Fact: Whether you love kids or can’t stand them, whether you’re already a parent or you’re childfree, dating someone with kids is hard. Disproportionately, mystifyingly, unbelievably hard.
Is there someone you’re interested in but the fact that they’re a parent makes you a little unsure?
Maybe you’ve wanted to ask them out but you’re hesitant about what might follow if you end up hitting it off?
Dating on its own is hard enough, let alone factoring kids into the mix.
You’ll feel powerless over the crap you cannot change— which is pretty much everything. You’ll feel like your partner’s kids don’t want you around— and you’ll be right. You’ll wonder what you’re even doing hanging out with people who so clearly want nothing to do with you. You’ll feel compelled to defend your choices to absolutely everyone from your mom to your partner’s ex to strangers on the street. (“They’re just my boyfriend’s kids, I swear! I had nothing to do with their upbringing!”)
You need to give your pre-stepkids space, but not so much that it seems like you don’t care. You need to be involved, but not so much that you’re overstepping. You need to be realistic about the role you’re taking on as a stepparent, yet idealistic enough to keep on truckin’ when the road gets dicey. You’re helping your partner parent, but you’re not parenting yourself. You’re turning all your personal preconceptions about what being a stepparent means upside down, redefining the role till it makes sense to you— because there is no one right way to stepparent; there’s only the way that works for you and the blended family you’re trying to create.
Life is already complicated. You’ve got work or school, a busy social life, bills, cleaning out the litter box, not forgetting to pick up spaghetti sauce on your way home… Adding a typical relationship in there somewhere can feel like a bit of a tight squeeze. Then when you’re dating someone with kids, you need to make room not just for your new partner’s schedule, but their kids’ schedules (and personalities) as well. And if your new partner is in a high-conflict co-parenting situation, plan for at least triple the usual mental space a relationship might normally take up in your head.
Because dating someone with kids is intense, consider carefully before getting serious about this person— and know that really there are no non-serious relationships when kids are involved. Know too that successfully blending a family takes a long time— 5 to 7 years on average, and even up to 10 years. I quote this statistic a lot, because it’s such an objective reminder that you are not just dating; you are committing. Committing in a way that you’ve never committed, getting involved in a situation that could shatter you in ways you never knew you were vulnerable.
Yet— the rewards are sweeter for being fewer and further between, and for being harder won.
If you are positive, on a planet of some 7 billion souls, that you have found your Person, and that guy or gal just happens to have a rugrat or two, then you’re in this. Buckle up and hang on. These tips can help you avoid some of the most common pitfalls that could trip you up.
But it doesn’t have to be that hard, so we’re going to cover everything you need to know before dating someone with kids to make the process easier and clearer for you to navigate.
Let’s get straight into it:
Should you date someone with kids?
So, you’ve met the man or woman of your dreams and you’re all set to start your fairy tale romance.
There’s just one (very important) detail to factor in – they’ve got kids.
To some, the idea of dating an awesome, outgoing mom or a caring, loving single father is very appealing – they know how to love fiercely and it’s a joy to be around children.
But not everyone feels that way.
You might be looking for something casual, or you may feel very uncomfortable around children especially if you haven’t had much experience with them.
Maybe the thought of being a step-mum or step-dad makes you choke up and panic, after all, you wanted a relationship, not an instant family.
In that case, you may want to think long and hard before dating someone with kids. If your heart isn’t in it, it’s best to avoid getting involved.
But, if you think it could work, go for it.
There are plenty of pro’s and con’s when it comes to dating someone with kids, many of which we’ll look at in this article.
But it’s important to remember that ultimately it comes down to you and whether you feel you can take on such a commitment.
So if you’re still on the fence and unsure, or you want to have all the information before making your decision, read on as we’re going to look at some essential factors to think about.
Important factors to consider
Dating someone with kids can be a wonderful, enriching relationship, but it all comes down to how mature you are.
Essentially, you’re not just dating the mom or dad, you’re going to become part of their family structure one way or another.
Given time, the kids might even start to see you as a parental figure in their lives, which isn’t a role that should be taken lightly.
Some questions and factors need to be thought about beforehand:
Do you think you’re mature enough to handle a relationship with kids?
Sure, you might like the woman or man you’ve just met, but are you in it for the long run or just looking for a bit of fun?
Do you even like kids?
Are you willing to share your partner, knowing that their number one priority will always be their kids?
Are you comfortable knowing they’ll always have to maintain a relationship with their ex, the parent of their children?
Are you willing to put the time and effort into building a relationship with the children?
The truth is:
It doesn’t always fall into place easily.
In some cases, you’ll fit together like the perfect puzzle, but in others, it might take time for you to find your place in the family, and the kids may take longer to warm to you.
And you need to be prepared for that.
If there’s one thing to understand, it’s that children will form an attachment to you.
And if you’re only planning to stick around for a short while and then make a hasty escape, it can have devastating effects on that child – that’s why it’s good to have your mind made up first, before committing to the relationship.
Important questions to ask
Now, you might feel like there’s a lot of pressure on you to make your decision carefully, and there is.
As beautiful as it is to join a family, there’s more than just your heart and his/hers to take into account.
So, before embarking on this journey, here are some important questions to ask the person you’re dating (or pursuing):
1) How much time do they have to spend on a relationship?
Find out if there are certain days when they’ve got custody of the kids, or whether all their evenings are filled up by picking and dropping the kids to after school clubs.
You’ll want to know this beforehand, especially if you’re looking for a partner who’s available to hang out spontaneously or when it suits you.
When you date someone with kids, their schedule will certainly be a lot busier and it may be harder to find time to go on proper dates.
2) What’s the situation with the other parent?
Did they end on relatively good terms?
Or, is their ex a constant source of problems and tension?
Either way, they’re in the picture whether you like it or not, so you’ve got to find out the low down on how they co-parent or split the responsibilities.
If they have a good arrangement, you might not find their ex an issue.
But, if their ex isn’t a particularly nice person, you might want to reconsider getting involved, especially as they might be overprotective and hostile to someone new being around their kids.
3) What type of boundaries will they put in place?
Boundaries are essential.
As a parent, they’ll need to think about having clear, respectful boundaries for you and for the kids (and themselves, for that matter).
If their children are older, there’s the possibility they won’t warm to you instantly and they may even make your attempts to date their parent quite difficult.
You need to know that your potential partner is going to take control and encourage mutual respect between all of you, even if that means having a stern word with the kids.
4) How much of a role in parenting do they expect you to have?
Will they expect you to parent the same way they do?
Or will they prefer you not to get involved and leave disciplining up to them?
When it comes to other people’s kids, it’s hard to know what’s acceptable or not.
For example, you want to tell the child off for being naughty yet you don’t know how their mom/dad will react.
There’s nothing worse than getting thrown in without any preparation, so by having this conversation first you’ll get a sense of what is expected of you when it comes to the kids.
5) What are their concerns when it comes to dating?
After all, the person you’re considering dating is more than just a mom or dad.
They’ve still got hopes and wishes for their love life, and they may be worried about how to combine their family with their desires.
If you’re the first person they date after having their kids, it might be nerve-wracking for them too so having a conversation about this might iron out any worries they have.
Now, we’ve covered some key points to discuss with your new love interest, but it’s also important you have a chance to give your opinion and feelings on the same issues.
To what level do you feel comfortable taking on the responsibility for the kids?
What concerns do you have about dating someone with kids?
You see, these questions work both ways.
And by having this discussion, you can both start dating (or go your separate ways) knowing that you’ve been honest about your feelings.
Now let’s get onto those all-important things you need to know before you jump in – you’ll hopefully get a good sense of what can be expected from this type of relationship:
16 things you need to know before dating someone with kids
1. You might not meet the kids straight away
It’s natural for some parents to keep their personal life separate from their kids, especially before they’re sure whether the relationship seems long-term or not.
In some cases, you could end up waiting anywhere from 6 months to a year, although some parents will be quicker than others.
Ultimately, it’s the mother/father’s choice as to when you’re introduced.
They’ll base it on when they feel their kids are ready to hear it and whether they see the relationship as “going somewhere”.
2. When you do, you’ll need to take it slow
It’s a nerve-wracking moment all around – you want to make a good impression, whilst the kids are curious to see who mom or dad has been hanging out with.
The first meeting is important, but it’s not everything.
Even if you mess up and say the wrong thing, or their child seems uninterested in you, give it time.
3. You’ll probably be introduced as “the new friend”
Most parents are cautious about letting their kids know too much too soon, so to avoid all the questions he/she is likely to introduce you as just a friend until they know it’s going somewhere.
It doesn’t mean they’re not into you, but they probably want to keep the relationship on the down-low, especially at the start.
4. It doesn’t always go well the first time round
For one reason or another, you guys didn’t hit it off initially.
You’re kicking yourself wishing you’d done something different, but if this happens, don’t be so hard on yourself.
First meetings are always a tad awkward, the important thing is to persevere and keep making an effort.
5. Say goodbye to last-minute getaways
Thinking of whisking your date away on a romantic, surprise trip for the weekend?
With kids in the mix, he/she will need time to plan, and springing it on them at the last minute will invoke feelings of panic rather than pleasure.
6. The kids will come up in conversation
There are no two ways about it, if you want to date someone with kids, you’re going to have to like children.
Not only will you be around their kids from time to time, but you’ll also hear about them. A lot.
And why not?
After all, your partner’s kids are the most important people to them in the world, it’s only natural they’d mention them often.
7. You’ll hear a lot about the ex
And just as the kids will come up, inevitably so will the ex.
Whether it’s to vent and complain, or just general information like who’s-picking-up-who from school that day, you’ve got to be comfortable hearing about them.
8. Your date might be more upfront about their expectations
The truth is that your date doesn’t have time to waste.
On top of raising kids, paying bills, and trying to have a social life of their own, dating can feel like a luxury.
So if they’re not feeling it, or something isn’t working out, you’ll probably hear about it sooner than from someone who can afford to mess around.
Sounds brutal, but it’ll save you both lots of time and heartbreak.
9. You’ll need to be understanding
As much as your date might be head-over-heels for you, with all their best intentions, they may let you down from time to time.
And in many cases, it’ll be out of their control.
The sitter canceled at the last minute, or one of the kids fell sick and your date has to take a reign check.
You’ll need to be flexible if you want to date a parent, and understand when things don’t go to plan.
10. Your date might not be as available as you’d hoped for
And when it comes to making plans, it certainly won’t be as easy as you’d hope for.
When you guys can go out will be determined around their schedule and when it doesn’t interfere with what the kids have going on.
Now, that’s not to say they won’t make a lot of time for you, but you’ll have to be open to working around their routines.
11. You’ll have to make compromises
That leads us nicely onto compromises – this is a given in any relationship though.
But when you add kids into the mix, there’ll naturally be more compromises needed.
When your partner is exhausted from looking after the kids all day, and you want to go out, you’ll have to learn to meet in the middle and find something that suits you both.
12. Your sex life could be affected
You might be wondering if you’re going to have little ones jumping on the bed at 7 am when you sleep round, and it may happen from time to time.
But don’t worry – there are ways around it.
The fun part is you and your partner will have to become creative.
Mid-day sex while the kids are at school, sneaking into the laundry room whilst they’re asleep upstairs…if anything it can add a little excitement.
13. You’ll learn a lot about yourself
When you date someone with kids, not only will you learn a lot from them, but you’ll learn about yourself, too.
You’ll be put in situations that you’ve never experienced before, you may be given responsibilities that force you to overcome your fears.
Essentially, you’ll be learning a new role in life and that’s always a great learning curve.
14. The connection with your new partner will deepen quickly
If you do date long enough to meet the kids, and if all goes well, you can expect your new partner to be over the moon.
Seeing you get along with their children will make them feel even closer to you and you’ll probably feel a deeper sense of connection to them too.
15. You’re going to have to be responsible
But mainly for yourself.
As we touched upon earlier, your new date has plenty of responsibilities of their own, and they don’t want you to add to them.
Be a grown-up, handle your own stuff and just be a great partner, that’s all they ask for.
16. You could end up falling madly in love with the entire family
And the best part of all is that you may find yourself with not just one lovely new person in your life, but multiple.
Even with the extra effort needed to date with kids around, it can be so rewarding in the end once you’ve got into the flow of things and start to have more involvement in each other’s lives.
Let’s sum up the pros of dating someone with kids
They’re not afraid of commitment
You know that if they have kids, they were in a committed relationship.
And even if they weren’t committed to the children’s other parent, they are committed to their child. So, they know what they want and will work through the hard times.
They’re not looking to race through dating
When someone has a kid, that’s their first priority. So they aren’t going to be so eager to date, get engaged, get married, and have kids.
They’ve probably already done some of those things, so they may want to take things slow. And this is a great thing when there are kids involved.
They love fiercely
There is no greater love than what a parent has for a child. They are going to love so deeply because they’ve experienced that love. And if they let you into their world, they’re going to be able to love you just as deeply.
They don’t waste time
If they don’t see a future between you and them, they’re not going to waste your time. They are there to make a relationship work. If it’s not working, they move on.
Cons of dating someone with kids
Their schedule is most important
You will have to learn to work around their schedule a lot. With kids, work, school, meal time, and bedtimes, there’s always something going on. You’ll have to be very flexible when dating them.
You’ll have the kids’ parent to deal with
For the most part, there will be two parents of the kid, and you’ll have to work with that. That means if you get serious with the person, you’ll see the ex a lot. This can be frustrating for the person you’re dating and for you.
You may have a hard time finding your role
Depending on the role with the other biological parent, you may have a tough time figuring everything out. You don’t want to start acting like the child’s parent, but you also don’t want to be viewed as a non-parent when you get serious. It can be hard to figure this out.
It’s loud, hectic, and chaotic
To go from being alone to dating someone with kids can be crazy. Kids are loud, chaotic, and often seem like they are running on extra-strength batteries.
How do single parents do it all? You’re not going to be used to this, and it can be a little hard to work with.
How to decide if it’s worth it?
Reading all of this information can be a little anxiety-inducing. I get it.
But I can tell you this: If you’re looking up this information, you’re considering dating someone with kids—and that’s a pretty good sign.
Because obviously, this person means a lot to you. If they didn’t, you’d cut your losses and go on your way.
Only you can decide what it is that you can handle.
Maybe kids sound overwhelming, but you’re prepared and ready to try and give it a shot.
Maybe kids are something you never wanted and you want to run in the other direction.
Whatever it is, just know that kids don’t determine the health of your relationship. You can still have an amazing and fulfilling relationship with someone who has kids.
Look at the pros and cons, look at your own life, and then decide what it is you can handle.
But don’t let a good thing get away just because you’re scared. Kids are cute—they grow on you.
Dating someone with kids quotes
“The most difficult part of dating as a single parent is deciding how much risk your own child’s heart is worth.” Dan Pearce
“Single parents and their children are a package deal. If you don’t like kids, it’s just not going to work.” Unknown
“They say never date a woman with kids, but nothing is more attractive than seeing a single mother who is in school full time, who has two or three jobs, and is doing whatever is possible so her kids can have the best.” Naquin Gray
“They will be tired. They will look at you and wonder how they will survive another day being a single parent. You will see them at their worst more often than you see them at their best. You will fall in love with the sound of a child laughing. You will look up at her and see the joy in their eyes. And you will know right then, you made the right choice. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.” Unknown
“Real magic in relationships means an absence of judgment of others.” Wayne Dyer
“It seems essential, in relationships and all tasks, that we concentrate only on what is most significant and important.” Soren Kierkegaard
The bottom line
Will dating someone with kids come with its challenges?
Yes, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be worthwhile.
Ultimately, every relationship undergoes struggles and challenges, and with kids, it’s no different.
There has to be patience, perseverance, and a positive attitude to find an arrangement that works for all.
And, crucially, you need to be ready and sure that it’s the type of relationship you can handle, so make sure you have that important conversation first.
Once you’ve got that worked out, nothing is stopping you from having an incredibly rewarding relationship with someone who has kids.
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