This week, I had someone ask if I have any blog posts with advice for women dating a man with kids.
Mostly because I didn’t start writing this blog until after my husband and I got married (and I subsequently found myself sitting on the bathroom floor, bawling my eyes out, thinking about what would happen if I got in the car and drove far, far away… kidding … well kind of…)
If you’ve been following for a while, you know the story about that night on bathroom floor – it’s what inspired me to start this platform in the first place. You can read more about it HERE!
Anyways, I told this girl that while I didn’t have anything written, I’d be happy to whip something up for her, because THERE IS a lot that a woman in this position should consider.
So, this one’s for the women dating men with kids….
My first piece of advice?
Girl, RUN and don’t look back.
Well kind of … again!
In all seriousness though, if you plan on sticking around, here are 16 things that you need to know …
1. HE HAS KIDS
Yes, I know that’s the obvious point, but honey I REALLY want you to think about what that means.
I know men with kids are pretty sexy – and it’s great to see those father figures doing their thing… but there’s a lot more, not so glamorous parts, about it.
Don’t just think about the fun afternoons out at the movies or hanging out at the park when you first start dating.
Be realistic about what things will look like with kids in your life.
I love being a stepmom and I am grateful for my stepkids every single day, but straight up, they flipped every single aspect of my life upside down, in ways that not everyone would be okay with!
2. THE KIDS HAVE A MOM
Most likely, your husband’s ex-wife.
Whether you like it or not, in most cases, this woman will play a role in your life. Good or bad.
The way she acts, reacts and approaches parenting/co-parenting, WILL affect you.
She isn’t going anywhere and the kids aren’t going anywhere either. When you hook up with a man with kids, you’re essentially getting a package deal. Him, the kids, and his ex.
It’s something you REALLY need to wrap your head around!
3. A GREAT DEAL OF YOUR LIFE WILL BE OUTSIDE OF YOUR CONTROL
Your life will be dictated by a custody schedule, extra-curricular schedules, tantrums, dance recitals, the details of a separation agreement… the list goes on.
Holidays will be coordinated around the legal agreement.
Vacations will be coordinated around the custody schedule.
Your nights will most likely be consumed by extra-curricular activities and homework.
It’s not necessarily a bad thing – but please consider this.
Many stepmoms end up resenting this lack of control. They don’t think about it before diving in.
Much of your life will be dictated by a schedule and co-parenting agreement that you had no part in creating.
4. BALANCE IS HARD
It may be difficult for your boyfriend to find balance between you (his dating life) and them (his family life). I remember at the beginning my husband felt torn between the “two lives” – he desperately wanted to spend all his time with me, but also wanted to spend all his time with them.
It was a difficult thing to navigate because at that point, we hadn’t done the whole “meet the kids thing”
Don’t put pressure on him. Let him follow his gut, and remember, you want to be with a man who makes his kids a priority!
5. YOU SHOULDN’T MEET THE KIDS UNTIL YOU KNOW YOU’RE NOT GOING ANYWHERE
In my personal opinion, “meeting the kids” is not something that should be taken lightly.
We waited until I was pretty much “all in” before we did the big introduction. I don’t believe there is a set timeline for when the kids should meet the girlfriend, but you need to make sure that it is serious before you do it.
It’s said that secondary break-ups are harder on kids than first break-ups, so please consider the kids throughout the entire process. They have been through enough transitions and change in their lives, they don’t need someone coming into their life and then leaving shortly after.
6. THE KIDS NEED TO BE READY TO MEET YOU TOO
I think that it’s important for your boyfriend to talk to the kids about meeting you so they aren’t blindsided!
It’s important to consider where they are at in the process of dealing with their parent’s divorce – are they struggling? Are they ready to have a new person in their life? Do they have any (age appropriate) questions? This is a very big deal. Maybe even bigger for them, than it is for you!
7. HAVE THOSE TOUGH CONVERSATIONS ABOUT THE FUTURE EARLY ON
A reader once asked me how I “convinced” my husband to have an “ours baby” with me.
The question surprised me.
There was no “convincing” – we decided to have a baby TOGETHER. It’s what we BOTH wanted.
In my opinion, this isn’t something you talk about AFTER you’ve committed your life to someone. It’s something you talk about BEFORE you make that commitment.
Early on in our relationship, I brought up a very tough, but very necessary conversation.
We were lying on the bed, and I turned and looked at my now husband, and said “look, you’ve done things in your life that I want to do”. I was specifically referring to marriage and kids. That opened up a conversation about what we wanted for our lives, as individuals and where we saw this relationship going.
I didn’t want to waste my time, and I didn’t want to waste his time either. I can’t say what I would have done if he said that he didn’t want any more kids, but my gut says, it would have been a deal breaker for me.
8. IT WILL BE HARDER THAN YOU THINK
You don’t know what you don’t know. It’s easy to look in on stepfamily life and talk about how you will do things, and how you will to react to situations that come up. The truth is, when you’re looking in from the outside, you don’t have the emotions that come with this role.
Sometimes those emotions creep in and make things more challenging to deal with. That and everyone else in your situation is also dealing with their own version of emotions, so things can get complicated and quickly.)
To this day, I have not met a stepmom who feels like step-parenting has been easier than they thought!
[YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: 11 Things I Wish I Knew During My First Year As A Stepmom]
9. THERE IS A STIGMA ASSOCIATED WITH BEING A STEPMOM OR DATING A MAN WITH KIDS
While Society views stepdads as heroes who come in and “take on” a woman and her kids, stepmoms don’t get the same luxury. Most times at least.
If you’re too involved, you’re overstepping. If you’re not involved enough, you’re not taking your role seriously.
You’re damned if you do, you’re damned if you don’t.
People often assume there was an affair
Society presumes there is turf wars between you and the ex …
That you’re trying to take over, or that you resent the kids for being around.
In general, when it comes to stepmoms, society has a bit of a sour taste in its mouth
It’s getting better, but it’s definitely still there!
10. YOU MAY FEEL INSECURE AND OUT OF PLACE
Like I said above, there are many emotions that come with step-parenting or dating a man with kids. You may feel out of place and like you don’t belong. You may feel awkward at events as the new girlfriend, especially around those who knew your boyfriend while he was married.
There can be a major transition period – just know it does pass – it does get better!
[YOU MAY WANT TO READ: How To Shake The Insecurities That Come From Being The Second Wife
11. ALWAYS CONSIDER THE KID’S EXPERIENCE
Please, always respect the kids.
Remember, they didn’t sign up for divorced parents, two separate homes or new adults coming into their lives. As a child of divorce myself, I can say it is HARD to adjust. REALLY HARD. Especially when the woman your dad is dating doesn’t consider your point of view.
12. TAKE YOUR CUES FROM THE KIDS
You’ll see very quickly how involved they want you to be. Pick up on those cues and respect them. Trying to force yourself on the kids will backfire in a huge way. Take baby steps, let them come to you, and focus on building a relationship. Don’t take it personally if they don’t flock to you right away. There are a lot of factors contributing to how they react.
13. EASY ON THE PDA
At the beginning, the kids don’t want to see their Dad kissing another woman. It feels invasive and extremely uncomfortable. Again, trust me I’m speaking from experience here.
My dad once had a girlfriend who would sit on his knee and wear his shirts whenever she was at our house. While that is extremely cute in a relationship when there aren’t kids in involved, it made me want to drop her – and that’s the truth!
14. ENCOURAGE ONE-ON-ONE TIME WITH THE KIDS
Encourage your partner to have alone time with the kids – you don’t and shouldn’t need to be involved in everything! This remains true as your relationship progresses.
15. RESPECT THEIR TRADITIONS AND ROUTINES
Respect their routines and ways of going about things! Don’t come in and try and enforce change. Don’t encourage your partner to change their routine, traditions or things like their spots at the dinner table. Take baby steps.
Respect that to them, you are a guest (or even a bit of an intruder) – it may take time to earn their trust!
16. THIS MAY BE BOTH THE MOST CHALLENGING & REWARDING THING OF YOUR LIFE
I’m honest and straight forward about the challenges that come with step-parenting and dating a man with kids. It’s not always all hearts and sparkles.
In fact, it’s probably been one of the most challenging things I have done in my life. But it’s also been one of the most rewarding!
I couldn’t imagine my life without my stepkids, and while dating and ultimately marrying a man with three kids was NOT in my five-year place, I’m so glad that life threw me this curve ball!