What it SHOULD be like dating a single dad (5 signs he’s a good one)

I’ve never considered myself a coordinated person. I’ve never accomplished anything of dexterity much more skilled than walking and chewing gum at the same time. But that changed when I became a single dad. Overnight coordination and organization became necessities.  And add to that new reality the responsibilities of an employee, boss, and managing the nuances of dating again after being off the market for a decade and I turned into a one-man juggling and tight rope-walking act.

There is an ample supply of single fathers in the world. With a divorce rate, depending upon whom you ask, at or above 50% there is an over abundance of them. And with such large numbers in the dating pool, the odds of a woman meeting and dating one of these single fathers is better than anything in you’ll get in Vegas. In fact I think it’s directly proportionate to her age; a twenty-five year old has about a 25% chance of dating a single dad and that number gets exponentially higher when she reaches her forties. But single father doesn’t mean ‘good’ single father and for every good one out there I can show you four who aren’t worth a flip, and if a woman is thinking about dating these divorced dads how good of a dad he is becomes the best barometer she’s got.

•♦•

I haven’t always been the best dad – or man. Providence saw to it that I divorced when my kids were excruciatingly young (10 months and two and a half years), which in hindsight was a blessing because the first year after my divorce was anything but illustrious. But the real godsend was being able to hide my mistakes behind their innocence and youth, which allowed me to learn from and figure some things about me before my kids were old enough to pay close attention.

Several years ago I started living by the conviction that I can only be as good a man as I am a father and vice-a-verse. What I mean is that I can’t be a good man and be a lousy dad. Fatherhood and manhood are fundamentally intertwined. Can someone who is cheating on his wife be a good father or a guy who has abandoned his children be a good man? And this is a fundamental fact that I think far too many women fail to grasp or recognize. Because any woman who will accept a man she knows isn’t fulfilling his fatherly responsibilities not only compounds the problem  – she becomes the problem.

•♦•

Dating a single father comes with oodles of known and unknown obstacles, and women without children usually have the hardest time overcoming them. The baggage a single dad carries on board won’t fit in the overhead compartment. I would immediately notice this tension if I was dating someone without kids and I had to change or cancel plans or I couldn’t do something on account of my mine. I could sense the confusion and dismay in their voice as if I had bailed on them because I was having a bad hair day.

There’s two things, what dating a single dad probably is like and what dating one should be like and usually these experiences don’t correspond. A man whose actions and behaviors reflect his responsibilities will exude specific characteristics and so a relationship with him comes with certain predictabilities. Being a single dad for almost eight years, a really bad one and who the Queen says is now a good one; I’ve identified five universal characteristics or experiences women should expect from dating a quality single dad.

You won’t always be #1 – prepare yourself to play second chair, often. His children were first and there will certainly be times when they take precedence over whatever you might have going on. While this intrinsically sounds understandable it often becomes unsettling when one stops to think how long it takes kids to grow up. But don’t jump to conclusions. If he is thinking long term, he knows that kids grow up and move away so he should have a healthy balance between you and them. And you should remain flexible.   

Be prepared to listen – Throw in anger, resentment, guilt, and a dash of pity and you’ve got enough ingredients for an episode of Dr. Phil. Co-parenting is challenging and doing so with someone you would often rather push into moving traffic is harder. After eight years I still get frustrated, exhausted, and need the Queen to be my rock to lean on, shoulder to cry on, and ear to scream in.

Lean times ahead – Child support and alimony are Hungarian words for “remove my wallet via my ass”. A divorced father who is fulfilling his financial obligations will inherently have less disposable income. It’s part of the territory. So when your DINK (Dual Income No Kids) friends are living it up with trips to Fiji you may have to settle for a Labor Day weekend getaway to Cleveland.

Think long term – If you date a single dad by default you are a step mom. Don’t let that freak you out; but if you are in his children’s lives they look to you as a role model, whether they or you know it. That means paying attention to the domino effect of parenting. What you do today will come back around later – in the form of the kids’ behavior and actions. Parenting is so much about being mindful enough to stay above the moment and understand what happens today often has bigger impacts tomorrow.  Plus kids can’t keep secrets, so when their teacher asks where they learned that dirty word don’t be surprised if you get thrown under the bus.

Drama is a’coming – If he is a single dad that likely means there is a single mom. Some of the craziest women I have ever known are divorced mothers; and mom madness gets intensified when she feels threatened by daddy’s new ‘girlfriend’. Not all drama is such a bad thing, that means she is paying attention but be prepared for a bit of ex-wife excitement at times.

I’m biased, but I believe a relationship with a quality, divorced father can be the most fulfilling of any. There is just something special about men who know their responsibilities, where they are going, how they will get there, and understand what’s important and what’s not. Unfortunately there are lots of single dads who haven’t gotten there yet and many others never will. But I’m convinced these five characteristics should tell you that you’ve landed one of the good ones.

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16 responses to What it SHOULD be like dating a single dad (5 signs he’s a good one)

  1. These are all great suggestions. Dating a single dad is also about seeing what kind of man you are potentially creating for your own kids should you have them or want them – It is electing to find a dad with the qualities you want to model for your kids. I work with a single dad of two young kids who has a great relationship with his ex-wife in that they continue to do things as a family etc; however, I wonder how this will work should either of them marry again or become serious about someone else? Is there room in their divorced family for another person or two? Do all the adults have the ability to step aside? Or is it more likely the a new love for the man means backing off and giving less time to his kids in order to develop or create that new family? I have seen men start anew and leave the first – but one might not know that when dating.

    There is a lot to say for men who are divorced and continue to be engaged and involved with their kids out of love of the kids and commitment to parenting.

  2. I have never dated a single dad, and chances are: I won’t ever 🙂 However, I’d imagine these are the very things I’d look out for.
    ‘Lean times’ make sense many people don’t really bargain for that when they enter into a relationship with a single parent.

    Your new look blog is great! I won’t know what your latest blog post is, but I do love the new layout.

  3. Kyle Bradford – Author

    I can’t tell you how many people have come to this site with the search word “What is it like to date a single dad”

  4. Kyle Bradford – Author

    You bring up a point that I need to give more thought on. And that is the divorced couples who continue to do things as a family, post divorce. My position is pretty entrenched but I believe many others view it differently.

  5. Oh, I was waiting for the last paragraph! I’m surprised that wasn’t higher on the list, like #2, because the ex-wife/ex-girlfriend/baby mama is a force to be reckoned with and they can be without sanity in their pursuit in making the ex-husband’s/ex-boyfriend’s/baby daddy’s life miserable.

  6. Ash

    Thanks for the insight. Recently met a single dad, been on 2 dates, one of which was on his birthday. I know from his actions he likes me. Can I ask him out again, or should I wait for him ? Thanks for your help 🙂

  7. Kyle Bradford – Author

    Ash, go for it. Not sure of your stats, I know that many divorced dads will be sensitive of dating women without kids because he is unsure of how they might react with the kids and all. If you’re into him and the kid thing doesn’t bother you then I say absolutely. I’ve written a bunch of stuff to look for in dating single dads. Check it out and good luck!

  8. Ash

    I’m 26, no kids he’s 38 and has 2 kids. I thought he was younger, he thought I was older. I appreciated his honesty about the kids and his age because he could have easily lied. As a social worker I know firsthand how important fathers are and I respect that his kids are #1. Thanks for the quick response. I’m enjoying your other posts as well. Going to ask him out after Christmas, don’t want to intrude on time with his kids.

  9. stacy

    Thank you for the insight .. I’m currently dating a single-dad who has a 26 month- old. We’ve been dating for a year and a half and all of your insights are spot on! The hardest for the new girlfriend is the EX and her view on you, the new girl, being around her child. I understand the jealousy issue of the child loving another person as a mother figure, however, the mom’s should realize that if the person is good, kind and treats their child well then that’s what matters most.

    When does the Ex realize this? Does she ever? She wants to limit the amount of time I spend with father and child so child doesn’t become attached if we are to break up. Any advice for the girlfriend dating a single dad in dealing with this?

  10. Kyle Bradford – Author

    ‘When does the Ex realize this? Does she ever?’ —

    Stacy, those are great questions and the initial answer is no. It is highly unlikely that the mom, any mom, will be completely comfortable with another woman being with their child. The fact is you are replacing her when she isn’t around. It’s the same situation for me personally. Even after 8 years it’s a struggle to realize that another man is their father as well. A very painful realization.

    You may not like what I’m about to say but I think it would help in your situation. She’s using your ‘potential breakup’ as a way of controlling your relationship under the guise of protecting her child. If this is causing even the slightest problem for you and him I would recommend that you meet with the mom, just you two, face to face and talk it out. What I mean is explain, be sympathetic, to her situation but help her to understand that you are committed to her ex, your bf, and her child and in it for the long run. That you are not wanting to replace her only to be there to support her and her child when she isn’t there.

    Stacy, I am willing to bet that if you do this it will improve your relationship and set her mind at rest, at least to an extent.

    Thanks for writing in.

  11. Beth

    My current boyfriend is a single dad with primary custody. I don’t have any children myself and I’m only 21. I love your blog and I’m very thankful I found it.

  12. Kyle Bradford – Author

    Beth, thank you so much for your nice words. Feel free to reach out anytime and share this site with your boyfriend.

  13. Keri

    That is my situation exactly and seeking more information about that is what brought me to your site.

    When my boyfriend and his ex divorced 4 yrs ago, he agreed to help her with extra $ and to watch their daugther anytime while she attended college full-time. He takes fatherhood very seriously. I thought his actions were commendable as he recognized her schooling would be beneficial for all three of them.

    He and I met over a year ago and are in love. Now that his ex is done with school and working, he still checks with her before making plans with me, however, which means we don’t see much of one another. I have concerns that he won’t be able to step aside from this routine they have created or may view it as a duty as a father. Like TheException, I have questions on this subject.

    In my search for understanding, I have learned much listening to your webcasts and reading your articles. I thank you for that.

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