Catholic dating is unique for a lot of reasons — no need to state the obvious. But one of the less obvious ways that it differs from the rest of the world’s idea of looking for someone to spend your life with is that we’ve got a very specific ultimate endgame in mind: Marriage with children.
With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility
In our faith, we believe that these two things should go together whenever possible; which means that, in a sense, you’re actually seeking a suitable fellow-parent for your children.
Should we reduce dating to that alone? Of course not. But neither should we ignore this important aspect of your potential future together.
So how could we address the issue practically speaking, especially early on in a dating relationship?
Say you just met someone recently, and things are going pretty well. But you’re not picking out rings or anything yet. It’s still very early. So you don’t want to get into heavy topics too soon.
I propose you try planning a date night on which the two of you babysit someone else’s kids. Here’s why.
Discover Whether Or Not He or She Inherently Likes Kids
If you propose a night of babysitting some friends’ kids together to your boyfriend or girlfriend, and their immediate reaction is to recoil in horror, it might be a warning sign.
Granted, babysitting can be hard and even intimidating, so give them a chance to consider it fully before you assume you’ve got a kid-hater. But, if this person legitimately doesn’t like kids and isn’t really interested in even having his or her own someday, you’ve given them a good opportunity to express this incompatibility with you.
On the other hand, your boyfriend or girlfriend might agree to the idea readily. And so you set out on the adventure. Here, one of many things might happen.
You Might Just Have An Amazing Time!
This would be the ideal outcome. The two of you make an excellent team at caring for someone else’s kids. You split duties and play games with them together. The kids love you both and they go to bed like angels and don’t ask for a million drinks of water or complain of a tummy-ache or wet the bed.
The two of you close the kids’ bedroom door near the end of the evening, silently high-five each other, and tiptoe downstairs to watch TV until the parents come home while you secretly start to fantasize about parenting your own kids together in the future.
If this happens, mission accomplished. You’ve discovered that you can see yourself parenting with this person you’ve found.
Sounds great! However, this is the optimal result. It’s more likely that some combination of the following will occur.
Your Co-Babysitter Leaves the Dirty Work for You
Some people are completely unacquainted with the process of diaper-changing, butt-wiping, or face-cleaning. Maybe even you are. Initially, that really can be fine.
However, the idea is that the two of you undertake this endeavor together. If one of you is more experienced with the mess, that person can certainly take the lead on those issues.
But if your date is completely unwilling to even offer to lend a hand, it could be something to talk about (or joke about); or at worst, might be a warning sign. Maybe he or she is just a little intimidated, but if they’re leaving all the poop and puke for you, you’ll definitely want to have a conversation about their ideas of parenting in the future.
Your Co-Babysitter Doesn’t Know How to Play (With Kids)
This might sound unusual, but some people really don’t know how to play. I myself, even after being a mom now for three-plus years, still find it a struggle sometimes to play with my kids. Some people are just not naturally inclined this way.
If you discover your date is one of those people, it’s not the end of the world (or your relationship). Ask them about it. Brainstorm together for ways the other person will enjoy/be good at playing with the kids. And things might take off from there.
Or it could show you another legitimate concern if the other person really doesn’t have an interest in playing with kids at all and would rather, say, sit with his or her phone all night. It could be difficult envisioning parenting with that person someday, but at least you know and can communicate about it.
Your Co-Babysitter Only Plays (With the Kids)
It could happen that you discover you’re dating Mr./Ms. Funsie. You know, that person who has busloads of fun with kids but is completely incapable of laying down the law, leaving you to enforce bedtimes and other important rules.
The high point of this scenario is that at least you know this person does enjoy kids and is good at making sure they have fun. These are important qualities in a parent. But if they really are unwilling to enforce rules, once you point out the issue to them, it might be another red flag.
Your Co-Babysitter Has a Terrible Time
It happens. (Sigh.)
Maybe the kids became little monsters, or maybe other things just backfire and fail all night. If something like this happens, talk about it. Maybe it’s just circumstances. Maybe it would be different entirely with your own kids someday, and maybe the two of you even agree precisely on why this isn’t working very well tonight.
Or, the person might legitimately hate this stuff. Best to find out now.
You Get To Leave In the End, Too
Babysitting is hard work. But it will be even harder when the kids are your own someday.
So take the opportunity now to do a good deed for a friend with kids and learn a lot about your boyfriend or girlfriend. You might cut right to the chase of why you actually don’t see the two of you lasting in the long run.
Or, you might have a lot of fun and discover what an excellent team you make together.