You're Not First Priority: Realities Of Dating A Person Who Has Kids

by Susy Alexandre

Dating someone with kids when you still feel like something of a kid yourself can be a challenge.

To some (myself included), age ain’t nothin' but a number. Much like I don’t screen people for specific ethnicities when considering a relationship, I also don’t ask for a date of birth.

Granted, there are certain age brackets above and below my own that would likely warrant the immediate no-go in my books, but I generally take the “organic” approach to dating. I let the cards fall where they may and go with my gut when it comes to chemistry between me and another person.

The math in putting 1 + 1 together is hard enough; it’s an equation we spend our whole lives trying to master until at last we form a solid pair. Now, take that number and add a couple halves. Sound complicated? It is.

I'm talking about kids: The unforeseen element of Millennial dating. If you elect to date above your generational boundaries, it’s a reality and one that recently became mine.

I met someone amazing, and at the same time, met his kids (also amazing). Amazing-ness aside, I didn’t know what to expect.

Now, some time later and armed with a better understanding, there are a few things I wish I’d known from the get-go that might have spared me some serious mental struggle:

They come first. Maybe not to you, but to him, they ALWAYS come first.

It sounds aggressive, as though I’m telling you that dating someone with kids will ensure you’re always treated second-rate, never coming first and always neglected in some aspect for preferential love to the young ones.

But, this isn't the case. The kids will always come first, yes, but if he’s a catch and you’re lucky, you’ll score second place. Let me tell you about second place: This is where close members of his family reside. This is the place he reserves for family or as-good-as family.

This is a great spot in which to find yourself when looking for vacancies in someone’s heart. Coming second to the greatest loves of someone’s life ain’t all that bad.

These are his kids; he created them, raised them and sees himself in their eyes. Next in line to that kind of love is as good as first place to any other.

Dinnertime is no longer dependent on indecisive you, there are other (louder and pickier) opinions on deck.

Weekends with the kids means three meals a day. While your input should always be asked for and considered, it’s not always feasible to make multiple stops.

More often than not, the majority will rule and being the other adult in the equation, you’ll want to avoid whining and pouting in protest.

The good news? If you operate on a fast-food palette, you’ll likely be right at home with McDonald’s breakfast and pizza dinners. The bad news goes out to all of you fanciful foodies (myself included).

When dining out with toddlers and teens, it’s not likely you’ll hear an echo when you suggest things like carpaccio or mushroom risotto for mealtime.

Save the Michelin-star menus for date night. If it’s a compromise you’re after, try planning ahead for meals that you can either make at home to modify for everyone’s tastes, or look into restaurants that cater to varying appetites.

The kids have a mother, and she’s out there somewhere. Get over it.

There are varying dynamics in the land of “baby mamas.” Some ex-couples with kids were married and endured an ugly divorce to reach something of a shared-custody-with-the-occasional-civil-conversation situation.

Some separated amicably and are both very much involved with their children, sometimes as a family unit for sake of the event. Some are single parents and the MIA figure is a pink elephant in the room, everpresent as they are ever absent. The options go on.

There are endless scenarios and everyone operates on different dynamics. A healthy situation, where everyone is respected and boundaries are in place is the best you can hope for, and it’s then up to you to decide if you can handle it or not.

An ex fades into the background of your past while an ex with whom you share a child will always be in your life. If you have a nasty jealous streak, this kind of relationship (like many others, I’m sure) will not work for you. Good luck finding someone without a past.

If he’s older and his kids are in their teens, you’re going to get looks. Laugh it off.

The world is filled with gawkers. That racist old lady shooting daggers on the subway in “Save The Last Dance” is probably the only aspect of that movie that reflected real life. She exists in subways, mall corridors, restaurants and the like.

Gawkers need something to fill their day, and your relationship may fit their quota du jour. He’s older and you’re younger. The kids are clearly not yours. It’s all VERY EXCITING to someone who likely still believes married folk sleep in side-by-side twin beds.

People dislike what they fail to understand. It’s unfamiliar to them and therefore, wrong. Save yourself a headache and laugh it off. You are the only person who needs to feel comfortable with your decisions and if you do, you won’t give some ignorant onlooker the satisfaction.

His life is in a more serious place, so be prepared to move at a different pace.

It’s not just about him; he’s got other (little) people to consider. Every decision is weighted a little more heavily and means a little more. Serious “talks” won't happen when you’re two years in and ready; they’ll happen when they need to, right off the bat.

He’s going to want to know what you’re looking for in this, and you’re going to want to know where he sees you fitting in. Bite the bullet and have the talk. It’s going to feel awkward and ill-timed, but above all, it’s going to be honest.

This part can be unfamiliar to those of us who are better accustomed to the standard dating game, but you’ll also find it bizarrely refreshing. Honesty in an open forum, right off the bat – who’d have thunk it?

Like any relationship, there are pros and cons to this arrangement. Some days will go smoother than others, and you may find yourself toggling between elated and exasperated at the start. To love someone with kids is to open your heart up that much more to the possibility of an insta-family, and everything that comes with it.

If you’re willing, and he’s worth it, you may just find the whole thing to be a better fit than you ever could have imagined.