Dear Diary,

I “met” Deesha Phillywaw through her book Co-parenting 101: Helping Your Kids Thrive in Two Households After Divorce. I wish I read her work before I became a co-parent. While dating men with children, I didn’t take into account certain things thoroughly discussed in the chapters of the book. For instance, I wasn’t used to being someone’s second priority and having to schedule dates around a custodial calendar. I also thought paying child support meant your child’s needs were met. I didn’t realize bills stretch far beyond a daycare’s door. I also didn’t have to budget and sacrifice for others, so I could easily drop dollars on designer bags, shoes and clothes–if I opted to spend the day at the shopping mall. Now, that I’m on the other side of the fence and co-parenting the most terrific toddler you’ll ever meet, I want my experiences to positively impact singles dating someone with children. So yesterday, Deesha and I sat down to lunch–we ate our favorite Thai food and discussed our not so favorite topic–co-parenting through problems and over obstacles. I asked her what six things should women know when dating men with children. Here’s what she told me.

1. Don’t Take Every Word as Gold.

If a man says, my child’s mother won’t let me see my kids, dig deeper, because while the family court system is broken, sometimes men say they aren’t allowed see their children when they haven’t sought parenting time through a judge. You don’t need an attorney to obtain custodial rights. A father can represent himself pro se and file a motion if he cannot work out an agreement with his ex. Ask yourself, is this man in his child’s life for not only the first day of school and graduation but all the moments in between?

2. Don’t Let the Baby Mama be the Straw Man.

If a man is unable to provide for a child financially, that’s not the child’s mother’s fault. If a man doesn’t try to visit his son/daughter, that’s not the child’s mother’s fault. It’s easy for someone to place blame on another person, especially if they are not getting along. Don’t date someone who isn’t providing financially for his children yet wines and dines you every night. I would have to ask if he is paying child support. Is there an unspoken agreement between the co-parents—don’t bother me about seeing your child, and I won’t bother you about paying child support? You must decide if you want to date someone who makes that kind of trade off. Is the man constantly speaking ill about his ex? That’s not who the baby’s mother is—that’s who he is. Even if he thinks negative those things, it’s not nessceary that he has to vocalize everything all the time, especially if his children are in earshot. It’s difficult to do in many cases, but he should be civil. I’m friends with my ex-husband, but not everyone has a good relationship. Just make sure he is respectful in his interactions. What is your man’s character?

3. Don’t Set a Timer on Meeting the Children.

Don’t use the time you’ve been in a relationship as a measuring stick against meeting someone’s children. Look at the timeline from the child’s perspective. Just because you are in love doesn’t mean the kids are. When you think you’re ready, the children are probably ready a year from that. Someone can be serious about you, but they may not be ready to introduce you to their kids. Before you meet the children, ask yourself, are you ready to commit to being in this child’s life. When you do meet them in the beginning, make sure the interactions are short and brief. Go for ice cream or to the park. Plan an activity with a finite amount of time and with no pressure. Children shouldn’t be pressured to like or love someone, but they should be respectful. Don’t make meeting his children be the validation of your relationship. Don’t put the burden on the kids.

4. Do realize that You are not a Co-parent. You are Dating a Co-parent.

You are not a co-parent when you are dating a co-parent. You really don’t have a role in the child’s life at this time. It’s not your job to make the rules and set the schedule. The man should schedule what time he has with his children and what time he has with you. He should prioritize his kids, and only swap time for one-off scheduling conflicts, such as celebrating your birthday. Pay close attention to the visitation schedule. Does he see his children on a regular basis—every other week or weekend, during summer months, etc. It is less about the frequency in a short period of time and more about consistency in the long run. Remember, if he has kids, you shouldn’t be looking to be his number one. If a man has to choose between you and his kids and he chooses you, than that’s not a good father.

5. Do Accept the Fact that Your Man Has Other Financial Obligations.

If you’re dating someone with children and you don’t have children, be understanding of his financial obligations to his family. He may have to shell out money for daycare, school uniforms, extracurricular activities, etc. You cannot call a father on a Thursday and ask him to go to say the Essence Music Festival. Also, know that child support doesn’t cover all expenses. What is the quality of his children’s life? Is their hair done? Are their clothes clean? If you have children of your own, do not demand a man to do less for his kids and more for yours.

6. Do Pay Attention to His Parenting Style.

Are you dating Disney dad? Does he only take his children on fun and exciting activities? Does he know how to interact with them without buying them something or taking them somewhere? Is he going to be able to transition out of that indulgence mode, or will you be expected to tolerate it if you become Woman of the House? Does he discipline his children? Don’t think because you are getting married that you magically become the woman of the house. If it was a free for all, and you come in and everything changes, don’t allow your husband to put you in the position to become an evil step mom. The man should take ownership of the situation, and be a good parent and a good partner by preparing his children for the change. I don’t know any family that has blended smoothly without thoughtful, prior consideration of rules and roles. It’s easy to resent the children at times, but ultimately the adults are responsible for the dynamics in the family.

You can read more about Co-parenting 101 by reading the book on it! And if you’re in my hometown of Pittsburgh this week, you can meet Deesha Phillywaw in person on Thursday, July 18th at the Barnes & Noble bookstore in the Homestead Waterfront at 7 p.m.

Hey DFTM Fam–What advice would you give to a single person dating someone with children? 

About The Author

Vlog Mom/DFTM Creator

Not long ago, Heather Hopson hosted a television show in the Cayman Islands. Today, she's back home writing a different kind of story as a new mom. In her 15 years working as a professional journalist, this by far is her best assignment! Growing up, she dreamed of becoming Oprah Winfrey. She was the features editor for her school’s newspaper and a teen talk show host for her city’s most popular radio station. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Michigan State University. After graduation, she worked as a television producer and reporter at CBS, NBC and Fox affiliates throughout the U.S. Instead of heading to Chicago to join Ms. Winfrey on her set, she bought a plane ticket to the Cayman Islands instead. She arrived five days before a category five hurricane! She lived in paradise for seven years, hosted an award-winning television show and traveled the globe with a government delegation. She also served on the board of directors for Big Brothers Big Sisters and spearheaded a Send a Kid to Camp campaign. Then, she relocated to Washington, D.C. to obtain a teaching certification and instruct 8th grade reading at a high needs middle school. She later returned to her hometown of Pittsburgh, PA to raise her daughter Caitlynn, now 4-years-old. During her 10-month-stint as a stay-at-home mom, Caitlynn inspired her to create this blog, and Diary of a First Time Mom was born on Mother’s Day 2012. Two years later, she expanded the family to include 20+ writers. Currently, Heather serves as the communications director at Allies for Children. In addition, she is the owner of Motor Mouth Multimedia, which ranked #49 in Startup Nation’s Home-Based 100 Competition sponsored by Discover Card and Sam’s Club. Recently, The Pittsburgh Foundation and The Heinz Endowments selected Heather to receive an Emerging Black Artist award to develop Diary of a First Time Mom.

5 Responses

  1. Sara Ann

    As a single mother, I think these points are insightful and a must read for every woman thinking about dating a man with children. I also think it’s important to read for the mothers. It’s a hard things to remember: when your child’s father talks badly about you, it reflects on him, not you. Hold your head high, ladies! 🙂 Thanks for sharing, I’m going to check out Deesha’s book!

    • firsttimemom

      Yes! Often men act certain ways because women allow it. Women should stick together and hold high standards. Men will raise up to the bar:) It is important to bite your tongue–may hurt you but not your little one!

  2. Arelis Cintron

    This is a great list for people dating someone with kids. I dated a guy once who had a son and I tried to be mindful of it. Wish I had read this when I was dating him

    • firsttimemom

      Me too! I never factor in certain things when I didn’t have children. I could splurge & be spontaneous.

  3. Joyce@MommyTalkShow

    I haven’t had great experiences dating men with children. There always seemed to be so much drama. Clearly, I was hearing one side of the story and I understood that.
    My husband and I were both looking for kid-free partners and we’re happy we found each other.
    But in this age, that’s not going to be the case so all of the tips are relevant.
    Great job!


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