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In romance novels, dating a single dad is portrayed like a dream come true - they are mature men who are constantly learning and evolving through their interactions with their children. Of course, they’re also super loving and your heart melts as you see them interact with their child.
In reality, single dads are usually stressed for time, under a lot of financial pressure, and likely more interested in catching some sleep than going out on a Friday night. At least on the weeks the child/children are with him, unless he has full custody. Oh, and there could be a custody battle.
That’s not to say that single dads aren’t impressive—some of them are incredibly impressive. They are loving, responsible, and conscious of putting another person’s needs first. They understand that relationships are filled with sweat and tears and that the payoff is love, support, and a rocking fun time when there’s time for that.
So let’s have a look at what single parent dating is truly like!
The first thing you have to be aware of is that each dad is different, because each dad’s situation with his kids is different.
Are the kids (and for the purpose of this article, let’s use plural) staying with him full-time or part time? Is there peace where the ex is concerned (if there is an ex—he could have adopted, or be a widow)? Does his children have any special needs, or disabilities? Is the dad a good father, who is loving his role as a father, or is he doing the absolute minimum required?
You have to ask yourself (and the dad) lots of questions during dating to find out about his unique situation with his children. Not every single dad is the same.
Unless he’s a father who is very minimally involved with his children, chances are the kids come first. His life will evolve around schools, soccer practice, play dates, and other activities involving the children.
This means that his schedule only allows him to go on date nights ever so often. His idea of spending time with you might involve hanging out with the kids in the park, or having a glass of wine after they fall asleep. There just won’t be time to go to restaurants three times a week—not unless the kids are joining you! [Read: How to Date a Single Mom]
By the end of each day he will be spent—he’s looked after the kids, cooked, cleaned, worked and, possibly, spent some time at the gym. You have to allow for him to be tired. He deserves someone who sees his hard work and pampers him—not someone who condemns him for it. If you can’t stand that he will prioritize the kids over going on date nights, your relationship won’t be a happy one.
However, not all fathers have their children staying with them every week. This could be because there is a harmonious situation with his ex and they take turns with the children. Then he is going to be a lot more well rested than many other dads! [Read: Dating After Divorce: 10 Rules for How to Find Love Again]
Note that him not seeing the kids every week could also be because he did not get the kind of custody he wanted, or because he accidentally made his ex pregnant even though he didn’t want children and they agreed he’d be more of a financial support. Maybe he never wanted to become a dad and knows his limitations—he wants to be there in a way that serves the children, not hampers them. There could be a lot of different reasons for why he doesn’t see them every week.
Men (and women!) tend to grow up when they have children. Not only must they look after another human being, they also need to pay for them. This is usually a huge motivating factor for improving finances.
Him being financially responsible can be a great trait. Him working three jobs and being financially stretched may be less fun. [Read: 10 Tips For A Second Date All Men And Women]
You have to find out where he’s at financially and see if you’re OK with that. For example, might not have the cash to go traveling around the world with you unless he’s very well to do. He has some little humans he needs to pay for before he spends money on luxuries.
If he’s a good dad, he will know how to bring you a meal at the end of the day (even if it’s a takeaway). He will know how to kiss you better when you’re sick and go to the pharmacy for some painkillers for the fever you got with the flu. He will understand how tired you feel after a long day at work and be willing to give you a massage, because he knows how much that will mean to someone who is that tired. He will know how to clean up in the house. He will know that he will have to deal with things he won’t enjoy in any relationship—and still go through with it because he knows the payoffs.
If the two of you one day have children together, he won’t be shocked at the amount of time spent cleaning up baby puke and poop. He will know the effort needed to raise a child—and be wise enough to set time aside just for the two of you (and for sleep).
Is he a dad who is satisfied with having children? Is he happy about the custody arrangements? Does he have issues with his kids, or are they well adjusted children? Is he completely drained from handling parenthood and work, or does he have energy to spare?
What you will realize if and when you raise kids, is that it isn’t always smooth sailing. No matter how great a parent you are, your children will encounter difficulties as they grow p. And you won’t always know how to best support them. Whether they’re diagnosed with ADHD or being bullied, there will be times where you, as a parent, don’t know what to do. And just when you think you’ve figured it out, they hit their teens! [Read: 6 Tips to Stay Safe Dating and Still Have Fun]
Thankfully, books like “The Kazdin Method of Parenting” by Alan Kazdin can shine a light on what has been proven to work for parenting. That, however, does not cover how to deal with exes, diseases, and other issues your child might one day face.
When you meet a single father, observe his emotions. Is he happy with the situation with his children, or are there things he’d like to change? You need to beware of where he’s at to make a decision if he’s in a place where you think he’s ready to date and you’re willing to date him.
Dating a single dad can be incredible—and with the internet you can meet single fathers online in a heartbeat. Dads tend to be more emotionally mature and know just how much hard work needs to go into a relationship. They understand responsibility and aren’t blind sighted when it comes to the stresses of having a family. They are also pressed for time (unless they have partial custody), have huge financial responsibilities, and may not be the most fun person to be around after six o’clock at night—chances are they’re dreaming about their bed and will be irritated by anyone standing between them and a good night’s sleep.
The most important thing to remember that each dad is different and each dad’s situation is different. Observe the single dad you wish to date to find out both about his personality and his situation with the kids. Then decide if he’s the man for you!