Dating is a whole different ballgame when you’re a dad.
Having recently read an article describing What A Single Mom Wants In A Boyfriend I began asking myself exactly what I was looking for in a woman with whom I choose to have a relationship.
I have a 4-year old daughter. Recently, after a brutal 14-month custody battle, I was finally granted 50/50 custody of her and no longer limited to being an every-other-weekend dad. You might think that change shouldn’t have a significant effect on the qualities I look for in a woman, but it absolutely does. Almost any potential mate can handle a child that is not their own coming to visit four days a month. It isn’t that big of a disruption in day-to-day life. Hell, once they can eat and get dressed on their own, they can practically babysit themselves, right?
We were both so exhausted from work and taking care of our children, that we barely had enough energy left to sit on the couch watching Netflix until we passed out.
In the four years since the birth of my daughter and the end of my relationship with her mother, I have done some dating. Most of that dating was fairly casual, but I have been in a couple relationships—the most recent and most serious of those relationships having lasted just under two years. Dating as an every-other-weekend dad is easy. Or at least I realize now looking back on it just how easy it was. You can live your life, go out on dates, and pretty much do whatever you want within the confines of the law for 26 days out of the month.
Easy or not, the majority of those four years, I was battling some fairly serious depression and anxiety due primarily to the minimal time I was able to spend with my daughter and the ongoing conflict with her mother. Because of this, finding a potential partner to have a serious relationship with was not a priority for me until about the time I began dating my last girlfriend. We started dating casually, but we fell for each other hard and fast. It wasn’t long before we were discussing where we wanted to live when we moved in together, how we would integrate our families, and what our wedding would be like. At that point, after more than our share of failed relationships, we both genuinely thought we had found “the one.”
The day I was granted equal custody of my daughter fell smack-dab right in the middle of our relationship, and looking back, it was a defining moment for us—the day I can pinpoint as the beginning of the end.
But we want to believe that you will eventually love them as if they were your own.
When I only had my daughter four days out of the month, it was easy to just plan our dates and adventures around those days. But once I suddenly had her half the time, it became almost impossible for us to make plans together. She had children too, so trying to balance both of our schedules and find evenings that we were both kid-free just put more and more stress on our relationship. When we did find time to see each other, we were both so exhausted from work and taking care of our children, that we barely had enough energy left to sit on the couch watching Netflix until we passed out. Needless to say, the communication and intimacy in our relationship quickly began to deteriorate.
Now I find myself re-entering the dating world as a 31-year old single dad. Watching the successes and failures of my married friends’ relationships got me thinking; what exactly am I and other single dads looking for in our potential mates? This is not meant to be an all-encompassing list, nor is it meant to be a list of “must haves.” Rather, I wrote it as a selection of items which are all individually important in their own way, but not necessarily deal breakers.
1. We want you to like our children.
Sure, we can be realistic and acknowledge that you probably won’t have the same connection with our children as you might have with a child you carried for nine months and then birthed yourself; at least not for a long time. But we want to believe that you will eventually love them as if they were your own. So if you ever find yourself thinking that you are just tolerating our kids because we are a “package deal”, just leave. We don’t have time to waste in a relationship with someone who “tolerates” our kids.
2. We want you to tell us that everything will be okay.
Being a parent is hard. Being a single parent is harder. Being a single parent with a vindictive ex who would be willing to do anything to remove you from your child’s life, is pure hell. We are going to have rough days. We are going to have arguments with our child’s mother and threats of going back to court. We don’t need you to fix anything or tell us what to do. We just need you to reassure us that everything is going to work out.
3. We want you to tell us that we are good dads.
These days, mothers are almost always viewed by the courts and the general public as the most capable and nurturing parent. When we as dads take our children out in public, it is not uncommon to be asked where their mom is, or hear comments about us pulling “mommy duty” for the day. It’s almost as if people assume that if we have a penis, we are incapable of caring for a child for more than a couple hours without some kind of assistance or intervention from their mother. We might act like it doesn’t bother us, but it does. It pisses us off, and sometimes on the rough days, it makes us question whether we really are good at this whole “daddy thing”. Sure, we know you think we are great at it, but we need to hear it. Plus, when you feed our egos, the odds are it will pay off for you in the near future.
4. We want you to make us look good.
You telling us that you trust us, means so much more to a dad who is constantly being ridiculed by our child’s other parent for our past infractions.
No, I’m not talking about being physically beautiful, or being “arm candy” (although that is great too.) We want to be able to take you to company functions and family reunions, and as we are leaving, we want our bosses, our coworkers, or that old slightly-senile uncle who always smells suspiciously like whiskey to pull us aside and tell us we better hang onto you, because you’re a keeper.
5. We want to know that we can trust you.
You can talk to any single dad, and the odds are at one time or another, they have trusted too much and had that trust broken—either by their child’s mother, or by someone they dated after her. We don’t want to be suspicious and un-trusting, but it comes with the territory when you’ve been through what we’ve been through. So it might seem stupid, and it might at times frustrate you, but we need you to show us that you aren’t going anywhere, and that we don’t have anything to worry about when you decide to have a night out with the girls.
6. We want you to tell us that you trust us.
It seems that in almost any previous failed relationship, our trustworthiness has been brought into question by our partner. The littlest thing that was said in passing, months before, is suddenly brought up again as a supposed glaring infraction on our part. We want you to trust us so we aren’t always walking on eggshells. We already have to do that around our ex, in order to attempt to co-parent. You telling us that you trust us, means so much more to a dad who is constantly being ridiculed by our child’s other parent for our past infractions.
7. We want you to desire us.
We get it, we have kids. There are nights that even a quickie is out of the question, because by the time homework is done and the dishwasher is loaded, there is no way in hell we are doing anything but falling into our bed and passing out. But we want to be with someone who realizes that doesn’t mean we have to act like business partners who just happen to live under the same roof and share a bed. Walk up behind us as we are doing dishes and put your arms around us. Let one of your hands “accidentally” slip down south, past our belt and briefly linger in the general area of the zipper of our pants. Text us while we are at work and tell us what you want to do to us later. Maybe even send the occasional naughty picture.
So what does a single dad want? We want a teammate.
We want someone who will wait for the kids to go watch TV in the other room, then push us into the laundry room to quickly ravish us before one of the kids starts asking for milk and animal crackers, or bursts into tears because their younger sibling touched their favorite stuffed animal.
8. We want you to ask us for help.
Sure, we know you’re a strong independent woman and you are perfectly capable of changing that light bulb, or fixing that leaking faucet. But don’t be afraid to show a little weakness. Let us briefly flaunt our masculinity and then thank us for helping you. We love feeling like you need and appreciate us.
9. Tell us that you appreciate us.
Yes, I’m saying it again. We need to feel appreciated. So much of what we do is never even acknowledged. So what if we bust our ass to get that promotion at work! So what if we take off work early to take our kid to her dance class when her mom had to work late! Sure, maybe those are things we should be expected to do as dads. But that doesn’t mean it would hurt for our kids’ other parent to tell us they appreciate what we did. The truth is though, that person will most likely never appreciate us. Even if they do appreciate something we do, that sentiment will never in a million years be shared with us. So we need you to do it. Look at how much effort we put into something when we know there will be no “thank you” and just imagine how hard we will work when there is one!
10. We don’t want you to play games.
Seriously. We are too old for that shit. Say what you mean. Don’t tell us not to come over and then get mad when we don’t show up. Don’t act like you aren’t into us just to make us try harder. We know what we want, and we have no interest in wasting our time with a girl who feels the need to fuck with our heads just to see if we say or do the right thing in your little relationship puppet show.
So what does a single dad want? We want a teammate. We want your strengths to compliment our weaknesses. We want a caring, compassionate, empathetic, reassuring, confident woman, who is not only trusting, but is also deserving of our trust.
A woman who can be strong for us when we can’t be strong for ourselves; one who recognizes when we do something well, but doesn’t belittle us when we do something poorly.
A woman we can take to a dinner party, or a work function, or a family reunion without worrying about her saying or doing something that becomes the subject of one of those “remember when you dated that crazy bitch who said/did ______?!” stories for years to come.
So do you have to have all of these traits in order to be the type of girl a single dad wants to date? No! But if you read through this list and can check off a good number of them that you think might apply to you, then you just might fit the criteria.
Otherwise, if you are a single woman who keeps saying that you want to find a good, honest man who is passionate and caring, then maybe you should look at this list as a starting point for a little self-reflection.
This is dumping A LOT on a girlfriend. It’s basically asking her to take your world on her shoulders. Be a man and hire a babysitter and actually spend some time with her. Make her feel like she is an important priority. Don’t just take and take and take from her. Sure your kids are #1(mine are too as a single mom) but don’t make her feel like she comes last in your life.
Just recently ended a relationship of only 10 months but it was the first time I was involved with someone after the seperation. I have 3 kids and she knew about it and was clear well before we started dating. She seemed fine with it. We had a distance problem and to top it off I would only see her every other weekend which was hard on me. I broke it off but then regretted it and tried to fix it. Apparently she started thinking about things and all of a sudden she said she wants to experience having a… Read more »
This is more or less on the money. As a single dad of 3 girls id add ‘don’t pressure us to have kids with you too’. Some women have left having kids fairly late and think that your obliged to enter into financial servitude with them as well (in Australia child support is crippling for men with kids). I and a number of other single dads i know have got vasectomies to avoid feeling trapped like this and to limit our dating pool to women with or without kids who can fulfil the above and not badger us to have… Read more »
I think it all sound great, but I have 2 wonderful teenagers. 2 wonderful little ones on my own. I’m not young. Gets a bit much. Struggling for advice.
As the second wife of a formerly single dad, I would say that these qualities sound great, but make sure you are also giving enough appreciation in return to your SO who is graciously taking on your children. Unless you plan to be in charge of everything when your kids are around, make sure that you let your SO know that you notice everything she does and realize that she’s taken on a lot of responsibility in being with you and you appreciate it. Being a stepmother is difficult – there are high expectations for your behavior, you’re usually facing… Read more »
I would add it takes 2 to tango. I don’t want to watch my partner struggling doing a ballet between me and his former family. It is not fair to anyone.
Childless single women, stay away( as much as possible) from men with children!! Life is complicated already, why make it more complicated than already is ? You find yourself compromising and then you have to compromise some more. Everything will spin around “the golden child/children”, you will have to walk on eggshells. Their father will show you how little you matter, compared with how much his children mean to him. On top of that their ex wives had the right to be put first and be treated like queens, you don’t! You have to zip it not to offend him… Read more »
think you with the wrong guys, some of us work with our exes for sake of kids, some of us are aware our hearts are big enough for more than kids and some of us are aware our happiness comes first , even before kid’s because from the first ,the second will follow. We are careful around our kids because we want to know if you’re gonna stick around, so we don’t date often. Some of us have kids more eager for us to get involved with someone than we are because they want us happy and are wise enough… Read more »
Hi I’ve been seeing a full time single dad for nearly 2 months. It was going well but about a week ago he got jealous and panicked and said he was falling in love with m I got caught up in the moment but said I thought it seemed too soon. He then stayed the night (unplanned) but felt dreadfully guilty about dumping his kids in his sister at the last mintue. He has told me it has freaked him out and he’s asked to slow down which I also think is a good idea. He said he thinks we… Read more »
As a single dad myself, good luck. I have given up on my generation of “women”. Self-serving narcissists. Note the comments “WHAT ABOUT MEEEE!!!??? I’m a princess!” The type of women that are good mothers and spouses are all taken by now. The remainder have left decent men in the cold, always looking for their fantasy, or have slept with bad boys their entire lives and are now looking for a beta to provide for them. I love women, but I don’t see as many single, quality women worthy of my respect- hoping for a unicorn- and no she doesn’t… Read more »
High five I hope we both can find our sweethearts soon enough.
Hmm as a woman dating a single father, I can say I think your comments are unfair. I am the breadwinner, and make 3 times what my partner does. I have worked the last 4 weekends. I come home, make dinner, and the do laundry. I make my stepson lunches, and buy him clothes. The first Friday I’ve had off in a month I spent watching his son so he can go out with his buddies. Men want a unicorn but are only willing to feed straw. I am so burned out.
I am in a relationship with a single dad of two kids. His kids are in a different city and on any of his days off he goes and take care of them. I see max twice a week after work. He never mentione That he wants me to meet his kids or family. 3 months and I’m alway there for him yet I feel like just a toy at this point and that I’m not in his future plans because we berly ever spent any time together and he has met my kid and never mentioned of me meeting… Read more »
I have been dating a single father now for about 5 months. He has sole custody of his 9 year old daughter, and sometimes I feel like it’s tug of war for him. WE haven’t been on a real date as of yet. Sex is nonexistent because his daughter always seems to need his attention to sleep next to her, while I sleep alone.
wouldnt mind dating a single father. Love is love and if its a package deal, the more the merrier or marrier????
Wow. There sure is a theme developing. It seems that single dads understand that they are responsible for multiple priorities if they choose to date, and they are willing to carve out time and attention for their kids and girlfriend. Women however (with kids or not), will not make these accommodations, and if they do they resent it. They demand to be their guy’s #1 priority at all times. Here’s the deal: If you’ve got a quality guy, and demand that he choose between you and his kids, you lose. Every. Single. Time. Just count on it, and don’t be… Read more »
Honestly we aren’t all like that. I’ve had one proper date on 2 months. I’m childless but 20 years older that the single date I’m dating. If he were to put me first I actually wouldn’t have that much respect for him. I knew the deal and accept the downsides but I think he’s worth it and hope at some point in the future he will trust me enough not to run at the first sign of trouble and introduce me to his kids. These things take time. Please don’t let a few selfish women blind you to the many… Read more »
We don’t expect to be #1. My kids are #1 to me as well. We expect to still be a priority in his life and not just tossed aside, left at the bottom of the totem pole. Meanwhile he wants a free babysitter and nanny for his kids. How about no. I don’t treat anyone that way and I will not tolerate being used.
“ Our lives are full, and we don’t need you.”
Starting a relationship with this solo attitude is defeating the purpose. It’s basically saying a “partner” is just for decor, a bonus, an add-on. Whoever takes on that role has to deal with an egomaniac AND expected to provide support to someone who only sees them as disposable. This is terrible.
I have been “seeing” a divorced dad for almost 2 months now — we see each other about 2-3 times a week. We haven’t been out on a “date” yet, always movies at home and a lot of sex, which I am actually happy with — whether or not it was a good idea to get into that so quickly who knows. Early on he asked what we were and it was too early in my mind to actually determine that, so we just left that conversation for the time being. 2 months in I am starting to be confused… Read more »
It sounds to me like you have every right to start asking questions about what your relationship is. Don’t push it or harass him about it. But you should be able to tell from his reaction what his intentions might be.
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I agree. I’ve been dating a single dad for a for awhile now. I am constantly telling him he’s doing great. I’m not needy or clingy. I never throw a fit when he has to cancel. He helps his ex a lot but I never comment how uncomfortable it makes me feel. It’s getting exhausting because I’m constantly there for him but I’m getting nothing out of it. It’s my first time dating a single dad, should it always be like this?
I know how you feel sometimes I feel the very same way ..but I love him and I want things to work so I compromise a lot.
I have dated several single moms as well, & it goes both ways. It’s never easy, but it can be very rewarding.
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I don’t think you should ever be in a relationship where you are getting nothing in return. You have to ask yourself whether it is really true that you are receiving nothing, or if you are just receiving it in another way. As much as you have to be patient when dating a single parent, that doesn’t mean you have to be unhappy!
great article. i saw some of the posts below asking what we offer in return. classic deflection. i think it’s implied that we be the best we can be given the circumstances. i’m a single dad and i know it doesn’t give me the right to be a chronically lazy idiot. but a lot of these things are pretty normal to expect or want. maybe not daily obviously… but it’s nice to have them peppered throughout our life.
For real, a lot of negative projection going on in these comments. This article wasn’t about what I have to offer, although I do have plenty to offer to a potential girlfriend. This was simpl answering the question from single women of “what does a single dad want from a girlfriend?”
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I read your article and you failed to include or give reasons why any woman would want to date a single dad. What do YOU have to offer? You are making demands on someone that was not responsible on your past decision making. Your expectations seem rather high considering you are a single parent.
I totally agree. I would never want to ‘date’ this man.
Wow well thanks for your input. Sounds like you don’t deserve someone like me!
Question. What if he has been caring for them so long there is a bond (plus dad guilt factor). At what point do you define what you need, like a night alone without the continual calls and facetime. Or ask him to help you move your things from Texas, he agrees and now he wants to take the kids. This is not a vacation and yet I do not know how to not put him in a situation to choose or the kids to be upset that all their time is no longer spent with dad. I make sure I… Read more »
Thank you for your service to men everywhere – outing yourself as a bitch will save us a lot of time. Although, I doubt you’re this honest when you’re not anonymous. Believe me, we single dads have a complete life and don’t need you and your games in it. If we don’t “meet your needs” feel free to fuck off. We’ll do the same.
I agree too. Well said.
Sounds like the woman is there to suit his needs. How does he adapt to her? What benefits does she have if she spends her life with him?
Might sound cold but it comes from a place of being on the other end and changing my life for him, moving 600 miles to be with him, new job. Only to realise that he doesn’t even have the energy to ask me how I’m doing.
I’m looking for some quality single time and maybe some quality man who has other priorities and circumstances.
I assure you that I offer plenty in return. But it sounds to me like you’re wanting a man to only focus his attention. & energy on you & nothing else.
I often hear women asking how to handle dating a single dad, because throwing kids in the equation does change things. This isn’t a list of demands from a potential suitor. It’s a list of ways that dating a single dad might be different from dating someone without kids.
Daniel, thanks for the insightful article
I dated a single dad years ago. it just wasnt for me and I wasnt happy with the situation. But I can see how dating a single dad can suit some women.
My view is that if one is unhappy or frustrated with a single parent, its best to move on and find situation that suits you better.
That’s the subject of a different article, Anna. Of course both people are going to assess their companion to ensure their needs are being met. Men and women are equal, so don’t assume you have some special right that ensures guys must cater to your every whim. Your bitterness is showing, but thanks for the warning.
Yes, because this article isn’t about what I have to offer. It’s to answer the question of “what does a single dad want in a girlfriend?” It should be assumed if it’s gotten to the point where a girl is asking this, she has probably seen plenty of reasons she might want to date him. Also, if you read the article, you will see that I wrote I after reading a similar article about what a single mom wants from a boyfriend. So have you gone to her article to post similar criticisms? I assure you however, that I offer… Read more »
He’s got a full life, Guest. It is you who needs to qualify yourself to him, not the other way around. Who exactly do you think you are? He’s already been screwed over by one woman, so you’d better believe you won’t be getting any slack.
I read your blog and I understand your frustration but see my point of view. I am a nice looking 49 year old country girl who happens to be a single mother of 3 wonderful kids with the oldest being 24 and the youngest being 18 to which I have raised by myself with some help from my mother. I married the love of my life but our 4 1/2 yr marriage ended in divorce for what most would call childish reasons. I recently started seeing my ex again after over 20 years of divorce and the 24 year old… Read more »
Hi!! This is a great list; thank you for sharing :). It’s funny…I met this amazing single dad (split from his ex 8 months ago) and he is going through now what it looks like you did. We hit it off well but he has backed away because he doesn’t know how to handle being a single dad and having me in his life. He asked for space and I gave it, along with love and support. He came back and said he wanted to try but the next day, his wall went right back up (aka reality hit) and… Read more »
Out of curiousity, when do you stop calling yourself a single dad, if ever? My bf and i have lived together for four years and he has had 50% custody from the day he moved in. I clean, do laundry, do homework, we coordinate on pick up/drop off, i’m there when he isn’t, etc. He handles getting bags ready for school and making arrangements for school and aftercare but also has the flexibilty to take off whenever he wants because he knows i’m taking good care of his son. I can mark off most of the things on this list,… Read more »
Thanks Daniel, Dating a guy who, on my summer week on week off with my boys, is just so busy. He has arrived at 10:30pm every evening when all the fun has been had and all the work is done. My boys are in bed. So..out of hurt and disappointment…I’m embarrassed to say this…now, coming up on his week with his boys, I’ve shamefully been thinking of all the excuses I will have to not be available to spend time with them. Certainly not because I wouldn’t want anything more, but because I want to show him how odd it… Read more »
I enjoyed reading this list from a single Dad’s perspective. The single mom articles on GMP seem to get a lot of a slack, the comments section holds a different, more negative tone. As if single mom’s aren’t allowed to ask for the things they want because some men act like they are sub-human. I think a single dad will have an easier time dating then a single mom. I’l just say something about this comment: “No, I’m not talking about being physically beautiful, or being “arm candy” (although that is great too.)” Look, there is never a moment women… Read more »
I love your article. I’m a single mom in date-process with a single dad who loves his kids. I hope the best for all of us.
Ok to have expectation, but as I always ask when I see such lists, what do you offer in return? Deck is stacked against a parent in this situation. A woman can more easily find a man that has no strings attached…so one has to be able to demonstrate a worth that allows them to see through the situation, to a man so desirable as a mate that they are willing to move forward. As the example demonstrates, it all changes when a child is involved, especially for a woman as we still see them as primary parent, they still… Read more »
So you’ve been explaining up and down the alley, what you need her to do, to be, to say,… Your NEEDYNESS pushes me off. What about your Kid. If it’s a daughter, she might, SHE MIGHT feel ok with you, in future constantly betraying her mum. Might. If it’s a son, how does he feel about her? You know, kids have feelings, too… And these kids have the strong feeling, that their pure EXISTENCE has a root: the love of their parents. When they have the weak feeling, the battle, that used to tear them apart by their legs up,..… Read more »
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