Dating with Children

Dating with Children

Dear Michele,
I have been avoiding dating women who have children, but I find myself at the age where I need to start considering it. The problem is, I don’t have children and so I know that I have no idea what I’m getting into. I want my own children, I just don’t know if I want to be a parent to someone else’s children. Does that make me a hypocrite? Or just too picky? Any ideas you have would help!


Dating with Children

Dear Dating with Children,

Excellent question. I love the fact you realize raising children is something you can never fully understand until you’ve done it. And even then, you never totally figure it out, you just try to do your best as you go along. It’s kinda like getting older, can’t totally explain what it’s like, you just have to live it. When you find the perfect parent, or the perfect step-parent, you’ve probably met someone that isn’t honest about the job.

The first thing to consider is the age of the children. Dating a woman with very young children, under the age of 6, is much different than dating a woman with teenagers. When children are very young, they require a lot of care. The sole source of comfort, safety, and understanding in the world is their parents (or primary care-givers). This means, at times, a date will need to come second, or third, or last. And after providing emotionally, spiritually, physically, financially, and mentally for young children, it’s very easy to be exhausted at the “giving” role at the end of the day. Some counselors may even suggest people with young children should not date. I don’t completely agree, because all parents should have their adult needs met through other adults, forming relationships outside of the child-parent bond. But, just be aware, your date has a busy, challenging, and fulfilling role in her life before she ever meets you at the door.

As children grow older, they gain more independence but also more understanding. You can balance an older child’s needs a little more easily with adult needs. Pre-teens and teenagers present their own challenges, as they are going through the same rate of physical and intellectual changes as a toddler. This means they may show the older version of a “temper tantrum,” by being difficult or defiant, or they may feel threatened by a new date showing up.

The other element to consider is the role of the children’s father. Is he in their life? How is his relationship with their mother? How does he feel about potential step-fathers entering the picture? How have the two of them worked out their co-parenting model? What do they tell the children about dates?
Finally, it’s important to consider the appropriate time and place for meeting your date’s children. I would advise against meeting children too soon, especially during the casual dating phase. Be sure this is someone you want to date exclusively and potentially for a long time, because any introduction can have an impact on the children. In dating according to our Catholic faith, I would suggest that you do not have spend-the-night dates. For obvious reasons when it comes to teachings on sexuality, but even more so because of the model you show to the children. Children will learn how to date and how to treat the opposite sex by watching the adults in their lives. Don’t even bother trying to talk to them about something that you and your date are not living out.

So there is a lot to consider. But I’ve kept the best for last. Falling in love with a potential partner means loving her children. And being in the life of a child is the most rewarding part of growing older and wiser. Yes there are challenges. But there are also great blessings. True love is meant to be shared outside of ourselves. The romantic love you share with a partner is increased and brought to its full potential by expanding to children and other family. Since you said that you do want to have your own children, then you likely believe it’s an amazing journey you do not want to miss. Don’t fear that you may not love someone else’s children perfectly, or the challenges may be too great. We don’t know, if you marry someone with children it may be your own opportunity to become a parent. I would encourage you to keep your mind and heart open, while weighing all the factors and asking all the right questions. When you meet the right woman, then her situation will feel like the right fit.

I hope you’ve found this helpful and God bless you in your journey.

Michele Fleming, M.A.