Here's Why You Shouldn't Be Scared to Date a Single Parent

Joe Donan

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Just a few years ago, my friend Edward and I were dating two nice ladies, both of whom had something in common: They were single mothers.

A bit of backstory

Janet — Edward’s girlfriend back in 2014 — was the struggling single mother of a lovely three-year-old little girl whose father had fled the country upon learning Janet was pregnant.

Edward, who had very recently been through a breakup, happily welcomed Janet into his life. They were a cute couple with a lot in common — in fact, she was a better match for him than his former girlfriend ever was.

It seemed like a romance made in heaven, except for one thing: I never, ever, saw Edward interact with Janet’s daughter; not even once. It was like the poor little girl only existed in the background of that relationship, a sort of out-of-bounds area where she was a spectator, but not a player.

One day, Edward stopped by my house, looking troubled and needing a word of advice. He said he really liked Janet, but now that she had started talking about a future together, he was seriously considering jumping ship.

The reason? Janet’s little girl. Edward was convinced he was too young to take on parental duties in his late twenties. Also, he didn’t like kids.

I couldn’t help but feel sorry for Janet. During the time they were together, she seemed happy and excited to have someone to love, and—so she thought—to have found a much-needed father figure to her daughter.

In the end, however, and much to Janet’s disappointment, Edward left her just a few days after we had that conversation.

A hard fact about dating a single parent

Now, even though I understand what Edward was going through, I cannot say I approve of what he did to Janet. After all, there’s nothing cool about playing with other people’s expectations.

Single parents are usually not willing to take any “let’s-have-a-good-time-and-see-what-happens-next” nonsense. When it comes to relationships, they expect no less than genuine love, serious commitment, and undying support from a romantic partner.

Serious and responsible single parents are, above all, looking for the missing piece to complete their families. So if you don’t like the idea of becoming a parent figure to someone else’s children, then don’t start a relationship with a parent in the first place. You’ll be wasting their time and breaking their heart and their children’s in the process.

If marriage (or at least conjugal commitment) isn’t the goal of a relationship with a single parent, then in all likelihood, that relationship will lead nowhere, due to the conflict of interests from both parts. It happened to Edward and Janet, and countless other couples in similar circumstances.

My own experience dating a single mother

Now, let’s be clear on something: That’s not the way I used to see things. In fact, about ten years ago, my mindset was just like Edward’s. I simply didn’t like the idea of raising someone else’s children.

Fast forward to the present day, and I’m now married to a divorced mother.

Now, I’m not going to say I wasn’t doubtful at the beginning. I sure was, for the same reason that made my friend Edward jump ship. Taking on parental duties is not for the faint of heart, especially when you don’t know exactly the kind of kids you’ll be dealing with.

That’s why my then-girlfriend (now wife) started making her five-year-old daughter take an active role in our friend circle. Whenever she had a chance, she took her along for our little lunch meetings. She even was present when we got together to celebrate my 29th birthday.

I didn’t mind at all. You see, unlike my friend Edward, I do like kids, and having that little girl around was not a problem for me. In fact, I took the chance to get to know her better, which was no easy task at first because she was usually shy in my presence.

Eventually, I started frequenting their house on weekends, and every single time I made sure I could spend some time playing with her. It was tiring but at the same time, incredibly rewarding: Before I knew it, she had completely welcomed me into her world and she had started expressing interest in “having a dad” while looking at me.

Surprisingly, I wasn’t afraid anymore. After I had the chance to interact with my wife’s daughter, I realized I had fallen in love with her too. And the longer we spent together the more I became convinced that I could totally become her father, even if we weren’t blood-related.

Being a step-parent is an amazing adventure

One of the best things about the bond we have is that we’re very similar in many respects, almost like real father and child.

We both share a passion for geeky stuff, high-quality chocolate, Margherita pizza, spaghetti, visual arts, reading, films, and retro stuff. Additionally, we’re both incapable of rolling our Rs, making our pronunciation funny, to say the least.

In the end, not only did I learn to embrace the fact that my wife-to-be was a mother, but I also became convinced that it was one of the coolest things about her. And when I did, all my worries faded away. That little girl became one of the main reasons why I decided to marry the woman who is now my wife.

I learned to love that little human being, and even though we’re not blood-related, I wish we were. In my heart, she’s not just my wife’s daughter. She is my daughter too. When I see her, I don’t see a stranger. I see family.

Now, I have to be honest. It’s not all rainbows and unicorns when you become an adoptive father. There have been times when I have felt overwhelmed and confused; other times when I have had to be serious and strict, and some others when I have had to tell her off. Those are inescapable parental duties you have to take on, all in the name of love, even if they break your heart.

Things can get difficult sometimes, but I have no regrets. I think marrying my wife and becoming a father to her daughter is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, which is funny when you think about it, considering that ten years ago I couldn’t even imagine myself in this situation.

My friend Edward did what he considered the right course of action, even if the damage was already done. However, I can’t help but wonder what his life would be like now if he had decided to stay with Janet instead of breaking up with her.

Maybe, and only maybe, he would have realized that Janet’s little girl wasn’t a hindrance, after all. Maybe he would have learned to love her, just like he loved Janet. Maybe he would have happily formed a family with both girls. Maybe.

Edward ended up marrying a nice single lady, with no children. Janet also married a man who, just like me, was willing to become a father figure to her daughter. Fortunately, both marriages seem to be working out.

Bottom line

If you plan to start a relationship with a single parent, be ready and willing to fall in love with their kids too. Leaving their children out of the equation is simply a non-negotiable term for them.

Yes, the idea of adopting children can be scary at first, but if you take some time to get to know them, with the honest intention of forming a bond, you might find that becoming a parent figure can also be an awesome experience.

So don’t be afraid to start a relationship with a single parent. You may be missing out on the time of your life. I can tell you that much.

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Salvadoran writer, father, husband, educator, and artisan. I write about love and relationships, family, life lessons, and personal growth.

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