Dads, this is for your eyes only. You've got a child. Maybe two. You're divorced, permanently separated, or widowed. You have partial custody. You're a red-blooded man who likes the company of woman. Are you relegated to a life of loneliness? If you're a good Dad--and we know you are--it sometimes feels that way. Kids seem to define your entire life.
Of course not. Here is tried-and-true advice for making the dating life work--even as a devoted Father.
1. Kids Come First. Except When They Don't.
Got 50/50 custody? 80/20 custody? That means you've got giant swaths of time entirely child-free.
Adjust your brain: when the kids are with you, don't even try to schedule dates. Unless you happen to live close to your parents (parents who just loooove to take in their Grandchildren at any time), it can be mighty difficult and expensive to pull in a babysitter just for an evening's date.
Lee, the male half of The Dating Gurus, says:
I experienced this once. Painfully. I tried to find a babysitter the day before through an online service. Practically no one was available. When I found someone, I calculated that the entire date--evening out with the woman, plus babysitting costs--would run close well over $200. And that was just a pre-date. Ridiculous. It wasn't worth it.
When you're with the kids, turn off the dating mind. When the kids are with their Mom, it's your time. If Mom has something come up, it's her responsibility for finding childcare.
2. The Kids Are Alright (Without Knowing)
Really, this is your chance to live a double life. When you're back with your child, you are Mr. Dad. You hang out, watch the kids shows, read to your daughter, toss a ball around. You live the Dad life.
During your Bruce Wayne time, the children don't need to know anything about your Batman life.
Why would a 6 year-old need to know that you spent the previous evening lip-locked with a woman in a movie theater? In fact, kids care a lot less about such things than you may think.
3. If She Doesn't Like Kids, She Probably Never Will
Don't make your children a proving ground for turning some woman into a kid-lover. So, if she professes in her dating profile that she doesn't want kids or even like kids, don't even send that first message. Don't go there.
Once I was with someone, and it emerged that she wasn't much into kids. She hadn't yet met my son. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how I was going to make this work. Thankfully, we broke up before things went much further, because now I know that it never would have worked out. You can't get blood from a stone.
4. Tell Your Kids About Your Girlfriend...Only When She is a Real Girlfriend
The worst thing you can do for a kid is drag him or her through the trials and tribulations of your dating life: a woman for one month, another for three weeks, another for just a handful of dates.
It gets confusing for a kid. Who should he begin to care about? Who should he begin to invest his emotions in?
Tell your children that you are dating only after you are exclusive to each other. Even then, give it a few extra months before you are sure.
5. Be Understanding and Hardnosed--Both--About Your Child Accepting Your Girlfriend
The advice we gave to a single Mom having troubles with her children accepting her new boyfriend--same thing applies to Fathers.
Listen to your children and understand their feelings. Make sure that you truly are giving them actual time.
But in the end, you have to set down the rules. Rule #1 is that you make the choices, not the kids. It's like any other difficult pill they may not like to swallow--homework, chores, cleaning the room. They are the children; you are the parent.