Kids have amazing instincts. As youngsters, we have an innate sense of knowing who we can and cannot trust. Unfortunately it dissipates as we get older and begin doubting ourselves. But if you have kids (or even nieces/nephews or friends with kids) you can have them help you sniff out your prospects. Speaking of sniffing, animals are pretty adept at this too (not to say that kids and pets are the same thing, but you get my drift). If a small child or a pet won’t approach your date then you may want to take note and have your guard up. Conversely, if your kid immediately grabs your date’s hand to go play or your dog/cat continuously rubs on your date’s legs, then you may have a winner.
As you get older you will begin to find more and more single parents popping up in your JDate searches. Just after college and through your 20’s, you probably will prefer not to date someone with a child. For some people it’s because they are just not ready to deal with the commitment that comes with a “package deal” and for others they may simply want to date someone who doesn’t have any “restrictions.” The reasons don’t matter, you have to make the decision for yourself and mark on your profile whether you are willing to date someone with a kid or not, or don’t have a preference.
In your 30’s and 40’s, the number of single parents on JDate rises (and in your 50’s it is even more prevalent). And when those single parents log on to JDate, it is a major bummer to see prospect after prospect choosing the “I don’t want to date someone with children” option. It is what it is and any parent will tell you their child is a blessing — and those failed prospects are the ones missing out. Hopefully, as JDaters get older, they will revise their preferences and realize they are cutting out a huge chunk of great prospects all because they are weary of someone with a child.
As a continuation to the conversation about dating as a single parent, here is an example of what NOT to do:
A girl I know named Mandy got divorced when her son was just an infant and when he turned 2 last month he had already been exposed to a number of men his Mom thought she was going to marry. Granted, her son is young enough that he will not remember any of these men, but Mandy doesn’t know the meaning of the phrase “take it slow.” She jumps in blind: labeling the relationship after 1 date, introducing her son to each boyfriend immediately, changing her Facebook relationship status, and talking as if each boyfriend is her next husband. It’s astonishing how quickly she enters a relationship, exits it, and enters a new one. Her dating style is worthy of an entirely other column but since she has a child it’s an even worse offense.
Single parents really ought to wait as long as possible before introducing their little one to their new beaus. I know it’s hard for parents like Mandy who have full custody and receive little to no support from the other parent, but try your best to find time without your child present. Once the introductions are made limit the public displays of affection and make sure your child has Mommy (or Daddy) time all to themselves.
It’s understandable to want to make sure your new prospect and your child jive, but if you have good judgment and keep in mind that whomever you choose to marry is also going to be an extra parent to your child then hopefully there won’t be any problems with your kid and your lover getting along because you’ll have picked a great partner.
My girlfriend Joanna is dating a guy I know who is a divorcee who has full custody of his daughter. His daughter is his life — as it should be — he was born to be a father and wants to continue having children even if it means continuing to be a single Dad. The only problem with this guy is that he brings nearly every woman he dates around his daughter even before the relationship has become serious. As a woman, how do you act around a young girl who has seen many women come and go? Luckily the girl is sweet as can be and obviously resilient. She is slightly uninterested at first, as expected and after meeting the same woman a few times she will remember her name and will even play, but she definitely has her guard up. This little girl is wise beyond her years.
Many women will think that meeting a man’s daughter means things are serious, but if he wants you to meet her after just one date, I would suggest you tell him that you’d rather wait because it almost seems as if he’s using her as a pawn. I understand he has full custody, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do. Try to wait until you’ve had The Talk if you can and then once you do meet her, bring a small gift, ask her questions and try to find something to do as a group. Don’t engage in affection with her father in front of her. Try to imagine if you were the single parent and how protective you would be about bringing a new love interest around your child. Take it slow. There’s really no need to meet someone’s child until after you’ve become serious, so don’t.
Dear Gems from Jen,
At what point does one introduce their new romance to their son?
You haven’t given me a lot to go on here, but I’ll give it a shot. How old is your son? Where is your son’s other parent? How long have you been dating this person? Are you in a serious committed relationship? What does your son know about your dating life?
These are just some of the questions you will need to ask yourself before making this decision. Bringing romantic partners in and out a child’s life can create unnecessary damage to the child. I always suggest to parents in this situation that before an introduction is made there is only one partner and it is a committed relationship. If you are serious and monogamous with this other person and they are aware that your son and you are a package deal then my best suggestion is to go ahead and introduce your son to your partner. Please make sure that your partner is in it for the long haul and your son is aware the new person is not replacing the other parent.
Gems from Jen
Dear Gems from Jen,
I am just starting to date again and I have a daughter who is a year old. I have no idea about proper etiquette while dating with kids. When do you tell them? What do you say? When do you introduce? I am so lost. Please help me!
Dear Children and Dating Etiquette,
It is very important you disclose your role as a mother from the very beginning. I cannot imagine dating someone and being left in the dark about the presence of a child. Be honest. Your daughter and you are a package deal. Anyone who you would like to get to know better deserves to know about such an important facet of your life.
All you have to say is you are the proud mother of a beautiful daughter. Let your dates know how important she is to you and what, if any role, her father plays in her life. As for introducing someone to your daughter wait until things get more serious. You don’t want to confuse your daughter or have a stream of dates coming in and out of her life.
Update your JDate profile and let potential suitors know who you are, including your daughter’s role in your life. As long as you remain honest and protect your daughter from meeting every person you have a first date feeling lost will no longer be an option for you.
Gems from Jen
Dear Gems from Jen,
I know lots of women who are either not in my age bracket (+/- 5yrs from 26 this July), or who are currently in a relationship lament that they can’t find certain types of men (that I am like) or even specifically “man like you”. Yet, I still have problems getting single women my age to be interested in me. My biggest “flaws” are smoking which I can understand the women who turn away for that, my hearing disability which I work around, and that I have a daughter which anybody who knows me can explain why that should not be held against me but rather as a credit toward me. I don’t want to have to publicly announce why it is, but at the same point I don’t hide it from anybody. A lot of women complain when men who are obviously not suited for them contact them because “he didn’t read the profile and just contact me because I’m pretty” but I feel I get automatically dismissed because nobody wants to actually know me.
To think I was told years ago I’d make a great father someday. Now I am, and my daughter couldn’t be much luckier (maybe if I had more money, but at least she’s got compassionate/understanding, loving, intelligent, persevering, and protective).
Tired of being told “I would make a great man for someone” and ready to be that man,
Joshua P. Clark
I have to admit I found your question quite fascinating. We women are hard creatures to figure out sometimes. We ask for certain qualities and when a man presents himself with those qualities some of us run and hide. Why do we do that? I know many women who have behaved in this manner and when I have asked about this behavior I usually get a response that is based on fear. Fear of losing someone that seems almost perfect. Some women and men too for that matter would rather not have the experience at all. The fear of losing someone who seems almost too good to be true is too much for some to handle.
It sounds like you are a great catch. Any woman would be lucky to spend time with a man who is compassionate, understanding, loving, intelligent, preserving, and protective. Your daughter is very lucky to have a father who posses these great qualities. On the other hand, any woman who is not interested in you because you have a daughter is not worth your time. My suggestion would be to make it known you are a proud and loving father. Your daughter sounds like an integral part of your life and being proud of your role as a father is just as important as all of the other great qualities you have stated.
Keep up the search, she is out there, you just haven’t met her yet.
Gems from Jen
I am a 53-year-old mom with an 8-yr-old child (no other parent involved). I state it in my profile. Over and over, when I meet a man who I go out on a date with, he becomes very ambivalent about having a child come into his life.
Is there a way to screen for this without scaring the good guys away?
Good for you! I’m always in awe of parents who raise a child alone.
My suggestion would be to ensure your profile states that your child and you are a package deal. There is no other way; but to state this fact and repeat it a few times throughout your profile. Make sure when communicating with potential dates that you also make your relationship with your child very clear. Being a mother is your first priority and any mature man will understand and appreciate your commitment to your child.
Good luck to you and your child. Keep me posted. I would love to hear about your dating successes!
Gems from Jen