesn’t remember, one who has been in our life for 10 years now (Ok he is and was my hairdresser during the dating, but you can;t loose a great hairdresser over a break-up.) And the last who become a friend because we held off on the sex.

However, I can clearly talk to my daughter about how I am dating or meeting someone and it may not work out. Maybe 1 date, maybe 4 maybe 2 months of dating. And if she was to meet him, she can at 14 better understand that because her friends are starting to date and break-up.

We are not looking for a father or husband, but the older she gets the more she appreciates the value in me spending time with my friends as she must spend time with hers.

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Anna July 30, 2008 at 12:58 pm

I agree with Judy and everyone who agrees to wait and take things slowly. However with teens, you can speak with them on a different level about dating and relationships and it is also good for them to see you having healthy friendships with the opposite sex, showing them normality by example. Also good to keep sleepovers away from home until very sure the relationship has a good chance of working (as sure as we can at that stage anyhow). Its not good for your older kids to see you never having women friends either, especially boys. How will they learn about happy, healthy relationships otherwise, if not from you? Just a thought.

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Phil July 30, 2008 at 1:08 pm

Oh yeah…if you happen to know any cute, single moms in the bay area, will you let me know? Thanks!

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Ms. Cheevious July 30, 2008 at 2:15 pm

Well – it appears that Mark has loads of advice, and I’m sorry to say I just don’t have a moment right now to read all the posts, and make sure I’m not being redundant. As the single mother of both a 13 and 24 year old, I would venture to say, if you find the right girl, she’ll understand and potentially even hold your same values and priorities. I don’t know that I would say “I don’t want to meet your kids.” But give the girl some credit, and explain yourself. Perhaps, “I’d love to meet your kids, when the time is right and we both feel that we’re ready to bring our kids into our relationship.” If she wonders about this, or feels it’s “weird” – I’m sure you will get some who say, “My kids are a part of everything in my life. If they don’t like you, I want to know up front.” That just speaks of immaturity, and perhaps someone who doesn’t understand the very real complexities of dating as a single parent. Even after months of dating, or a year or two, the kids may not like or mesh well with your choice – then you are faced with an altogether different set of issues. Single parenting and dating is not for wimps!

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Single Mom July 30, 2008 at 4:45 pm

I think everyone agrees that it is best to wait and take things slowly. It can be very disruptive to the children to not only meet someone new but to have new faces coming in and out of their lives all the time. Children’s interests must come before everything. Even if it means risk a new love.

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Jessee July 30, 2008 at 7:15 pm

My philosophy, as a dating single momma, is that I don’t mind people meeting my kid, so long as my son doesn’t start expecting them to be around. I would say after a month or so of dating a casual introduction would be fine, and maybe after a few months a cookout or day at the park. If it gets to the point where my son is asking why”so-and-so” isn’t hanging with us today, I know he’s seeing too much of the person I’m dating.

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Crazy Computer Dad July 30, 2008 at 8:25 pm

I recommend you read “Dating for Dads: The Single Father’s guide to dating well without parenting poorly.” Ellie Slott Fisher did some amazing work with a number of dads and children in different situations that you may find helpful.

My own personal viewpoint on dating is that I am dating to be with someone that I like being with, not for the benefit of their child(ren) or mine. Meeting the kids will happen naturally with time. If in time the relationship grows to a point that marriage is a possibility then….not really sure what I can say here other than make sure you get some help. Parenting is not for cowards, step parenting even more so.

Each situation and person is unique. There are guidelines but no real hard and fast rules. Don’t take chances with your children and don’t let others take chances with theirs. Someday I have to learn to take my own advice….

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Kat July 30, 2008 at 9:03 pm

I honestly believe that both single parents should wait awhile, until they think the relationship has potential.

If a single parent dad said to me he’d like to wait a little while before he meets my kids, I’d be relieved.
It’s too hard on the kids to meet someone and think that person is going to be around a lot from now on, and then if the relationship fails, that person is no longer there, and you have disappointed kids.

I think most single moms would agree with waiting, but there are some single desperate parents out there who really can’t stand being alone, so they rush the relationship along in hopes of being with someone.
Those people really need to learn to enjoy being alone, use it as a growth period for themselves, before they can truly be enjoyable to someone else.

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Amy July 31, 2008 at 10:19 am

You know, my boyfriend’s 22 year old daughter just asked me about when her dad met my boys… and I told her that it was when I was sure about him — and that I didn’t meet her until he was sure about me. She liked hearing that.

I think that if you say to the woman you’re dating exactly what you say here — that she should understand. Or at least respect how you feel. Your comfort level is just as important as hers…

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Lori July 31, 2008 at 11:13 am

It’s funny, I was just blogging about this! I think every single parent goes thru this stage of when and if to introduce. I will not be pushed into meeting kids early. I will not push mine. But on the same note I will not wait until I’m in a very exclusive relationship to introduce the boys. I did that and it hurt them when he left. Really hurt them. Plus..what would have happened if I was so deeply involved and my boys and he clashed?
I really make sure that I know the man before I introduce. It’s somethign I discuss early on. I’m very cautious about who I allow around them…
To the single Dad I would say don’t let anyone push you into meeting her kids or vice versa..you do what you feel is right. You will know when it is!!

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Kelly August 1, 2008 at 7:16 pm

Hi,
I have been divorced for four years and share custody of my 5 year old son with his father (my son has a great relationship with his father). I recently started dating someone who I really want to incorporate into our lives, but everything I’ve read online says that I should wait. My boyfriend (of 3 months) has met my son in a couple of group settings, but I’m reluctant to be intimate (hand holding, hugging) with him in front of my son. He’s been asking if we’ll be able to show affection towards each other in front of my son in the future and I have told him yes, but I don’t know when that time will come. My gut doesn’t say to wait a year, and yet I’m scared to do it any sooner because of what I’ve read online. Any advice?

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singlemomseeking August 1, 2008 at 9:19 pm

Kelly: it sounds like you’re going with your gut and doing exactly what’s right for YOU and YOUR SON. Bravo.

Is your boyfriend feeling impatient?… Sounds like it.

Moms and dads out there, any advice for Kelly?

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mc August 4, 2008 at 4:29 am

As a single mom of 2 small children, I really dislike it when a guy I’ve just started dating keeps asking about my kids, wanting to meet them, etc.

I want time alone with him to “date” and focus on him, to see how our relationship progresses.

I think some men think they can capture their GF’s heart by being nice to her kids, by trying to “fit in” to her home life, but I want our relationship to proceed (or not) based primarily on ourselves.

I also enjoy getting some rare “adult” time away from my kids–I really need a break sometimes! On date night, I want to go to a grown-up restaurant, watch a movie that’s not rated “G” and have grown up conversations that are not constantly interrupted.

I don’t want a man I’ve just started dating hanging around at home, acting like he’s a member of my family, when he’s not, yet.

I don’t want to expose my kids to someone who may not last more than a couple of months.

He’s dating me, not my kids, so why the rush? I get kind of suspicious if they keep asking. Why do somemen do this!??!!?

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Jo November 12, 2008 at 4:59 pm

I agree with the majority of the parents here. My daughter is 19 now..but when she was a child I would never introduce her to anyone unless we were steadily dating for several months- it’s just the way I am. I’ve been divorced now for 15 years and only had one serious relationship since the divorce and that did not last because the woman I was dating was not right for me or my daughter so I ended it. I’ve now been single for over 7 years and it’s rough. My daughter is 19 and in college and I miss her so much. She does come home to see me on weekends but it’s not the same as when she was a kid. She’s got a job, is always on the go- but that’s good and she’s becoming independent and is growing up. Still- I miss the times when we’d spend whole weekends together and have meals and watch movies or go places. I’m 50 now- and online dating does not work for me. It gets pretty lonely being a single parent when your child goes to college and grows up

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single man December 22, 2008 at 11:23 am

I would think twice before taking my kid on a date. If I really trust and am confident of the relationship with the person then only I will take that step.

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