This seems to be a common stumbling block with many relationships, often before they’ve even begun. But is dating a single parent as big a deal as it once was? It’s become apparent to me in recent times that single parents are getting younger, it’s not necessarily divorced middle-aged people, it’s people who fall well within the 18-30 bracket. When I was a teenager, having children at a young age was looked down upon or at least something you were strongly warned against. It was made clear – particularly at school – that you’d only be wasting your life and that you would more than likely never amount to anything. Scare tactics perhaps, but in my experience those warnings couldn’t be further from the truth. So would I date a single parent? Well yes, I did.
I remember a time when a girl having a child would’ve been a definite deal-breaker for me, however looking back I think that was just a youthful naivety. As you get older, you start to understand people’s circumstances better and you begin to think “who am I to dismiss someone for that reason?” I’ve always understood people’s concerns: do I need to play Dad? Will I get on with the actual Dad? Will they still want more kids further down the line? There were endless questions and yet, the relationship itself seemed surprisingly simple.
My biggest concern was my relationship with the child, it was a new experience for me and I knew how important it was to the Mother that we got on. I never wanted to be the child’s Dad, she was lucky enough to already have a great one and I certainly wasn’t there to step on anyone’s toes. I decided to go down the friend route. She was two, but ridiculously smart for one so young, she always seemed to know exactly what was going on around her. In the end my sense of humour won her over, laughter was the key to everything with that child and in the end I cared for her more than I ever thought possible.
As for her Dad, I think this tends to be the biggest concern for guys in particular. It’s not easy to have your partner’s ex still so prominent in their life, but in fairness to this guy, he couldn’t have made things any easier for me. I knew there wouldn’t be a problem unless he made one, but thankfully he was just a genuinely nice, normal guy. Don’t get me wrong, we weren’t best buds or anything but there was a nice, calm, mutual respect between us.
As the months wore on I realised my relationship with the Mother wasn’t working out. Sometimes we were like the best of friends and other times I was worried we might kill each other (much like most relationships these days I guess). Looking back, our problems were mostly my fault. She was ready to settle down and rightly so, but me, I still had a hell of lot of travelling and seeing the world to do. Selfish I know, but it had been my dream to travel from a really young age and I got the feeling she wouldn’t accept me taking off and why should she? The more time that passed, the more I felt ridden with guilt. My guilt stemmed from having this incredible little family who had both welcomed and accepted me and not only that, they wanted me to be a part of that family forever – I think. That’s very difficult for anyone to walk away from.
It was probably my most difficult break-up. I had to end it with two people – neither was easy. I remember the Mum dropping me off at the local train station, the child was in the back seat sound asleep. I just knew in my heart of hearts it was the end. I reached behind me and squeezed her foot. It was some form of goodbye, a bit of a pathetic one, but in the moment I didn’t know what else to do. The break-up was both the scariest and hardest part of dating a single parent. I didn’t necessarily want out, I just needed out – for everyone’s sake.
But all in all, I wouldn’t discourage anyone from dating a single parent. Maybe it isn’t ideal, maybe it’s your worst nightmare, maybe it’s the best thing that could ever happen to you? You just never know what lies ahead and I definitely had some really great times. The best advice I can give to any parent is to wait a while before introducing your new partner to your child, although I’d be surprised if there were many parents out there who didn’t already adhere to this rule. Be sure it doesn’t bother you as the outsider before you commit to anything, the further the relationship goes the harder it will get for everyone involved. I was naive, the child didn’t bother me for one second but my life goals just didn’t fit in with the whole setup and I should’ve realised this way sooner than I did. If you are keen to meet someone, however, never rule out a single parent – three isn’t always a crowd.