Single. 23 years old. Father of a soon-to-be second grader. That's me.
I realize not every girl in the world wants to date a single dad in his 20s; it's not everyone's cup of tea, and that's OK. Maybe you think a young guy with responsibility like that wouldn't have time for you. Maybe you're worried that his kid's mother will always be lurking about, causing you problems. Maybe you're concerned about taking on that kind of responsibility yourself.
Well, for any daring woman out there who would see fit to date a guy like me — a young dad who is still figuring things out himself — I offer a few bits of advice and, potentially, information to dispel some fears you may have to commit to such a situation.
Here's what I would want a woman thinking about dating me to know:
1. If We're Together, You're Obviously Important, But My Son Has to Be Number One
I could be wrong, but I think one of the biggest worries of dating a single dad is that you won't be his top priority. While this is more or less true, it doesn't mean you lack importance, nor does it mean there has to be some kind of competition for attention.
Love for a child and love for a romantic partner are obviously not the same thing, and they can co-exist without issue. You're truly only "second priority" in one situation: when you throw out the me-or-them ultimatum.
If you are both serious about each other and can handle things in a mature fashion, there doesn't need to be any nitpicking about where you stand in his life. People make time for the important things and people in their lives, and if you're important, you'll know.
2. My Child's Mother is Always Going to Be Part of my Life — It's Not a Cause for Concern
This is probably right up there with the previous point on the oh-boy-I-don't-know-if-I-could-deal-with-that scale. Yes, I am always going to be in contact with my son's mother; we have to make co-parenting work somehow.
But that's all we do: talk about him. There is no chance we will ever be romantic with one another again (trust me), and she will only ever be on the periphery in terms of you and me. To be perfectly honest, the only times I've seen her for more than a few minutes in the past few years have been at my son's birthday parties and when we go trick-or-treating on Halloween.
It probably helps that she's not batshit crazy or anything, too.
3. That Said, There Are Going to Be Times Where She and I Get Into Arguments and I'll Need You to Remind Me Everything Will Be Fine
People you used to date have a habit of getting under your skin. Everybody knows that. The difference when you have a child with one of your ex-partners is that they are not so easy to ignore. Like I said above, it's really not an option.
There may be times where I am fuming over something my son's mother has said to me or accused me of, and the best thing you can do in those moments is just be there for me.
I'm not asking you to provide a solution for whatever the situation may be. Just reassure me you're on my side (or, if I really was being a bonehead, maybe let me down gently).
4. I'll Be Hesitant to Introduce You to My Son Until Things Are More Serious
This is better for everyone. You may have your reservations about meeting my child before you get to know me better (completely plausible), and I will have my reservations about introducing someone I am romantically involved with to my son until I know that that person will be sticking around for awhile.
It's all about avoiding the "revolving door" — the notion of introducing your kids to someone only to have that person exit your life shortly thereafter, and then running through a rinse and repeat sort of process. Not good.
5. But, If It's Going to Last, You'll Have to Build a Relationship with Both of Us Over Time
Of course, I'll want you to like my kid when you do finally meet him. The two of us, we're a package, and things probably aren't going to work out if you only like 50 percent of that package. If things were really running along smoothly, I'd sure hope you would come to love my son.
And, honestly, I cannot speak for all the other single dads out there, but my kid is pretty freaking awesome — even if he does act like a little sassafras sometimes — so this one wouldn't be too much of an issue in my case.
6. You'll Have to Accept I Have Responsibilities That May Interfere with Our Plans Sometimes
Unexpected things may pop up — a medical emergency or an appointment his mom forgot to tell me I was taking him to until the last minute, for example — and I may have to jump ship on a date with you or cancel plans so that I can go be a dad.
Especially while he's younger, as he is now, it's important for me to be there when he needs me.
I want him to be able to look back when he's older and know with 100 percent confidence that he always had my support, always had my love — could always count on me to be around when it mattered most.
7. I'm Not Exactly Into Messing Around Anymore, So Let's Not
Let's cut with the games, cut with the silliness, and take things seriously. Just as our kids require a certain sense of stability, that's what I'm looking for in a relationship now.
And I'm not saying let's take fun and spontaneity out of the equation; I'm all for spur-of-the-moment adventures and traveling and those sorts of things. I'm saying, let's be honest, open, and loyal to each other. I'm saying, let's be direct about what we want.
Dating a single dad in his 20s may sound a little scary, but it really doesn't have to be. Give the guy a chance, hey? You may just stumble into one of the most worthwhile and fulfilling relationships of a lifetime.