Sunday, July 27, 2008

I'm just dating you because I like your family...

One of the most commonly heard things when you're a single mom trying to date is, "I don't think I could be a dad right now." When I go out on dates (few and far between), I tell my dates up front that I'm a mom. Because, to be honest, if they don't want to date a mom, I don't want to date them. It's a waste of my time. I don't hold anything against people who don't date parents; I was one of them for a while when I first decided to date again. Sometimes I still feel that way. It's hard to date a single parents because of the kids' schedules, our personal schedules, and custody agreements. My one attempt at dating a single dad didn't last long; we never got to see each other. We're still friends, but we aren't trying to force the relationship. Then there's the ex factor.

Most often, a single parent is in contact with the ex. Custody exchanges, child support, football games, dance recitals, holidays, etc. And the boyfriend or girlfriend of the single parents almost always inevitably meets the ex and after a long courtship with their significant other, may have to deal with the ex during the above mentioned occurrences. This can create stress on the relationship because the ex is always "there," whether physically or mentally, sometimes leaving the boyfriend/girlfriend feeling that they are being compared to the ex. Or that the ex is measuring them up, feeling a bit jealous of the relationship.

In some cases, like mine, this never happens. I only see my ex 4 times a year: when I take my daughter to and from the airport for visitation during the summer and for Thanksgiving or Christmas. Other than that, it's minimal phone contact. My ex lives a few states away; there's no running into him at a concert or having him for dinner for the holidays. Yet, he's still a father to our daughter. My daughter has never confused anyone else for her father. She knows who her daddy is, who her grandpa's are, and who her friends and family are. There's no denying that she knows who is who and understands those ties.

So why has every man I've gone out with a few times who isn't a single dad given me this line: "I don't think I can be a father right now."? Did I state in my personal ad or opening line at our first date that I was looking for a replacement daddy and I want to get married tomorrow? No. All I did was give you a chance at the very beginning to gracefully bow out. I don't date to find my daughter's next daddy. She already has one. I date for me. Of course, I want my significant other to love my daughter for who she is and treat her like his own child, but I don't expect him to adopt her; she's still loved and cared for by her daddy. And I don't expect my boyfriend to love my daughter immediately, just as I don't expect him to fall in love with me at first sight. Relationships take work and time, whether it's a relationship heading for marriage, or a relationship with a friend or child.

Is it too much to expect that people know what they want before they dive into a relationship? I don't mean what colors you want for your wedding or how many rooms you want in your house. I mean, can you date a single mom? Can you have a relationship with a woman and her child? Can you work to develop that relationship?

If not, tell me up front. Don't tell me weeks or months down the road that you can't date me because you can't be a dad.

I date for myself. I don't expect you to date me just because you want to be my kid's dad. Just like I'm not dating you because your mom and I get along.

Figure out what you want before you waste another person's time and efforts. It's not bad to not want to date a single parent. It is bad to string them along while you try to decide whether you want to date them or not.

My fearless child, friends and I on Tower of Terror at DCA

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