I am not a parent but I dated a single parent; this is my experience…
Almost a year ago I started dating a wonderful lady who was also a mum to three amazing girls (three-year-old twins and a seven-year-old). I had never been involved with someone who had a family already and I won’t lie: it has been scary, nerve-wracking, and the learning curve was steep. If you’re dating a single parent, you might find some of what I’ve learnt helpful…
Two became... five?
I had gone from a straightforward two-person relationship with no restrictions on plans to one dictated by three other people outside the two of us.
The first lesson learned was to make the most of the time we had together. When we first met it was time-limited, and the costs of a babysitter made us appreciate our alone time more – falling out over something silly just wasn't worth it. As we spent more time together like the times of simply having an ice cream at the beach or going for a walk, it made me reflect on how much time in my life I have wasted arguing over things that were pointless.
We moved to going around hers after bedtime and chilling over a cuppa and a board game while finding that compromise on how to move forward.
Their biological father
Meeting those girls was incredible, the first thing we did was ensure the dad was happy for me to meet them, and to be fair he has been fine since day one. After that I met the girls on a cloudy June day and was I was pretty nervous, but my partner eased me into it and started to get some interaction and helped with dinner.
Developing a relationship with them
I found that I was good with kids and it was easy to become friends with them – a combination of giving the kids their breakfasts and getting them their drinks and snacks whilst playing games helped. Suddenly we were building 10-piece puzzles, playing hide and seek and getting a few giggles from playing cuddle monster and chases. These things took a conscious effort and became vital in helping build trust between me and my partner, as well as demonstrating that I could do the job rather and not just be a tag along bloke.
"These things took a conscious effort and became vital in helping build trust between me and my partner, as well as demonstrating that I could do the job rather and not just be a tag along bloke."
I found these things were vital for putting foundations for the future. If you are seeing a single mum, based on my personal experience, I feel they don’t like wasting time on people who are just wanting a bit of fun. Someone who is prepared to take the rough with the smooth was who I had to become, or demonstrate I was already that guy. I enjoyed it and had a great laugh with them all.
The sleepover phase…
After a while, you move into the staying over phase. With the kids there, and you need to learn to help out during those middle of the night tears and tantrums. These would normally be over with a fold in their blanket, wanting a drink and helping them wee and poo. The day they said “Dave,” instead of “Mummy,” was a day I knew I had made it, but then I had to empty that potty…
Developing a relationship with the girls = a stronger partnership
Once I established I could help with this job, my relationship with my partner grew stronger. The weekends when the kids away was a time we learnt to cherish together. I gained a shock and quick lesson on being a parent: being there for the laughs, the stress, and an understanding when sometimes they were distant or got tired very suddenly. You know you’re a dad when you suddenly get excited about going to the loo and no one is banging on the toilet door!
The last 12 months have been amazing, tough, and eye-opening. I would recommend it to anyone having doubts. It’s a great chance to be supportive, show new maturity, and be a kid again all at the same time! These lessons don’t stop, and you CAN have the best of both worlds.