If you're dating in your late 20s or early 30s (and not dating people who are way younger than you), you've probably had to think about whether you'd date someone who's also a parent.
I've definitely encountered my fair share of single mothers on the dating scene.
One such encounter was “Alexis.”
When she and I met, we hit it off immediately. But it was her son, Jaylen, that I really clicked with.
I'll admit I'm not the most "Daddy daycare" kind of guy.
I love kids but the thought of raising my own one day is a huge anxiety trigger for me. Normally, I avoid situations where I might have to think about being a dad.
But Jaylen really became my guy.
Alexis was cool, I guess, but little Jaylen was really where it was for me. He was the son I'd secretly always wanted but felt too paranoid to have.
Alexis was beautiful. She had the sex appeal of a young Janet Jackson and was cooler than an autumn day in Paris. At first, I was apprehensive when I learned she had a three-year-old. I thought I was too immature and not ready to look after a kid; it wasn't the idea of dating a single parent that bothered me.
Anyway, Alexis and I went on a date or two and it wasn't long before I met Jaylen.
One night she couldn't find a babysitter, so we agreed on having a night in. I'm not the type to catch baby fever but this kid stole every last vessel of my heart. His charm and charisma reminded me of the jubilant kid I used to be. He was the most lovable three-year-old I'd ever met.
Before long, I started going over to Alexis' place to see Jaylen, not her. He and I played together and she'd just watch us.
I missed Jaylen when I didn't see him. So I called Alexis more and set up more dates.
We started hanging out a lot more but when Jaylen was put to bed, Alexis and I would start to have issues.
We argued over lots of small things. I felt my interest in her fade. It was clear she felt the same way.
Meanwhile, Jaylen and I still had a great time together. After a while, he was the only point of connection between her and I.
After a couple of months of “dating” Alexis, I felt like I was trapped in a custody battle.
Of course, this was only in my own mind: Jaylen wasn't my child and Alexis wasn't my baby's mother. I was just a guy who got sucked into the magnetism and joy that children like Jaylen can bring into the world.
Eventually, I literally wanted nothing to do with Alexis. I couldn't give a damn... but I missed the little guy.
I knew it wasn't my place to miss him.
But still, I found myself finding every reason to text Alexis and try to make things work. Subconsciously, I knew it wasn't about her. The more that became apparent, the more I had to let go. And so I did, as much as it hurt.
Ultimately Alexis and I ended up going our separate ways and of course this meant the same for Jaylen and I. I miss the kid, but such is life. I guess it's another often-overlooked, harsh reality of growing up.
What did I learn from this situation? Kids > parents.
Alexis is a great woman.
Besides learning just how great I am with kids and how precious I think they are -- despite my valiant attempts at denying it -- I also learned to be careful when dating a single parent.
Dating someone with a child adds an extra element to the relationship. When someone has a child, it's not just your two hearts that can get invested in the relationship.
All of this isn't to say you shouldn't date single parents.
Children can be lots of fun but they can also be a great foundation for an even stronger bond between the two of you.
But you must take your time and be careful with how the child (or children) gets involved in the dynamics of your relationship. If not, you may find yourself in a sticky situation with more than two broken hearts to deal with.