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.