Dating a woman with kids can be an amazing experience, but it also comes with its own challenges. Single moms have a very difficult job. Whether they have one child or five, they’re responsible for another human life and that’s a great deal of pressure.
If they co-parent, at least they aren’t doing it alone, but it’s another added pressure that they then have to deal with their ex on a constant basis.
They’re also some of the toughest women you’ll ever meet and dating one can be a beautiful but trying experience. Here’s how to navigate dating a woman with kids for the first time.
1. Recognize immediately that you are not, and will never be, her first priority
You need to be okay with coming in second. Her first priority has to be her kids, regardless of whether or not she’s alone taking care of them. She is responsible for them, from the big to the small things. You cannot demand her time without understanding that her time needs to be spent with her children first.
2. Don’t try to help unless you are asked to
It’s nice that you want to help take some things off your girlfriend’s plate. But you have to be very careful not to overstep any boundaries. Especially if the relationship is very new, having you around the children all the time and attempting to do things that a dad might do may upset them.
And if her kids are upset, she’s not going to be happy either because, in trying to help, you just added another stressor to her life.
3. Respect her timeline
If she says that she’s not ready to introduce you to her kids, whether it’s a month into the relationship or six months in, you need to respect that. Constantly asking her when or questioning whether or not it’s a problem that you haven’t met her kids yet will put unnecessary pressure on her.
She’ll introduce you. But it’s not only about when she’s ready. It’s about when her kids are ready and only she and they know when that will be.
4. Even if you haven’t met them, show an interest in them
Any proud mom likes to talk about her kids. So you’ll probably be hearing a lot about them. But don’t just wait until she volunteers that information. Ask her about them. Even more importantly, though, remember what she says about them.
It’s not enough that you remember her kids’ names. Remember the little things that might not be so little to her, like that her youngest son was struggling in math and finally got an A or that her daughter made the basketball team. It may seem like small things, but, to her, those things mean a lot because they mean a lot to her children.
5. When you do meet them, get to know them in a low-pressure way
Put the ball in their court and let them get to know you on their own terms. When you talk to them, show that you take an interest in their lives. Learn about their likes and dislikes, their struggles and their accomplishments.
Don’t bombard them with questions and, if they’re only giving one-word answers, recognize that they aren’t ready to talk yet. In time, they’ll open up, but it has to be because they want to, not because you try to make them.
6. The ex and past relationship with dad is a no-go
If your girlfriend is a single mom because of a divorce or breakup, keep your nose out of her business. She’s likely co-parenting and that’s enough of a struggle without you offering criticism about her relationship with her ex or about her ex as a person or father.
She and her ex need to figure things out on their own for the sake of their kids. Neither of them is going to appreciate you trying to get involved and tell them what they should or shouldn’t do.
On the other side of the coin, it’s not wise to try to become friends with her ex. She looks to you for emotional support and some of that support might be to listen to her talk about what’s going on with her co-parenting situation. But that trust may be eroded if she doesn’t know where you stand.
7. Understand that this cannot be a casual relationship
If you meet her kids, or even if you’re not there yet, you’re still playing a role in their lives. A mother cannot play yo-yo with her kids’ emotions. Having men coming in and out of her life and, by extension, their lives is not an option.
Her kids lost a sense of stability when their parents’ relationship ended, regardless of how it ended. A mom is concerned about getting that stability back. If you’re just popping in for a relationship that’s not a stable one, she’s not interested.
Dating someone new with children can open the door to a new life that might even lead to you being a step-parent one day. But you’re going to need to take your time to get there and decide if that’s a path you want to take before you get involved in the first place.
Dating a woman with kids demands a higher level of responsibility and commitment as it entails the emotional impact on children in addition to your partner, however, the rewards of creating a new family unit together are beautiful and boundless.